Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Guilds- The Fellowship of the Ring (Makers)

Guilds have been around for centuries, maybe millennia? A group of craftsmen get together to share their experiences, secrets, just to have a group that understands their trade..and a place to go on Thursdays to get away from the spouse?

Jewelers are a bit different I suppose, they probably trade their soldering techniques and pictures of their hammers... or their new leather buffing pad?

No, I'm not making fun... I'm kind of jealous. I've been member of other guilds... sewing, quilting, and other thread type or craft guilds... but not so far am I a member of this somewhat dauntingly elite group. The Goldsmith Guild...

During the middle ages, there were goldsmiths that did work exclusively for churches, there were goldsmiths that worked outside the church, and they  both were members of guilds. The smiths that worked for the churches ended up working for Royalty as well, and they were compelled to belong to a guild. They were organized, they had their prices regulated, and they were taken care of... or protected, kind of like unions today... they were under the protection of the guild, as well as having their work regulated and training duration set, etc.

Livre des M├ętiers  or the Book of Crafts was written by Etienne Boileau around 1268, he was the mayor of Paris. This book outlined the regulations for the quickly growing goldsmith trade. In 1292, there were 116 goldsmiths and jewelers in Paris alone, according to the census from that year. The number grew until the Black Plague in 1348 decimated so many people, and the numbers of craftsmen declined. The number once again rose after the plague had subsided, and by the 1400s, they numbers had again risen. in 1465, there were more than 4o0 goldsmiths in London alone. 

Over the centuries, guilds have been a way for members to be able to organize their work, to attain apprentices, to keep prices level, to keep an eye on each other, to keep each other honest, so to speak. The guilds served as a regulator, for commerce and as a quality control. They were a necessity, just as they are today. Jewelers need to keep abreast of latest trends, of business helps, and of new regulations or just understanding those that have been in place. The Associations, guilds, societies or whatever they may be called, help their members do all this.

There is a very handy resource for finding guilds and organizations in the US and around the world, called metalcyberspace any chance you have to  check out some of the organizations leads to an adventure, as there are so many pages to view.

There are committees like the Jewelers Vigilance Committee , VCA, that helps jewelers through the maze of minor details such as making sure you comply with  anti money laundering under the Patriot Act... or guiding through the intellectual rights laws, or even appraisals...

Another organization that is helpful is National Assembly of State Art Agencies (NSAA) which helps you find Art councils near you. The map has links to each state and to the regions that will take you to the council you are looking for. You may think in the jewelry business that you wouldn't need an art council at all, but they are a wonderful resource for marketing, publicity, advertising. Most have online resources in PDF form that help in these areas, whether you are a non-profit organization or for-profit business, the information can be adapted to your needs. Also, they offer a wonderful opportunity for the artist in you to submit your work for exhibit. Texas Council for the Arts always lists calls for artists on their home page  as well as grant opportunities that are available.

There is probably a guild for every facet of jewelry making... Goldsmiths, Silversmiths, Redsmiths, Gem Cutters.  All are represented with guilds, some overlap, such as the Redsmiths, who were a guild all to their own until 1959, when they renamed themselves the National Union of Sheetmetal Workers.

Odd and unusual jewelry is covered as well... all types of guilds and groups can be found, specialize in working with Turquoise, that's got a group... Victorian Hair Jewelry is even covered...

Internet Medieval Sourcebook http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.asp

Central European University  Dress, Jewels, Arms and Coat of Arms: Material Culture and Self-Representation in the Late Middle Ages

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