Jewelry Issues Feed

Craft In America - JEWELRY Episode - Streaming Now!

Craft in America JEWELRY episode is streaming. You can watch the entire episode .

Would you like to see a preview or trailer as well?            
                   Here is a preview of the JEWELRY episode:

 JEWELRY is streaming online now, or watch on PBS broadcast TV on Friday, December 10, 2021
*Check the time for your local television listing. 

The 56-minute video highlights a variety of artists and their perspectives about jewelry and materials.  Tom Herman uses precious materials, which is a phenomenal contrast to my use of recycled materials of tin cans and post-consumer plastic; Gabrielle Gould is inspired by nature, Jesse Monongya is a Navajo/Hopi jeweler, and Art Smith reflects an innovative mid-20th century aesthetic. This program also includes commentary by the co-editors of Ornament Magazine.

The range and diversity of aesthetics and materials should provide thought-provoking scenarios for a great conversation.  I look forward to hearing what people have to say.

Be honest. 


Previous Posts in the "Craft In America" in my studio series.

"Craft In America" Day 1 - Fabrication in Video Time vs Real Craft

A Gigantic Wish Come True...."Craft In America" Visits My Studio

Perspiration in Preparation & Planning for "Craft In America"

An Optivisor for a Crown - Two Vans Arrive with the "Craft In America" video team

"They Whispered Names to Me - I am a channel"

"They Whispered Names to Me - I am a channel"

The Font of Experience "InFlux"

In the time of COVID-19, daily existence seems fractured.  Efforts to move forward feel constrained, challenging, and like a never-ending series of marathons filled with obstacle courses.  To cope, I try to focus on the expectation that this will all be a memory some time in the future.

There have been other historical eras impacted by plagues, natural disasters, and political upheavals. In the late 1960's, I was a much younger version of myself, but the daily news brought images of shocking political unrest and social change into every home.
Womanizer-Kitchen-QueenThis current intersection of political upheaval, pandemic, wildfires, hurricanes, and social change makes the book, "In Flux: American Jewelry and the Counterculture,"  especially apropos and relevant.  The book covers art jewelry of the 1960s, '70s, and early '80s. (More about this book in another post.) My metalwork from that time period is included because much of it exemplifies the emerging feminist frustrations of the time. 

On Thursday, November 19, Cindi Straus will be leading a conversation with me and Joyce J. Scott.  The  conversation is titled "American Jewelry and the Counter Culture."  We will discuss our early experiences as makers in the turbulent and politically exciting period of the 1970s and early 1980s -- and possibly how our past exposure in those social  disturbances has influenced our work to the present day.  Do the values and issues of our formative years as makers relate to or inform us in these current events?

Zoom makes it possible for everyone to listen in to this one-hour conversation.  You don't have to travel to New York or spend any money on hotels.  Zoom right into this conversation about how the politics of that time changed us and changed art jewelry and metalwork forever.
This event is presented as part of New York City Jewelry Week in partnership with Art Jewelry Forum, both of which are financial sponsors of "In Flux: American Jewelry and the Counterculture."
Womanizer_crownCindi Strauss is the Sara and Bill Morgan Curator of Decorative Arts, Craft, and Design for the Houston Museum of Fine Art. As a curator, she will be asking the questions to me and Joyce J. Scott. 
Both artists have art jewelry currently on view in 45 Stories in Jewelry: 1947 to Now at the Museum of Art and Design in New York.  We will discuss our early experiences as makers in the turbulent and politically exciting events of the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s.
The online event is free for MAD Members and Art Jewelry Forum members, but anyone can pay a small fee to listen in to the conversation. Learn more by clicking here.
MAD Members, please email [email protected] to receive your promo code for free tickets.
AJF Members may email [email protected].Womanizer_panel72

Read My Jewelry - Jewelry with a Voice and Visibility

Read-My-PinsOriginally, this post was going to be exclusively about the book, "Read My Pins" and the remarkable exhibition at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. There is much to say -- a lot more -- about how jewelry can make powerful statements for the wearer, to the viewer, or from the maker. 

As a jeweler, jewelry maker, metalsmith, jewelry collector and avid fan of all kinds of jewelry, I believe in the power of jewelry to express insights, emotions, and meaning far beyond the initial perceptions of beauty and craftsmanship.  "Read My Pins" excels in such revelations showing how Madeleine Albright used an expansive repertoire of her pins to convey diverse signals such as cooperation, dissatisfaction, special interests, sympathy, cultural awareness, or common cause throughout her career.  Much more on this amazing exhibition below.   

