What inspired certain people to become jewelry makers
What inspired certain people to become jewelry makers
Have you ever wondered what inspired certain people to become
jewelry makers for an avocation or career instead of more common
hobbies like woodwork or painting, or more common careers like
engineering, teaching, or the law? Or have you admired a jewelry
display and wondered what techniques the artists liked best and
what they liked the least? Or have you ever thought about what
jewelry of the past has influenced the jewelry you admire today? A
Lapidary Journal survey reveals the answers to these puzzles and
We compiled a random sample of jewelry makers among our
subscribers and sent them surveys ruthlessly interrogating them as
to their experience, their preferences, and how they learned their
craft. They supplied us with candid and revealing replies, for which
we are grateful.
Of the jewelry makers who answered our survey, 89 percent were
metal smiths, and most of these were also lapidaries. Those who did
not check metal smith or lapidary on the survey form were either
beaders, designers, gemologists, manufacturers, or collectors. Many
checked five, six, or even seven different choices -- a very versatile
When we asked what fashion
jewelry techniques each
respondent considered to be
his or her particular specialty,
many answered silver smithing
-- which is somewhat vague --
but also followed up with more
specific techniques: casting,
fabricating, enameling, Readers' interest in beads is pretty
etching, inlay, and intarsia. evenly split between gem and glass
Not as many mentioned beads, such as this strand of
forging, stone setting, metal lampworked beads by Karen
Dougherty. Photo: Michael Leslie.
plating, gold smithing,
repousse, or making custom alloys. There were also several wire
wrappers, carvers, and beaders. One reader specializes in making
reproductions of fine Old World jewelry; another uses precious
metal clay; others chose married metals, metal weaving,
scrimshaw, overlay, or scrollwork. One experienced metal smith
makes handmade precious metal chains. There were also lapidaries
who cab or facet stones for costume jewelry, and one who
custom-tumbles jewelry stones.
Apparently, our readers enjoy some techniques that don't fall into
their area of specialization. For instance, forging, which didn't
register very high among the techniques used most frequently by
our readers, had a greater than 50 percent response rate when
readers were asked which techniques they liked the most.
Texturing, hammering, and piercing also scored above the half-way
mark, while about 30 percent liked casting, channel inlay, and wire
work. The least-used methods are granulation, etching, engraving,
scrollwork, married metals, and mokume gane. Several readers cast
their votes for fusing and sculpting, but it was surprising that of all
the respondents, there was only one lonely vote for filigree, which
used to be a great favorite.
Overall, fabricated or constructed jewelry won over cast jewelry by
a large, three-to-one margin. Perhaps this is because casting is
usually more expensive, requiring more equipment, such as a burn-
out oven, and often taking much more time.
STYLE CONSCIOUSNESS. Favorite kinds of
jewelry? As I had anticipated, contemporary
was the overwhelming leader. Ethnic and
ancient jewelry styles tied for second,
followed by another tie between Art Nouveau
and Art Deco.
Following close on the heels of that pack were
Victorian, Egyptian, Classical, and Baroque
styles. Edwardian and 19th-century French
One of the
seemed not to enjoy great popularity, but
designers who has Oriental, American Indian, and Arts and Crafts
won the admiration of styles all received write-ins.
our readers is Carrie
Adell, who created As far as design is concerned, realistic and
this bead pendant of geometric design styles proved slightly more
18K shakudo, attractive to our readers than naturalized and
mokume gane, stylized designs. Abstract designs and
boulder opal, and symbolic patterns were close behind, but very
diamonds. Photo: few readers voted for impressionistic designs,
Carrie Adell. which were all the rage 100 years ago.
Traditional and modern jewelry tied for fourth place, but very few
respondents would chose to buy or make ultra-modern jewelry.
But once you've decided what design style you like the best, what
kind of jewelry do you apply that style to? The top four responses,
with very little difference in number of
preferences, were rings, pendants, earrings,
and necklaces. Chains and bracelets tied for
fifth place, and bolas and buckles shared sixth.
Cuff links, clips, barrettes, and enhancers each
were mentioned, but trailed far back in the field.
