Studies & Degrees in Jewelry Design
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Jewelry Design Study Programs
Jewelry Design pertains to the art of creation and conceptualizing of designs for jewelry. Perhaps, the field of Jewelry Design can be traced back when kings and queens used to rule most of the known civilized world. Kings would have jeweled swords, scepters, crowns, signets, and shields while queens would wear jeweled tiaras, bracelets, rings, necklaces and just about anything that would tickle their fancy. Usually, when the word “royal” is attached to a thing, expect a jewel is embedded on it. Court life is not complete without courtiers showing off their dazzling necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings and brooches.
Jewelries, however, do not take shape on its own. The jewelry typically seen on catalogs or in jewelry boutiques had been conceived from a jewelry designer's brain. The process of designing jewelry is not as simple as it looks. It is not as simple as getting a chain and then attaching a gemstone and, voila a necklace! When designing a jewelry, normally, there is not just one process is involved. It is not merely a matter of drawing a design but metallurgical expertise on precious metals are also needed to be considered. The type of jewelry, if it’s a ring or a pendant or an earring, would also play a vital role on how the design is going to turn out. How a gemstone will be cut would also fall on the recommendations of the designer. As mentioned, Jewelry Designing is not just about mere drawings but it is also considered an art form. In fact, most of the most popular jewelry designers are true blooded artists. Notable people in the field of jewelry design are Frank Gehry, legendary architect and designer of the Guggenheim Museum, Paloma Picasso, daughter of abstract painter Pablo Picasso and designer for Tiffany and Co. and Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of Tiffany and Co. and a leading American Art Nouveau artist. More or less, jewelry designers have some sort of artistic experience like painting, architecture, interior design and sculpting before pursuing the glitz and glamour of Jewelry Design.
Design indeed is very important, especially for jewelry houses. Most popular houses have signature designs associated with them. Signature designs further enhance the image and reputation of a jeweler. Like for instance, Tiffany & Co. became the undisputed king of engagement rings because they came up with a design that simply emphasizes the brilliance of diamonds while at the same time remaining very simple. When girls talk to her friends about the engagement ring she got, when she mentions “I got a Tiffany,” more or less, her friends have an idea what the ring looks like.
With technology in precision cutting, gemstones are now easier to cut. The more easily the gems can be cut, the more intricate and detailed the designs can be rendered. Right now, lasers are being used to cut gemstones. In doing the actual design, computer programs are also being used. These programs give a three dimensional overview of the design and so viewing and editing is a very easy process. With more time to devote on design improvement, expect the field of Jewelry Design to produce more designers which currently is fielded just by a chosen few.
Ever since man began to use tools and clothing, jewellery, in its most basic form, was also being used. Many researchers found traces of jewellery among the remains of the earliest civilizations and they all believed that these jewels were used as symbols about 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. The oldest man-made jewellery was mollusk shells that had been perforated to be made into beads. Other materials that man used to make jewellery included animal teeth, bone, various types of shells, and carved stones and wood. Before it was used as aesthetic adornment, jewelleries were functional items and were used to pin articles of clothing together. Later on, jewelleries were used as a symbol of wealth and status as well as protection against harm, ward against evil, and to heal ailments. Modern jewellery as we know it began in the late 1940s or at the end of World War II as people began to pursue it artistically and leisurely. New materials like plastic also emerged and new ways of harvesting pearls were also discovered, giving way for more designs and functions.
Jewellery Design, as a major, offers both knowledge and experience for students who are interested in making fine and luxurious jewelleries as well as to those who are into fashion, industrial, and accessories designing. The focus of this major is to help students understand the importance of research and manufacturing, as well as design. This will also help students—who may or may not be familiar with craftwork and industrial jewellery techniques—to face design challenges that arise in today’s competitive society.
Students who will take this study will have to learn drawing and design to be able to build the visual library that is a necessity for any designer. They will also learn more about the history of jewellery and of jewellery design as well as attend trend-forecasting and workshop on illustrating for jewellery design. Students will also have to learn about jewellery designing and techniques like engraving, stone cutting, drilling, filing, welding, shaping materials, polishing, and setting precious or semi-precious stones. Students will also learn how to make their own portfolio that will help them in their careers after graduation.
Although the primary focus of many jewellery designers is to sell their creations, there are still many career opportunities out there for graduates of Jewellery Design that doesn’t focus on making and selling finished products. Being a Bench Jeweller is one of those opportunities. Bench Jewellers are those that work on repairs in a jewellery shop but they are also highly skilled craftspeople and are often requested to create any type of jewellery. Another career opportunity is being a jewellery sales rep whose main responsibility is to locate and secure accounts from retailers. Jewellery designers can also be a jewellery buyer who specializes in buying jewellery merchandise to sell in their own stores. Other career opportunities include company jewellery designer, independent jewellery designer, gemmologist/diamond grader, sales/manager professionals, jewellery store owner, bead shop owner, QA Consultant, and jewellery publishing.