But let me start with a contrasting message that came to my attention this weekend to consider even more seriously the power of jewelry to convey a message.

The cover photo of the February 2017 issue of Vanity Fair Mexico shows Melania Trump "eating jewelry."  What does this say to you?  How do you think the Mexican readers should interpret the image?

Melania-Trump-Eating- Jewelry

The message seems to be simply about conspicuous consumption and extravagant surplus.  Clearly, the First Lady of the United States is pleased to show her privilege and position.  Unfortunately at the same time 50% of Mexicans live in poverty and there is a struggling U.S. middle class that is less than 4 months from economic ruin.  This image parallels an infamous historical quote, "Let them eat cake." 

Compare this to the empowering messages of jewelry in the book and exhibition "Read My Pins." The exhibition displayed pins and dramatic brooches worn my Madeline Albright during her tenure as Secretary of State.  To a feminist metalsmith I must remind myself (and anyone reading this post) that Madeline Albright was the first woman Secretary of State and the highest female official in U.S. Government at that time.

Every pin in this exhibit could initiate a conversation about the power of jewelry to communicate a message.  Madeline Albright used these pins and brooches for such purposes very effectively for years.

I loved the exhibition "Read My Pins" for many reasons. The entire exhibition was crowded with energy, enthusiasm, and thought provoking themes.  Over and over, the intrinsic value of the materials was irrelevant.  The "real" value was always based on the message and the context. 

This Atlas pin (below) holds the weight of the world -- symbolic of the United States role in many turbulent political situations in this world.  What message could be more important when worn by the U.S. Secretary of State and remains ever present in my mind during the past week.

Atlas Pin purchased by Madeline Albright in Paris. No attribution to the maker. (Photo from the exhibition)


A brooch could represent a concept (e.g. "sting like a bee") in an international negotiation.  Quoting Madeline Albright "I believe the right symbol at the correct time can add warmth or needed edge to a relationship."  In the photo (right)  Albright negotiates with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.



The pin (left) was from the Suffrage Movement. "The green, white and violet colors of the gemstones and pearls signify, respectively, hope, purity and dignity. The first letter of each word, (GWV) suggests an apt acronym: "Give Women the Vote' ."

Jewelry can send an important political message empowering women to stand up and be counted in marches demanding the vote and social change. (Quotes are from the description labels from Legion of Honor exhibition.)




Dove-and-eagle-read-My-pinsBoth the "Read My Pins" exhibition and book provide an important insight into the voice of jewelry. Jewelry can be important in so many ways. The message can be ennobling, enabling, even empowering such as in the next pin with an eagle and dove asserting both strength and a passion for peace.


Jewelry with emotionJewelry can also have emotional resonance. Quoting the museum label:  "In 2006, on a visit to New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina, Albright was approached by a young man who gave her a small box. 'My mother loved you,' he explained, ' and she knew that you liked and wore pins. My father gave her this one for their sixtieth wedding anniversary. She died as a result of Katrina, and my father and I think she would have wanted you to have it. It would be an honor to her if you would accept it.' "

"Albright wears the Katrina pin as a reminder that jewelry's greatest value comes not from intrinsic materials or brilliant designs but from the emotions we invest in them. The most cherished attributes are not those that dazzle the eye but those that recall to mind the face and spirit of a loved one."

This brooch of fused "shattered" glass (designer unknown) reflected the "shattering of a glass ceiling," a significant milestone for all women and reflecting support for another woman Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton.  Women in our country are not reaching the heights of leadership (corporate or political) in proportion to our share in the population.

Hidden-FiguresThe communication power of jewelry often aligns with social change.  In the movie, "Hidden Figures" the painful realities of discrimination against women and African-Americans -- or both -- in the early 1960's are presented in this powerful story.  In one scene, a simple pearl necklace symbolizes the growing awareness, acceptance, and empowerment of one of the female figures.

The "Read My Pins" exhibition and book are engaging, fun, educational, and thought provoking.  Each piece opened new doors or revealed new humanizing insights or highlights on topics familiar from newsreels but often distant and foreign.  I enjoyed almost every aspect.

