When we think of luxury jewelry, we often associate its value with their materials: diamonds, gold, and stones. In contrast, the companies at the forefront of luxury jewelry hold their value beyond simply materials; they value the community. Craftsmen within the jewelry field are able to use these iconic jewelry houses as a place to exert their work and skills. Many houses have transitioned to integrate machines into their making, leading to Hand Craftsmanship within luxury jewelers to not always be a given. And with that the personal touch and rarity we seek within luxury pieces.
The rarity found within luxury jewelry pieces made within these houses is the essence of its value. When customers put on a luxury piece, they aren’t simply putting on a design but a work of art. The work of the human hand gives identity to a piece through the iteration of hand making that can’t be replicated by a machine. Craftsmanship within luxury jewelry houses is a multifaceted concept, each brand upholds its “own craftsmanship” in different ways. This craftsmanship is the essence of the community with these luxury jewelry houses.
We often think of craftsmanship as the physical creation of a product, but what about the people who design the jewelry being created. Harry Winston, a prominent American Jewelry House started by designer Harry Winston, highlights the main aspect of its craftsmanship through its designs. Through the community of designers, Harry Winston produces one-of-a-kind creations. The company's founder, Harry Winston himself, would hire classically trained artists to work as jewelry designers. Through their archival design, you can see how the community of designers throughout history used different artistic and historical influences to shape the company's aesthetic. The archival collection of Harry Winston’s designs is home to 100,000 unique drawings and sketches. An example of this is with cooperation between Harry Winston and one of the designers who created the Winston Cluster. It started when Mr. Winston noticed the beauty produced by a frozen holly wreath on the door of his family estate in Scarsdale. When he returned to New York City, he shared his new inspiration with his designers. Nevdon Koumrouyan, Head of the Design Studio, collaborated with Mr.Winston using his newfound inspiration and through a multitude of sketches. There the Winston Cluster was created, which would become one of the most iconic designs known for creating maximum brilliance and sparkle in every direction.
Within luxury houses their standards are of the utmost importance inorder to uphold the quality that creates their status. It often requires experts within their field to be able to ensure said standards. Tiffany & Co. is a company that takes the promises of quality incredibly paramount, and considers it part of their promise of craftsmanship. Tiffany & Co. includes nearly 1,500 in-house artisans who are masters in the field of diamonds. This community of jewelers cuts and polishes Tiffany diamonds flawlessly in order to optimize both their beauty and size. From rough stone to polish each diamond is looked at as many as 1,690 times. The process leads each diamond they craft to be declared “tripped excellent”, which is the Gemological Institute of America's highest grading in three categories: cut, polish, and symmetry. Tiffany’s simple and classic diamond style is a product of detailed labor within its community of jewelers.
Many jewelry houses have their timeless pieces, produced year after year, leading them to be highly coveted and in turn heavily produced by the house as well. Due to their high demands many houses have transitioned these pieces to be no longer produced by hand. Van Cleef on the other hand continues to uphold a hands-on process when it comes to making the Alhambra, their most prominent collection. The Alhambra, created in 1968, is a symbol of luck having been inspired by the four-leaf clovers. At Van Cleef and Arpels, piece with the Alhambra collection is handcrafted, creating a community through the luxury world. As Van Cleef says “The Alhambra collection embodies all the expertise of a High Jewelry Maison.”. The process is meticulous and requires a hands-on process. They will shape it into the iconic Alhambra symbol from a small square piece of precious natural materials, such as onyx mother of pearl, and Tiger’s eye. The gold will be put in a crucible and hand-poured into a template to create the motif and links of the chain. Each link will be individually checked by the jeweler and assembled by hand. Lastly, the Alhambra will carefully be set into the motif. From every aspect of its creation, Van Cleef Alhambra is much more than a well-received jewelry collection, but the result of a community of jewelers. Through this hands-on process within the Alhambra collection, there is connection within each piece of creativity and dedication.
Luxury Jewelry Houses can produce a place of community and bring together people of specialized talents, that are often as well generational talent. Mikimoto for example creates a community for craftsmanship of the pearls. Known for creating the first cultured pearl, Mikimoto mainly focuses on only one gemstone which is a unique factor for the company. The craftsmanship of working with pearls, which in itself is such a particular process within jewelry. In fact, after creating the first cultured pearl, Kokichi Mikimoto sent crafts to Europe to learn about the latest jewelry-making. This would bring the foundation of modern jewelry-making to Japan and promote a community of highly skilled jewelry makers within the country as well. Beyond just jeweler, Mikimoto fosters a community of pearl farmers. Mikimoto is one of the dew high jewelry that creates its own basic material. Mikimoto oysters take two to three years to foster the pearl. When it comes time to get the oysters out of the pearl, they perform surgery, which requires the skill of speed to not destress the oyster. The surgeries are usually done by only 20-30 workers, who usually do 500-600 shells daily. Pearl farming techniques are often passed down through generations since there isn't a school to learn the craft. Some of the pearl farmers within Mikimoto are multi-generational, having parents and grandparents having been employed by the company as well. Mikimoto promotes a very special and unique company within craftsmen dedicated to the pearl field.
Luxury jewelry brands' value isn't simply just a name. It is a multifaceted concept. One of the most important is the community it promotes within. A community that consists of jewelers, framers, designers, and beyond who come together to create art and shape these iconic brands. Each piece of jewelry is a result of a community, which in its creation expands to its customers as well. The community of craftsmanship with a luxury piece makes it special. Many times we recognize these luxury jewelry houses through their iconic designs, but the rarity in the piece is through its craftsmanship. While two pieces could have the same design, they hold their own identity through the craftsmanship by hand. Beyond the value of rarity within the House is preserved by these craftsmen, which in tandem makes these houses more than just a name but also a community.
By Ella Jane Dougherty