Job positions for Jewelry Design:
Jewelry Designers, basically, are the ones responsible for creating original jewelry creations. Jewelry Designers are the heart and soul of jewelry houses because all creations start from designs. Jewelries could be a combination of a stone and a precious metal or perhaps it could be just a precious metal alone like gold, silver, platinum or white gold. Designing jewelries are a bit tricky because with so many designs out already, coming up with a new breakthrough design is truly a challenging feat. Usually, Jewelry Designers design in sets. A set would be composed of a necklace, a brooch, a pair of earrings and a bracelet. When a Designer comes out with a new design concept, expect a design for each set pieces centered on a single theme. Because of metals being involved, it follows that Jewelry Designers would be knowledgeable in metalsmithing, at least for gold, silver and platinum metals. Designers should also know about gemology as gemstones are commonly used as center pieces of jewelries.
In the process of designing, Designers look at the purpose, the materials to be used, the size, type and cut of the stone and the ease or difficulty of executing the design into an actual piece. Purpose of making a design would vary as it could be jewelry for an occasion like weddings and engagements. It could be a special order by a wealthy patron. Sometimes a patron would just come barging in and would say “jeweler, please make me a necklace with the name of my wife written on it in diamond beads,” or anything of this sort. Sometimes, due to the size and cut of the stone, the design would have to allow maximum exposure to show off its full majestic splendor. However allowances would also have to be made to make sure the stone is fastened well so it would not fall off easily. How the stone was cut would also contribute to the overall design. If a stone was cut with edges then the Designer would shy away from curved sidings or whatever that would not be compensating with a stone cut with edges. An example of this consideration is the signature multiple prong designs by Tiffany & Co. This design by Tiffany allows maximum light to enter the stone showing of its brilliance to radiate majestically. Because the Designer didn’t want to defeat the purpose of wearing a large-stoned jewelry, that is to show off wealth and beauty, the multi-prong design was conceived for jewelries with large stones on them. The type of stone would be taken in consideration because different stones would have different colors. Some stones would look good in gold and some in platinum. And lastly, some Designers would consider making a design only if it is logically possible to be made into an actual jewelry. Of course, the more intricate a design, the harder it is to make and so very intricate designs would just remain designs until technology would be available for them to be viable. Theoretically, any design should be doable but since some designs would require more processes or more moldings, the cost of the design would become very expensive making them not worth pursuing doing them.
Those who are serious in becoming a Jewelry Designer like Paloma Picasso should have a degree in an art or design school and then take jewelry making classes to be exposed to the world of precious gems and metals.
In the art and science of jewelry making, the services of Gemologists are considered one of the pillars of the industry. A gemstone’s exact value can only be appraised by a trained Gemologist. If a gemstone did not pass through a gemologist’s lens, a gem will not be traded by gemstone traders and will not be bought by jewelry makers as the gem’s authenticity will always remain doubtful. Gemologists deal mainly with gems like amethysts, ambers, emeralds, jades, rubies, sapphires, turquoises, diamonds and a host of synthetic gems.
In the movie “Titanic,” the story revolves around a piece of jewelry. The jewelry in question had a dark blue tinge which could be naturally mistaken for a sapphire but was actually a diamond. Although this is just a movie, diamonds that are colored blue do exist in real life and are considered rare stones. This is where Gemologists become very important. Let’s say somebody found a blue colored stone, thinking it was a sapphire, sold it in the black market to cash it in quickly. However, if he could have waited a bit and went to a Gemologist first before selling the stone, he might have gotten a diamond’s price for it. Another thing about prices of gemstones is that different origins fetch different prices even though they are of the same type of stone. This is because there are no exactly the same stone if Gemologists were to argue. The reason of Gemologists is that every stone would have a unique specific gravity, hardness, crystal structure and refractive index. By doing spectroscopic analysis, the origin of a particular gemstone can easily be determined by Gemologists. Origin of the gem matters because prices would depend as certain characteristics of gems are preferred over gems from other places. This is because some places produces less flaws when examined with a microscope or some gems from a particular place exhibit more luster than from other places. For example, a diamond from South Africa is priced higher than a diamond mined from Russia because diamonds from South Africa tend to have less bubbles.
Perhaps, the most important duty of a Gemologist is the ability to detect real from fakes. By employing techniques like looking at a stone’s fluid inclusions or if the stone has traces of heat treatment, the Gemologist could easily pass judgment if indeed the stone in question is real or not. Perhaps, some Gemologists who have been in the business very long can even tell a gem’s value just by looking at it.
Opportunities for Gemologists have increased greatly as synthetic gems such as synthetic moissanite and cubic zirconia are increasingly looking very much like diamonds. Imagine the headlines should Tiffany & Co. gets duped by unscrupulous diamond traders selling them fake diamonds and in turn selling to customers. For sure their reputation would tarnish and nobody would buy from their store anymore. Jewelry makers only defense is to hire Gemologists as no genuine Gemologists would be fooled by synthetic gems.
Those setting their eyes in having Gemologist for a career should look for a good school offering courses in gemology. This course is a bit expensive as enrollees may need to pay for the gems they would be studying.