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What I Wish Consumers Knew About Buying Designer Jewelry

The ring I just received from Jennifer Dawes.

The ring I just received from Jennifer Dawes.

I’m not a consumer jewelry blogger, but this is something I wish every consumer jewelry buyer would know. It’s about how (great it is) to buy designer jewelry.

When you buy designer jewelry, your jewelry has a back story

Nearly every piece of jewelry I own came from a designer. As I write this blog, I am wearing raw diamond floret earrings and a raw diamond tennis bracelet from Todd Reed, a ring from Bree Richey on my left hand, a ring from Elizabeth Garvin and another from Jennifer Dawes on my right hand. I have lovely little button earrings from Robin and Remy Rotenier. I nearly always wear a

bracelet from Walt Adler and another from a craftsman in Mexico whose name I have long forgotten but whose face I will always remember. My favorite brooch is a mokume-gane gem from Jim Binnion and Steve Midgett (yep! both of them).  Someday I will own a heart pendant from Rhyme & Reason. Something from Mark Schneider’s color collection. A mother’s cuff from Erica Courtney. A Padparadscha anything from Omi Prive. Anything from Suzy Landa (preferably green or purple), hoop earrings from Pamela Froman, something nouveau vintage from Just Jules, Diana Widman’s Night Sky pendant, and a piece from ZAIKEN’s Throwing Stones collection.  (I have not received compensation from any of these designers for mention in this blog).

What don’t I own? A single white diamond ring. No diamond studs. I don’t own any Cartier or Tiffanys. I don’t buy jewelry for the sparkle, the status, the vault value, or even the fashion. I love the sculptural quality of jewelry, the gemstones (all of them), the art. In this way, I am representative of the type of women who buy designer jewelry – or women who would buy designer jewelry if they knew what was available to them. There are many of us.

Everything You Know About Luxury Has Changed

‘Art’ and ‘Decorations’ are Different Buying Experiences

Buying designer jewelry is not, should not be, like buying generic jewelry. What is generic jewelry? Any piece of fine jewelry that was designed for mass appeal. Does saying it’s generic mean it’s not beautiful? Not at all. I can see the beauty in a perfectly manicured lawn, even if it is similar to the other perfectly manicured lawns down the same stretch of manicured road. I just don’t want that for my own yard. My yard was designed, layer upon delicious layer, to make a statement (entirely different blog here – but you get my point). Does this make me a better customer or a more desirable customer for jewelry? Not at all. But it does make me – and women like me – a different kind of customer, and one that is not currently very well served.

Buying designer jewelry is about buying art you get to wear. What do you do when you buy art? You look for something that speaks to you. You look for something that pulls a feeling out of you that you weren’t feeling before you looked at it. You look for art that you know you’ll be happy to sit and stare at for hours and years on end. You don’t buy art to match the paint and furniture in the room – for the right piece of art you design the room around it. Good art grows old with you.

Great art doesn’t have to be expensive. Would I be giddy with excitement to own an original Rothco? Absolutely. But there is a painting in my living room painted by an artist named James R Gros. He is not famous and the painting cost me less than $200. But it’s one of the most expressive pieces I own. I never get tired of studying it, and everyone who visits our home at some point wants to talk about it.

Too many people do not know the joy of seeking and acquiring art – which is not a money thing, it’s an awareness thing. You can teach a child to buy meaningful art on her allowance.

So when I look for jewelry, I want it to have artistic merit. I want it to have been conceived of and created as part of a thought process about beauty, and craftsmanship, and precious materials. I want to know that whenever I wear it, I will see it, and when I see it, it will mean something to me.

That’s the first thing I wish every consumer knew about designer jewelry. That it’s buying art. When you take a person by the hand and show them the sheer delight and wonder of buying art, the experience can be transformative. I want consumers to have that experience with designer jewelry.

There’s Another Opportunity Beyond Custom

My approach to 'right hand rings'. Jennifer Dawes on my index finger and Elizabeth Garvin on my ring finger.

My approach to ‘right hand rings’. Jennifer Dawes on my index finger and Elizabeth Garvin on my ring finger.

The other thing I wish consumers knew about buying designer jewelry is the difference between buying custom/bespoke and buying a designer commission. If a consumer has an idea for a piece of jewelry he wants to make, and he primarily needs a pair of hands to help him execute it; or if he wants a design that is very traditional but using some of his own elements, that’s what I refer to as custom or bespoke. There’s no criticism in this – it’s an essential service and can be a terrific experience. But that’s not the same as buying designer commissioned jewelry.