For the contemporary craft world, I was a bit disappointed that so many of the pieces had no attribution to the maker and that so few contemporary makers were represented.

Many of the pins in the exhibition were antique or vintage collectibles, essentially manufactured costume jewelry. Lack of attribution is typical of such consumer products, but there was a significant number of obviously hand made pins purchased or given to Madeline Albright in foreign countries or purchased in the 20th century.

Many of the 20th century pins had no maker attributed to the work. What a shame? Would a painter sell their paintings without a name or initials on the front or back? To every maker reading this post, be sure to mark your jewelry (or other media) in some way.

Left, 1998; Helen Shirk (US); Sterling silver
Left, 1998; Helen Shirk (US); Sterling silver, 14k yellow gold

My second disappointment with the Madeline Albright collection is the lack of contemporary jewelry.  I am thrilled to say there were pins by Helen Shirk ( left,) Carolyn Morris Bach (below right) and  Gjis Bakker (cover of book), but not many other examples of jewelry by a contemporary hand. And even a smaller number of examples of contemporary jewelry with the maker's name. 

Shaman Bear, 2008; Carolyn Morris Bach
Shaman Bear, 2008; Carolyn Morris Bach (US); 18k yellow gold with 22k gold plating, silver, fossilized ivory, copper


ADDENDUM July 2018
In a comment below,
Leonda brought to my attention the jewelry worn by Queen Elizabeth during the three-day visit by Trump.  I have added images to this blog post to show this jewelry. 

As thousands of people demonstrated against President Trump in the UK, Queen Elizabeth II seemed to make a statement of her own by wearing a brooch given as a gift by former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.


 (Left photo) While welcoming Trump for tea, the 92-year-old monarch donned a palm leaf diamond brooch famously worn by her mother at the state funeral for the Queen’s father, King George VI, in 1952. 



Snowflake Brooch from Trudeau for Queen Elizabeth




Snowflake Brooch was given by Canadian people and Trudeau to Queen Elizabeth to mark 65 years on the throne. Trudeau has sharply criticized Trump. This was worn the day after meeting Trump. 


Get the book Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box from your local library or bookstore. It has a background for a good number of Madeline Albright pins, and it is very interesting. 


Think about the power of jewelry and the voice that can resonate so much about our politics and social change.














This post was updated on December 13th, 2021.

What is the Jewelry of the 21st Century?

Harriete Estel Berman wearing Fitbit bracelet.
Photo Credit: Eric Smith

While recent tendencies of avant-garde and art jewelry seem to be following a collective drift toward "string and anti-technique," my observation is that jewelry of the future will combine style and digital function.  This prediction arises from what I am wearing right now...a FitBit Bracelet (and other styles available).  The competition in this field will unquestionably bring more imaginative forms and new functions.

The bracelet goes far beyond decoration. This jewelry of the future is telling me how many calories I've burned, steps taken, distance traveled, activity level, calories burned, heart rate, and monitors my sleep patterns.

Mary-Ann-Scherr's-bracelet-life-saving.A much older distant cousin of the body monitor function in the jewelry world is a one of a kind Heart Pulse Sensor Bracelet from 1973 by Mary Ann Scherr*.  StarTrek, Dick Tracy, and Captain Nemo also foretold of jewelry and communicating functions.  

What does it say when I buy this FitBit bracelet for $99 instead of contemporary, handmade jewelry by my craft kindred community? 

The battery lasts up to five days and survives showers and sweat. It seems that FitBit actually sells additional "colorful bands to fit your mood." Check out the accessory band colors below.

I want one in every I'm waiting till they sell the combo pack with every color. 

FitBit-pink-green-tealThe orange, teal, and navy bands now available as a 3-pack are not enough for my jewelry maven personality. I want more colors, more options, and the answers to the technical issues regarding fit and materials.


FitBit-Tangerine-Orange-TealJewelry makers out there; Are you ready to make a niche in your jewelry for the FitBit component? I am not kidding. 

The entire functional component in the FitBit bracelet is about 1/2" long and 1/4" wide. See it below. Fitbitcomponent

Below is another view from a FitBit Flex Teardown on iFixIt. This one single water tight component is the only working portion of the bracelet.


I see no reason why jewelry makers could not be integrating these and related products into their jewelry. Look at these functional components and think about how this could change your jewelry in the future.

