The cyber revolution has emphasised the dialogue regarding perceptions of value between the mechanically produced and the handmade jewellery piece. The application of modern digital design technology with traditional methods of working by hand in the studio jewellers’ practice raises questions of authorship, authenticity, and artisanship.
Literature reveals that in the digital age, technology is developing at a rapid pace, and that in the future manual jewellery design and manufacturing processes could be eliminated completely. To date however, there is no jewellery making process that excludes manual labour entirely. The rapid development of technology could impact the future sustainability of the studio jeweller in their ability to remain viable in terms of price, time, material consumption, variety and complexity of design afforded by digital processes. In turn, this has direct bearing on the design curriculum at higher education institutions preparing graduates with the necessary skills to enter the workplace.
In this research, the authors aim to explore the incorporation of digital design technology into the studio jewellery design and manufacture process of bespoke jewellery. The research aimed to develop a basic framework to find the balance between technological advancement, mass production, the continuity of tradition and the function of the studio jeweller in the jewellery industry.
The study was conducted in the greater Cape Town area using a participatory action research method based on an iterative reflective cycle. Participatory action research allows for the parties most affected by changes in the industry to participate in finding a proposed solution. The findings of the first cycle are presented in this paper and a conceptual framework is proposed which will inform future research and jewellery design curriculum development. Such an updated framework will assist studio jewellers to consider a wider range of technologies while retaining the authenticity of traditional bespoke jewellery in a post-cyber society.