If you’re looking to become a jewellery designer, there are plenty of ways to go about achieving your goal. While there’s no one “right” way to ensure success, there are several early career options for aspiring designers who are looking to make their mark on the jewellery industry. How do you decide which route to take?
The best way to become a jewellery designer will be based on your skills, needs, resources and personality. What works for one person might not be the best plan for you and vice versa.
When you are starting a business in a new field, it is an important time to take stock of who you are and what you have to offer. In doing so, you’ll be able to develop an understanding of the best path to success for your (jewellery) career.
In this article, we will show you how you can discover four paths to become a jewellery designer and how to understand which process will be the right one for you.
1. The Traditional Jewellery Maker Path
For many years, the best way to become a jewellery designer was through the age-old apprenticeship model: A young jewellery maker or designer would apprentice with a more established craftsman to assist and learn from them. They would be taught of jewellery making tools, techniques, and important safety information, all under the guidance of a master jewellery maker.
Another component of the traditional path is formal education and certification. Some fashion schools offer a Bachelor’s in jewellery making and design, while professional certifications from institutions like the Jewelers of America or the National Association of Jewellers can help measure your skills with written and practical examinations and help you gain recognition in your field.
Who Should Take This Route?
The traditional way to become a jewellery designer is ideal for those who:
- Value lots of formal training
- Like learning in a well-organized atmosphere where procedures and protocols are already in place
- Appreciate hands-on learning and thorough guidance and support.
That’s not to say all jewellery making apprenticeships are created equal, but if you work with a reputable jeweller, chances are, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to develop your skills and get a look at the inner workings of an established business.
The traditional path is a great choice for aspiring designers who will one day want to strike out on their own, but have a lower tolerance for risk and want to maximize their skills and business acumen before building their own jewellery design business.
The traditional route is also a great way to become a jewellery designer if you are planning on working with fine jewellery materials and want lots of time and training in order to master your craft.
2. The Entrepreneurial Route
Nowadays, not everyone has time to opt into a jewellery-making apprenticeship or invest in training.
Modern online marketplaces are also making it easier than ever for someone who wants to become a jewellery designer to get their designs in front of potential customers.
Websites like Etsy are inexpensive ways to get your jewellery line off of the ground. Craft fairs and markets are a tried-and-true method for promoting your finished pieces locally.
If you have a sense of your personal brand and voice and are prepared to do a lot of legwork to get your jewellery out in the world, this can be a very personally rewarding (and ultimately lucrative) way to kickstart your design career with minimal investment other than your materials, online administrative fees and commissions, and travel and booth fees at craft fairs and flea markets.
Who Should Take This Route?
While the entrepreneurial route has few barriers to entry for beginning designers, that also means it can be a very crowded field. If you want to become a jewellery designer in this way, you’ll have to be ready to do plenty of self-promotion and to find ways to distinguish your work from the competition.
That said, taking charge of your own future means plenty of freedom and flexibility—perfect for someone who is taking to jewelry making as a career change, who hasn’t received formal jewelry training and is mostly self-taught, or who prefers the independence of their own line and the ability to own your business and build it from the ground up.
3. Develop Technical Skills
Another way to become a jewellery designer is to become a specialist in modern technology and processes that Jewelry designers use. These include Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM). Jewellery designers with these skills are in high demand.
If you choose this approach, you’ll find that you can still take part in traditional jewellery making, but that your skills and knowledge of materials will make it much easier to secure a position with an established jewellery design or manufacturing firm.
Whether you work for a larger company or want to develop your own brand, you’ll find that a strong foundation in manufacturing jewellery will serve you well throughout your jewellery design career.
Who Should Take This Route?
If you are interested in a tech-based jewellery career and love working with software and technology to achieve your jewellery design goals, developing your CAD and CAM skills can be a wonderful way to become a jewellery designer.
Mastering CAD and CAM processes will also give you lots of latitudes to explore a variety of different kinds of jewellery making, from high-end fine jewellery to fashion jewellery that can be produced quickly and in large quantities to meet demands for the latest trends.
This flexibility and firm technical foundation will give you a lot of opportunities to evolve over the course of your career, so long as you are willing to invest time in keeping up with the latest software systems and best practices.
4. An Unconventional Approach
If none of the above methods speak to you, or you have an idea that is a niche in the jewellery making and design industry, then perhaps your path to becoming a jewellery designer will be the unconventional approach.
Designers with a truly distinctive idea, like someone who uses unexpected materials or untraditional methods, will find that they may have a lower barrier to entry in the jewellery market and can stand out among the competition a little more easily.
That said, those designers who opt for the unconventional approach will likely need to adopt many of the same bootstrapping qualities as the entrepreneurial set, including branding, self-promotion, and finding an appropriate marketplace to get your designs in front of your ideal customer base.
Who Should Take This Route?
Jewellery designers who are meant to take an unconventional route are those who have a unique product to offer the world—one where there is limited to no existing market competition.
Think jewellery makers who focus on lightweight leather earrings or designers who rely on 100% recycled materials. If your product defies expectations in some way, then you might be best served by making the most of your one-of-a-kind craftsmanship, and in many cases, your jewellery will speak for itself to help you find the right market. (Pro tip to protect your business and your ideas: you might want to consider copyrighting your designs along the way or registering your design with design protection organisations like ACID in the UK .)
All in all, if you are a creative looking with a passion for jewellery, it is not impossible to become a designer. Not in today’s day and age. But just as anything in life, wanting to become something will require you to do some research and commit to one path. Over time, with consistent and persistent practice, you can and will become the designer you dreamt of being.
This article is a guest post written by Jordan McDowell from MKM Jewelry – a Los Angeles, California based jewellery manufacturing company. MKM Jewelry has the experience designers need to transform their vision into art. They are experts in a number of manufacturing techniques, especially blending old and new methods to give the best of both to their clients.
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