Jewelry Style Identity Crisis

Jewelry Style Identity Crisis


Have you ever had an identity crisis about your jewelry style? If you were asked to describe your jewelry design style in one word, could you do it? Or, are you like me? Searching for your style identity.

I don’t mean I am searching for what kind of jewelry to make. I mean, I don’t know what to call it. I can describe the materials and the techniques I use. Which happen to be many and varied, much like my sources of inspiration. But I have been stumped in my search for which style basket to put my designs into. Even if I were to give myself more than one basket, assuming I have several styles, I would still have trouble assigning some things to the proper basket. And “miscellaneous” is probably not a style of jewelry.

Why bother? Why not just make what I like to create and not stress over what style it is? Search engines. I sell on-line and until I “make it big” (so big people search for my jewelry by my business name) I have to put my listings into baskets for the search engine bots and spiders. Search engines like labels. Or, more specifically, descriptive key words. As in the words people type into the search box when looking for something. People searching the internet for jewelry to buy are likely using some style labels, possibly materials (like a certain gemstone), and probably less frequently, techniques.

You’d think it would be easy to do an internet search for a style name and get a definition. I haven’t found any such glossary of jewelry style terms. So, I click over to the image results for the same search term, hoping to see some obvious kind of unifying “defining” elements. Not so much. Just as an example, search for “southwestern necklace” and scroll through the image or shopping results. Can you quickly put your finger on one or two things they all have in common? Other than being necklaces, that is. And which are not common to some other styles? Like the use of beads or semi-precious gemstones.

"southwestern necklace" image search results

Here’s an example of image search results using “southwestern necklace” as the keyword.

I have found some pages that define style eras, like Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Victorian, Edwardian, etc. But an era is not a style per se and there can be many styles within an era.  There are some bits and pieces of definition-ish information about fashion styles (or trends) in general. Although those are typically about clothing or home decor, I suppose I could extrapolate from there to my jewelry. Even then, some of those style descriptions are far too subjective to really help me.

I’ve tried searching for things like “style glossary” and “define fashion terms” and various permutations of “style” “fashion” “jewelry” “define” “terms” “glossary”. None of them were what I needed. Clearly, I don’t even know what question to ask to get the answer I need. It felt like being a child asking an adult how a word is spelled and being told to look it up in the dictionary. If you don’t know what letter it starts with, how the heck can you look it up?!

Someone recently posted a link to this description of the style tags on Etsy in a Facebook jewelry artists group. It was compiled by someone in one of the forums who says they spent hours searching the internet, presumably one term at a time. It’s still not the definitive list I’m seeking, but it helps. A little. Part of the problem is there can be overlap across styles, or fusion and blending of styles. Or even style drift where one style evolves into something else. Where is the point at which it breaks off and becomes a new style on its own versus the new definition of that style?

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with the question of defining my jewelry style. For example, I found this blog post by another jewelry designer during one of my futile internet searches for a jewelry style glossary. The comments are along the lines of the conversations I’ve had with friends about defining my style. When I asked my Facebook fans what they thought my style was, some said “eclectic” which is a catch-all word I’ve been using since the beginning. Others suggested I not try to label it.  That was my original approach, in which I avoided categorizing my jewelry’s style. My reasoning was:  I didn’t want to influence someone’s decision to purchase by putting a label they don’t like on a piece they might otherwise have loved. People can be funny that way.

But here’s the problem. If I don’t define my style with some labels, the search engines won’t know how to categorize it either. Those pesky bots like labels. I know there are customers out there who are interested in buying my jewelry. Or at least, they would be if they knew about it. So, what words would they type into the search bar if they were looking for jewelry that looks like what I make? I don’t have the resources to conduct a market survey. So, I turn yet again to the internet, source of all useless useful information, for help.

I search for the word or words I think describe the style of one of my necklaces and compare the results to what I have in front of me. That’s not any kind of scientific or systematic way to go about this. But when you’re having an identity crisis, one thing you do is compare yourself to others, right?

I think some of my jewelry is southwestern. I’m from Arizona, so I think I have some idea what that style looks like. And yet, in that image search for “southwestern jewelry” I don’t see anything that looks like my necklace. But I do see a wide range of styles, some of which I probably wouldn’t consider southwestern at all. And some I could put in a “Native American” basket rather than southwestern.

southwestern bolo-tie sytle necklace

I might consider this necklace of mine southwestern, but it doesn’t look like anything in the image search results for that term.

If you do your own search for style terms, you’re also likely to turn up links to various Pinterest boards where people have collected images of jewelry they think is modern, southwestern, eclectic, etc. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of diversity among those boards. The same words mean rather different things to different people. For example, some people lump Native American and southwestern jewelry together. Some people group all things turquoise under that “southwestern” label, although I’ve seen turquoise used in what I would consider many different jewelry styles.

It’s probably not a bad thing that I don’t find something that looks exactly like my jewelry when I search for other “southwestern” designs. That hopefully means my designs are somewhat unique. Unless it means I am completely off target with my style label. Or maybe it just means I need to do better with SEO for my listings, so they will get the attention of the bots and spiders and rank higher in the search.

When searching for “fashion style terms” in hopes someone somewhere had compiled the definitive list of things like “boho” versus “gypsy” and “steampunk” versus “goth,” I found this “Words to Use” tool. It has long lists of adjectives, verbs, and nouns to use in describing your jewelry. It even has a “words to avoid” tab. But what I find most fun is the phrases tab. It’s like Mad-Libs for jewelry. Just string a few of these phrases together, inserting adjectives, verbs, and nouns from the other pages, and …Voila! Your item description is written. (Not that I would actually recommend you do that.)

definition of eclectic

My design style, and philosophy, defined.

As much fun as that site is, it doesn’t solve my jewelry identity crisis. I still don’t know the difference between boho and gypsy. Or boho and boho chic? Rustic or organic? Where’s the line between steampunk and goth? When is a necklace a “statement” and what makes earrings “modern” or “retro?”

For now, I’m sticking with “eclectic” overall for my style. It fits, by definition. And then I season it with a little “boho,” a dash of “southwestern” and a pinch of “vintage-inspired.” Just don’t ask me what they mean to anyone other than me.

If anyone knows of a jewelry style glossary to help me solve my identity crisis, please leave a link in the comments. I’d also love to hear from others having their own style identity crisis. Or those of you who have “found yourselves” and how you did it.  And while you’re at it, can someone explain the difference between boho and boho chic? Please.

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