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Jewellery Designer

What does a Jewellery Designer do?

Jewellery designers plan the style and pattern of jewellery, silverware and other decorative metalwork products. Many designers also make their own products using a wide range of materials, including metals, stones, woods, plastics and fibres. They often create a variety of types of jewellery, but some specialise in designing certain types, such as necklaces or rings, or in using specialised techniques, such as enamelling, engraving, anodising or casting.

Jewellery designers may work using mass production techniques and machinery for a commercial manufacturer, concentrating on one part of the work, or as more highly skilled craftspeople producing an entire piece from beginning to end as a commission for a private client. They may perform the following tasks: create design drawings and specifications for wearable or three-dimensional objects; shape metal and other materials, and assemble and finish articles using specialised tools and equipment; secure gemstones in settings; engrave designs; repair worn or broken jewellery; remodel old jewellery.


What qualifications do I need?

There are many jewellery designers that have taught themselves, turning a hobby of many years into a career. Some have completed courses to improve their skills or to learn new ones. Another consideration is to complete an apprenticeship, working under an already successful jewellery designer. Although it is not necessary, a degree in jewellery design or a similar area can enhance credibility and increase employment prospects. In most cases, a National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a diploma or degree course is a prerequisite. In the case of learnership programmes, a Grade 9 Certificate is required. In order to qualify as an artisan, it is compulsory for graduates to sit for a Trade Test set by the Department of Labour. An institution that is accredited by the Jewellery Council of South Africa is definitely worth investigating, as is registering with this organisation once qualified.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Art
• Visual Arts
• Design
• Geography
• Physical Sciences
• Mathematics


Where can I study?

University of Johannesburg
National Diploma: Jewellery Design and Manufacturing; Bachelor of Technology: Jewellery Design and Manufacture

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma: Jewellery Design and Manufacturing

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma: Jewellery Design and Manufacturing

University of Stellenbosch
Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts): Jewellery Design and Metal Design

Durban University of Technology
Jewellery Design and Manufacturing Programme

Central University of Technology, Harmony Jewellery School
National Diploma: Jewellery Design and Manufacturing

Ruth Prowse School of Art
Jewellery Design

Novus Jewellery Design Studio
Various short and long courses

College of Cape Town (Private FET)
Jewellery Manufacture

Where can I get more info?

Jewellery Council of South Africa – www.jewellery.org.za
Gemmology Institute of Southern Africa – www.gemmology.co.za


Interview with a Jewellery Designer

Petra Bierberg | JEWELLERY DESIGNER | Petra Jewellery Design

Petra Bierberg | JEWELLERY DESIGNER | Petra Jewellery Design


Why jewellery design?
I wanted to do something creative and varied, as well as having the possibility of flexible working hours, or working from home.

What training did you undergo?
I studied Jewellery Design and Manufacture at the Cape Technikon (now Cape Peninsular University of Technology) and then worked as a goldsmith for four years, building my manufacturing skills. Thereafter, I worked as a sales attendant and main designer in a jewellery shop at the V&A Waterfront for four years, where I gained experience in selling jewellery and consulting with clients. I also completed a basic Diamond Grading Course before starting my own business in 2005.

Is there a type of personality best suited to this work?
A creative and artistic type with good communication and listening skills – if you are creating bespoke jewellery for people, you need to be able to interpret their ideas into an actual piece of jewellery. If you are an artist jeweller who produces a range of jewellery, you need to be disciplined and able to motivate yourself, as the freedom to create can easily lead to procrastination.

Experience versus formal training
Formal training, be it in the form of a jewellery course or an apprenticeship, is an important grounding where you gain necessary skills. Thereafter, it is experience that makes the difference – learning from mistakes, mentors and people who are more experienced.

Describe a typical day on the job
There is no routine and tasks get done on demand, like working out quotations, answering client’s email requests, sourcing diamonds and gemstones from suppliers, design consultations with clients and coordinating manufacture.

What do you enjoy most?
Sharing in the client’s excitement! Jewellery serves no purpose other than making people happy – those who give it and those who receive it. I enjoy being my own boss and personally rendering the kind of service to my clients that I would like to receive.

Which aspects don’t you like?
Admin, and working out quotations when it is obvious the client is hunting for prices.

Any advice for young designers?
Keep in mind that jewellery is a luxury and not high in demand when times are tough. It is not an easy profession, and the competition is fierce.