Just as you wouldn’t go to Klimt, hand him a photograph, and tell him to paint your portrait precisely as seen in the photo, I personally wouldn’t go to a jewelry designer and tell him what to make. A big part of the value of buying jewelry from a designer is the designer’s point of view. It’s not that the customer has no input. Most designers who will do individual pieces have a discussion or series of discussions with the client first. They talk about gemstones, which ones the client likes most, and why. They ask about how the client wears jewelry, why they wear it, and how it makes them feel. As a client myself, I have loved those conversations. But once you find a jewelry designer who clearly has beautiful images in his head and the ability to turn those ideas into real objects, much of the joy in wearing the finished piece is turning the designer loose and seeing how that designer transforms your conversations about intangible things into a physical work of art.

Of course, not everyone who calls himself a designer is actually a designer. There is ample room for argument here, but generally someone who is truly a designer will have a clear point of view, a body of work that expresses that point of view, and a recognizable evolution in their thought process over time.

I have this imaginary scene in my head where a consumer walks into ABC Jewelry Store with her grandmother’s rings and says, “I’d like to turn these diamonds and rubies into something I can wear and love.” And the jeweler, who is very talented at the bench, asks “Do you know what you want?” The consumer says, “No, I really don’t, but I appreciate beauty, and I want something that is a bit unusual but which will keep me visually engaged for the next 30 years.”

And the jeweler thinks, “I’m really good at making jewelry – the best – but I don’t have an artistic point of view and what I make is pretty traditional looking. Since this consumer doesn’t want to direct this effort and she wants something different, perhaps I’ll teach her how to buy art!” Then he says to his new customer, “Let’s have some fun. I’m going to introduce you to some different types of designer jewelry – designers who will also do commission work. We’re going to see what you like and learn a bit together. Then, let’s pick someone for you to work with, and let them create a piece of art just for you, something that you will always treasure and be proud of.”

Shoot, I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

Is this experience for everyone? Of course not. But for some, the right guidance from the beginning would turn buying designer jewelry into an obsession for them, something to look forward to once a year, or once every few years.

So these are the things I wish consumers knew. I wish more people were able to have the ultimate experience of buying designer jewelry. Because my new ring designed by Jennifer Dawes just arrived today. I’m utterly conscious that I’m wearing it. It brought tears to my eyes when I opened it. And I know that if more consumers felt like I do right now after acquiring a new piece of jewelry, they’d want fine jewelry more often.
Andrea Hill

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67 Responses to What I Wish Consumers Knew About Buying Designer Jewelry

  1. Pingback: Andres Hill post on buying designer jewelry | VioletRae Designs

  2. Sara Lynch says:

    Love this SO MUCH! I’m sharing it all over the place.

  3. This is a great article. I am an art jeweler and I just finished a commission for a wedding band/ engagement ring for a young couple I met at a show. I was thrilled and honored to become a part the story of this couple’s history… I incorporated an heirloom diamond that was passed down through generations of the room’s family with my own contemporary design. Buying from an artist like me is so much more than just the object you get, it is also about the experience. Anyway, thank you for writing this article!
    Here is a link to the ring set I just finished: http://www.debraadelson.com/blog/

    • Andrea says:

      It is an entirely different experience Debra – and one that I think consumers are very interested in, but they don’t know how to access it – or don’t know what it is until they stumble onto it. You should put a picture of the ring on that blog post! I clicked the link and was hoping to see it :) . Also, I’m sure you covered your rear end on that commission, but just a note to encourage all designing jewelers to make sure you use the right protocols when taking in a customer diamond – or any precious customer element – for incorporation in a new design.

      • There is a pic if you click the title of the blog… I need to talk to my computer guy as to why it doesn’t automatically show up! I added it again into the post.

  4. Pam Caidin says:

    Love the sentiments. What leaves me feeling funny is your use of the word “designer”, rather than studio jeweler, or art jeweler. “Designer”, to me, implies that this person draws (or CADs) a piece of jewelry, and then has someone else make it. Because I think that for those of us who make art jewelry, the biggest part is in the making; the communing with the materials. We have a relationship with metal (or whatever material one uses). The design part is just that; a part of the whole process of taking an idea and making it real. Just a thought. Keep on doing what you’re doing. We need many more people who feel the way you do!

