Because I’m Black

From Art Smith to Jacqueline Rabun, Lauren Harwell Godfrey, Terry Castro: in the past as today, the voice of black jewelers does not shout, but pushes, by means of concrete action, towards a possible change

Arthur George "Art" Smith was an influential jewelry designer of the mid-20th century. He was inspired by Surrealism and African culture motifs which led him to create true sculptures that followed the lines of the body. His pieces were worn by dancers and famous people of the time, including Duke and Ruth Ellington. Of Cuban origin but raised in New York, he was a strong advocate of civil rights, both black and gay. He died in 1982, but his work stil lives in some important museum collections, such as the Met. Nowadays, at a time when the debate on racism is more intense than ever, his name echoes loudly in the world of jewelry. Just in his honor, last June, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York founded the "Art Smith Memorial Scholarship Foundation", an association born with the aim of creating scholarships for students of color: 50 independent brands have joined together to raise funds that will be used to support students attending the Jewerly Design Program at FIT. «People of color are historically underrepresented in the jewelry industry and our goal is to turn that statistic around». Painful words no one wants to hear, though witnessed by some successful jewelers who, in addition to creating beautiful jewelry collections, are engaged in projects to support civil rights and equality. 

«I have experienced racism in all aspects of my life. I consider it a sign of ignorance and a lack of education. I am very focused and determined, so I won't let it get in my way,» says Jacqueline Rabun, an American-born designer based in London. The affirmation of her refined and contemporary style passes through twenty years of collaboration established with the Danish brand Georg Jensen. «My job is deeply connected to my personal experience as an African-American woman. In the "Black Love" series, I've used two seeds that symbolize transformation, to form a modern heart symbol, a talisman that represents the beauty, elegance and grace of those who defend equality, love and justice.» Lauren Harwell Godfrey, founder of the established Californian brand Harwell Godfrey, declares: «It is difficult to talk about something you experience personally. I can imagine that the color of my skin may have affected some decisions made by potential private customers, retailers and sellers in working with me. Fortunately, I have an incredible community that supports me and my work.» Lauren is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement: «It means everything to me. We deserve to be paid and treated the same way. Racism is real and people die from it.» George Floyds' death struck her so much that she created a special project: «A pendant that I am selling to raise funds for NAACP, the oldest basic civil rights organization in the United States. It is a broken and recomposed heart, made of 18 carat gold, diamonds and black onyx. So far I have donated over $ 60,000.00.» According to Terry Castro, founder of Castro NYC, it's all about prejudice: «Sometimes we are not given the same trust as other people in the field. Some people even question the fact that a black person can make jewelry, but the truth is, we ourselves actually invented jewelry!» The designer, appreciated for his artisan skills, is working on a collection of pearl jewelry, whose proceeds - also in this case – are going to finance scholarships for candidates of color, at the Jewelry Arts Inc in New York. 

Precious action able to go beyond words, to make a future without discrimination possible and nearer.

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