Personal adornment through jewelry dates back tens of thousands of years. It has been used to signify wealth, in sacred practices, for artistic expression and appreciation, or just to make a statement. Jewelry began with beads of bone and shell, stones and precious metals with personal craft and skill prized alongside the materials with which they were made. Now (as with most areas of our society) much jewelry is mass produced. Most “costume jewelry” is made on a huge international scale and materials and artisan skill are not as important as the name brand attached or the unrealistically low or astronomically high price tags. Even precious metals and stones do not guarantee it was not mass produced, in fact, the store from which you buy it could be a better indicator of that as is remembering you get what you pay for, i.e. was it made by a machine or worse a person treated as a machine? I digress but I am passionate about jewelry, about rocks, metals, and about the environment so this is a topic near and dear to my heart.
Perhaps it goes without saying that seeking out individual artists is the best way to go. I always say go for local first but if you aren’t finding what you desire widen your lens but keep it on an individual basis. Etsy is fantastic for this! Etsy showcases independent artists and crafters from around the globe but they have a section specifically to help you find local artisans. You can enter any search terms you are looking for, i.e. organic, fair trade, recycled, upcycled, etc! You could spend hours gleefully searching but I want to highlight a particularly talented artist using “green” materials, who also happens to be my sister.
Eco-friendly soap is not the only thing made by the Perkins family. Brooke Perkins of Jeweled Triton, while a science-minded Speech Pathologist by day, has been a creative spirit her entire life. She took her first beading class as a young child and in the past few years has rediscovered her passion for creating wearable art. She does all of her work by hand, meticulously forming links between beads, shaping and reshaping hoops, delicately hammering, carefully wire wrapping, and stylistically and skillfully forming her own clasps. She is inspired by the images of her early childhood in Key West, Florida and the Southwestern influence of her adolescence in Arizona. This elemental core of Perkins’ inspiration is evident in themes of beachy colors, weathered recycled glass, and chunky earthy pieces.
She carries an entire line of recycled glass pieces that are exquisite! I love the bright colors and weathered but translucent texture of the beads and all of the intricate wire work, often times utilizing mostly recycled copper. These beauties demonstrate the time and love put into each piece and exemplify the beauty of buying handmade. She has gorgeous necklaces, statement-making earrings, eye-catching rings and lovely bracelets. Best of all, the recycled glass is made from discarded bottles that would otherwise end up in a landfill or polluting the ocean. I.e. you get to look fabulous and keep the planet looking that way, too!
The moral of the story is.. good materials are to be valued and should be reused. Artistry and talent should be valued as well. The time it takes to make an individual piece – whether it be jewelry as shown here or the garment on your back – has value, it has meaning. Think about where it is coming from. Then think if that is something you want to contribute to financially, do you want to support large industries that overwork and undervalue people and keep their workers in poverty? What is that thing you want worth? These are hard economic times for everyone right now but we cannot lose sight of true value and supporting the local work that needs our encouragement more than ever. Jewelry makes a statement – what do you want yours to say?