Within just ten years of Internet history, the range of jewelry on offer on the Net has grown to a practically unforeseeable dimension. A study on this topic indicates the advantages and disadvantages of the presence on the World Wide Web for jewelry designers, what they require and who actually benefits from it.
If one inputs the key word “jewellery (English spelling) in the search engine Google, which is the highest frequented search engine internationally, there are more then 25 million entries, and there are even 51 million links under the American spelling “jewelry”. But if truth be told: quantity is not the same as quality. The clear majority refers to mass offers of cheap products and it is extremely difficult to find well designed jewelry unless one is already familiar with the supplier.
The Internet offers a definite advantage if one wishes fast, international access or contacts that come about when interested searchers are led to a sight by keying in words into a search engine. In essence, this is a positive situation, which initially supports the assumption that it cannot be all that difficult to find well designed jewelry on the virtual network. In view of the fact that the international network of “real” jewelry galleries is extremely wide and varied, it would be a pleasant alternative -especially for newcomers to designer jewelry – to be able to access designer jewelry from one’s computer at home or at least to be able to find relevant information. The following “experiment” emphasizes, however, just how difficult it is to find contemporary jewelry on the Internet.
Searching for jewelry – finding jewelry
Where should people start looking for contemporary jewelry online if they don’t know the names of designers? www.easycraft.org, a platform funded by the EU, enables European arts and craftsmen to register free of charge. The only precondition is that they send in digital image material. Astonishingly, after a whole year, only approximately 40 jewelry designers from throughout Europe have registered.
www.beyars.com offers a wealth of bilingual information concerning jewelry. Despite the extensive knowledge it offers, the fact that only 4 !!! designers present images of their work here is almost frightening.
Various associations draft as a service to their members an address list with additional links (see below). The associations use their homepages to report on their current activities. Their lists of links name and refer to their members. However, designers are making insufficient use of this facility to publicize their work: of the over 700 jewelry and equipment designers in Germany that are registered members of the Federal Association of Arts and Crafts, only 140 are represented in the association homepage with image material. Only 6 use the association e-shop in order to offer their products for sale. That is less than 1%!
The platform of the Refining Center www.allgemeine-gold.de offers information relating to metal and jewelry in order to foster customers loyalty. Visitors seeking information on the current gold prices can also select from an alphabetic list of links to 1,200 international jewelry designers – provided they have their own homepage.
Passion for jewelry is at the heart of www.akene.de, the Internet portal for applied art. Gerd Zeitter – a collector – invites jewelry designers to apply to a specialist jury in order to win a free, initial Internet presence in a competent environment of museums, institutions and like-minded persons. This is a generous offer for an initial site without much effort until the designers additionally manage to secure their own domain under their own name and to order their profile.
If one considers the various services on offer, the first steps towards creating a personal presence on the Internet do not appear all that difficult – at least one should think so. But if this is the case, what is the reason that contemporary jewelry design is presented in such a crusty manner on the Internet? Is the awareness of the fact that good work alone is not sufficient to reach potential customers still so underdeveloped? Is perhaps the reason for the insufficient presence on the Internet the fact that jewelry designers themselves are generally reluctant computer and Internet users? Is it perhaps the insufficiently mature structure for one’s own profile? Or do the designers simply not believe that there will be a benefit?
A personal website should on no accounts be a luxury in the artistic sector today, but should instead be used as a form of extended business card. A professional presence on the world wide web reflects a contemporary company that presents itself and its products to an international audience.
My page – my business card
Some aspects must be considered when creating one’s own homepage, as there are different levels of communication: the information that is provided directly and indirectly mirrors the competency and quality of the designer. In view of the fact that it is particularly difficult to convey sufficiently the haptic attraction and quality of the material by photograph, it is all the more important to provide specific information in order to support the value of the jewelry.
The following is true in principal:
- When the homepage loads, the visitor should immediately be aware that jewelry is being presented. Elaborate, dancing loops unnecessarily test the patience of the surfers.
- The Internet is THE definitive resource of globalization – sites from across the other side of the globe can be accessed for the price of a local call. Bilingual presence (English and native tongue) inform international visitors; this is particularly sensible if the designers are present at trade fairs around the world.
- People who do not wish customers to visit them personally should attach a list of galleries and jewelers who stock the jewelry that is presented on the website. This is particularly true of participants at trade fairs, as this is a way to support their specialist customers and their market success.
- The photos that are used should support one’s own “corporate identity” and must on all accounts express professional quality. Conspicuous backgrounds and disturbing arrangements should be avoided.
- A precise statement on one’s personal philosophy and brief curriculum vitae can generate additional trust in the designer’s qualifications.
- Brief text elements with technical or material information are sensible support for the emotional aspects of the products. Special working methods, for example mokume or granulation etc., should be explained.
- Unlike printed catalogues or brochures, the Internet has the advantage of immediate actuality. However, practiced researchers also rely on not being fed with obsolete news. Therefore: update the site at least 2-3 times a year.
- A list of colleagues strengthens the networks among like-minded people and ensures that the Internet appearance with well designed jewelry is perceived as a unit. In addition, it increases the visitor frequency at one’s own site.
- Visitors should have the opportunity to make direct purchases (by invoice, direct debit, house visit…). This increases the possibility that a coincidental hit will lead to turnover.
A place to sell jewelry?
Increasingly, the Internet is now a sales platform and not simply an information platform. In 2003, 1.3 % of all consumers in Germany made purchases online – and the tendency is rising rapidly. At the moment, most sales are generated by books, CDs, tickets and consumer electronics in Online Shopping. Jewelry still appears to have a far more difficult time.
Since 1995, Ebay has transported the principle of flea markets to the Internet and has promoted the bargain buy mentality among customers – buying cheap without information or advice. Household brand names have dominated the jewelry and watch sector here, and they have their own links in the indexes. The products on offer by jewelry designers are impossible to find in their unspecific segment. Jewelry is offered as a mass item by mail order firms such as Otto.de or Tchibo.de. Most of the jewelry items here are priced at below 50 Euro, although interested buyers will find additional information on material and handling the jewelry. Unfortunately, the dominant presence of these portals supports the impression among consumes that jewelry is cheap and run of the mill.
Do good and speak about it
However, the influence of the Internet on retail trade is higher than the online turnover would suggest. According to the latest surveys, 60 million online users do not buy in shops until they have researched online. The significance of the place where the seller and the customer meet will become increasingly relative as this transformation progresses. In order to keep up with this development, jewelry designers should be present and offer excellent communication on their excellent products in order to ensure that they remain “in view” in the future.
Associations that link their members:
ADOR Association of Italian and non Italian jewelry Designers
Association for Contemporary Jewellery in the UK
Federal Association of Arts and Crafts in Germany
Crafts Council in the UK
Society for Goldsmith Art in Germany
Forum for Jewelry and Design in Germany
SNAG – Association of Designers and Goldsmiths in the USA