A specific day in early December has inspired this particular post today. On that day, a jewelry magazine was brought in from the mail at work at John Fritze, Jr.. As the staff in the shop paged through, we came to an article that featured a shockingly ugly piece of jewelry. It was interesting because it was clearly a judgment of our own taste. And yet, we all shared the same reaction. What we all had agreed was a truly distasteful piece of jewelry was receiving an honor in a magazine with a broad audience of goldsmiths and others in the jewelry business.
This got me thinking about the concept of beauty in jewelry. How is it defined? If this seemingly unattractive piece of work was being featured, is beauty entirely and utterly subjective? I decided to get some input from the in-house pro where I work, John Fritze, Jr. As a goldsmith with 40+ years of experience, I knew he would have a solid idea of the concept of beauty in jewelry. Here is his response:
"How do people decide what is beautiful when looking at jewelry? Obviously beauty is subjective. What one person thinks is attractive, another person will look at the same item and think: "why would anyone wear something so f-ugly". Certainly a Google search for "images of beautiful jewelry" will yield everything from simple and tailored to the grotesque and profane, but in someone's mind the most ugly piece can be beautiful. Even the most avant-garde design can be interesting, or just another "train wreck" depending on the opinion of the person viewing it. And that's OK.
As a designer, goldsmith, manufacturer (or however you wish to describe me) I expect certain parameters in a jewelry item in order for me to describe it as beautiful. I want to see some thought put into the overall design and not just something kluged together out of mismatched parts or ideas. The center stone (if there is one), accent stones, and metal should result in some sort of pleasant (or interesting) color scheme. I personally like to see an item finished nicely be it polished, engraved, florentined, hammered or brushed. The inside or the back should be just as attractive as the front. And most importantly the item should be well enough constructed to be wearable, prongs not catching or stones falling out. The metal should be thick enough to allow the item to suffer a bit of abuse without needing constant repair or even being destroyed. And, many times simpler is better. I like an item to be "timeless" and not made at the whim of the moment. Will the next several generations like the item that I made and cherish it as much as the original purchaser?
Looking through trade publications at articles touting this or that design by a "famous" artisan is sometimes shocking at what is considered good taste and workmanship. I feel at bit like the little boy who sees the king's new clothes..."