    • Andrea says:

      I use the term “designer” quite intentionally Pam – with awareness that the word “designer” has been hijacked by some people calling themselves jewelery designers who really shouldn’t. I’d like to reclaim the term, because it has meaning. Not all studio jewelers are designers, and not all designers are studio jewelers. But whether we’re using maker, art jeweler, studio jeweler, goldsmith, silversmith, etc., my main thought process in writing this blog was about creating wearable art, which infers design.

      I know many studio jewelers who are extremely talented at making jewelry – from material usage through unusual polish and finish and everything in-between – but who lack a certain sense of balance and movement that distinguish something hand made from something hand made that is art. Likewise, I know designers who do not make jewelry themselves, but who have studied art and design and have applied themselves diligently to designing works that can be intelligently made and supremely wearable as jewelry, but who do not work at the bench. Of course, just because someone calls themselves a designer doesn’t mean they can design, but anyone who can make jewelry – artistic vision or not – has the right to call herself a jeweler. (and if Alan Revere or Tim McCreight are reading this I expect a good argument to start at any time . . .)

      My perspective is formed by being A) merely adequate at the bench, but skilled enough to have the highest regard for a talented jeweler, B) a student of the differences between jewelry design, art jewelry, craft jewelry, manufactured jewelry, and job shop work for almost 20 years now, and C) deeply vested in the future of the jewelry industry, and therefore concerned with bringing the next generation of ideas to the table.

      That beautiful combination of talented jeweler + talented artist/designer (and when you’re making something for commercial purposes, the word “designer” takes on value in addition to artist) is particularly relevant and important to the present and future of the jewelry business, but the jewelry business (i.e., industry) isn’t quite sure how to think about it yet, let alone merchandise it, promote it, or pay for it. This kind of thoughtful production is what today’s buyers now require before they will put down hard-earned money.

      So that’s why I use the word designer :) . I’d be interested to hear others’ thoughts on this.

      • Pam Caidin says:

        As would I! This should be interesting.

      • A jeweller is no more a designer than a contractor is an architect. Sometimes — sometimes! — they are both but not usually. I am a designer and gemologist (nearly certified) and couldn’t solder two pieces of metal together if my life depended on it. Just as the skills of engraving, of gem setting, of metal work, wax carving and a host of other specialities in jewellery making take continued and focused attention, so does designing. Within my company, everyone has their roles. Even within wax carving I have one who is exceptionally talented at organic forms and another who is much better at symmetrical, geometric designs and they are assigned work accordingly. A ‘real’ designer looks for new ways, new ideas and does not re-hash what is out there. Yes, there is a difference. My company Disegno Fine Jewellery is so named on the renaissance Italian notion of ‘disegno’, the ability to Conceive of new ideas, not just the ability to draw (or CAD them, yikes!). I strive for that, don’t always hit the mark, but it is a distinct process or art form from the many art forms that make up jewellery.

        Thank you for the forum to share.

        • Andrea says:

          I have to admit that I disagree with you more than a little, because I know so many jewelers who are truly phenomenal designers. Not all by any means, but certainly more than just “sometimes.” I think this is because so many people went into jewelry from the art school or art-interested perspective. They had interest in art, and in working with their hands, and many of them started out as 3D artists, sculptors – and yes, architects! In my personal and working life I am surrounded by many dozens of designers who in fact are magnificent bench jewelers, from Alishan to Todd Reed, and from Anne Sportun to Zaffiro.

          That being said, it is true that just because one is a jeweler does not mean one is a designer. I also know plenty of jewelers who do not aspire to be designers – they are master craftspeople. It is such a rich world, this world of jewelry people, filled with so many different talents and perspectives. I just had to speak out on behalf of those many – many! – who indeed are both.

  5. Linda Doubek says:

    Awesome awesome awesome!! Thanks for writing this!

    • Andrea says:

      My pleasure Linda :) . I’m just excited so many people in the jewelry industry are reading it (thousands so far and counting). I would love for us to have a new conversation about designer jewelry in the industry.

