It is a sensitive subject for many who make hand crafted items especially when the public expects handmade goods at big box store prices and doesn't understand all that goes into designing hand crafted jewelry. Artisans who design and produce hand crafted jewelry often spend hours creating their designs and bringing them to life. They carefully select the materials they use in their work often shopping several sources and using precious metals such as gold fill, sterling silver and copper as well as the best gem stones they can find. They are passionate about creating and love what they do and it shows in their work.
On the other hand, factory made goods are often produced where labor is cheap and with inexpensive materials such as plated base metals and plastic or glass beads. There is no such thing as "one of a kind" designs being made in factory assembly lines. But, even though these goods are many times of inferior quality and workmanship; they are cheap to buy.
There is no competing with factory goods for the independent designer when it comes to price and ability to produce many of the same things quickly.
But, I don't believe that independent designers should try to compete. What they should be doing is making the best, most beautiful, high quality items they can and educating buyers as to why they should consider purchasing handmade. Here are a few reasons:
First, and I think one of the most important, is being able to form a relationship with the designer. A buyer can ask questions about the items they are interested in and the designer will be able to tell them what materials have been used, their history, the inspiration behind the piece, where and how they learned their craft and how long it takes to produce one of their designs.
Because of this personal relationship, buyers can commission custom made work to reflect their personalities, tastes and special events or memories. There is something meaningful about working closely with an artisan who will design a piece of jewelry just for you.
In the event there is a problem with the item, the designer will stand behind their work and make it right.
Because of i's superior quality, hand crafted jewelry will often become a family heirloom as it is passed down from one generation to the next.
Buyers can purchase unique, one of a kind designs that they won't find in factory produced jewelry. Who wants to wear what everyone else is wearing anyway?
In exchange for these things, buyers must understand that artisan made jewelry is going to cost more than what is coming out of overseas factories and purchased at the local big box store and large retailers. You are paying for the artisan's time, expertise and that personal relationship mentioned above.
This is not to say that there is not a place for mass produced jewelry. There is and I have purchased much of it myself. It's inexpensive, convenient, instantly available and it can be fun. Just don't expect it to last a lifetime and you'll be fine.
But, if you want something really special that will be treasured for years to come, seek out an artisan who is devoted to their craft, who has spent much time honing their skills and who continues to learn so that their work will stay fresh and relevant. Yes, it will cost more, but it will be so, so worth it.
To see what other members of the Jewelry Artisans Community have to say about mass produced vs hand crafted, please click on the links below: