Is it Art or is it Craft? this is the subject of an ongoing discussion probably since the late 1890's. Every once in a while it finds its way onto the pages of Metalsmith magazine and it's often discussed at conferences--yes we, whatever we're called, have conferences on the subject and we don't even know what to call ourselves.
When referring specifically to jewelry it's equally complicated. There is fine jewelry, art jewelry, studio jewelry. Metalsmiths might be broken down into goldsmith or silversmith. What does it all mean? If i tell a stranger I'm a jeweler they ask me to repair all of the broken jewelry they keep in the back of their sock drawer. They'll bring in minimally 15 different boxes from all epochs of their life. Some boxes are hinged leather, others faded floral cardboard. envelopes within multitudes of envelopes wrapped in a rubber band that lost its elasticity 28 years ago. The jewelry consists of twisted and broken chains, single earrings who's pair made a run for it long ago. Ceremonial jewelry that commemorates a graduation, jewelry with motifs of flowers in realistic, watercolor and graphic designs, a first pair of earrings marking the actual time of being pierced. A time capsule of sorts that's neither chronological or logical, yet memorable. The current owner or care taker of these historical baubles often tells me a story about each piece. Except for one...there is always the mystery jewelry-a freeloader that makes it's presence known long after the others have been sighted and acknowledged. Then the reaction is always with a shrug and shake of the head, "I have no idea where that came from."
What kind of jewelry do you make? When you apply for an exhibition there are often many categories in order to resolve this question: alternative materials, re-purposed, recycled, re-used, deconstructed, Gold, Gold with stones, silver, silver with stones and so forth. Then there is the style in which you fit into enough to categorize your work; traditional, contemporary, architectural, modern, designer...which deserves it's own air quotes, conceptual, costume, beaded, pearls which are always in a different category than beads for some reason, plastics, paper, metal-usually referring to that which is other than precious metals (i.e.: not silver or gold), perhaps Precious ought to be a category too. Maybe there should be categories for how a piece of jewelry is meant to make you feel. Emotional jewelry--a step beyond mood rings, post modern 21st century smart jewelry. I know it's coming down the pike.
The only way I know how to communicate what I do is by using visuals. Pictures really do tell a thousand words and often leave no need for further explanation. Wearing it and seeing it live-even better. This allows people to see and touch it in it's natural habitat...on the wearer.