There's an interesting thread being discussed on the Orchid Forum over at Ganoksin - again. (to follow the thread keep clicking on the blue "Thread Next") "What Makes a Goldsmith?" It's a question that is repeatedly raised and I'm not sure that there will ever be a definitive answer. What are we? What term is the proper one to define what we do?
Van Eyck, The Goldsmith's Guild
Strictly speaking a smith is one who smites metal with a hammer. A Silversmith is one who uses hammers and stakes to form 3 dimensional objects like sugar bowls, trophies and platters (no matter what kind of metal is being used). A Bench Jeweler is one who is skilled enough in so many aspects of jewelry making that they can set stones and do repairs on just about anything. A Stonesetter is an expert who specializes at setting every kind of stone in every type of setting. A Jewelry Maker is just that. Someone who makes jewelry. An Art Jewelry Maker is one who uses alternative materials or works in an unconventional style. To the best of my understanding an art jeweler and a studio jeweler are the same thing. One who works for themselves in their own studios, creating their own designs.
A Jeweler is one who works with every kind of metal from copper to titanium to silver to gold, sets stones, perhaps casts, fabricates from scratch, does repairs expertly. I think of a Jeweler as one who makes what Maggie Bergman described as red, white and blue jewelry. Ruby, diamond and sapphire. The types of pieces you might find walking down the red carpet or in the cases at Cartier or (gasp) Zales. A Goldsmith is the creme de la creme. A master with years of experience behind them. One who can do all of the above and then some. A Master Goldsmith is skilled beyond even that.
It's a little easier to understand the nomenclature in Europe where they've had guilds that have defined each technical level since the middle ages. In America the terms Apprentice, Journeyman and Master are used in theory only. In Europe they are very highly regarded, much regulated and guarded.
And what about the term Artist? Are you an artist because you think of yourself as one? Because you work with your hands and imagination? Or is it an honorific that others bestow upon you (collectors, customers, fans, so called experts)? Are you an artist because someone else views your work to be exceptional? Or because you do?
I consider myself an artisan. A maker of art jewelry. I do some smithing when I forge wire. I know how to solder, admittedly not very well. I know how to set cabochons so that they stay put. I'm (arguably) an expert with metal clay. I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a Jeweler.
So, what do you call yourself? What do you put on your income tax form where it asks for profession? (my accountant insists I list 'jeweler' and I've acquiesced - but feel it's a fraud) Do you think the entire discussion is much ado about nothing or is it food for thought?