Starting off in jewellery
How can you start your career in the jewellery trade? Jessica Rose, founder and director of the London Jewellery School, sets out some ways you can work in the jewellery business.
Once you've done a bit of training in jewellery making, and your practical techniques are up to scratch (or at least in development – there is always more to learn), you can start thinking about the process of setting up a jewellery business or brand.
There are many ways this can be done, but I tend to categorise them, fairly crudely, into two main types of business: home jewellery businesses, and established jewellery brands.
1. Setting up a home jewellery business
A home business is often where people start. You can launch a small business that can be run from home on a shoestring budget, with low risk and manageable overheads.
Running a business takes time and passion. The key is to keep your customers in mind at all times.
Often home jewellery businesses start as a part-time job, making and selling your work. You might do this on your own, or as part of a collective.
They are also often sold to individuals or stocked by independent shops, boutiques, market stalls or events.
Running a business takes time and passion, but can be hugely rewarding. The key is to keep your customers in mind at all stages of the process.
Try to find a niche for yourself so that you are offering something unique, and keep those overheads down. The money you bring in should go towards generating a profit or business growth, rather than you spending it, which is very easy to do!
Some great places to start with setting up a jewellery business include:
- Taking a jewellery business distance-learning course
- Enrolling on specific jewellery business courses to learn face-to-face from those that have ‘been there and done it’
- Researching your nearest jewellery school – there are several major jewellery training centres around the UK
- The British Library Business and IP Centre, which has lots of events and support for new businesses
- The Start-Up Loans Company, which offers loans and mentoring support for new businesses
- The Design Trust, which offers online resources for designer-makers.
2. Establishing a jewellery brand
Some people are able to combine a keen business head with experience in the field. They launch straight into developing a brand with the aim of selling their work through their own website, wholesalers and private commissions.
In some cases it’s possible to open a shop or workshop space, often employing others and creating a scalable business that can grow. This route is not for the faint-hearted.
Building a recognized and trusted brand takes time (often three or four years or more). The process requires money or investment, contacts, and plenty of will and determination.
Often it is advisable to start small, test out your idea, get some sales through the door and set up a home-based business first before investing in something more costly and risky.
There is support out there for budding designers who want to make big strides, some of which include:
- Jewellery Meetup Events – in London, these events, which are free and open to anyone to attend, are held monthly throughout the year in Hatton Garden, to support those in the jewellery industry.
- Short courses such as the London Jewellery School's Jewellery Business Bootcamp – a 6-day intensive jewellery business training course aimed specifically at those wanting to build and grow a full-time jewellery business. Look for a course which is taught by successful jewellery entrepreneurs and designer-makers.
- Enterprise Nation, which offers support and advice for small businesses.
A lot of what you will learn will involve trial and error, so be ready to put your ideas into action.
3. Working in jewellery retail
Perhaps you don’t want to make jewellery or run a business yourself, but are interested in the retail aspects of the jewellery industry. This could involve working in a shop as a sales assistant or manager.
For jewellery retail work, it's crucial that you have the correct training and experience.
If you want to work in areas such as customer service, visual merchandising, and sales, you may well be offering specialist material or gemstone knowledge to buyers and sellers.
For this, it's crucial that you have the correct training, qualifications and experience. Often a good starting point is to look at the job description or requirements for your ideal role. Possibly you could even contact the company and ask what they would require for someone to work in that position.
From there, you can decide what the best qualification would be to match your jewellery career aspirations.
Some useful organisations for retail jewellery training and job listings are:
- The National Association of Goldsmiths
- GIA London (the Gemmological Institute of America)
- Retail Jeweller Jobs
- Retail Jeweller magazine.
Whatever route you take into jewellery, be prepared to work hard at it. Go to as many events as possible. Meet as many people in the field as you can. Learn your craft, and invest in your training.
Don't let anyone put you off. If you want it badly enough, the rewards of doing what you love are worth it.
If you have any questions about your jewellery career ideas, you can contact Jessica and the London Jewellery School for further information and advice.