Disappearance of intangible cultural heritage in the French Luxury Jewelry industry. A literature review

Excerpt, 2017

15 Pages


Literature review

Intangible Cultural Heritage

Over the past years, it has become obvious to several craftsmen (and non-craftsmen) that some specific crafts and know-hows have been disappearing, especially in various industries such as fashion, glove-making, shoe-making... These know-hows belong to the cultural heritage of nations, it is a part of their history, in the same way than a prestigious building or an object is. This is why, in response to the growing need for recognition of these know-hows, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (hereinafter referred to as UNESCO) decided to qualify properly these know­hows in order for them to be clearly defined and recognized as the part of a cultural heritage. This qualification allows these know-hows to have a place among all cultural heritages that need to be preserved and cherished. The Convention For The Safeguarding Of The Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003) is the result of the Conference which took place in Paris from 29 September to 17 October 2003 and defines "intangible cultural heritage" as "the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills-as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith - that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity. [Consideration is] given solely to such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments, as well as with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development. The "intangible cultural heritage", as defined [...] above, is manifested inter alia in the following domains:

(a) oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;
(b) performing arts;
(c) social practices, rituals and festive events;
(d) knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
(e) traditional craftsmanship." (Convention For The Safeguarding Of The Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2003).

This definition of "intangible cultural heritage" has been criticized by several researchers during the colloquium "Le patrimoine culturel immatériel: les enjeux, les problématiques et les pratiques" (translation: "Intangible cultural heritage: stakes, conundrum and practices") which took place on 7, 8 et 9 august 2003. In fact, Duvignaud, et al. (2004), believe that "categorizing cultural heritage is a non-sense and that there is a thin line between protecting know-hows and traditions from the past and refusing to accept the evolution of crafts."

Yet, we will consider the definition of intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO as a suitable one to describe French Luxury Jewelry traditional craftsmanship. In fact, Luxury Jewelry craftsmanship corresponds to the subsection "(e) traditional craftsmanship" mentioned in the UNESCO Convention. This is why we will use this definition in this thesis to address the issue of disappearing know-hows applied to the French Luxury Jewelry industry.

Métiers d’Art and Know-Hows

In this thesis, when mentioning intangible cultural heritage, we are referring to know-hows that are called "Métiers d'Art" in France, which are defined as follows by Dumas, C., (2009): "Métiers d'Arts are the association of 3 criteria: execution of complex know-hows, production of unique or limited editions of objects presenting an artistic nature and mastering of a technical craft as a whole. There are 3 types of Métiers d'Arts: tradition oriented crafts, restoration oriented crafts and creation oriented crafts." Many craftsmen in the Luxury Jewelry Indistry do master a Métier d'Art. They are the crafts that are disappearing the fastest.

Causes of decline of Metiers d’Art in the Luxury industry

These Métiers d'Arts in Luxury Jewelry are the roots of all creations that come out of the workshops. It includes model makers, jewellers, gem setters, polishers and many others. Even though no literature has addressed the decline of such crafts in the Luxury Jewelry industry, the article of Bouton X., Dereux H., Hollocou A. (2015) focuses on several causes of the disappearance of craftsmanship in the French luxury industry as a whole.

Lack of succession

According to Bouton X., Dereux H., Hollocou A. (2015), the main reason for the disappearance of the Métiers d'Art is the lack of successors for aging craftsmen who do not have anyone after them to continue and pass on their knowledge and skills.

Apart from cultural and political reasons ("working with its hands" tends to be less considered in France than "working with its mind", resulting in a lack of candidates for workshop oriented formations), Bouton X., Dereux H., Hollocou A. (2015) explain the phenomenon of lack of succession (less and less craftsmen stay long enough and are qualified enough to take over the place of soon-to-be retired craftsmen) by stressing out the problematic of the formation to the Métiers d'Art.

Initial formations

In fact, according to Bouton X., Dereux H., Hollocou A. (2015), initial formations are often either:

a) too poor in terms of content and skills transferred to the student or even
b) completely shut down because of a lack of candidate.

Facing this problem, workshops have no other choice than to attract people who do not possess the necessary qualifications required and expected for the job in order to train them in-house to their craft.

Lack of information

Furthermore, Bouton X., Dereux H., Hollocou A. (2015) continue to explain the phenomenon of lack of succession also by stressing out the lack of information available to young people about Metiers d'Arts when choosing a career. In fact, several Métiers d'Arts are so rare that they are known only by a handful of people already working or linked to the Luxury Jewelry sector. A high school student has very few chances to hear about a Métier d'Art in the first place, except if his parents are working in the sector. Hence this student has even less chances to enrol in a formation to become a Maitre d'Art.

Lack of consideration

Bouton X., Dereux H., Hollocou A. (2015) also mention the fact that "working with its hands" has a negative social image in France. Manual formations are often considered as "second choices" more than real life choices. Parents and teachers tend to perceive manual formations as tedious, long, difficult and very uncertain in terms of salary. Younger generations tend to prefer more flexible and international perspectives and their teachers and parents tend to encourage them in this direction rather than orienting them towards manual formations.

Person-Environment Fit Theory

The Person-Environment Fit (P-E) theory is one of the key theories in organizational behaviour. According to Edwards (2008), "In general terms, P-E fit refers to the congruence, match, or similarity between the person and environment (Dawis, 1992; Edwards, Caplan, & Harrison, 1998; Muchinsky & Monahan, 1987; Schneider, Kristof, Goldstein, & Smith, 1997)."

This theory has evolved through time. The concept of P-E fit can originally be traced back as far as to Plato (Dumont & Carson, 1995). Yet it is widely considered that contemporary P-E fit research began with Parsons (1909). According to Edwards (2008), « Parsons (1909), [...] developed a matching model to describe the fit between attributes of the person and characteristics of different vocations. » Later Murray's need-press model (Murray, 1938, 1951) and Lewin's field theory (Lewin, 1935, 1951) set the groundwork of P-E fit research by


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Disappearance of intangible cultural heritage in the French Luxury Jewelry industry. A literature review
ESCP Europe Business School - Campus Paris
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disappearance, french, luxury, jewelry
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Marine Chabin (Author), 2017, Disappearance of intangible cultural heritage in the French Luxury Jewelry industry. A literature review, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/367062


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