  6. I’m just starting out so getting people to see my work is a problem…and I am also doing this with cash..no debt… that makes it another problem… So I make a piece and sell a piece and that money helps make the next piece,unless something does not sell then I am stuck in limbo till I make a sell… it’s making me a little crazy :) so you want a ring or anything? hey bring it!! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Xinidu-Studios/215047481851411

    • Andrea says:

      Yes, it’s tough tough tough to build an audience Melody. And the majority of jewelery designers end up working outside of traditional jewelry retail to do so. This is why learning to market one’s own work has become a primary focus for so many who would rather be at the bench :/.

      I really love your purple heart wood ring! And that’s the kind of jewelry – with the right price point – that will appeal to the new market of jewelry buyers. You should boost that ring post on Facebook and get a wider audience. Don’t expect sales from that right away, but $5 – $20 could get you in front of another 3,000 – 5,000 potential consumers, which will start generating awareness. It takes a lot more than that, but it’s a start!

      Good luck!!

      • Thank you for the complement Andrea.. The wood ring did turn out well ..not bad for a bit of wood I fished out of another artists garbage :) And yes I need to figure something out ..because I am just stagnating here.

  7. Naomi says:

    Thanks for this important and beautifully composed article. It is difficult to reach the general mass consumer and explain the differences about what being and buying unique means and supporting your local artist and designers with hand-made purchases. We need more clients like you! I am happy to share your article.

    • Andrea says:

      Thanks Naomi. I think there are plenty of people who, like me, have fallen or could fall in love with designer jewelry. We just need to do better as an industry bringing that jewelry to consumers – they truly don’t know about it, or if they do, where to find it!

  8. pam robinson says:

    You are a rare find, Andrea … thank you for pointing out the nuances of bringing such joy when you discover the right mix of designer and aesthetic… whether it be the stones … the color combo … and/or how you are imagining how you will feel wearing the “collaborative creation.” In my other life I wore such distinctive jewelry … now I design (nope, not a metal smith) with color and texture in mind, am one heck of a good shopper (for stones and artistic elements) … and truly focus on the magic that is inherently in the details.

    So happy to hear someone promoting their enthusiasm … so from my sense and appreciation for “different,” this was a wonderful read.


    Pam Robinson

    • Andrea says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it Pam. And you’re right that there is “magic” in the details of beautifully designed and realized jewelry!

  9. Janet Stein says:

    As a designer and crafter myself, the most fulfilling part of my work is knowing that my pieces have meaning to my customers. There is something so wonderful about that connection! You articulate that from a customers point of view so well. Thanks for writing the article Andrea!

    • Andrea says:

      Well, there’s a “cheat” here. I am an advisor to jewelry designers – so I know and love them personally, and I know their work so well. And this is what I really wish we could convey to consumers, because once they experience this attachment, and the joy of buying jewelry as art, then making a living as a designer would become more financially rewarding!

  10. Thank you so much! Such eye-opening ideas, well stated and beautifully presented!

  11. Kathy Anderson says:

    Golden Ram Metalsmithing on facebook. Take a look.

    • Andrea says:

      Gorgeous work Kathy. I love your use of mixed metals, and the designs are so fluid! Here’s a link for others who may want to take a look. Link to FB Page

      • Kathy Anderson says:

        Thank you! I love your article and appreciate your thoughts but I have a problem with the ring you post on the top. While the design is fine the workmanship is too crude and unprofessional to even be called “rustic” or “organic”. The prongs, the bezels….. Are awful! This is a terrible example of studio jewelry, designer jewelry, whatever term you want to call it.

        • Andrea says:

          And yet I – a lover of finely crafted jewelry and influenced heavily by Alan Revere – love this ring and own it. This is where the opinion about what is art comes in, and it’s as important and diverse as the people who love art are diverse in their opinions.

          One thing we need to do as a jewelry industry is stop gazing at our navels. All our focus on technicalities and internal perceptions of what is good are largely dismissed by the new generations of jewelry buyers. The millennial jewelry buyer is as likely to love a piece of jewelry made of felt as they are to love an ideal cut diamond in a perfectly symmetrical shank.

          Jennifer Dawes is a jeweler who can meet all the conventions of a skilled bench jeweler, but she chooses to express her jewelry in a manner that expresses her artistic vision (for some of her pieces – other parts of her collection are more traditional). I, for one, preferred this piece from her as a complement to a personal collection that includes a full spectrum of jewelry expressions. And I chose to illustrate this article with this piece to clearly delineate between what is more commonly known as jewelry and what is possible as jewelry.