When asked what their favorite metal is, our
readers voted silver by a landslide; silver
received half again as many votes as gold. One
These earrings by
interpretation of this result (my own, thank Beth Solomon use
you) is that many of our metalsmiths are silver, our readers'
amateurs or hobbyists, since retail jewelry favorite metal,
stores still show gold as the most popular quartz (in this
metal. Some readers named copper as their case, gray drusy),
favorite; platinum, brass, and refractory metals our readers'
also had their devotees. favorite stone, and
WRITTEN IN STONES. What percentage of the Allen Bryan.
jewelry you make uses gemstones? Being
totally entranced by gemstones myself, I was happy to see that 16
percent of the readers surveyed use stones in all of their jewelry
and another 16 percent use stones in 90 percent of the items they
make. Ten percent use stones in 85 percent of their work and eight
percent indicated they use stones 80 percent of the time. Twelve
percent estimated that they use gems for about 70 to 75 percent of
their pieces, and most of the rest are near 50 percent. So over 60
percent of our jewelers use gems, and many of them are lapidaries.
The majority, 78 percent, would want their jewelry stones to be
individually lapped, carved, faceted, or made into intarsia. Next in
preference were handmade beads and doublets or triplets. A few
favored laminated gem materials. Write-ins included drusy crystals
and natural botryoidal materials.
When asked to name their favorite stones for cabochons in jewelry,
our readers showed that quartz -- our all-American favorite -- is still
way out in front. Some mentioned agate, jasper, chrysoprase, fire
agate, chrysocolla-in-quartz, and plume agate. In addition to the
quartzes, opal, jade, and lapis registered as well. Gems such as
moonstone, labradorite, malachite, garnet, turquoise, sunstone,
rhodochrosite, sugilite, onyx, and paua
shell also took a few votes. A couple of
readers answered "anything drusy" -- a
good answer as there are lots of
exceptional drusy gem materials now
Stones loom large in the
The best-loved cabochon cuts are still jewelry our readers'
the old oval domed cabochons every designs, with most
stone cutter learned on in the past, but preferring individually cut
creeping up on these standards are and cabbed stones, such as
bullets, tongues, and shields. these by cutter Alex Horst.
Freeforms are much more popular than From left to right: drusy
in the past, and buff tops are gaining
chrysoprase, and Louisiana
on the high domes. A few readers
petrified palmwood. Photo:
preferred carved cabochons, such as Alex Horst.
cameos, scarabs, seals, and intaglios --
there were several scrimshaw artists among the respondents. One
person enjoys fancy doublets and triplets most.
For faceted jewelry stones, the favorites are, in order: tourmaline,
corundum, amethyst, garnet, aquamarine, emerald, topaz,
tanzanite, diamond, citrine and other quartzes, peridot, opal, spinel,
and zircon. One person named alexandrite, another moldavite, and
a third person liked faceted synthetics best.
Among the favorite facet designs, the round brilliant is still the
leader, and second place is held by another classic, the emerald or
step cut. Other favorites are marquise, oval, pear, cushion, heart,
and fantasy cuts. Mentioned by only a few are such cuts as
princess, lozenge, kite, antique, and baguette. Barion and trilliant
each registered with a vote.
A question about our readers' interest in beads revealed that the
preference is split evenly between glass and gem beads. Millefiore
and lampworked glass beads were chosen more than other glass
beads, while hand-made or hand-carved gem beads took
precedence over various shapes, sizes, or colors of gem beads.
After glass and stone, clay beads emerged in a tie with enamel
beads, slightly ahead of metal beads. Antique beads, trade beads,
and ethnic beads each had a few dedicated followers, and a few
stray voices supported Mexican beads, jade beads, and Oriental
GETTING PERSONAL. Things took a
personal turn when we asked, "If you
make jewelry or are a collector of
jewelry, what influenced you to get
started?" The answers showed, as we
had expected, that relatives and friends
are of great influence here. Some
One of the materials our
readers are most interested
"My mother took a lapidary class when I
in learning more about is
precious metal clay; this was 6;" "My grandfather took me rock
bracelet was made by hunting;" "My father was a geologist and
Peggy Johnson using silver kept bringing pretty stones home to me;"
PMC. Photo: Robert "My family took me to dig sapphires in
Diamante. Montana when I was a child;" "A friend
took me to his house and showed me
how to make a ring;" "I had a good earth
science teacher when I was in eighth
Some people were self-motivated: "I picked up a Lake Superior
agate when I was out fishing;" "I was a musician and home maker.
When I became disabled I transferred my skills to jewelry making;"
"I got a book about rocks for Christmas;" "My husband was always
making jewelry and I wanted to spend more time with him;" "I had
a lot of family birthdays and anniversaries coming up and I wanted
to give things I made myself for each occasion;” "I like to wear
stunning original jewelry and decided I could save money by
learning to do it myself. I learned, but I didn't save any money!"
