Have you ever shopped for just the right piece of jewelry to go along with
a special outfit? Do sparkling and shiny pins, bracelets and earrings dazzle
you as you browse the mall?
Jewelry designers use renderings (illustrated scale drawings), sketches,
computer-aided designs or wax models to turn gems and precious metals into
Dave Stephens, a jewelry designer in Oregon, sometimes sketches designs
on a pad while he watches TV. Designers need to know how jewelry is made --
size, shape, weight, color and materials are important. They also need to
think about how the piece will be used, safety and cost.
Designers use colored pencils, special templates and watercolor paint called
gouache to create their drawings. They may supervise craft workers who carry
out their designs.
Those who run their own businesses also spend time looking for new customers
and carrying out administrative tasks, such as reviewing catalogs and ordering
Some jewelry designers make fashion news by establishing the line, colors
and materials for each season. Others cater to specialty stores or high-fashion
department stores. Most designers, however, work for manufacturers, adapting
jewelry fashions for the mass market.
Jewelry designers employed by manufacturers or design firms work 35 to
40 hours a week. They often put in extra hours during production deadlines
or fashion shows.
Self-employed designers tend to work longer hours, especially when they're
trying to establish themselves. Freelancers may meet with clients on evenings
or weekends. All designers may travel to showrooms or manufacturing facilities
Designers work with jewelers, mold makers, retail customers and jewelry
buyers for stores and manufacturers. While the work is not physically hard,
designers work a lot with detail and intricate designs -- this requires stamina.
They need good vision and manual dexterity.
But creativity is more important than drawing skills. "I'll get ideas sitting
in the bathtub or riding my bike. When I get enough sketches together, I'll
leaf through them and see which ones really want to be made," says Stephens.
Templates and other tools help designers create good drawings and renderings.
"Designer jewelry is like architecture and engineering on a very small
scale," explains Jane Parker, a well-known designer. "We produce designs that
can be effectively translated from paper to actual pieces made from stones
and precious metals."
Designers communicate their ideas in words and pictures. A good portfolio
-- a collection of examples of the designer's best work -- often determines
if they'll get the job. "Jewelry making is one of the few areas where the
wearer can actually work with the designer," says Parker.
Sherrie Kysilka is manager of jewelry manufacturing arts at the Gemological
Institute of America (GIA). "The key to success for jewelry designers is their
ability to communicate. They must understand what the customer wants, and
then create a drawing that can then be changed into a piece of jewelry," says