How to Become a Fine Jewelry Designer

Artisan jewelry maker working in her studio

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While many people take on jewelry designing as a hobby, others are focused on designing fine jewelry. They dream of seeing their creations in jewelry stores or even being flaunted on the red carpet by celebrities.

What Is Fine Jewelry?

“Fine” normally refers to jewelry that is made with precious metals such as gold and uses precious and semi-precious stones. Often, these stones are faceted or specially cut, such as diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. This is the typical jewelry you might find in a typical jewelry store.

While some hobbyists make fine jewelry, the majority make what might be called “bridge” or “artisan” jewelry. These often incorporate metals such as silver or gold-filled metal, but the other elements are most likely gemstone beads or hand-crafted jewelry components. These styles of jewelry are often one-of-a-kind or small production work that you might find more often in a gallery, specialty boutique, or art show.

The First Step to Becoming a Fine Jewelry Designer

For those who want to find the career path for making fine jewelry, here are the steps to begin. The first step to becoming a fine jewelry designer is to learn the basics of the craft. You would need to know the basics of making it. For example, you'd want to learn casting, metal fabrication, and soldering.

You could take a few different routes to do this. A good way to start is to take a class or two to see how your talents and interests match different techniques. If you can find a local school or local rock club that also teach classes in jewelry making, sign up for a beginner’s class. See how you like it. Even if you one day land a jewelry design job with Cartier, you still need to understand the basic construction of jewelry in order to make jewelry that is aesthetically pleasing as well as practical to wear.

What Is Your Future in Jewelry Design?

One other thing to think about is what you want to do eventually. Becoming a bench jeweler is one way to get into making and designing fine jewelry. Normally, you'd go to a trade school and possibly apprentice under someone. Bench jewelers are almost always in demand and make some fairly decent money. But it is a trade, meaning that it may not be as creative as you'd like it to be. Sometimes you might get to design jewelry, but more often you will be repairing jewelry, which is where most jewelry shops make a large amount of their bread and butter income. If you have a business mind and think you might like to own a jewelry shop one day, then this might be the way to go.

The other direction you can take, which is more of an artist's direction, is to go to design school and earn a design degree. There are tons of them throughout the world, many teaching metal-related design classes. Do a web search for "design schools" and explore the options that are available.

Bottom Line

To get started in designing fine jewelry, find a class, try it out, and learn the basics. Like anything worthwhile, it does not come easily. You have to do the research and then work hard towards your goals once you figure them out.

When you have learned more about the jewelry making world, more specifically jewelry making techniques such as soldering, metal fabrication, even gemology, you will have a much better understanding of where you might want to fit in this world, and how you might become a designer of fine jewelry.