Labels: accessory vs jewellery

20 09 2013

When is something an “accessory” and when is it “jewellery”?

Is the label determined by the maker?
By the wearer?
Or by the viewer?
[I didn’t mean to, but I’ve just appropriated Zoe’s blog name; and even in the right order!]
Can they all have different labels for the same object, according to their experience of it?

Does it even matter?
I don’t want it to matter, but I think it may.
Why? Because I have so many questions about the line between.

As a point of clarity: I’m quite convinced the materials used are irrelevant to this conversation. Many non-precious materials are regularly used in jewellery now, and I think the argument that material determines the label is already moot.

Does the value of an object change if it is labelled “jewellery” and not “accessory”?
For example, consider a detailed body-piece made of fabric (for argument’s sake, imagine something like an appropriated beauty-queen sash) – if the maker calls themselves a “jeweller” and the piece “jewellery”, does the value differ to if it was an “accessory” made by a non-jeweller?

Does the object acquire the label dependent on its inherited conceptual foundation?
If a maker has developed a story for the piece, embedded narrative or meaning, does it then transcend mere “accessory”?
Consider if the maker is not a jeweller – what if an embroiderer made a body-piece virtually indistinguishable from one made by my imaginary jeweller, with embroidery of significant meaning; would it be an accessory or a jewellery object or something else?
This may verge on the tricky and age-old “craft” versus “art” debate.

Does the maker determine its label?
Perhaps a maker can label whatever they like, however this label may not always travel with the object if it finds its way out of the private sphere of the maker into the public sphere.

If you were a jewellery / maker, and you made a piece for the body, would you be offended if it was labelled an “accessory”? Is “accessory” a dirty word to makers?

The delineations of labels hasn’t yet got in the way of my personal working style, though it does occupy my mind at times.

So many questions. Not many answers.
Your thoughts?
I’m no thought pioneer, so if you’ve read papers or articles on this topic, please do point me to them – I’d love to read others’ thoughts.



2 responses

20 09 2013
Verity Hollingworth

This is a really interesting question, Karen… that I can’t answer! It’s got me thinking. Annelies, if you’re listening, what do you think?

4 10 2013
Amanda Tran

Honestly I never thought about this thing before. Nice questions. In my opinion its the money that makes the difference.

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