Updated: Apr 25, 2021
As part of our Women’s History Month, we would like to highlight the Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA) that has helped women jewelers increase their reach and improve their professional growth.
According to Edelweiss Jewelry, the luxury jewelry space is predominantly dominated by men. This is rapidly changing and we hope to encourage more women to get involved. These days it’s important to find a community where you can and with the pandemic, finding these spaces can be tough.
The Women’s Jewelry Association is one of the largest women-based organizations that supports the inclusion of more women in the fine jewelry industry. They have chapters in 25 cities across the United States and are always accepting applications from members who are interested in starting a chapter in their own city.
If this isn’t for you, you may also just consider starting your own kind of club that meets on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. Being able to share your knowledge is one of the best ways to encourage others to explore the craft and get involved.
We also want to share the story of the first woman jeweler to help inspire you!
Charlotte Newman is credited with being the first woman jeweler to run a studio under her own name. Born in 1836, Newman started designing and crafting her own jewelry in 1860 under the guidance of jeweler John Brogden in London.
According to the blog, thejewelryloupe.com, Newman stamped all of her pieces with, “Mrs.N.” Newman being her married name. She believed that stamping her jewelry with her married name paid homage to her husband.
Although she was married, Newman paved the way for many female jewelers. For starters she began her career during a time when only men were allowed to be jewelers. She worked throughout her lifetime to normalize the idea of women in the industry. Much of her work is also available in fine art museums.
She specialized in crafting pieces from gold and enamel that included intricate designs.
Her work was also recognized when she travelled to Paris to accompany Brogden for his acceptance of Legion d’Honneur, where she was awarded a medal of honor for being Brogden’s collaborator. This was a huge milestone given that she was working and excelling in an industry that largely rejected women goldsmiths.
Elyse Zorn Karlin, who co-curated Maker & Muse, writes that Newman never produced the same two pieces, which made her both an artist and a jeweler. Even more astounding is that she even had male employees working directly for her. Her fascination with revival-style jewelry made her a prolific producer, out of the 1,593 designs produced from 1848 and 1884 that are housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 73 of them are from Newman.
This level of dedication to jewelry was unheard of for a woman during the 19th century.
Tworedroses.com quotes Newman as saying, "The making of jewels is a decided test of the artistic power of nations, for it means getting a very large amount of beauty in a very small space. It means making something exceedingly pleasant to look upon, and quite suitable to the wearer and the time and occasion when it is worn; something that shall be the bijou, the point of interest of the garment it is put on, something that shall appear indispensable to perfect the effect, and not merely to show that the wearer possesses it."