Jewelry has formed part of human adornment since time immemorial.
It was used primarily to display wealth, social status, religious affiliation status, protection against evil spirits and to enhance aesthetic appeal. The earliest known record of jewelry dates back to shell jewelry made from sea snail shells around 70,000 years back. Since then jewelry has gone through various transformations. Not only have the materials used in the making of jewelry changed drastically, but also the classes and the masses wearing them. Even the price range is widely diffused across the cheap to costly spectrum to cater to various segments. In the modern era, new materials have been invented and utilized such as platinum, palladium, titanium and even plastic.
The methods used by traditional smiths ranged from forging, casting, designing, soldering to cutting, carving and cold-joining.
USA, Japan, India and China have been the largest consumers of jewelry in the modern era.
Jewelers are coming out with innovations to fight the current downturn. New contemporary designs are being introduced for all types of jewelry.
Advanced material technologies are rapidly transforming the jewelry industry. Computer simulation software is being used in casting jewelry as well as designing jewelry. Precision cutting has refined jewelry cutting to a level not known before. More and more jewelry products are now being mass produced instead of being hand-made. Jewelry ownership has become more democratic due to the industrialization of jewelry business.
During mass production, use of computer based technology for series production has been adopted. Computer aided design (CAD) has helped in lowering production costs. Laser welding is being used in soldering jewelry components. New materials are being invented like metal clay and metal alloys. Carat gold solders are commercially available for producing solders and alloys for each carat and color. Step soldering has been enabled to develop solders for different melting ranges. Chip inlay and metal inlay techniques are being incorporated to create jewelry pieces with chipped or crushed semi-precious stones.
Multi purpose jewels are increasing the functionality of jewels. Objects of daily use like door hinges, springs, mobile phones, even match boxes are being adorned with jewels to make them more appealing to the consumers.
Institutes have been setup solely for studying jewelry designing as well as jewelry technology throughout the world.
Fusion concepts are being introduced by using contemporary designs to complement the expertise of traditional artisans. Personalized jewelry is making inroads as designs can be easily developed as per customer specifications with the help of specialized software.
The Road Ahead
Digital jewelry products will use embedded intelligence in functional jewelry products like wearable mobile computing devices. IBM is already researching and developing prototypes using digital jewelry technology.
Personal computers and gadgets are being divided into wearable jewelry components like microphones within necklaces, tongue piercings or nose-rings, receivers and antenna within earrings, sensors incorporated within all fashion accessories, rings with LEDs flashing when an incoming call or notification is received and bracelets with a VGA display or caller identifier.
Dallas Semiconductor is developing jeweled rings which will automatically unlock doors and create a log on computers.
The future will arguably see a gradual demise of hand-made jewelry, and unorganized retailing of jewelry. Hand-made jewelry will be preferred only by art connoisseurs.
Arosha Taglia, a well-known jewelry designer and author of this post offers several collections, and a selection of one-of high-end pieces, with an artistic imprint through his website. You can also follow him on twitter @AroshaDesign.
Image from: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net