I am thinking hard.
How about collaboration between jewelry makers and FitBit!
A whole show of the FitBit jewelry and a tribute to the pioneers like Mary Ann Scherr. Who knows....I already wrote to Fitbit. They are based right near where I live in San Francisco, CA. (Links to Fitbit products are affiliate links.) 

*Learn more about the body monitor jewelry of Mary Ann Scherr:

Televison interview with Mary Ann Scherr  I recommend watching the television interview first. Consider that in this interview she is an astounding, energetic 90 years old. Near the end they talk about how her body monitor jewelry was before its time. How ironic!

Oral history interview with Mary Ann Scherr from the 

Mary Ann Scherr Designer, Educator, Goldsmith, Jewelr from

Heart Monitor Necklace by Mary Ann Scherr

Lecture by Lisebeth den Besten & Ben Lignel About Contemporary Jewelry

Ben-LignelOctober 24 is definitely going to be an amazing day. Turns out that Lisebeth den Besten and Ben Lignel will be lecturing at California College of Arts in Oakland, CA and on my birthday. What a day!

Lisebeth-den-BestenThis lecture is in conjunction with the launching of the newly published book Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective.



DATE: Thursday, October 24
TIME:  5:45 to 7:30 pm
LOCATION: 5212 Broadway
 Nahl Hall and it is free to the public.
Nahl Hall is toward the back of the campus....and UP, UP, UP, a steel staircase on the outside of the building. If you don't know your way around, just as any student to direct you.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION:  BART is easy if you don't mind walking. Just take BART to the Rockridge Station and walk seven blocks to the intersection of College and Broadway.

PARKING NEAR CAMPUS: There is NO parking on campus for regular folks like you and me. I recommend allowing enough time to drive around looking for parking in the residential area between 51st and College Avenue. It is reasonably safe and the walk is only a couple of blocks.

This lecture is a rare opportunity to interact with these speakers. The lectures at CCA are usually small and intimate. A lecture description is below. Take advantage of this opportunity.  See you there. Introduce yourself. Start a conversation. I will be there early for a great seat.

Contemporary-Jewelry-in-PerspectiveIn this joint lecture, Liesbeth den Besten and Benjamin Lignel, contributors to Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective, will look at two facets of this recent transformation:

Den Besten will discuss participatory projects and projects that question issues of value, and show how these strategies move away from ‘object-hood’ into the direction of ‘jewelry-ness’.

Lignel will show examples of how the seven ‘spaces of jewelry’ - discussed in part one of the book - are occupied differently by makers around the world, and focus on the page as a space of production.

In a third part, the two speakers will discuss the particular challenges of teaching (and learning) a craft that often forgets its craft roots, the better to dissolve itself and disseminate into the world.

Suggested reading:
Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective

Art Jewelry Forum has scheduled a series of talks.
Check out the line up for a city near you.

A Twig Is A Twig Is A Twig*

MickyRoofGoldTwigCuffRecent emails and posts on Orchid/Ganoksin have drawn my attention to an unfortunate story related to jewelry made from cast twigs. A1001-016fI can't say who is right or wrong, though I am inclined to be sympathetic to the heartfelt story.





There are at least 4 issues raised in this discussion.

1. Accusations of copyright infringement (based on cast Twigs)

2. Preventing Knock-offs

3. The "No New Ideas" justification for Unethical Behavior

4. Behaviors Creating a Breeding Ground for Copycat Justifications.

This post starts with accusations of "copyright infringement" based on Twigs

There is no copyright infringement on cast twigs as a motif in jewelry, or anything else for that matter.  Picking up a twig off the ground, casting the twig made by mother nature, and using it as a visual element in a line of jewelry is not creating an original design element.

QuadrupletwigbangleT_BR_S_160While some makers may believe they have created a signature style, creating a line of jewelry based on cast twigs is not original.


Mickyrooftwigbraceletwdiamonds SingletwigbraceletT_D_BR_S_152I 3846150652_f8a6c69f51_o did a search online for images of jewelry from twigs and readily found an enormous amount of jewelry with twig motifs.  Thus, the debate about copyright infringement ends up being a moot point.

Creating a signature style from any element that can be picked off the ground, or is readily available from mother nature makes you vulnerable to copycat problems. (To be discussed further in the next post.)

