What Does Artisan Jewelry Mean?
Artisan jewelry in Austin is an easy find, as Austin is home to all kinds of artists, designers and other talented people who love to create beautiful things. In fact, in 2015, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) awarded Austin a “City of Media Arts” designation, the first city to ever be recognized for such an honor.
According to UNESCO, “The designation underscores Austin’s reputation as a trendsetting global city at the intersection of art, music, and digital technology, and an international hub for creative exchange.” We couldn’t agree more.
Artisan jewelry may be a term you’ve heard, but do you know what it means? The word “artisan” describes someone who is skilled in their trade, especially one that involves making something by hand. When it comes to jewelry, it means an artist creates each piece using their hands versus a machine or an assembly line in a factory.
We want to break that down a bit, giving you an in-depth look at what artisan jewelry really means and where you can find it in Austin.
Defining Artisan Jewelry
When you are looking for artisan jewelry in Austin, you’ll find pieces that are:
Handmade by an artist
Handmade is easy enough to understand, but many people consider home crafting projects as handmade. While those items may be made by hand, including jewelry, artisan jewelry is anything but something an inexperienced person can create.
Becoming an “artisan” goes way beyond simply knowing how to make jewelry. It is a learned skill that takes years of practice, sometimes under the guidance of a mentor or through specialized classes.
A jewelry designer typically envisions a piece of jewelry and then creates it using their hands as tools. For instance, the artist may begin with a piece of wire, forms it into the desired shape, and adds intricate details to make it unique. No two pieces are exactly the same, and a finished piece likely involves hours of work.
Uncommon Goods says that when you purchase handmade jewelry, you’re “supporting real people” instead of an unknown big corporation. You’re also likely to find a story behind each piece.
An artist, no matter the type, expresses themselves through their art form. They can tell you how they came up with each design, why it is important to them, and what it represents. When you wear artisan jewelry, you’re wearing something unique and meaningful to you and the artist who created it.
Mass-produced jewelry can’t beat out the quality of artisan jewelry. Small-scale production gives the artist time to continually inspect their work to the finest detail. To them, it’s about quality over quantity. The emphasis is on beauty and workmanship, not volume.
Because the artist is intimately involved in the design and making of each piece, their name and reputation are on all they touch. This means that everything from the materials to the techniques they use results in a high-quality piece they can be proud of making.
What does that look like for you? When it comes to materials, you will find gold-filled instead of lower-quality gold-plated pieces and sterling silver instead of nickel silver. Nickel silver is commonly used by mass jewelry producers to mimic the look of silver, but it doesn’t contain any silver at all. It is an alloy (a blend) of copper, nickel and zinc, sometimes even tin and lead. As you can imagine, nickel silver is hardly comparable to the quality, beauty and durability of sterling silver.
Related: What Is Gold-Filled Jewelry?
While we’ve already mentioned the differences in quality between handmade versus mass-produced jewelry, there’s more to it than that. Uniqueness and exclusivity play a large role as well.
Mass-produced jewelry is the opposite of artisan jewelry. The ongoing nature of mass production means the focus is on volume, creating thousands of identical pieces that are typically on-trend and sold in stores around the country (or world). When you purchase these jewelry items, there’s a good chance you will see plenty of others wearing the same things. It may be trendy, but it is hardly unique.
Unlike jewelry designed and made by hand by a skilled artist, mass-produced jewelry is made by machines that churn out piece after piece in a cookie-cutter fashion. A sample item is likely examined for quality, but because of the production volume, you can bet 99% of the pieces are never inspected.
And because mass-produced jewelry is about quantity, the manufacturer focuses on the cost of production and how many pieces they can sell. The lower their costs, the more money they make on margins.
Potential profits also motivate them to use lower-quality materials. Their target market likely doesn’t notice or care about gold-filled and sterling silver, natural stones versus acrylic beads, or synthetic pearls instead of real ones. They can keep their production costs low, which means they can lower their price points to attract more customers.
Ironically, even though their price points are lower than those of artisan jewelers, these manufacturers know that their pieces won’t last long due to their low quality. They factor in the fact that customers will need to replace their pieces regularly, keeping customers in a continual cycle of purchasing, throwing away and purchasing again.
Sure, you will pay more for artisan jewelry, but you will likely never need to replace it because of poor quality or workmanship. It will last a lifetime. If you do the math, you can likely invest in high-quality pieces that cost the same or less over time than these mass-produced pieces that never last more than a couple of years.
Instant Mood Boosters
There’s something special about putting on a piece of artisan jewelry that you know is timeless, unique and of the highest quality. It just feels good. It gives you a boost of confidence, a pep in your step, a sense of style, even when you are wearing the simplest outfit.
From earrings and necklaces to rings and bracelets, you can find handmade pieces that elevate any wardrobe and allow you to express your personality in new ways. With artisan jewelry, you are wearing art. It’s a statement of who you are and what you love as much as it is the artist’s vision.
H2: How to Find Artisan Jewelry in Austin
The beauty of artisan jewelry is you can often find it from local artists in your city. Austin has several artisan jewelers, some with storefronts and online shopping options and others with only online sales.
At Liz James, we sell our pieces in our studio and online, but what we love most is getting to know our clients in our studio. We often show them our workroom, introduce them to our artists, and tell them the story behind the pieces that attract them. You can’t get the same experience online or in any commercial store. If you’re in Austin, stop by and say hello!
Other Austin artists and studios we love are eliza page, Claire Sommers Buck Jewelry, and Nina Berenato. Like us, they all offer highly unique, beautiful, quality jewelry made by local artists you can feel good about supporting.