          • Jill says:

            “The millennial jewelry buyer is as likely to love a piece of jewelry made of felt as they are to love an ideal cut diamond in a perfectly symmetrical shank.”

            Yes. But I’d hope they also be (or become) educated and discerning about the way the felt is handled, manipulated, etc. There’s good craftsmanship and then there’s not. I looked at Jennifer Dawes’ work and I don’t think her settings – in either her traditional designs or what’s in the Sundance catalog – are of good quality. Maybe she doesn’t know any better…but I’d think that you would (and I respect your blog and writing tremendously; I think you do a great service for the industry). I think the design of Jennifer’s ring is interesting. But I do not believe (at least, what I can tell from the photo) that it is executed, or finished, well.

          • Andrea says:

            I guess this is where opinion takes over and differences are unlikely to be resolved Jill. Today I am wearing the Dawes ring, an Elizabeth Garvin ring, and an heirloom ruby ring made by a long-since-passed-on German goldsmith. Do I recognize the differences in the construction technique? Absolutely. Do I ‘know better’ – or value them differently based on construction alone? No. I don’t. If this particular blog post had been written for Mark Mann or GIA- focused on discussing what makes a master bench jeweler, then that viewpoint would be relevant. But I believe it is less so in this context. Its not just Jennifer Dawes. There were many jewelers who shied away from Todd Reed’s work in his early days too. Until consumers made it clear that they loved what Todd’s jewelry said to them more than they cared about the traditional jeweler’s determination of what jewelry had to be. This is not a new argument. The original Impressionist painters were also told their art was not ‘painting’, and many people today do not believe street art is ‘painting’. I just love that there is a discussion to be had :)

          • Kathy Anderson says:

            I guess this is where we amiably agree to disagree. Todd Reed’s work with raw cut stones did, I’m sure, take awhile to “catch on” but his metal work is stellar. His bezels are heavy and secure. The sloppy prong, upper left in this ring is horribly misshapen, rough looking and there is not enough metal there to securely hold the stone for very long. Overall it is a mediocre design and shoddy workmanship.

            Saying all of this, I hate to see an example like this representing art jewelry, designer jewelry, et al, indicating that possibly all non traditional jewelry is made with poor workmanship. This is not what I would want to train the general public with as far as what to look for and expect with studio jewelry.

          • Andrea says:

            Yes, I can agree to amiably agree, Kathy, but I just can’t let this discounting of another artist’s work stand as the last word on this thread. This blog was written as a celebration of designing jewelers and their art – not as a competition for whose art is better, more accurate, or more worthy.

            Jennifer’s art doesn’t stand as a representation of your art any more than your art stands as a representation of hers. Nor do we need a definitive voice on what “is” or “is not” fine jewelry. And neither of your art stands as the example of all designing jeweler’s art. The fact that Jennifer has always sold very well, or that she was commissioned by Rio Tinto for their expansive new designer jewelry project, speak to the fact that there are consumers who love her work and what it says to them. You’ve been quite clear about not liking the work. OK, I respect your opinion. But to object to it being offered up as a representation of jewelry art? Why not? It’s jewelry, it’s art, consumers love it, it wins awards – these are all facts. Also facts are that you don’t like it, some consumers would never buy it, it’s very non-traditional. It’s not a fact that the stone won’t hold – I know a solid setting when I examine one. This is designed to look very rough and organic, like a stone in its most natural habitat, utterly honest. But that stone will still be sitting in its setting some time in the far future when my daughter and granddaughter get done arguing over who gets to keep the ring.

            This is not a zero-sum game. And that’s getting to the heart of my point. If we don’t get past our own often narrow ideas of what we should sell to consumers, consumers will rush right past this industry to find people who will sell them what they want. Your art and Jennifer’s art and Todd’s art and pick-a-jeweler’s-art are all very different- but they can sit next to one another and represent what is jewelry, and there are customers for each of them. The general public doesn’t want to be “trained by us” any more to know what they should look for and expect with studio jewelry. I truly believe they want us to give them more options and let them decide.

            And seriously, please. This is a place where we can debate ideas and beliefs and argue all day – this is stimulating and thought provoking. But I can’t handle artists dishonoring each other’s work. Life is hard enough for artists already. There are plenty of ways for us to express an opposing idea without diminishing another in the process.