The author of the original post on Orchid states that she specializes "in setting fantastic opals in the work" which she was purchasing from "Eagle Creek Opals...Bill Kasso. This made the work particularly unique because Bill has a cutting style which is very special as well as the material he mines."

 No matter how special the opals, if other people can buy the same (or similar) opals from Bill Kasso (or anyone else) you are not adding any unique element.

Most of the images in this post are NOT credited to the maker to protect everyone from threats, lawsuits, incrementation, and libel. No endorsement or refutation is implied.

What may distinguish one piece of twig jewelry and the next in this post is:
1. The quality of the photos
2. The quality of the work (which we can not see in the online photos);
3. The price point (which varied widely);
4. Some people are making more money and a reputation than others selling twig jewelry.

What lessons can everyone learn from this sad tale? If you don't create every single element in your jewelry, you will remain vulnerable to copycat work. This applies to casting twigs or buying stones, no matter how special.

Opal line bracelet by ChH. MackellarYes, it is possible to create an original "Twig Bracelet" (right) by C.H. Mackellar, if you create your own twigs. This is an original design and is possible to copyright.

Sstwigcufftourmaline133aYes, it is possible to copyright a clever term like "stick Pin" which Micky Roof says she has done. Unfortunately, even if you own the copyright for one particular idea, you need money to take a person to court to protect your idea legally.

However,.....there are more issues with the story. Stay tuned...


Next posts:

Preventing Copycat Behavior

The "No New Ideas" justification for Unethical Behavior

*The title of today's post: A Twig is A Twig Is A Twig" is inspired by Gertrude Stein's  famous quote, "A Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose."

This post was updated on March 31, 2022, to provide current links.

Handcuffs, As Jewelry? - Symbol of Oppression in Fashion

When my daughter was fourteen I started “The Fulsome Game” (see photo below), inspired by the comparison (or should I say the shocking similarity) between three different game boards from 1966, 1967, and 1995. Adding to the culture shock for this women’s lib mother/artist were the magazines marketed to young girls filled with underwear, makeup, nail polish, and articles about “how to look good” or “what do boys want in girls.”


Our culture sells this fulsome game of excessive advertising, consciously and subconsciously selling an incessant message that limits females to stereotypical roles that superficially focus on appearance instead of substance.

Fulsome Game by Harriete Estel Berman sends a powerful message.

When will women be unshackled from the limitations of these formulaic and limited roles?

DiceGRRoll the dice…

Well, I couldn't believe what I found in a recent issue of Elle Magazine discovered at the gym. What I thought was going to be entertainment turned into concern when I noticed this image below
                                  handcuffs as jewelry!


I (reluctantly) borrowed the magazine and scanned the page for your viewing. 


The above image was taken from a full-page fashion spread of HOT items currently "in fashion." Something is wrong
here if "hot fashion" items are handcuffs for women as jewelry. 

Sure you can say, "don't buy it".... but I am objecting to the message.

In case you think that the one pair of handcuffs was an anomaly here is an entire page of handcuffs as a fashion accessory from the same magazine.


Interesting that the handcuffs are shown with very high heels on both pages of fashion images. The high heels give the appearance of longer legs, but at the extreme, they encumber womens' ability to walk. The extreme high heels themselves are like ankle shackles. Handcuffs as jewelry??!  Bondage as metaphor?!! An amazing combination of shackled hands and ankles.

I want to be as fashionable and attractive as most other women....but why is it that "fashion" thinks it is attractive to wear items of subjugation and pain (handcuffs and extremely high heels)?

MORE BACKGROUND BELOW ABOUT MY COLLECTION OF GENDER-SPECIFIC games that inspire my past artwork (some highlighting handcuffs).

Come to my studio to see the extensive collection of toys.

Fulsome Gamer by Harriete Estel Berman uses handcuffs to send a powerful message. _fullview72

As mentioned at the beginning, "The Fulsome Game" was inspired by three vintage game boards that I collected in my feminist study of our material culture. 

What ShallI I Be Board Game owned by Harriete Estel Berman inspires artworkThe oldest game is titled “What Shall I be? The exciting game of Career Girls” © 1966.

It offered six possible careers to young girls playing the game: ballerina, model, actress, flight attendant, nurse, and school teacher. 

