What can the Metaverse, such an emerging and cutting-edge technology, offer to the jewelry industry related to craftsmanship and ancestral handwork of raw materials?

According to Wikipedia, 70.12% of the world's largest diamonds (by carat weight) were found in Africa, 15.46% in South America, 12.28% in Asia, and 2.14% in North America. Some may not agree with this statement, but with the African continent being the largest repository of precious metals and stones, it is hard to understand how those of African descent are not the ones dominating the jewelry industry. In the world of artisanal jewelry, many Black jewelry craftsmen navigate a landscape where their peers are scarce, the risk of skill loss is real, and competition is intense. This blog post presents six ways the Metaverse and Web3 can help artisans surmount these challenges and thrive.

As in many other areas, the jewelry industry is also not spared from the restrictions imposed on Black artisans. Access to specific machinery and the necessary start-up capital are among the biggest impediments today, as are mentorship and guidance. The barrier to entry was -and still is­­­­­­­­- high. In the nineteenth century, Frederick Douglass already advocated for a fairer system: “Give him fair play and let him be,” Douglass wrote of the Black artisan. “Throw open to him the doors of the schools, the factories, the workshops, and of all mechanical industries...Give him all the facilities for honest and successful livelihood, and in all honorable avocations receive him as a man among men.” In this industry, mentoring plays a fundamental role and the great figures of the last century, such as A. Smith, attest to this.

In the early 1920s, Arthur George “Art” Smith was one of few Black students in his Art class. Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against his success, he tapped into a network of mentors early on, including fellow Black jewelry designer, Winifred Mason. Those mentors encouraged him to apply to Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and supported his career as a jewelry designer.

But unfortunately, we have not reached the point where Black exceptionality in the fine jewelry industry becomes an old-wives tale. Still today, Black jewelry craftsmen and women are rare, and this scarcity not only increases the pressure on these Black artists but also limits the industry’s diversity. In some cases, we should not only be concerned about the craft objects themselves but about the risk of losing traditional skills: the intangible cultural heritage transmitted across generations. Safeguarding attempts should concentrate on encouraging artisans to continue to produce craft and to pass their skills and knowledge onto others, particularly within their own communities. For many, the only way to compete against globalization, mass production and multinational corporations is to enhance their creativity, but uniqueness can only take you so far. There becomes a point when they can no longer compete with prices, delivery time or lower costs, thus, not being able to pay attractive wages to young people interested in this industry. Adapting to this competition threatens the passing of skills and knowledge onto others, since junior designers may find the sometimes lengthy apprenticeship -necessary to learn many traditional forms of craft - too demanding-, and instead they seek work in factories or service industries where the work is less exacting and the pay often better.

On the continent the situation is even more critical, since many craft traditions involve ‘trade secrets’ that should not be taught to outsiders, but if family members or community members are not interested in learning it, the knowledge may disappear because sharing it with strangers violates tradition.

However, this is good timing for the industry. We are seeing a craft renaissance in America and around the world for several reasons:
First of all, this ancient art is regaining its good reputation among investors due to the instability of the world economy. A jewel has special characteristics that other assets do not share: (i) its indisputable monetary value due to the materials that compose it, in addition, (ii) it is a unique piece of art and design that attracts collectors, and finally (iii) it constitutes a memory or memorial of special occasions for people, which imbues it with incalculable emotional connotations for its owners. However, this investment opportunity should not be accessible only to big cats; through tokenization, alternative forms of investment can be offered to small investors who want to take advantage of the rise and revaluation of gold and other precious stones.

Second of all, in response to industrialization, many people around the world enjoy handmade objects that are imbued with the accumulated knowledge and cultural values of craftspeople, which offer a softer alternative to the numerous ‘high tech’ items that dominate global consumer culture. Thus, it is also a good opportunity to connect with our African past. The splendor of Black civilizations such as the Egypt are an inexhaustible source of inspiration for new pieces of art based on African jewelry that will resonate with a new audience eager to reconnect with other hegemonic visions alternative to the Eurocentric ones. The system that has been adopted in the world of luxury jewelry today undeniably mirrors the shift towards jewelry as a currency that was seen in early Africa.

With the rise of environmental and fair-trade principles, emerging jewelry designers should take advantage of blockchain technology to differentiate themselves and highlight their social component, in an industry that has lost credibility over the past decades due to bad practices in mineral extraction in developing countries. Blockchain’s transparency and immutability can provide traceability and authenticity for sustainable luxury pieces. Brands could ensure customers through a public ledger the origin of their raw materials and/or fair wages to the workers involved in the extraction.

