Training in jewellery

 18 October 2013

Interested in developing the skills for a jewellery career but not sure where to start? Award-winning entrepreneur and London Jewellery School founder Jessica Rose shares three pieces of advice.

To become a successful jewellery professional, you need to build your skills in both design and making.
To become a successful jewellery professional, you need to build your skills in both design and making.

So, you’ve decided that you want a career in the jewellery industry. For many people it can feel like a minefield starting out – knowing where to start, which direction to go in and what options are open to you can feel like a challenge.

Here are some starting points to think about for building up your jewellery skills.

1. Learn to make jewellery professionally

For most people, the first step is learning to make jewellery. Whether you want to run a jewellery business by making and selling your own jewellery, or commission a designer to create your pieces for you, it’s invaluable to be able to make to a certain standard yourself.

Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it.

It will not only give you enjoyment, but a much greater appreciation of what goes into the making process, which will in turn allow you to make stronger, more informed design and business choices.

There are a number of areas within jewellery making you might have decided to concentrate on, such as:

  • High-end silver and goldsmithing techniques
  • Low-investment costume and fashion or beaded jewellery
  • Something more contemporary and alternative, such as resin or perspex jewellery. 

Whatever your chosen specialism, there are hundreds of courses you can take to hone your skills.

Just some of the many things you can do include:

You can also try teaching yourself. With countless books on Amazon, YouTube videos, and online tutorials, this can be a great way to start.

However, be aware that the quality of self-teaching resources can be questionable in some cases. It’s always best to back up self-taught techniques with classes or experience in the workshop with a professional jewellery tutor.

Once your practical skills are up to scratch, you can consider ways to sell your work. 

2. Find internships, volunteering, and apprenticeships

Getting valuable work experience can be tricky. But it can also be crucial, especially if you are planning to work for a brand or designer in the long run.

You will get lots of people saying 'no', but you only need one 'yes' to get going!

They will want to see that you have previous experience, and that you‘re a trustworthy employee with the right skills, before deciding to take the risk to take you on.

Be persistent in your search for experience. The first aim is to get a foot in the door, and then you can work upwards from there.

Apply for as many positions as possible, and put the hours in. Like anything, the more dedication you put in, the more you will get out.

Some good places to help with finding placements include:

Don’t forget that sometimes the best way is just to approach jewellers or companies directly. You will get lots of people saying 'no', but you only need one 'yes' to get going!

3. Train as a non-making designer 

You could also train as a jewellery designer with a view to getting your pieces made or manufactured by others. They could be made by individual jewellers or a manufacturing company, either in the UK or overseas.

Alternatively, you may want to work for a jewellery or fashion brand within their design team, or as a freelancer, designing collections for them.

Depending on the exact nature of the role, you will usually need to begin building an impressive portfolio of design work. These days, designers are often expected to be skilled in paper-based drawing, watercolours, and so on as well as computer aided design (CAD).

It’s also useful to have some basic making skills, so that you understand the nature of the materials the jeweller will be working with. This will feed into the design choices you make.

Don’t be afraid to start small and build up from there.

A good place to start is with training or short courses in jewellery design. Aim to get plenty of advice from teachers and those already working in this area about applying for design roles or contracting a jeweller to create your designs.

A small word of warning: many designers starting out want to get their pieces manufactured on a large scale before they know if there is enough demand for the work.

Remember, someone who is running a business needs plenty of customers buying work on a regular basis (usually over a number of years) before they can justify large-scale manufacturing costs. Don’t be afraid to start small and build up from there.

Some places that teach jewellery design courses include:

Like any industry, contacts and partnership are key, so get your name out there, persevere, and don't let anyone tell you you can't do it. 

If you have any questions about setting up a jewellery business, you can contact Jessica and the London Jewellery School for further information and advice.

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