What is jewelry? Why do people drill holes in, hang, thread, stick, attach stones as decoration (polished and raw) to themselves, their apparel, their animals, to anything you can think of, really? It can declare the wearer’s status, wealth, resourcefulness, power. Stones, in and of themselves, don’t have any intrinsic value, except as agreed by the parties involved.
Stones cannot feed you or your children, keep you warm or safe (probably). The wearing of jewelry is considered by many historians to be the first sign of civilization: adornment is a signal. It is a declaration that the wearer has time. Every waking moment needn’t be spent on survival: finding food, shelter, fuel, the necessary everyday scrabble. There is time enough to look around, to consider what may enhance the wearer’s status or attractiveness. To choose something and shape it and contemplate the reflection of the viewer.
What is rare can be admired, valued, considered, discussed. It might enhance the wearer’s chances with the opposite sex, something that can never be underestimated in the survival of the species. What if the weight of the world were to be calculated in carats? Who says it isn’t in some quarters?
Selling the island of Manhattan for a handful of glass beads is a famous story. The putative value of the beads of the time is generally agreed to be about $24. But if you think about it, the transaction would never have occurred unless both parties agreed that the exchange was worth what the other was offering. The jewels on offer from the Europeans were hand-made glass. They were the only ones available on the North American continent. The technology that produced them had not even been imagined by anyone in the Americas. They were unique, and therefore priceless. They could be used to procure something of equal value, or more, depending on the perception of how precious the beads really were in the culture of the time.
And this was a culture that understood the exchange of something esoteric for something concrete. Native Americans had a very codified, established system for the exchange of goods for objects that could be shaped, worn on the body, and which had an agreed-upon value. These were mostly made of shell, and the scarcer the resource, the more value the currency had. Both parties to the transaction understood what trade was. Both thought that they were getting a good deal.
So why is it that people buy jewelry now, in today’s world? A lot of the same reasoning and perception are in play. We all still want to enhance our image with what we adorn ourselves with. We all like it when someone admires the choices we have made, or the power of being given a piece of jewelry from someone who understands what you would like to wear, how you would present yourself. Jewelry should call favorable attention to the wearer: it should provide attention at least, appreciation of the choices we have about what to display, and outright admiration for a really lovely piece.
And the artistry that is involved with the creation of these pieces, the imagination that is invested, the cost both immediate and after creativity is involved is under discussion and seriously considered. Buying local, knowing that the piece you are wearing or gifting has also gained in importance. You can meet the person whose art you are buying. You can have a good story about where that piece comes from. You can inquire about the creative process, learn something about the choices of the stones and the design, understand the value of the hand and mind in the maker of each piece. These are all the reasons to buy from a shop who supports the artists who live in your community. We don’t just sell jewelry at Nomad, we build community. How do you put a price tag on that? The experience is priceless.