Who is Jewellery for, Really?

An article I wrote for the Eiger Gallery website …

I guess what I’ve personally spent on Jewellery over the years doesn’t equate to a dizzying amount of money. But I know what I like, and depending on the person it’s intended for, I don’t usually need much time to make up my mind and secure that purchase. 

But what makes me, or any of us for that matter, buy jewellery in the first place? 

I don’t wear any jewellery myself, so any time I’ve bought a piece of bodily adornment, it’s been for another. In this instance, the act of giving is a strong motivator towards handing over my cash. And in any case, what is the real appeal of jewellery? Is it to look prettier? To show one’s status? Or a simple way to raise our self esteem? Maybe the procurement and possession of jewellery is like any other desire to accumulate and own things, a material whim which governs so many people, and more so, it seems, today than at any other time before. 

To try and decipher who jewellery is really for, my thoughts invariably lead to design and aesthetics. For me, the cost of an object has no real bearing on its significance – ten pounds or ten thousand, the price tag on a piece of jewellery isn’t going to make me like it any more or less – but it is its appearance which strikes that little tuning fork inside and tells me what I like the look of, but more importantly, the feel of. It could be argued that jewellery is essentially just for looks. 

Clothes, indeed, can also be chosen for looks alone, but most all of them end up serving the end purpose of covering our bodies.Shoes are in the exact same boat. No matter how impractical a six inch pair of heels may be, they still complete the task of keeping the feet of whichever brave (or foolish) person who decides to wear them from touching the harsh ground. Any other common accessory provides a function too. A belt holds up your trousers, a scarf keeps your neck warm – what does jewellery do to fill our practical needs and make us more comfortable? The answer is that a piece of jewellery is not an essential item prettied up to look nicer, but a pure work of art. It is there to be there, to represent our expression of what art we like and enjoy. And maybe what it shows most importantly is a feeling we chose to evoke, a message which is exchanged by using jewellery as a vehicle of this message, this feeling, this intention. 

But how does an inanimate object makes us feel anything at all? And how does the person wearing the jewellery feel, versus the person observing the jewellery on the wearer? The design of a piece of jewellery is what sets it apart from every other piece. And while they all have similarities – for example, rings, necklaces, earrings – each design seems to be singing out towards the ones who would hear it most clearly, striving to make that personal connection, to be the one which reaches out and touches the human being who may be moved by its beauty or form or individualism.

Works of true art are individual, and a crafted piece of jewellery is just that, a work of art.
Could it be that by buying a work of art such as this, we seek to please not only others but ourselves as well? And the mere seeking of this pleasure, no matter its form or intended party, is reason enough to do the looking, do the liking, and then the buying. What happens after is out of the art’s hands, and left purely to the emotion of the people around it. SH

(article written for eigergallery.com)

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