What is Artisan Jewelry?
The first time a friend mentioned that she was building a collection of artisan jewelry, I had no idea what she meant. Not wanting to appear ignorant, I nodded appreciatively and made the appropriate sounds. As soon as I was home, I pulled up Google and searched the term.
Simply put, artisan jewelry is created with a variety of materials, not just precious metals and stones. Plastics, clay, wood, beads, and more are all incorporated into the piece to create a beautiful piece that expresses beauty in a way that is completely different than what is found in fine jewelry. Now, I won't tell you that I don't enjoy a string of pearls or a diamond tennis bracelet, but if I want something fun, I go with artisan jewelry.
Isn't it Just Costume Jewelry?
Actually, they are pretty much the same thing. The key difference is that handcrafted artisan jewelry is truly unique. You can buy plenty of costume jewelry that is mass produced in China and you'll commonly see it lining the shelves of the local mega-mart with each piece looking pretty much the same. Worse, every once in a while you hear about such items being recalled for safety reasons.
When someone takes the time to hand make a piece for you, you know it is special. The different elements have been perfectly balanced and all work together to create a whole. Some pieces represent something, others are just fun and still others are custom made for a specific occasion. I don't know any costume jewelry that offers this kind of quality and diversity.
Where Can You Find Real Handcrafted Artisan Jewelry?
There are actually a number of sources. You can browse through local bead shops. Often you will find an employee or two who specialize in this kind of work who frequently take commissions and will be happy to help you design a piece you will love. Of course, if you get something different than what you really wanted, you still have to pay for it, which is a bit of a hassle.
Some stores, both online and in the €real€ world, specialize in this kind of jewelry. The sad part is that the creations you find in these kinds of places aren't truly unique. While they aren't being produced by the millions in some third world country, they are definitely not single productions.
Finally, there are some websites that allow you to create your own pieces using an online jewelry designing program. When you put together all the elements you love, you order your item and someone handcrafts it for you. Those pieces are bound to be unique and there is on disappointment as they arrive exactly how you designed them.