Game cards in the box make a range of comments, some positive and many negative, for example
YOU ARE A QUICK THINKER. Good for: Airline Hostess and Nurse”
YOU ARE OVERWEIGHT.  Bad for: Airline Hostess, Ballet Dancer, and Model."
"YOU ARE PRETTY. Good for: Model and Actress."
"YOUR MAKE-UP IS TOO SLOPPY. Bad for: Airline Hostess and Model." 
"YOU ARE A SLOW THINKER. Bad for: Airline Hostess and Nurse. Another game board."

Continuing with more revelations from my collection of gender-specific toys:

Front.72 Back72

Side372Above and left are the front and the back of a “Campus Queen” lunch box circa 1967. The lunch box came complete with a thermos, two magnetic game pieces, and a spinner.

The game board had spaces with statements like:

Roll the dice, advance thirty years!   In 1997 my eight-year-old daughter was given a Barbie game called, “’ We Girls Can Do Anything GameWe Girls Can Do Anything’ Game, Travel the Path that Leads to the Career of Your Dreams” © 1996.

After all of these years, the career options had improved only slightly (didn’t the feminist movement have any impact)?   Now, the career options are: ballerina, fashion designer, actress, musician, pilot, and doctor, but every character is dressed in Barbie pink including the pilot and doctor.

I could not hold myself back from this commentary in the piece "The Fulsome Game".


This post was updated on February 11, 2022.



Side-By-Side Photo Comparisons: Colorful or Discordant?

Some comments during this series of "Side-By-Side Comparisons of Different Photos" prompted me to add comparisons of photos with colored backgrounds.

The use of colored backgrounds in photography of art or craft is not simply a "black and white" issue.  There are too many considerations. 

For this post, I will only use photos of my work to illustrate solid colored backgrounds (so no one else feels like a guinea pig in this public critique).  Feel free to respond however you want about my examples.

[Note: A couple of future posts will discuss backgrounds with texture or other extra content.  Stay tuned.] 

The photos immediately below are from a pre-digital era. Yes, the left photo was actually photographed on a yellow background paper at my request by my photographer Philip Cohen. The photos were taken in 1990 -- before digital manipulation could easily replace the background with a different color.

Image 8a.                                Image 8b.
Patchwork Quilt, Small Pieces of Time ©1989 by Harriete Estel Berman (left and right images) Photo Credit for both images: Philip Cohen.

Cover of 1990 Summer issue of Metalsmith Magazine with a yellow photographic background.
Patchwork Quilt, Small Pieces of Time
©1989 by Harriete Estel Berman
vintage steel dollhouses
1990 Cover photo for Metalsmith
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen.

The yellow background photograph was used for the cover of a summer issue of Metalsmith Magazine in the early 1990s.  It was my idea to photograph on yellow and a very scary idea. A bright yellow background breaks completely with the established standard of gray-to-graduated backgrounds, then and now.  I used the yellow background that one time and have never used it again in 20 years.

SmallPiecesgraybk At the same time, I had the same sculpture photographed on a more standard gray background. Thank goodness! The gray photo has been used over and over in many shows, books, and magazines. 

I felt then and still feel that the yellow background really makes the work POP! But let's get really honest! -- the vast majority of the art and craft community do not view work on bright yellow backgrounds as serious work.  The general consensus seems to be that a brightly colored background is perceived as decorative, overly dramatic, or superficial.  Or, am I mistaken? What do you think?

A key consideration is your audience. The yellow cover of a summer issue of a magazine might work one time, but it definitely doesn't fit my audience every time.  A stimulating image to one group may be too much for another group.

Here is another example of colored backgrounds. The same necklace is in every photo. The background is not Photoshopped, each is an original photo.   

Black and White Identity Bead Necklace © 2006
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen.

This comparison is striking. The necklace and the reflection are eye-catching.  Every photo is lit perfectly.  If you could submit one photo of this necklace, which photo would you use? What happens when your career depends on the decision? 

Here is my appraisal of each photo.

Black and White Identity Bead Necklace by Harriete Estel Berman is photographed on a neutral light gray background.The subdued gray of this photo is well within a standard photographic background and a fabulous photo, but lacking the drama of the black and colored options. Do you think this is as good a photo as the black background or blue?

I've never used the graduated light gray background because I thought it was boring.  Indeed, one of the previous comments suggested that white, gray, or graduated black backgrounds are boring.

