Jewellery designer job profile | Prospects.ac.uk

  • April 19, 2023

As a jewellery designer, you could either produce designs for mass production, make jewellery in small numbers or create bespoke pieces commissioned by a client

If you work for a company, it’s likely that other members of staff will make your designs.

Responsibilities

As a self-employed jewellery designer, you’ll need to:

  • consult with commissioning clients on designs
  • discuss a client’s range of options and formulate original ideas
  • sketch out ideas, sometimes using computer-aided design (CAD), to help the client visualise the finished design
  • consult with galleries, store buyers and suppliers, and research jewellery and fashion trends
  • promote and develop your business (if self-employed), attend craft fairs, enter competitions and network. 

If you make jewellery, activities will include:

  • mounting – making the framework for the piece of jewellery. This involves handling, forming and drilling metal, and opening out holes in which to place the selected gems
  • model making (casting) – making an object or decorative detail using a mould
  • stamping and presswork
  • chasing – making a raised pattern on the surface of the metal
  • soldering and fabrication
  • polishing – ensuring the finish of the piece.

You may also perform the following specialist processes, but often pieces of jewellery are sent on to companies (outworkers) for these processes to be completed:

  • stone setting – making adjustments to the mount to ensure the stones fit perfectly. This can involve very intricate work, such as removing tiny fractions of metal
  • electro-plating – layering a precious metal onto a base metal
  • enamelling – fusing powdered glass to metal in a kiln to create coloured patterns and pictures
  • welding – joining pieces of metal using traditional methods or by laser
  • engraving – carving lettering or patterns into precious metals by hand or by computer-aided manufacture (CAM).

Promoting and developing your business is crucial in order to succeed as a self-employed jewellery designer. Many designers try to boost their reputation by networking, entering competitions and attending craft fairs.

Other activities include consulting with galleries, store buyers and suppliers, and researching jewellery and fashion trends.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for jewellery designers in an employed position can be around £16,000.
  • Salaries for experienced designers can range from £20,000 to £50,000.

There are limited opportunities for graduates in salaried positions. Most designers build their careers as freelancers or start their own business. You may decide to accept a lower paid position in order to learn specific skills from experienced craftspeople.

Salaries vary widely according to whether you’re employed or self-employed, how experienced, successful and well-established you are, and how actively and skilfully you promote your jewellery or business. It’s possible to earn high salaries, but this can be difficult in the early part of your career and an additional income may be needed.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Most designers are self-employed or freelance, which leads to more flexibility and the opportunity to work hours to suit you, or on a part-time basis.

If you’re self-employed, you may find that your hours will fluctuate to meet demand. For employed designers, working hours are usually regular and don’t involve shifts.

What to expect

  • The work setting ranges from a small studio to a large workshop, which can be noisy and dusty. Self-employed jewellery designers may share a studio with other designers.
  • As a freelance or self-employed jewellery designer, you can work in any location. Most employed designers are based in towns and cities. Cities with significant numbers of jewellery manufacturing factories and workshops include Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Sheffield.
  • Self-employed designers often work to commissions or sell through craft fairs and retail outlets.
  • Travel to exhibitions and trade fairs is an occasional part of the job.
  • In the short term, designers sometimes take stop-gap jobs before getting relevant work. Working part time and keeping your longer-term aim in view, as well as the steps you need to reach it, may be a necessary compromise.

Qualifications

You don’t need a degree or HND to be a jewellery designer – proven craft skills are more important – but those without a higher education qualification would usually need to undertake an apprenticeship or on-the-job training.

The most relevant degree, HND and foundation degree subjects include:

  • jewellery design and production
  • silversmithing
  • 3D design.

Any art and design degree, HND or foundation degree with a craft or making element may give you an advantage, in particular:

  • applied arts
  • fashion design
  • fine art
  • textile design.

It may be possible to enter this type of work with other art and design degrees if you have a suitable portfolio and are prepared to learn the relevant craft-based skills. A postgraduate qualification is not necessary, although it may be useful for making the transition from other areas of art and design.

Search for postgraduate courses in jewellery design.

Skills

You’ll need to show:

  • creative thinking and vision, to produce new ideas
  • practical application to produce a piece which is desirable in the marketplace
  • practical ability to work with tools and materials, such as metals and gemstones
  • drawing and computer design skills to produce designs
  • dexterity, attention to detail and good hand-eye coordination
  • organisation and time-management skills and the ability to work to deadlines
  • commercial awareness and the confidence and temperament to be successful in the business world
  • the ability to market yourself and your work
  • skills in negotiation and persuasion when dealing with suppliers and buyers
  • a commitment to – and passion for – your work.

Work experience

Work experience is valuable and helps you to build up a network of industry contacts, as well as providing experience of working in the jewellery industry. You may find work experience placements through your degree or you could try contacting jewellers to ask if they have any opportunities.

There are apprenticeships available in jewellery including:

  • a scheme for 16-24 year-olds which lasts for up to five years run by The Goldsmiths’ Centre
  • an apprenticeship available in London or Birmingham offering a Level 3 qualification from The British Academy of Jewellery.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.

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