          • Jill says:

            Yes, Todd Reed’s work wasn’t accepted at first. But that lack of acceptance was design-based, not quality-based. Todd’s bezel work and stone setting have always been top notch (at least all that I have ever seen). As I said, I think the ring design is interesting. But I do not think it’s well-executed and it seems unlikely to hold up over time for you. Impressionist painting wasn’t judged on the fact that the workmanship would potentially physically fail. It was judged on a style preference. This is not about style. It’s about poor craftsmanship.

          • Andrea says:

            I’ve worked with Todd a long time and known him longer, and I can tell you, early objections were just as often couched as “quality based” as they were “design based.” It was always very frustrating to hear people (primarily retailers) assume that Todd’s work was “low quality” or “low workmanship” in those early years, and people made just as many assumptions back then about whether or not his diamonds (which they didn’t accept as real diamonds) would stay mounted. The same assumptions you are making about Jennifer’s work based on an image. Todd’s quality was excellent back then, but it was too raw, to different for people. Jennifer’s quality is excellent now, and it’s too raw, too different for people.

            I am in complete agreement that a ring should hold on to its center stone! But short of taking a caliper to the picture and examining a back that you cannot see, it won’t be resolved. And when our very valuable discussion of jewelry as art devolves to the level of whether or not there is enough metal in a prong, the discussion is pyrrhic.

          • Jill says:

            Point taken about the photo and not being able to see in person.

            And this:

            “And seriously, please. This is a place where we can debate ideas and beliefs and argue all day – this is stimulating and thought provoking. But I can’t handle artists dishonoring each other’s work. Life is hard enough for artists already. There are plenty of ways for us to express an opposing idea without diminishing another in the process.”

            I will reserve further judgement (in every sense of the word). Thank you for your point(s) of view, Andrea.

  12. Emma Bulpit says:

    Hi there, I’m an australian Jewellery designer and maker!
    I loved loved reading your article. It totally hit the nail on the hard for me as a designer! Yes I make Jewellery and it wearable art! Thank you for putting it into words! X

    • Andrea says:

      Thanks Emma! Are the leather goods on your site your work too? Sorry – haven’t had time to read yet – just skimming between meetings :) .

  13. Margarita Scheeisberger says:

    Thank you for giving voice to my inner feelings as I start my journey in designing and making prices of with intent and art

  14. Andrea, this article really hit home with me. That drive to create sOmething beautiful and special is what it’s ALL about. It’s surely what led me to design. Ibalways thought there was something so bloodless, so passionless about looking at a display full of 100 nearly identical stock rings. I really wanted to design pieces that connected with the buyer, pieces that evoke something deeper. I think your story really captured what it is all about. Thank you.

    Like many others on here, I am still starting out, still trying to find my audience and learning new things every day. It is a blessing, but perhaps not the easiest one! If anyone has time, please check out some of my work at http://www.artofgems.ca

    • Andrea says:

      The entrepreneur’s road always has a steep learning curve – and there are a few more twists and turns added for the artisan entrepreneur Hannah! Hang in there :) .

  15. Nicole says:

    I read this article and my point of view spect can help us. ..for me there are different kinds of jewellry but i talk today speccially in two .The big marks and the anonymous jewellry. .The first ones are so expensive for her quality and her Mark and image but itsnt. Unique whatever want can buy and weare if they have money…but if u buy a designer jewell u be the only in the Word with this design what it do so original unique and fantástic…dont forget it.

    • Andrea says:

      I think that’s a really good point Nicole. Pricing, market positioning, target audience – all of these things play an important role. I always tell people, you don’t need all the customers – you just need the right customers. There are “right” customers out there for beautifully designed work – but consumers aren’t getting exposed to all the opportunities. That’s what we have to work on! Gracias por escribirme :) .

  16. Kirra says:

    Love it!
    In response to the use of “designer” – my personal response is that I am a jewellery artist. A designer is someone I perceive to come up with a design or idea, but they may not actually MAKE that item.
    Also, as a jewellery artist, I work closely with the materials, as my medium, and don’t necessarily have a set design when I begin. I allow the creative play between myself and the metal (and stones) to unfold the piece of jewelry – this allows for the magic!
    Yes I love that you have stated the differential between custom and commission – very important!
    Overall a great read and I’m loving the discussion emerging in the comments feed.

    • Andrea says:

      I like your take on this Kirra. Your distinction between “designer” and “artist” has a lot of merit. Thanks!!