B&wID_blue72 The turquoise blue background is a really dramatic image. The blue is a contrasting color to the orange spacer beads. The combination of the necklace, reflection, and striking background makes the entire image very attractive.

I've submitted the brilliant blue background photo to several books and shows but it has never been accepted.  The blue background seems to break too many unofficial rules.

Black and White Identity Bead Necklace by Harriete Estel Berman is a commentary about our consumer society.The only photo that has been accepted by either a publisher, Internet article, or show has been the necklace on the black background.

This photo seems to capture a high level of drama within the image yet focuses attention on the work. 

The goal of your photograph is to have the viewer focus on your art or craftwork, not on the image itself.   Which background enhances the viewer's perception of the work without stealing the spotlight?  Does the background become overly dramatic? Is there a prejudice against colorful backgrounds as not serious enough?

How do you interpret the issues presented here? 

 Previous posts in the series Side-By-Side Comparisons of Different Photos:

Side-By-Side Comparisons of Different Photos: Black Hole or Super Sophisticated?

Side-By-Side comparisons of different photos - the graduated background. Stunning or stupefying?

Side-By-Side Comparisons of Different Photos - the white background. Trendy or Technique?

Are You Being Judged by the Style of Your Images?

The photographers are revealed!

More posts in the series are coming...

The book images and links are from Amazon as affiliate links. 

The world of photography is changing rapidly.  Is your photography up to date? Is it an effective tool?
• Are you being judged by the style of your images?
• How much post-production is acceptable and who should do the work?
• Current trends in background and composition.
• The model or the pedestal?
• and much more……

These issues were discussed at the Professional Development Seminar titled, Photography in Flux.

This post was updated on January 26, 2022, to provide current links.

Lead content regulations for Jewelry

Dear Ask Harriete, 

I have a question for you. Concerning your recycled tin jewelry, how are you handling the new lead content regulations in California? Thanks for your time.


Concerned  about new jewelry regulations

Dear Concerned about Lead Content in Jewelry,

You bring up a subject that I've never considered -- because the tin cans used in my jewelry do not contain lead or lead solder.    "Tin cans" have not contained tin or lead for most of the past century.  BR3-3-07

The term "tin can" comes from the 19th-century innovation for fabricating food storage cans. The technology at that time made steel cans that were "tinned" on the inside with tin to limit the exposure of the food to the steel.  Currently, most cans are either plated with food-safe plating or coated with plastic to avoid a metallic taste from the steel can.  Seams of tin cans are no longer soldered with lead solder.

Read more about the California law about lead content in jewelry at the California Department of Toxic Substance Control website.

The California law about lead content in jewelry can be viewed online at:    California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Rings and Things has a clear diagram of the CA Jewelry-Making Materials Classification.

The issue of lead content in jewelry has a lot more to do with inexpensive imported jewelry including toy jewelry for children sold in kits and "playsets."PlayJEWELRY


From the Environmental Protection Agency:  July 8, 2004  The threat of lead poisoning from toy jewelry led the CPSC to conduct a voluntary recall of 150 million pieces of metal toy jewelry sold widely in vending machines. Unfortunately, another incident occurred in 2006, when a child died from ingesting a toy charm containing lead. This incident prompted the voluntary recall of 300,000 charm bracelets. The charm and metal bracelets were given as free gifts with the purchase of shoes from one manufacturer.

One factor that isn't highlighted enough is that children's exposure to lead is often due to ingestion of the jewelry; i.e. they swallow the toy jewelry. Children young enough to put items in their mouths should not be given small items to play with.  Parents with young children need to be ever vigilant.  The danger of children ingesting small items isn't limited to toy jewelry, but coins, pins, beads, etc.  Vintage and adult costume jewelry could also present a problem with lead content.  It is the parents' responsibility to constantly monitor what their children handle or play with.

It seems unlikely to me that artists and craftspeople in the United States are fabricating their own work with materials containing lead.  The dangers of lead exposure have been well documented and regulations have been in place for years.  Most raw materials are lead-free; for example, low-temperature solders and enamels have been lead-free for many years.  Nevertheless, it is important for artists and craftspeople to know what they are working with during the fabrication of their work.  If you are unsure, the label will tell you if the product is lead-free.  Carefully examine the labels on all your raw materials to make sure they are lead-free for your own health and that of your customers.



This post was updated on December 15, 2021, to provide current links.