Jewelry Shops in Seoul and Korean Craftsmanship > K-POP

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Jewelry Shops in Seoul and Korean Craftsmanship

  • Name : korea
  • Date : 2023-08-01 09:03:08


In Jongno District—the heart and center of Seoul since the capital’s founding—among palaces, shrines, temples, museums, and restaurants and cafés of traditional hanok architecture, there is an array of quaint artisan jewelry shops.



These jewelry shops are a modern testimony to the artistry and craftsmanship that Korean civilization has practiced for millennia. Korean jewelry makers display and sell their own work—pieces designed and crafted by themselves, by hand—in their own independent stores.



One area in particular where this industry can be appreciated is the up-and-coming street of Seosulla-gil. After speaking with some of the store-owners there, I learned that the Seoul city government itself has been supporting the development of this special jewelry street, leading to the opening of many new jewelry shops in the past couple of years.




Evidence of this is that the street is the site of the Seoul Jewelry Industry Support Center, which not only serves as a cultural space to host jewelry exhibitions in, but also supports the field by discovering emerging designers and helping them as they enter the business.


One of these emerging jewelry designers and makers—with whom I had the pleasure of speaking—is Kim Heeyoung, the owner of Hee Young Kim Jewellery. Ms. Kim has in recent years come back to Seoul after studying and starting her business in London, and now runs her own store on Seosulla-gil. At one end of the store she has the jewelry pieces she has made while being in Korea, which are smaller and more delicate than the heavier, more colorful pieces on display at the other end, which she made while in London. She told me it usually takes her two to three days to make one individual piece, but more difficult designs take her up to a week.




Seeing her store, and others like it, I could get a sense of the vast variety of jewelry being made and sold in the area—different kinds catered to different demographics—and could appreciate the great work and care that goes into creating each unique piece of jewelry.   


In the surrounding areas, such as Insa-dong, I was able to visit many other notable stores, and speak with the talented, dedicated jewelry makers that ran them.


I saw stores that specialized in gold and silver, many stores with all real jewels, real jade, stores that sold more traditional Korean craft jewelry, and also stores that sold more affordable, colorful costume jewelry.


Among the wide range and different kinds of beauty, the common thread was that they were all hand-crafted, and all made by the people selling them to you.


In one store, I met a man who told me he and his wife made all of the jewelry on display themselves, and ran the store together; in another, a woman sold her handmade jewelry as well as handbags and other accessories made by her family members, and also ran a coffee stand within the store; and in another, I was greeted by three women laughing and drinking coffee on chairs in the back, and a dog walking around, and the owner told me “Don’t be surprised by my dog” as she got up to assist me.




I was warmed by the personal, homey atmosphere, and the individuality and personality of the stores. I realized the jewelry was meaningful, because it was made by real people—the people that were in front of me, expertly assisting me in my browsing and happy to talk to me. I realized, too, that in their work they are keeping up a tradition of Korean craftsmanship.


In Sowyen Café on Seosulla-gil, there is a jewelry gallery that exhibits the work of various Korean craft jewelry designers, and provides valuable information on the art. It has plaques that provide background on the craft artists themselves, and also explain the various meanings behind the details in their jewelry designs. Moreover, there are plaques with information on the historical facts and significance of the jewelry, and the traditional Korean metal works and other crafting techniques and how they are modernized today.




Hence, the handmade jewelry shops in the heart of Seoul are a significant cultural asset. They are much more than any large, commercial jewelry chain, and much more than a place for tourists to buy souvenirs. Each individual piece of jewelry—whether made of silver, gold, jade, wood, or leather—has real human thought, care, and time, and the history of Korean craftsmanship put into it. They have the artistry of Korean people engraved within them.




These jewelry shops, and the artists behind them, keep alive ancient Korean tradition, and are a reflection of Korean authenticity, integrity, people, culture, and art.


By Caroline Ketelhohn, Summer Intern   




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