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Artistic Jewelry

July 1899 — International Congress of Women, Professional Section, London, England


The making of jewels is a decided test of the artistic power of nations, for it means getting a very large amount of beauty in a very small space. It means making something exceedingly pleasant to look upon, and quite suitable to the wearer and the time and occasion when it is worn; something that shall be the bijou, the point of interest of the garment it is put on, something that shall appear indispensable to perfect the effect, and not merely to sow that the wearer possesses it.

Mere imitation is not art, and it may be taken as an axiom that anything not proper to the purpose to which it is applied is inartistic. It vexes me to see women thoughtlessly fixing diamond pigs, lizards, mice, and similar objects to their bangles, when the real creatures would almost send them into hysterics if they crossed their path.

If jewelry is made by machinery its artistic possibilities re entirely done away with, for it depends then entirely on the perfection of tools; the skill of the hand and eye is not needed; punches and dies do it all, and, however good the design, the tools give none of the Ego of the artist. But the work of a clever craftsman does this, and more; for in the careful, loving way a clever workman carries out the design from which he works, he preserves all the beauty of the artist’s choyle [sp?], and adds his quota to the effect; gives the result of his years of training, of good, sound, honest work.

In the best periods of art the forms used for jewelry were all conventional. The Indian, Etruscan, Greek, Byzantine, Italian, Moorish, Spanish, English, and French all show this.

Let women be true, and in all they do be thorough and genuine; and I do believe that when women make jewelry it will be beautiful, well made, tasteful, and artistic. There is no art or craft more suitable for women’s work; for it requires patience to overcome the technical difficulties, which are by no means small; endurance to bear the heat of the furnace and the blow-pipes; great care, for the materials used are costly; no little physical strength; much tact and good temper, and above all, the power of sticking to it.



Source: The International Congress of Women of 1899, ed. The Countess of Aberdeen (London: T. Fisher Unwin) 1900, pp. 194-195.