Finally, reaching a wider audience without the need for a large marketing budget is also possible today. Metaverse branding and Onchain marketing could do miracles for emerging jewelry designers. Web3 is no longer about followers but about community and enthusiasts that will promote your work if you allow them to have part of the shares. Global reach and recognition are still possible for the Black jewelry designer community with the aid of Tokenomics and Metaverse. Would you like to know how could that be materialized?

Let me drop you six solutions to counteract (i) Scarcity of Black Jewel Craftsmen, (ii) Skill Loss Post-Retirement, and (iii) Competition and Limited Resources, highlighting their potential impact on empowering Black jewelry designers, fostering community, and expanding opportunities in the Metaverse.

  1. Virtual Guild: Establish a virtual guild, inviting Black jewelry craftsmen from around the world. This space can serve as a platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing, and support, fostering a sense of community and amplifying the voices and visibility of Black jewelry craftsmen. Also, advocate for craft-based education programs that provide training and employment opportunities for Black jewelry designers. Discuss the importance of equal access to training and resources, addressing historical barriers and inequalities. Highlight the integration of digital tools and techniques to enhance craftsmanship and to open up new possibilities.
  2. Virtual Craft Tradition Vault: Create a virtual repository where traditional craft techniques and knowledge can be preserved and accessed by future generations. Highlight the importance of safeguarding craft traditions and ensuring their continuity in the face of globalization. Emphasize the value of sharing and preserving trade secrets within a trusted community. Also, designers can create virtual workshops where they host classes, passing on their jewelry making techniques and preserving their craft for future generations.
  3. Tokenizing Valuable Jewelry: You can mint each of your unique jewelry pieces as NFTs, proving ownership and authenticity, while also allowing your work to reach a global audience.  Explore the concept of tokenizing valuable jewelry pieces and selling fractional ownership to multiple buyers. Realize the potential for alternative investments and attracting diverse clientele interested in unique and high-value jewelry. The benefits of tokenization in increasing liquidity and creating new market opportunities are worth exploring. You can ultimately host virtual auctions in the Metaverse where collectors and enthusiasts can bid on your unique jewelry pieces.
  4. Virtual Marketplaces for “Phygital” Goods: Create virtual marketplaces where Black jewelry designers can showcase and sell their craft products (the physical jewel piece and a digital NFT linked to it proving the ownership of buyers). The Metaverse gives you the opportunity to reach a broader audience, connect with customers interested in supporting diverse artisans, and overcome barriers faced in traditional market channels. This technology can help you level the playing field, giving you control over your work and profits without relying on expensive machinery or marketing budgets.
  5. Tokenized Gated System: Establish a token-based access system within a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) community that incentivizes the transfer of knowledge and skills. Furthermore, including financial incentives within the ecosystem can encourage both students and teachers to engage in knowledge exchange, ensuring the sustainability of traditional craftsmanship. The benefits of a collaborative and supportive community for the growth of individual artisans are countless and a must for preserving craft skills and knowledge.
  6. Virtual Jewel Art Museum: Establish a virtual museum dedicated to showcasing the artistry and beauty of jewelry created by Black jewelry designers, giving clients a virtual tour of their work. This would be a very innovative way and opportunity to gain global exposure and recognition, attracting art enthusiasts and collectors.

The transformative power of Web3 and the Metaverse in redefining the jewelry industry and creating a more inclusive and equitable landscape is real. Today, we ought to instill hope in the next generation of Black jewelers, success in the industry is possible for Black creatives. Crafting virtual guilds, interactive workshops and linking NFTs to real jewel art pieces to foster direct consumer engagement can create the path to success you are looking for. Embrace the future and recognize the potential of these technologies to preserve traditional skills, fostering collaboration and overcome your industry’s challenges. And remember, DON’T CALL IT A DREAM, CALL IT A PLAN.

JULY, 03 / 2023
Step into a new era of jewelry craftsmanship and innovation with the power of the Metaverse and Web3. If you're captivated by the limitless possibilities that await black jewelry designers in this digital realm, I invite you to reserve a call with me today. Let's explore how JJBK Studio can help you leverage cutting-edge technologies, create virtual showcases for your exquisite pieces, and establish a strong presence in the Metaverse. Together, we can unlock new opportunities, reach a global audience, and take your jewelry business to new heights. Don't miss out on this chance to shape the future of the industry. Schedule your call now!
Text author: Jimmy Jean
Photography: Midjourney AI ©JJBK studio 2023

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