What characteristics might a Faberge Egg share with a work of finely-crafted polymer by an artist of the caliber of Ford and Forlano, Jeff Dever, Kathleen Dustin, or Dan Cormier? Much more than you think as it turns out.
We consider some things to be intrinsically valuable. Many people think that gold, for instance, is intrinsically valuable because it has been prized since ancient times. Others argue that gold’s value is a social convention, and that there’s nothing about the nature of the material that makes it any more or less desirable than, say, silver or granite. I’m not going to argue the point here.
But I do have another point to make. A few years ago, an unidentified man bought a golden ornament at a jumble sale. He knew the item was genuine gold, and he was hoping to sell it for scrap and make a $500.00 profit. And, had the ornament been sold for scrap, the man would have gotten a respectable return on his original investment, and would have walked away with a few hundred dollars. Because that’s what the materials in the tiny gold ornament were worth.
Only the ornament was a genuine Faberge egg, which the man discovered when he typed the word “egg,” and the letters inscribed on the tiny clock housed inside the egg, into Google on his computer. Of course, he had to have an expert evaluate the egg, but in the end it was, in fact, a genuine Faberge egg that had been missing for years. It was worth millions. Or, at least, that is what the appraisers predicted someone was likely to pay for it. You can read the whole story here.
Antiques expert Kieran McCarthy, who evaluated the egg, had this to say:
“[The man] didn’t look upon [the egg as] a work of art at all. He saw that it was pretty and it was nice, but he was buying on intrinsic value. … The essence of Faberge’s work is craftsmanship. It’s the beauty of design and the conceiving of that object. . .This is what that object is about, this craftsmanship and demonstration of skill. If you’re not looking for it, you won’t see it.“
The man knew nothing about antiques or fine craftsmanship. He estimated the value of the egg’s materials correctly, but vastly “underestimated its value as a work of art.”
Which brings me back to polymer. Yes, polymer is only plastic. It is what the artist (like those mentioned above and many others) brings to it that gives it value. So the next time someone devalues polymer work because it’s “just polymer,” don’t whine about it. Tell them the story of the Faberge egg. And then tell it to yourself, and work on your craftsmanship.