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What’s in the details?

May 19, 2010

This beautiful bracelet started out as one long piece of wire in my hands. It's now in my Etsy store, waiting patiently for someone to fall in love with it and take it home.

Last night I was buzzing around the Etsy forums and found myself in a thread with some other jewelry makers debating the merits of Argentium silver and whether customers really appreciated the difference in this relatively new jewelry-making material. Well, as I’ve already espoused, I’m a nut for Argentium silver, but talk about a can of worms! Thinking about using Argentium in my designs has just opened the door to all kinds of issues related to what people know (and don’t know) about what they wear. 

First off, there’s the ecology and human impact part of the equation. I like using Argentium because I don’t have to use harsh chemicals and solders to get great results. Do most people realize that some base metal products contain lead? Sure there might be minimal risk exposure from the little pendant charm that sits in a jewelry box most of the time, but what about the person who made it? Were they paid fairly? Did they have access to a safe work space? Were the production materials properly disposed of to minimize their impact on the environment? How far did that piece have to travel before getting to the market where it was purchased? And just where exactly is that little piece of metal going when someone is done with it? If it’s not heirloom quality, can it be recycled? Do you see how quickly my mind can spin out of control? 

In my Etsy store I’ve been careful to mention Argentium at every turn, not only for the reasons alluded to above, but also because I’m impressed by its tarnish resistance.  Sure, some pieces looks better if they’re a little weathered, but if I want tarnish on my jewelry, I like to oxidize it myself … with Argentium, things stay nice and shiny with very little effort, which I love. 

Anyway, I was quite surprised to hear other sellers mention that based on their experience they don’t think people care at all about these issues at all when they’re buying jewelry. Not one whit. Even more surprising was the person who said that they didn’t think it was their job to educate consumers. Now where I ask would this planet be headed if we all adopted that mindset? 

The truth is, I don’t want to alienate anyone by yammering on about Argentium this and silver that … for goodness sake, if my goal is to sell something, I don’t want potential customers to feel uncomfortable or preached to in the least … however, if my goal as a business person is also to help make the world we share a better place that our grandkids might just get a chance to enjoy, too, well … see what I mean about a can of worms? 

As I’ve mentioned in a few other posts, before I became a jewelry addict I spent many years working as a book editor, and so I had the pleasure of reading dozens of proposals every week. In the cookbook business in particular, I found one of the quotes potential authors liked to use the most came from the French writer Brillat Savarin who said “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” In all honesty, the phrase was so overused in proposals I was often tempted to reject one just for having used it … but now that I’ve gained a little distance from those days, and especially in light of what I’m coming to realize about the jewelry business, I’m coming to appreciate those words a little more. 

I’m not sure exactly how to translate that idea into a jewelry-related expression, however … “Tell me what you wear and I will tell you what you are” sounds just a little too Madison Avenue, and that’s surely not the point here. It’s not about brand. It’s about the source. Maybe something more like this … 

Know what you’re wearing, and you will know where you’re going ….  

It’s food for thought. I think I’ll chew on it a little more.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. deekie dew permalink
    May 19, 2010 10:21 pm

    great post! loved the human-cost angle on argentium vs. other lead-based jewelry options…..

  2. May 21, 2010 11:21 am

    Wow. Didn’t know I was going to learn so much by visiting here. I’m glad I stopped by. I don’t buy much jewerly at all, but the points you’ve brought up would definitely be things I would consider before buying. Now I know to ask the questions. Thanks!

    • May 21, 2010 12:28 pm

      Thanks, Snowcatcher — I used to think these issues were limited to our more everyday choices (what we eat, for example), but the more I learn the more I see how it’s all interrelated.

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