The Miriam Webster dictionary defines an artisan as one that produces something in limited quantities often using traditional methods. We have seen artisan bread, artisan cheese and artisan beer in recent years. The term has come to connote something unusual and of high quality.
Artisan jewelry is designed and created by an artisan and either made as one-of-a-kind or limited edition presentations. It is not enough, though that it is hand crafted or one-of-a-kind. The jewelry customer should still expect a high level of creativity and craftsmanship using the best quality materials.
A piece of artisan jewelry should stand out from the crowd. Artisan jewelry is not a stone set in a purchased casting or a collection of purchased charms on a purchased chain. It is a piece of jewelry that is designed and created by a skilled artisan.
An artisan piece may use an unusual combination of materials or interesting juxtaposition of techniques. It may be an utterly simple, fanciful, concept or extravagantly detailed piece of jewelry. Frequently we see an artisans jewelry evolve over a period of time as he or she pushes the techniques and materials to another level and explores the possibilities for an innovative expression of his or her vision.
The piece should be well finished with no burrs, plier marks or rough edges. Any ends of wire or stringing material should be tucked in or covered so they do not catch on anything or become damaged.
The piece should be sturdy enough to stand up to the rigors of being worn. This sturdiness has to do both with the construction of the item and the materials used. A substantial weight for the size of the piece is an indication that the designer planned for wear ability of the piece.
Any solder joints should be smooth, well fitted and secure. Solder should match the metals it is securing. Any prongs should be sturdy, well placed and in good condition to hold a stone without damaging it or catching on your clothing.
If it is wire jewelry, the wires should be parallel, not damaged and fastened securely with the ends tucked in and filed smooth.
Artisan jewelry is created one piece at a time and that gives each step a chance to be inspected and adjusted before the next step is taken. This should provide you with a quality, long-lasting piece of jewelry that is unusual and appealing.
Artisan jewelry can be fine jewelry, bridge jewelry or fashion jewelry. Any of these three classifications of jewelry can be artisan made, individually designed and created by a skilled artisan. Fine jewelry is generally made of precious metals and precious or semi-precious stones. Bridge jewelry is normally created with semiprecious metals and semi precious stones. Fashion jewelry is composed of base metals, fibers, plastic or other synthetic stones and components. Today’s artisan jeweler has access to an almost unlimited supply of unusual and interesting materials to work with in creating the jewelry. While artisan jewelry may not always hold intrinsic value just from the materials, an artisan made piece has high value due to a unique and individually created combination of the artisan’s creativity, craftsmanship and choice of materials. If the piece is signed, that is a plus. You never know what “name” may break away and become valuable as a collectible.