Materials, making and meaning: the jewellery craft in Scotland, c. 1780-1914
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This thesis examines the jewellery craft in Scotland between 1780 and 1914 with a focus on the relationship between materials, making processes, and the social and cultural meanings of objects. While dominant narratives of craft in this period frame producers as the victims of industrialisation, this thesis considers Scotland’s jewellers as cultural actors who shaped their own worlds during a period of profound economic, social and cultural change. A material culture approach is employed to examine the work of Scotland’s jewellers through the things they made. Fusing object-based research with a wide range of visual and textual sources, the thesis shows how producers applied their skill, knowledge and creativity to manipulate raw matter into meaningful objects that not only reflected, but brought about wider social and cultural shifts. Through a focus on materiality, the thesis builds on new methodological approaches to the history of material culture to show how the mutable meanings of matter and workmanship impacted on the ways in which jewellery was produced, consumed, worn and perceived. Scotland provides a rich area of focus for this study. The country has a long history of quality craft production in jewellery and silverware, with the geological and natural diversity of the region providing jewellers with precious metals, coloured stones and freshwater pearls. The study examines industry dynamics, artisanal education and making processes to show how jewellers fashioned an image of their craft that was rooted in ideas of history, inherited skill and quality. The life cycle of native materials is traced from their raw state through the workshop and on to owners’ bodies to reveal how changes in workshop production were inseparable from shifting aesthetics and cultural ideas relating to nature, landscape and the past. These findings complicate the persistent myth of the decline of craft as a result of industrialisation to show that the desire for Scottish-made jewellery stimulated new and revived skills and trades that cut across urban and rural areas. While the thesis is geographically specific to Scotland, it places luxury producers within the interdisciplinary domain of cultural history to provide new insights into the study of the multifaceted transformations that marked British industry during the long-nineteenth century.