The Price of Jewellery Explained: Part Two. Artistry and Innovation

Continuing our series on the nuances of jewellery pricing and value, let’s turn to artistry, innovation and the respected reputations of artist jewellers across the world. Is it possible to put a price on lifelong dedication to craftsmanship? Here, I speak to jewellers whose creativity is very often pushed to the limits, with dazzling results for their clients.

As you no doubt discovered in Part One of this series on, prescribing value to a piece of jewellery is not merely the sum of its parts, but a complex equation that must encompass raw materials, design, innovation, talent, sales, marketing, desirability, brand awareness… I could go on. In this second part of a three-part series, I am going to consider artistry and innovation and how these more ethereal factors play a role in value. The next time you shop for a jewelled creation, I invite you to consider these insights and decide for yourself whether a jewel you love is ‘worth the money’.

Wallace Chan holds a gemstone with a unique Wallace Cut - one of his own innovations in gemstone artistry

Unusual Techniques 

Let’s say a designer puts pen to paper and designs the most unusual jewel. It is the craftsperson’s job to make this two-dimensional idea a three-dimensional reality… but what if the skill to do this doesn’t exist yet or the work is so intricate that it doubles or triples the time on crafting all intricate details? This happens with surprising frequency in the world of art jewellery and an aspect of value emerges from this process of creation and technique building.

Boghossian Kissing bracelet with emeralds and fancy-cut diamonds in 18k white gold

“When we seek to create distinctive designs that are made to surprise, more work will certainly be involved,” explains Roberto Boghossian, Managing Partner of Boghossian Jewels. He continues: “It is difficult to make a piece where everything comes out just right, be it in shape, proportion or colour – there needs to be a perfect balance between gems and design. Such achievement requires highly specialised jewellery ateliers, craftsmen and dedicated technology. With our innovative setting techniques such as Kissing and Merveilles for example, the intricate mastery involved will contribute to a higher price as these settings don’t follow a standardised mark-up compared to other high jewellery creations.”

When you examine the setting techniques and design credentials of a piece, the more complex, intricate and unusual its principles, the more valuable it is likely to be. This isn’t mutually exclusive to large, expensive gemstones or diamonds, either. Modestly priced gems can be treated with this design deference to increase their aesthetic and monetary value.

Artistic Innovation

With material innovation we must also consider artistic innovation – the ability to rise above the status quo and create pieces that others simply wouldn’t have envisioned or been able to produce. How can you put a price on the way an artistic mind works? Take, for example, the renowned Chinese artist, Wallace Chan, whose unrivalled vision directly contributes to the value of his works.

Wallace Chan holds a unique ring design crafted with Wallace Chan Porcelain, an innovative use of materials that took seven years to master

Cherry Rao, who is part of Wallace Chan’s team, tells me: “Mr Chan once said, "one cannot calculate creativity." He pushes his imagination into reality without thinking about the costs. The creation of an artwork is the accumulation of a lifetime of knowledge, experience, practice and more, so it is impossible to come up with a meaningful calculation - particularly when each of his creations is unique. But since he prioritises his creations and innovations over other things in life, he is satisfied as long as he has enough resources to continue his artistic pursuits.”

Also investing time, energy and creativity into artistic innovation is Feng J whose ‘Floating Set’ gemstones are a recognisable signature of her art jewellery house. Since 2017, she has worked with European lapidarists to create a special ‘double rose-cut’ gemstone that’s just 1-1.2mm in thickness. When used in jewellery, these give the impression of a watercolour painting with subtle, tonal variations that seamlessly blend from one mineral type to the next. David Tsui, the partner of Feng J, explains: “Floating Set is purely an expression for her design style, ‘painting with gemstones’. The most difficult part of the Floating Set is like a jigsaw puzzle; Feng needs to predict the combination of stone pieces to shape a perfect outline and structure to form a paint-like coloured jewellery piece. And, if it does not match her expectations, she needs to redo everything. The artistic process of production is extremely complicated and unpredictable.” If another goldsmith was given the blueprint of a Wallace Chan of Feng J creation, could they bring it to fruition with the same finesse and finish? The answer is almost definitely ‘no,’ which is another aspect of the bigger picture of pricing.

The Value of Time

Perhaps you’ve noticed the thread that runs through all these aspects of pricing: time. Time is our most valuable possession and the same can be said for jewellery – the time studying, learning, the generations of knowledge passed down, the time reinventing techniques, waiting patiently for specific gems… these must be considered in addition to the more obvious time it takes to create a piece at the bench from start to finish. For example, I recently wrote that a Hemmerle Harmony bangle can take more than six months to create, but this isn’t the sum of its ‘time’. Should we consider here the fact the design was created some 30-years ago and that each bangle created now relies on the lessons learned and the skills gained over this time?

Hemmerle Harmony bangle in silver, copper and white gold

Another bracelet that required six months to create is the Reticella conch pearl cuff from the David Morris Dimensions High Jewellery collection. You would probably be surprised to find out that the process of collecting the conch pearls started two years before that. And let’s not forget the fact that each diamond was specifically cut for the piece, which again adds to the time. Jeremy Morris comments: “There’s a considerable supporting cast and people behind the scenes, each playing their part in the process of transforming a sketch into a computer-generated design, and a 3D-printed model into the final piece. There might be a specialist responsible for drilling pearls, numerous expert diamond cutters, the artisan who fashions tiny precious-metal hinges… everyone has an important role, and many pairs of unseen hands going into crafting a single piece.”

We appreciate Banksy, Picasso, Dali, Monet, Van Gogh and other artists for their individualism, so the same must be true for art jewellers too. It is not only the individuals who dedicate time to a piece who must be respected and renumerated, but also the mind of the designer, their experience, vision and talent. How do we price this? Therein lies the challenge!

Read the final part of this series dedicated to jewelled desirability and the business of selling jewellery that’s an integral part of each creation’s price tag.

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