One of the most neglected questions on the survey was one in
which we gave our readers a list of jewelry designers and asked
them to indicate the ones they most admired. Perhaps the non-
response to this question is due to many modern jewelry artists
being so busy at the work they enjoy that they are not well-steeped
in the past -- certainly it couldn't have been due to the obscurity of
the jewelers on the list: L.C. Tiffany, P.C. Faberge, S. Dali, R.
Lalique, G. Braque, A. Liberty, Paloma Picasso, G. Jensen, J.
Schlumberger, G. Foquet, L.F. Cartier, and W. Morris. Despite the
less-than-total response rate, we were given a clear indication of
which jewelers of the past still command the most admiration
today: Tiffany, Faberge. Others who have their fans are Jensen,
Cartier, and Dali.
Readers were more enthusiastic about recognizing the artistic
achievements of contemporary jewelry designers; jewelers who
have won the admiration of survey respondents are: John Paul
Miller, William Harper, Carrie Adell, Alan Revere, Dorothy Benrimo,
Norah Pierson, Jeff Wise, Stephanie Briggs, Jeff Ruett, Carolyn
Morris Bach, Matsuke Kambe Soellner, Luna Felix, Doug Feakes,
Lanny Perry, Karen Davidson, Ray Tracey, Charles Laloma, Paula
Crevoshay, Sylvia Nicks, Tim McCreight, J. McGrath, Bernd
Munsteiner, Michael Boyd, Charles Lewton-Brain, Rita Greer,
Margaret Di Patta, Tewo Suuranen, and Jeff Ruttlusa.
What piece of jewelry has made a lasting impression on you? The
one piece of jewelry that was mentioned the most was, perhaps not
surprisingly, one of the world's most famous, and seen by the most
people -- Next were Faberge's magnificent Imperial Easter eggs.
But most of the answers were as diverse as individual memories.
One reader will never forget an antique enamel dog pin. Others
were captivated by the jewelry from the ancient Spanish shipwreck
Atocha -- one chose a Trinity ring, another an elaborate chain, while
a third recalled emerald jewelry but couldn't remember the name of
the ship except "It starts with an 'A.'"
Museum exhibits of jewelry were memorable to many. An early
jewelry exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a Chinese exhibit
at the Chicago Art Institute, an exhibit in Phoenix on contemporary
Native American jewelry were among those mentioned. One lady
was inspired by the Tiffany iris pin made with Yogo sapphires. Two
people marveled at separate pieces by Charles Laloma. Also cited
were Zuni and Maya exhibits, Russian boxes, Roman signet rings,
and the Crown Jewels of England.
After looking into the past, we asked our readers to gaze into the
future. What kind of jewelry did they see as becoming more
important in the future? Most predicted that pins will grow in
importance, while almost as many feel that one-of-a-kind pieces or
limited editions of unique jewelry will gain in favor over mass-
produced jewelry. Also in the running are Southwest jewelry,
synthetic stone jewelry, pendants, and handmade glass beads.
There were single forecasts for drusy items, computer designs, Yogo
sapphire jewels, refractory metals, and jewelry for men.
Although I know there are lots of great schools where jewelry
making and/or lapidary is taught, and many clubs with their own
workshops and classes, I had been under the impression that the
majority of jewelry makers working today had a minimum of formal
training. How wrong I was! An impressive 64 percent of our
surveyed readers have taken classes, some college level, and a few
have degrees or were art majors. Only 20 percent answered that
they are self-taught. Some learned from a friend or relative.
Beaders replied they worked on techniques by getting together with
others interested in beading.
When asked what kind of jewelry they would like to learn more
about, a majority said they'd like to learn about specific techniques,
such as granulation, reticulation, roller printing, metal spinning, or
working with refractory metals, such as titanium. Eighteen percent
want to learn more about intarsia; 15 percent are eager to try
fantasy cuts; ten percent are interested in the new clays, precious
metal clay in particular; and seven percent would like to study
lampworking and dichroic glass. There were also scattered wishes
for instructions on electroforming, casting natural objects, studying
contemporary Native American work, and working with assembled
The last question before the quaz -- is about books -- what jewelry
books have been read by participants? These were so numerous
and so good that I saved them for a bibliography. A small number
admitted to not having read a jewelry book, but of these several
wrote that the Lapidary Journal has been their mentor.
Company name: Yiwu Dushang Jewelry Co.,Ltd
Address: Third Floor, No.13-15,Building 4, A Zone, Futian Jewelry
Street, Yiwu City, Zhejiang, China(322000)