I searched the internet looking for definitions that would explain the difference between commercial and wearable art jewelry. I was not able to find much. So, please allow me to provide you with my definition until a jewelry design professor or renowned expert comes along to define these terms better.
Wearable art jewelry has character and soul because it is expressive and innovative in its concept, execution, and design. Each piece feels unique and showcases the designer’s artistic perspective and abilities. Wearable art designers prioritize aesthetics over the “value” of the materials used and anticipated retail price. The wearable art pieces are the jewelry artist’s form of self-expression. A popular subset of wearable art jewelry is costume jewelry. However, wearable art jewelry is, still, different because it can be made from any kind material (gold, copper, plastic, textiles, paper…anything!).
Commercial jewelry is designed to express the economic value of each piece and to appeal to multitude of consumers’ tastes. Commercial pieces are constructed where the materials can be easily substituted and interchanged to fit consumers’ budgets and tastes. Considerable importance is placed on designing pieces that people are willing to pay top dollar to own. Commercial designers will use expensive materials (i.e., rare and precious metals and gemstones) to justify the higher purchase price, but will scale down the design and use cheaper materials if the anticipated purchase price is below expectations. This is why commercial jewelry pieces are viewed as a status symbol of wealth (or lack thereof).
At higher price points, commercial and wearable art jewelry look the same. But at lower price points, commercial and wearable art can have distinct characteristics that appeal to consumers with contrasting styles and tastes.