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Friday, July 21, 2017

Nothing (good) is easy!

Natural alexandrite 18k gold ring
I was at my bench this past Sunday (since I pretty much work seven days a week year round) and I was in the middle of building out a fairly complicated ring for a customer when I suddenly said to myself, why the heck do I make my life so difficult?  I could just buy commercial jewelry (or even jewelry hand made by some other craftsperson) and put it out in my cases and sell it.  I'd work a whole lot less and there's a good chance I'd be making a whole lot more money. I mean I could at least just be selling cast pieces since after I get a model made up it's really just all about setting stones, sizing and polishing. What the heck was I thinking when I got into this job?  It's apparently a good question I'm still not sure I know the complete answer to. 

I do know that one of the things I like to do and that brings me peace in my life is the physical act of making a piece of jewelry up from scratch.  To take a few loose stones, some round wire, sheet or even some 24k gold I have to make an alloy out of to make the materials I need  and create something beautiful that someone will wear for the rest of their lives (and possibly be worn by their heirs) is a pretty amazing thing to spend your life doing.  But it sure isn't the easy way to make a living.  It's gotten to be a harder thing to make a living at these days as people seem to be losing concern with actually owning hand made things.  It seems that many people are only concerned with how cheap something is or how fast they can get it which is unfortunate because it means we are losing all personality in the things we own. It used to be that Japanese craftsmen would spend years perfecting a talent like mokume gane and then spend months making up one amazing piece.  Think about that:  If you spent months working on creating one thing don't you think it would have so much of you in it that it would be a true masterpiece?   Unfortunately I can't afford to take months to make anything up (although some of my pieces take that long until they go from an idea to a creation) mostly because I have pesky things to pay for like rent but we seem to be losing the desire to own things that someone puts a piece of themselves into. 

I had a young man (12?  13?) in with his mother the other day.  He wanted to be a jeweler and he asked me some very pointed questions and had an excellent grasp of some gemology even without any formal training.   For the first time in my life I told someone that this was not a field I would recommend to anyone any more.  Despite the fact that because of the Internet it often appears that there are a whole lot of jewelers like me out there, in reality we are a dying breed. 

But because this is what I live to do, I will be here until I have no more customers left.  Hopefully that is still a long way's off!!
Custom pendant using customer's stones