Luxury: Precious Brand or Unique Piece

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HomeLearning CenterJewelry DesignLuxury: Precious Brand or Unique Piece
By Peter HenselderMore from this author

Luxury is a true growth industry in all categories, right through to "inexpsensive luxury"! The successful report by Cartier, Richemont, Gucci and co. Clearly show that the rich desire to purchase status symbols more than ever. Are goldsmiths with their unique items and individuality going to draw the shorter straw? That depends on the extent to which they succeed in entering into a discussion with their clientele as regards the term of luxury.


Ring by Ursula Palm-Zumbe. Silver, morganite, cultured pearl

Brooch by Hans-Jurgen Wieglab. Gold, chrysoprase

Oscar Wilde coined the phrase that for him, true luxury is something unique that cannot be purchased a second time for any money in the world. He also regretted that most people know that price of an object, but no longer its value.

Nothing has changed in this until today. The luxury commodity industry lives comfortably off this, right through to the upper medium-price products. It profits from the incredible misunderstanding, defined by exclusiveness in the form of a high price. In principle, it offers expensive items in ever large numbers. For example, the Swiss luxury watch brands can barely satisfy the demand from around the world, as they do not have sufficient numbers of qualified employees. There is no doubt that they offer discerning and well-crafted chronographs. But the price for this exclusiveness, which for a long time has been none, is even more extravagant. After all, the age of truly individually crafted watches and jewelry by Cartier for the rich and powerful of this world is essentially over. The upper ten thousand appear occasionally to realize that they are ever more frequently sharing status symbols with more often doubtful compatriots. One only needs to think of the diamond- encrusted, golden Rolex, which sparkles not rarely on the wrist of a pimp in red light districts in major cities. In other words, the desire to distinguish oneself is latently present. The variety of special wishes for luxury automobiles is a clear indication.

Necklace 'Give/Take' by Wilhelm Tasso Mattar. Gold, amber, amethyst, pearls

Brooch 'Paper' by Bettina Menrad-Maier. Silver, copper, 10 Euro bill

In this area, the goldsmith should play an important role in this longing for "a little bit more" of life. But what defines this "more"? Do all people have the same perception of it? All we have in common is usually the wish to distinguish ourselves, to be different from the mass. But how this happens is dependent on the social and ethnic values of the society.

The inflationary use of the term luxury creates a suspicion of tricky lip service. Conversely, the products offered from the goldsmith's atelier do not need any label to manifest their value. The unique stone, the found item worked in, the design that transforms the work into body art, manage without brand assurances. Indeed, very special items with significant effects are often created using non-precious materials. And this conforms with the trend toward humbleness as a new form of luxury. It is not by coincidence that, marking its 75th jubilee, the Goldsmith Art Society organized a member's competition with the topic "Signs of Significance". According to the motto "Create special things and speak of them", it is worthwhile to speak in public about values. About what connects the general public and what artists see in it. It is conclusive what the prosperous said themselves on the topic in a recently published survey. Glitz and glamour are not listed in the top two places, but instead time and life experience. Like in any other art form, authored jewelry is a question of recognition and interpretation, signs and acknowledgement of the questions of time.

According to Rudiger Jopien, an art historian from Hamburg, insecurity and threats lead to a recollection of values. But what is understood to be a value must be redefined constantly. After all, everything that is established as a value in art usually needs quite some time to be recognized in general. This is why it is just as important for the designer as for the applicator to talk about it to enable the new things to become engrained. In exhibitions, articles, in the media, in public events, yes everywhere that people ponder what truly enriches our lives as the dear things, the special things and the unique things.

by Peter Henselder

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Peter Henselder

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