Jewelry as Art: Comparing and Contrasting Jewelry Design With Metal Arts

Jewelry design and metal arts often go hand in hand at art schools, so it’s important to understand the similarities and differences between them if you’re interested in this field.

Necklaces, bracelets, and other pieces of jewelry aren’t just fashionable items that you wear. Jewelry items can also be considered works of art. The following exploration of jewelry as art can help you become familiar with how jewelry design compares and contrasts with metal arts.

Similarities of Jewelry Design and Metal Arts

Mastery of Similar Skills

Jewelry-making Benchwork. Photo by Bob Toy.

While the finished pieces for metal arts and jewelry design can differ as far as their purpose is concerned, the skills you need for these are similar. Whether you decide to focus on designing jewelry or creating metal arts, you’ll need to master several skills. These include hands-on skills, such as metalsmithing and welding, as well as knowledge of metal, gems, and other materials. Your skill set for metal arts or jewelry design should also include learning the design process and knowing how to work with 3D and 2D technology.

Wearable and Avant-Garde Pieces

Jewelry design and metal arts can both include pieces that are designed to be worn. These can reflect a wide range of styles or genres, such as retro or vintage styles, or more modern and contemporary styles. Metal arts and jewelry design can also produce avant-garde pieces that are displayed in galleries or exhibits rather than being wearable.

Wearable sculpture by Lucy Huang

Metal Arts as Jewelry and Vice Versa

Metal arts and jewelry design can cross over in some cases. For example, when you create items such as silver bracelets or gold earrings, and these can be considered both jewelry and metal arts. In this case, you’re using jewelry design principles while working with metal to produce these items.

Differences Between Jewelry Design and Metal Arts

Metal Arts as Sculpture

Although some metal arts fall into jewelry territory, other pieces are considered sculpture. However, jewelry design doesn’t include these particular pieces. Metal arts sculptures can range from purely ornamental works, such as decor items, to decorative yet functional furniture items and plates.

Types of Material

The kinds of materials used for jewelry design and metal arts differ considerably. With jewelry design, you can use a wide range of materials, including metal, plastic, and wood. With metal arts, you’re mostly working with metal as your primary material. However, your final pieces can end up containing other materials depending on the design.

The Unsweet Staircase by Charlene Modena
The Unswept Staircase by School of Jewelry & Metal Arts
Director Charlene Modena.

Main Purpose

Metal arts and jewelry design typically have different purposes. Jewelry design usually serves a functional purpose, such as when you create pieces that are worn on the body or on clothing. This type of design can also be more decorative rather than functional if you’re creating more unusual, avant-garde pieces. Metal arts is generally considered decorative, since most pieces aren’t items that are worn. Some metal arts items can end up serving a functional purpose, such as plates or other household items.

Different Career Paths

Whether you choose to focus on metal arts or jewelry design can affect the career paths available to you. Metal arts might lead you to become a sculptor creating works of art for galleries or studios. Jewelry design might lead to a career creating earrings and other accessories for casual daily wear or as high-end haute couture fashion.

If you’re considering building a career in jewelry design or metal arts, contact Academy of Art University for more information. If you’re sure this is the path you want to take, apply now to become part of our School of Jewelry & Metal Arts program.