Sunday, December 5, 2021

When is Jewelry art or just glitz?

A handcrafted 14k yellow gold topaz and diamond accent ring, a very contemporary design.

A handcrafted 14k yellow gold topaz and diamond accent ring, a very contemporary design.

It’s a question I am often asked, seeing that I make my living, designing creating, and repairing jewelry, but it is still a tough question to answer.

For centuries gold has been a symbol of wealth and success. Wars were fought, regimes toppled, civilizations even erased. Tons of gold was well spent or frivolously squandered. For example, amongst the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, their royalty and high society wore pounds of the gleaming metal to symbolize their wealth and position. Kind of like our rap music stars of today.

That was then, this is now. Some folks may possess only a simple thin gold wedding band or a religious medallion and have no interest in bawdy, showy baubles such as rings, bracelets and such. In fact I once had an elderly customer from the Bible Belt inform me that any lady who wore an anklet in her town was considered a woman of “ill-repute”! Wow, that’s a bit harsh!

Then there is the other side of the gold coin, those folks that can’t wear enough of the shiny metal. You could consider them a jeweler’s best friend!

What makes gold either a “not needed” or a “must have” commodity? We cannot consume it, it won’t keep a person who wears or covets it warm or dry, and gold certainly won’t burn as fuel (but sometimes it can get one from point “A” to point “B” with a simple flash of its beauty.) Gold is “King.” It always has been and always will be.

If it were as plentiful as sand on the beach, we would probably care less about it. We could make skyscrapers or automobiles out of it. But it is not plentiful, gold is rare and it was estimated that all the gold ever mined since the dawn of man is about 161,000 tons. That’s barely enough to fill two Olympic swimming pools!

Regardless of its rarity and lately its cost (price while writing this article was $1120 per ounce) most people love it. Gold feels good, and it’s beautiful. It also makes the wearer feel good, and yes, it has worth and importance. It also makes the jeweler who sells it happy too! Gold is good. Though some feel it is the route to all evil.

Everyday is a new experience for me in this business. Four different women will look at one particular piece of jewelry in a day and one would say “Sorry! That’s too flashy for me!” The next would say it’s not flashy enough. “No that’s not my style” or, and my favorite, “It’s not big enough, or the diamonds are too small!”

So my question to you is when is jewelry art or just plain classy? And when does it become a garish form of one-upmanship? I can tell you that for me, I have always considered it an art form.

You cannot tell me that making a finished piece of jewelry from a design that was rolling around in ones head that is then created lovingly by hand -forming and coaxing the precious metal to a

A European-designed sterling silver slide necklace, another bold design. Art or fashion?

A European-designed sterling silver slide necklace, another bold design. Art or fashion?

beautiful gleaming wearable piece of jewelry is not an art form.

On the down side, call it progress if you like, nowadays one can order one of thousands run-of-the-mill massed produced three carats of cubic zirconium simulated diamond ring layered in beautiful gleaming 24k. gold for the amazing price of $19.99 that includes free shipping.

Sorry, I do not consider anything of that nature, an art form, in fact I don’t even consider it a piece of jewelry.

Now where was I? I am fortunate to have an amazing customer base that appreciates fine jewelry, and most realize that hand crafted fine jewelry takes time and it can be expensive. Quality jewelry lasts for generations, be it plain or fancy. I clean and maintain fine estate pieces for clients that were made more than a century ago, and they are as beautiful and wearable today as the day they were created.

Many different kinds of people come to Marco from all over the world. I have to be open-minded about their individual tastes. Every customer is different, no two are alike. A woman from Oklahoma would never wear what a woman from the Big Apple would wear. Same goes for the men folk.

One may snicker at one of my creations and another will cry tears of joy when they come to pick it up when completed.

Speaking of art, I recently appraised a ‘genuine” Salvador Dali creation. It was a magnificent neck piece and chain. It was numbered and dated created in Spain, only not by the artist himself but by an “authorized” goldsmith in Seville. The box that held it was very impressive it also came with documentation describing its authenticity.

But when I inquired about its value at the Dali Museum in St. Pete they had no knowledge of any commissioned pieces and the pendant and chain is most likely a forgery sold to tourists in Spain! I’m sure my customer can’t wait to hear the “Dali” piece they spent thousands for in Spain years ago is a reproduction! Fake or not it was certainly a work of art handcrafted in eighteen karat gold.

To me nothing is more beautiful or classy than an early 20th century Tiffany or Cartier platinum and diamond cocktail ring or bracelet. These pieces are totally hand-crafted taking weeks or months to complete, the diamond setting flawless and the hand engraving exquisite. Art and glitz combined to create a masterpiece to last for centuries.

So is it art or is it glitz? That my friend, is up to the beholder! As long as a piece of gold, platinum or even silver, brings one joy when one wears it, who cares what others may think?

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is gone.

Richard Alan is a master goldsmith/designer with over forty years of experience at his craft and the owner of The Harbor Goldsmith on Marco Island where he and his staff have been creating and repairing fine jewelry for over 15 years. He welcomes your questions about things that glitter. 239.394.9274 or

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