Is HandCrafted Jewelry Becoming Obsolete?

With Computer Assisted Design and 3D Printers–Jewelry Design is changing—does this mean that jewelers can no longer make a living by creating their jewelry by hand?  Does this mean the end of brick and mortar jewelry stores?  The end of “Handcrafted?”

istock_000007676349_largeIn March, I attended the MJSA conference, which is a jewelry manufacturing show, where vendors demonstrate the latest and greatest  gadgets to make your jewelry.  They also had on site workshops and demonstrations.  It was here where a well regarded guru presenter told us that unless we learned CAD-CAM, we would never be able to make a living being a bench jeweler. (CAD-CAM is a jewelry design computer program that offers 3-D imaging in a very realistic form that looks like a photo of a real piece of jewelry).

He also said we would also need to invest in a 3-D Printer to create wax designs to send off to have cast–you can make one or thousands of the same design.  Wait—What????

Not only that, but he said jewelry stores will be obsolete.  Soon, most will buy jewelry on line or in big box stores.

Watercolor illustration of diamond crystals - seamless pattern
Watercolor illustration of diamond crystals – seamless pattern

WOW!  And the person sitting next to me confirmed that she closed her jewelry store in NY and she showed me her 3D designs–she sells her jewelry online in this way.  They looked like real pieces–and she said they don’t even exist—yet.  A customer would order it, and she would promise it to them in 3 weeks–it gets sent off to be cast, and a jeweler would then finish it off (polish, set the stone, and so forth).  

Wow again!  I sat there, very deflated.  I don’t want to do CAD CAM.  I don’t want to send a computer design, I want to hand design something–to create a piece of art by hand.  I want to take the sheet of metal, and saw, hammer, shape, form, file, sand, solder and manipulate the hell out of it, to come up with something different.

I can’t put my soul into a computer program.

I can’t put my soul into a computer program.  I can only put my soul in a piece that I worked from beginning to end.  I don’t want to make a thousand of the same thing.

peach1My pieces are far from perfect–they are not machined–but they have character.

And then the lightbulb

lightbulb2compr
came on over my head…My customer doesn’t want one of a thousand either.  My customer wants to be independent, wants to express, is organic, natural, wants art, and will search for the piece that matches her/his personality, mood and sense of style.

Maybe I will never be wealthy as a solo bench jeweler.  Maybe I will be among a shrinking group of jewelry artists who make pieces from beginning to end.  But what I will have is an artistic soul that will remain intact, and customers who treasure their pieces for what they are….

rings1Lynne Patnode is a jewelry artist whose mission is to create wearable jewelry art from Nature’s most beautiful stones, sea glass, and artifacts.  She also creates glass art jewelry to emulate nature’s beauty.  Her website is SilverSpiral Creations