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Is Hand Made Jewelry really made by hand?

The artisan jewelry market is growing in recent years with more and more people turning their jewelry making hobby into a side business. One only has to walk through the craft section of a book store or the jewelry making aisle in your local craft store to see how popular it is to make jewelry.

So what is hand made jewelry? There are so many ways to interpret this phrase that a broader definition than the regurgitation of “jewelry made by hand” might be helpful.

• Are you making jewelry by hand if you are purchasing parts and assembling them?
• Are you making jewelry by hand if you are designing the work and hiring someone else to make it for you with their hands?
• Is your work handmade if you are using using a jig to bend wire exactly the same over and over?
• What about power tools?
• What about a laser cutter or a 3D printer? Are your designs hand made?

There is no absolute answer to these questions because every time another new technology comes along, it could be seen as “cheating” to call the products it produces as hand made.

The way I see it, it all comes down to process. Artists like myself explore many different processes, both traditional fabrication techniques like lost wax casting that go back thousands of years and newer technology like 3D printing and pattern making using computers. What is most important is to bring our artist’s vision to reality using the best tools available. My hands touch everything I make, no matter which processes are used.

Many of my pieces from the Ripples collection are precision cut from precious metal sheet by hand with a jewelers saw using a blade that measures .063 of an inch wide, some pieces like the Rogue Wave Earrings take hours for one person sitting at a bench. This can be contrasted to my Ripples Rainbow bracelets that were designed in a computer and 3D printed in a flexible nylon. Once printed they are hand dyed and sometimes assembled with sterling silver components. As the artist, I describe them both as hand made.