Owning pieces of handmade jewellery is an ever-growing trend in today's fast-moving world. For some, it has been the most sought after goal for many years, whereas for others it has just recently come to their attention that it's actually one of the best places to put your money. Just like with fashion, you can rest assured that whenever there is a trend of something extreme, the immediate (yet slow) reaction to that is to go toward the extreme opposite. It has taken the jewellery industry a long time to get to this point after industrialization started happening, cheapening the industry beyond recognition.
To better paint the pictures of how trends come to life: Take the 70-ies as an example; high waists, bell-bottom pants, all about being natural (and unshaven) compared to the decade before with pretty doll-like Twiggy with big lashes and nude pink lips leading the way. Then, as a reaction to the naturality of the 70-ies came the 80-ies with extreme big hair, heavy make-up (even men), big unnatural shoulders and a fitness-obsessed world. This in turn was followed by the 90-ies; all about natural beauty again, the focus of being strong and natural in your own skin instead of fit to the max, almost boyish dress codes and short, unmaintained unisex hairstyles. Fast-forward two more decades and we have the 90-ies reborn again in the current fashion world we live in today. This is a phenomenon we studied at university while I was studying for my BA in Fashion. It was a real eye-opener, but it wasn't really even an industry secret. Any one with a photo album stretching back over at least 3-4 decades could have spotted it. It really fascinated me on so many levels.
One thing I'm sure of is that the demand for handmade is ever-growing and I personally don't ever want it to stop. In the current era of "I" and "me before everyone else" the focus has shifted from the masses onto the individual and never before have we been under more pressure to define ourselves, our style and our performance. This is why the trend of unique, handmade, individual, personalized is growing - because our reaction is to stand out, not blend in anymore.
I must say I love walking the streets of Copenhagen seeing more and more young girls and boys taking charge of their persona and really making an effort to put focus on their individual styles and values. It's refreshing that they are willing to be the "odd ones out". It's important to dare to be bold at such a young age. These are the youngsters who one day will be the grown-ups that will demand change in society - and those are always in demand to keep us moving forward.
As the world is rapidly evolving with the rise of brands and theirs impact on our everyday lives, such as Apple and Nike to name but a few, we as consumer tend to go the other way when something becomes mainstream. What is it about something that’s made by hand that draws our attention? My theory is that an artisan’s personal connection and love of their craft transforms ordinary objects into jewellery masterpieces. Still, most people don’t understand the true value of handmade jewelry compared to its mass-produced counterparts. There are many reasons why handcrafted jewellery is more of an investment than pieces that are produced in mass quantities so I have made a little breakdown for you:
Here are 10 reasons why you should be investing in handmade jewellery:
It’s hard to know exactly where your money is going when you buy from a big corporation. Investing in handcrafted jewellery means you get a connection with the maker. Whether you know them in person, or feel like you know them after learning their story, you can remember that your purchase not only supports a real person, but you are also helping keep that business open so that they can pass on their knowledge to younger generations one day (think internships, apprentices etc). There’s something very rewarding about knowing your money will go towards something good and that you can make a difference to someone with you money.
2. A Story Behind Each Piece - Always One of a Kind
When you think about it, handmade pieces are always unique in their own way. Every stroke on each piece is unique - every time. No two pieces of handmade jewellery can ever be exactly the same. You are the only person with that specific piece of jewelry which says a lot. It’s something just for you, every single time.
When you wear handmade jewellery, you become a part of the story the designer is telling through their work. Each artist has a unique reason for designing jewellery. Their designs are sending a message. Maybe only you know the true meaning behind it, but you feel that connection between you and the person who created it.
3. Classic and Traditional Methods and Tools vs. Machine Made
By definition, handmade jewellery is literally just that, made by the “hands” of the designer or maker. The pieces are individually handsoldered, handsawed, handcarved, and handshaped without the use of manufacturing machinery. A machine can crank out hundreds of units per hour while an individual can only make a certain quantity. Why does this matter? It's all in the attention to detail. Your handmade jewellery will be far more detailed and most likely have less flaws than machine made jewellery. Also, by using traditional methods and tools, and only doing small scale production runs or individual designs, the maker can keep the toxicity levels at a minimum. I for instance use household goods found in most people's kitchens as part of my jewellery creation process, which a factory wouldn't because it's too costly and not strong enough to get the effect you want if you make big batches in one go.
4. The Value of Time (You pay for Time spent working for YOU)
As previously mentioned, since there are no machines involved, it takes an incredible amount of time to produce just a single piece of handmade jewellery. The process involves designing the piece from scratch if it's a custom order you are working on, and this process alone can take a couple of weeks depending on how much information the designer has been given. If the custom order involves never before tested methods, this also requires an experimental phase to be calculated into the time spent working on your piece. Or, if it's a pre-exisiting design, you need to go back and forth to see how you created the very first sample, and take careful measurements to get the design just right. The next steps that follow are usually the actual sawing, carving, shaping, hammering, soldering and then ultimately the polishing. Polishing a piece can take hours if you don't get the right results you are looking for, or if you accidentally damage the piece while working on it (the slightest slip of a tool can cause major damage) and need to fix it. That’s a lot of devotion, care, and attention to your piece of jewellery.