  17. Richard Hamilton says:

    An interesting article, Andrea. Many of my peers are both incredible craftspeople and manage to bring diverse design elements to play in their jewelry designs. We owe much to our mentors and in grateful return have passed along our skills and attitude towards design and craftsmanship. I see the image of that ring and have the same reservations about its construction and durability.

  18. Hi Andrea,
    Super article, you clearly made a very important point with this blog. I’ve struggled to find my customers, but since I understand that my right customer is looking for my work I work on telling the story as clearly as possible. I am still learning, but I can see the magic working already.

    • Andrea says:

      Thanks Helga. That is “the work” actually – finding the customers. But you’re right – just keep on telling your story!

  19. Diane Hulse says:

    Thank you for beginning this conversation with your thoughtful post, Andrea. I am a painter and a sculptor who designs jewelry. I am relatively new to the field and appreciate both advice and exposure. My work was recently exhibited in Padova, Italy at the Oratorio di San Rocco where it received significant accolades, which was both humbling and inspiring. What suggestions might you have for jewelry artists who want to connect with interested consumers?


    • Andrea says:

      Congratulations on the exhibit in Padova Diane! That’s exciting. Hmm, as for suggestions – more than I could put in this reply! Keep an eye on my blog, I put a lot of content there, and if you’re not on my mailing list already, why don’t you sign up. That way when training and information opportunities turn up, you’ll be informed about them!

  20. kaja Gjedebo says:

    Dear Andrea
    Thank you so much for this blog, you really nailed the thoughts I have been trying to communicate to customers and friends. As jewelry designer I am so glad that someone else, from the outside points out the problem of everyone claiming to be a designer, the dreadful commissions where you´re asked to make something which is totally not your style and the real nature of jewelry, wearable art.
    Thank you again! (from Norway:)
    best regards, Kaja Gjedebo

    • Andrea says:

      Yes, I suspect being asked to create something dreadful, and then know they’re going around telling people who made it, is somewhat soul-crushing! Thanks for commenting, Kaja-from-Norway :) . My family is all in/from Hidle, in Rogaland. That’s how I became “Hill.”

  21. Another art jeweler designer here. Thank you for your thoughtful and well written article. You are so right when you say that it is art, and it must speak to you. I am grateful to my collectors, because not everyone “gets” me. But that is really just fine with me. My designs are not middle of the road, and I don’t pay attention to trends. I am currently working on a ring for a woman who has admired my work for several years, and finally decided she wanted a custom piece just for her. We talked about a fairy in a field of flowers …. oh the joy of watching an idea come to life!

    • Andrea says:

      I love how ‘not’ middle of the road your designs are :) . Remember – you don’t need all the customers, you just need the right customers!!

  22. Julie says:

    Hi Andrea, I finally got to read this fantastic article. I kept clicking on the link on FB and it wouldn’t come up so I am just reading it now. I read and reread so much of this, it was too much fabulousness to absorb at first glance. I love your vision, always have…and I am honored to have been included!! Thank you!

  23. Emma says:

    Great article!. I loved it and share the same feelings!. From Barcelona, Catalunya.

  24. Anne says:

    Great article!

  25. Kellish says:

    I have been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this blog. Thank you, I¡¦ll try and check back more often. How frequently you update your site?

    • Andrea says:

      Theoretically, I blog 1 – 2X per week. In reality, it’s whenever I find time . . . :/. Glad you’re back though!

  26. diamond ring says:

    Great and interesting articles! thanks for sharing your thoughtful article.

  27. Faulkenburg says:

    I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to reach my goals. I certainly enjoy reading everything that is posted on your blog.Keep the information coming. I enjoyed it!

  28. Carmer says:

    Definitely, what a magnificent website and revealing posts, I definitely will bookmark your site.Have an awesome day!

  29. Hiya, I’m really glad I have found this information. Today bloggers publish only about gossips and net and this is really frustrating. A good website with exciting content, this is what I need. Thank you for keeping this web-site, I’ll be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can’t find it.

  30. I lean toward design adornments that gives in vogue look my everything outfits for the most part like wristbands, anklets and pieces of jewelry. Very beautiful Diamond pendants and earrings, even though I love ladies Diamond rings much more than any other jewelry, but still I must say that these pendants and Earrings are heart touching.

  31. This ring is breathtaking!

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