Why is it Difficult to Sell Handcrafted Jewelry? - $0

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All throughout the world, skilled jewellers and artisan-jewelers are creating beautiful pieces of handcrafted jewellery. While many designers come up with completely original creations, others are heavily influenced by the cultural and historical traditions of their homeland.

In Peru, where she was born and raised, jewellery specialist Merlly Calisto collaborates with hundreds of skilled artisan-designers. She is the regional director for Novica.com, an international arts organisation that promotes the work of thousands of individual artists by publishing online biographies and collections of their finished works.

Follows an interview with Calisto in which he talks about the art of jewellery making and Peruvian jewelry's traditional forms, styles, and materials. Calisto discusses how she became an expert in the jewellery industry, the criteria she uses to evaluate new designers and collections, and the designers she recommends.

CG: Can you explain why Novica focuses on handcrafted jewellery as opposed to machine-made? In comparison to mass-produced jewellery, what benefits does handmade jewellery offer?

MC: It's harder to make jewellery by hand. The heart and soul of the creator shines through. It doesn't take thousands of dollars to get an artist's idea realised, thus making handcrafted jewellery allows the artist to explore their creativity, offer more of themselves, and see their dreams come true. Artists can demonstrate their individuality and their connection to their cultural heritage by creating works of art using only basic tools and materials and their own skill. Making jewellery with machines, on the other hand, necessitates a hefty outlay of capital for machinery, workers, and other related costs, and it also diminishes the artistic value of the final product.

CG: What kinds of handmade jewellery can a collector discover in Peru today?

MC: Pre-Inca, Traditional, Colonial, and Modern are the most common categories of jewellery from Peru that collectors seek after. Our forefathers worked our gold and silver mines with great diligence, and today we enjoy the fruits of their labour. The most common application was in the making of high-quality, custom jewellery. Our forebears' jewellery often features religious or culturally significant symbolism. Jewelry from Peru often features regal symbols like birds, cats, the Sun God, and more. When you think of the Land of the Sun, think of Peru. Colonial jewellery displays what our ancestors began to make once they assimilated into a new culture, despite the fact that it was a direct outcome of the Conquest of the Americas. So, our Colonial jewellery combines the one-of-a-kind skills of our ancestors with the fresh start of a new world, and it often places more of an emphasis on floral designs than the animal designs of their forebears. There has been a recent flowering of interest in jewellery design in Peru, as contemporary pieces drawing inspiration from our culture's history while incorporating more abstract forms and concepts are becoming increasingly popular. This opens up possibilities for Peruvian artists to create works that draw from our culture but also incorporate elements from their own unique experiences and perspectives.

CG: Can you give us a more in-depth look at the intricate designs found in Pre-Inca, Inca, and other types of Peruvian artisan jewellery?

There are parallels between Pre-Inca and Inca jewellery since the Inca Empire was built on the ruins of earlier civilizations. Symbolic of the Inca belief system and cosmology, jewellery was an important form of communication. You can find symbols of monarchy, power, and loyalty in the form of cats, humans, and birds adorned with snakes and rays of sunlight. Some of our Pre-Inca tribes employed a deceptively simple yet visually appealing aesthetic to communicate their worldviews; examples of this can be seen even today in widespread artistic expressions like jewellery. Jewellery that is reminiscent of the colonial era has a sophisticated air about it. You can tell that a piece of jewellery was made with the Queen in mind if it has a Colonial gem design or a Modern design that was inspired by colonial periods. Even though we don't utilise precious stones like diamonds, this design nevertheless has the look and feel of a gem. Collectible pieces of colonial and Incan-style jewellery are often breathtaking works of art.

What types of precious stones and metals are extracted in Peru and used in traditional Peruvian jewellery? I'm curious about the quality of those identical Peruvian materials.

MC: Good one, my favourite kind of question. Exactly why do you think that is, if you know? According to the Silver Institute, Peru is the leading silver producer in the world, followed closely by Mexico. When it comes to gold, we come in at number one in all of Latin America and sixth in the globe. When it comes to quality, we are among the best in the business. In terms of precious stones, the Andean opal is something truly unique. Despite the widespread availability of opal, Andean Opal is unique to Peru. The Pre-Incas fashioned jewellery from this stone called Crisocola. Sodalite, onyx, obsidian, jasper, serpentine, and angelite are some more well-liked semiprecious stones.

CG: What do you seek out in terms of design style, materials, and quality when contemplating representing new handcrafted jewellery artisans? But how do you go about figuring out which elements to prioritise?

MC: The message behind each design is the first thing I consider while deciding whether or not to purchase it. In this case, who is the client? Does it suit their style? Does it aim to transmit history, culture, and character in a market where consumers need novelty? Wherever I go, whether it's a modern building or a rustic one, I try to find a nod to our history. My initial attention is piqued if it somehow captures Peruvian culture. In particular, I appreciate it when silver, gold, and stones from Peru are used. Next, it should be made with precision and attention to detail.

CG: Who are some of your favourite jewellery designers who work with handmade pieces? Explain why they are your preferred option.

MC: IIlaria is a favourite of mine. She prefers the colonial aesthetic we described, and she creates her pieces with the consumer in mind. See what I mean by checking out her collection at Novica.

Another of my favourites is Patricia Jara, whose work is almost usually in a contemporary style that draws inspiration from Pre-Inca traditions. Claudia Llaury incorporates her own unique style into traditional forms while also employing only locally sourced materials, such as sterling silver. Beautiful designs, especially those inspired by Inca culture, may be seen in Juan Contreras' "Veil of the Incas" collection. The high standard set by Claudia Lira is indicative of the perseverance and creativity of Peruvian jewellers. Anna Lia and Adrian combine ethnic sophistication with Art Deco style, but they don't always employ indigenous gems. I'm honoured to work with such brilliant creators as these and the many others I've had the pleasure of representing. Our Novica Handcrafted Jewelry section features each piece uniquely.

CG: How did you get involved in making jewellery by hand? Did you start out working in the jewellery industry?

MC: I'd say I'm more theoretical than practical. Personally, I'm a huge fan of fine jewellery. My career in the jewellery industry started when I was tasked with promoting Peruvian jewellery around the world. To that end, I went to a lot of different jewellery studios, both specialised and more widely known. I also worked on deals related to the metals industry. Involvement in the National Industries Society and the Mining Society allowed me to attend meetings of industry experts.

In response to my own observations of a dearth of finishing knowledge amongst the smaller workshops, I have organised attendance at technical courses and developed instructional workshops for the benefit of the industry's up-and-coming crop of independent jewellers. Despite all the knowledge I gained over the years, I never really applied it to my own artistic practise. I have had the pleasure of attending international jewellery symposiums organised by a variety of international cooperation programmes and of participating in international jewellery fairs such as Iberjoya in Madrid.

I was invited to serve as a judge for the Patronato de la Plata's annual Plata del Peru silver competition. The years I spent at Novica were invaluable for learning new skills and expanding my horizons. In the meantime, the market has expanded rapidly, and here at Novica, I feel like I'm getting closer to the action than ever before. As a jeweller, I want to stay abreast of the latest trends and discoveries in jewellery making.

The Mining Institute is a great place to go if you're interested in learning more about the gems that can be found in your area. As a way to get more hands-on experience with our artists, I've been enjoying taking some workshops in making jewellery. I like to keep up with the latest offerings in jewellery and pricing by making periodic trips to wholesalers. To better aid artists and comprehend their financial requirements, I must keep abreast of all pricing changes. It's a challenging and interesting line of work.