5. The Designer’s Process
Every jewellery maker has a unique approach to their design process, and because independent jewellery designers work around their own schedule and customer focus, you as a client, also have a bigger say in how you want something done. Imagine contacting a big jewellery company and asking them to make a custom piece just for you, or even to use one of their existing designs but just tweak it a little bit to fit your own wishes. It would never happen. They would not spend time on you as an individual to nurture the relationship they have with you, and move heaven and earth to make you happy and give you what your heart desires. They would deem it too costly and not profitable enough to them. Choosing your designs at a smaller independent jeweller's studio is often the start of a beautiful relationship that swings both ways. You love getting exactly what you look for, and we love making you happy that you chose us.
6. Exclusivity (and uniqueness)
When it comes to handmade jewellery, no two designs can ever be exactly identical - and that's the beauty of it. The focus is on the beauty in individuality rather than the industrial obsession with looking alike. Owning a piece of handmade jewellery means you own an exclusive item that can never be fully replicated and is most likely made in very limited editions. That in itself is the epitome of exclusivity.
7. Choice in Materials
In almost every case, the materials involved in a handmade piece are of stellar quality. It’s difficult to regulate or even know exactly what alloys are used in mass production factories where unexpected nickel or other metals can cause unwanted reactions. Handmade materials are generally sourced from highly reputable suppliers and the designer can choose exclusive materials that bigger companies don't want to work with because they are more time consuming (i.e. not cost-effective) and very intricate and demanding to work with.
Smaller designers and jewellery makers are often a lot more dedicated to sustainability and ethically sourced materials than bigger, more established companies. Mostly, I think, because the smaller businesses lead with their hearts and their internal compass tells them what is right and wrong. Also, they have the ability to choose and test their way forward because they don't have 100+ employees who depend on their profit margins to add up every single week.
By nature, being ethical can be much more costly than taking the easy route and purchasing from the dealer with low prices and questionable sourcing methods. Unfortunately, the term "sustainable" is being tossed around quite a lot these days, as it is one of those terms that is not regulated by any stance, and can be "interpreted" by any company or corporation out there at any given moment, to suit their marketing plans. As a consumer, you need to establish what is important to You when you want to shop sustainably? Is it that the company does good for the planet, or makes products from recyclable material - or both - like I do.
9. Quality and Integrity
Smaller businesses almost always produce higher quality products because the ability to track and control the process from start to finish, and the ability to make decisions with their hearts vs being told by "Linda in Purchasing" what their max budget to spend is, is an essential part of infusing true quality and integrity into the designer's work. Makers and artisans are extremely proud of the work they produce and stand by their principles of right and wrong. Sure, choosing the harder right over the easier wrong can come with a hefty price tag, but the integrity in independent designers is often so strong, that they aren’t going to let something of less than perfect quality leave their studio with their name on it - they would rather stay up all night to make you a new piece from scratch. No corporation would do that for you. They'd rather send you a refund. This is the passion behind an independent label.
10. Locally Crafted with a true Passion for Craftsmanship
Each time you buy something, you cast a vote (with your money) of what you want more of in this world. The value of supporting local and smaller businesses is huge from a sustainability standpoint. Designers and makers infuse love, passion and energy into each piece of work and many designers have sourced local products, materials, and people to help produce their creations. Along with the extra value already present in handmade jewellery, you are also buying a truly unique product that no-one will ever be able to replicate entirely.
11. Something to pass on to the next generation
Receiving pre-loved and handed-down unique jewellery with fond memories attached to it, makes jewllery so much more than just a piece of metal. Buying something handmade usually means the quality is higher than machine made, both because there simply aren't ways to handmake certain brittle, cost-effective elements and because techniques like gold-plating becomes more difficult and time-consuming than just selling real, solid gold.
12. We are obsessed with pleasing you
The passion, determination and obsession behind an independent jewellery label is something that should be cherished and thoroughly appreciated. Our passion to please and satisfy our customers is what got the most of us started in this industry in the first place, and is still the number one reason why our work is appreciated and sought after. Our work, services and reputation are what matter the most to us because they are our only advertisement at times when the marketing budget is low or non-existent - or the season is turning out to be extremely slow. So for us, you are our walking, talking billboards - so we want you to be happy with your product and show if off with pride.
13. Realistic Pricing
Running a small business usually means operating on very small budgets, and this in turn means that the designers cannot buy the largest bulk of materials just to get the prices down like big corporations can. This of course triggers a chain-reaction in the pricing as well. Because smaller businesses pay more for their material per unit than bigger companies do, that also means their production costs can be more than 10 times higher than machine made production, and this of course can only result in one of two things:
a) the small business tries to match the prices of what is out on the market, with machine made brands setting the bench mark in prices because they are the biggest players on the market (this option means the designer makes a smaller profit per piece than bigger companies do)
b) the small business use the same markup profit margin as the big companies do in order for it to get the same percentage of profit (to make a living) and hope to God that people understand what they are getting in return vs. machine made products.
This is really a guessing game. No one formula is correct or incorrect. The true value of handmade is up to the individual to grasp, evaluate and assess and that is why I thought it would make for a good subject to talk about - because so few understand WHY handmade is growing so much in popularity, inspite of it's high prices.
So the next time you consider purchasing a handmade piece of jewellery, keep in mind that even though it might cost you a little bit more than you originally set out to pay, you are supporting something bigger than yourself. You should feel really good about your purchase knowing that you now own a special piece of the designer forever in your own personal, unique jewellery collection and most importantly, they spent hours making something - just for you. Who in today's industrially-led world can say that anymore?
Your unique, individually handmade piece awaits.
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xx Marie xx