Have you ever walked into a Goodwill store and seen all the jewelry for sale? Most of the jewelry will be of two varieties: junk, which is to say Mardi Gras beads and other manmade material or pieces that are no longer consider trendy or in style. Some bargains are to be had for sure, especially for jewelry designers who are seeking raw materials to remake into new pieces. Just the other day, my studio partner found some beautiful glass Czechoslovakian beads that have been reinvented into beautiful earrings with sterling silver accents that will soon have new ears to hang from and hopefully become someone’s heirloom.
Heirlooms mean antique. Paste jewelry. Art deco jewelry. Victorian cameos. George Jensen designs. The list is long but the point here is this: just like classical literature, an heirloom will stand the test of time. Jewelry that is trendy will not. Some of it, will even end up in landfill.
Let’s take jewelry made for the runways of Paris, Milan and New York. It is meant to be worn for a season. C’est tout. That’s it. Six months from now, it will be passé or no longer au courant or in style. The trendy pieces seen in Vogue and Elle, will not become heirlooms. They will end up at Goodwill or a second hand consignment or discount store like Nordstrom Rack. Or, as I said before, in landfill.
As a volunteer with the Seattle Women’s Jewelry Shelter Project, I know this first hand. Unsold jewelry was sent to us from American Apparel by one of the higher ups who found out about our mission to upcycle donated jewelry. They donated and continue to donate a pile of several pounds of the last season’s unsold pieces, Made in China with cheap labor from cheap base metal and plastic or cheap glass stones. We were and continue to be the last resort before it ends up being thrown out. Landfill.
Trendy jewelry does not stand the test of time. It is made with cheap materials by cheap labor in countries that do not have safety nets for the workers in case of a factory fire much less a union to help protect them from abuse, injury and chemicals.
Purchase a piece of jewelry, handmade by an American artist and you will be supporting not only an artist but also supporting the arts in general, while perhaps, owning a piece of jewelry to pass along some day. Purchase trendy, hello Landfill.