Career as Jewellery Designer

A jewellery designer can work independently, designing alone or with a small staff and retailing out of some stores. A designer can also work with one of the big brands or a smaller private player as an employee. While it takes courage to plunge into the middle of things as an entrepreneur, internship gives one the necessary experience, confidence and feel of the market. Aspirants armed with a good degree will get a hearing at jewellery houses in India and abroad. “NID and NIFT degrees are recognised internationally,” says Sangeeta Dewan, head of design at Tanishq and NIFT alumna. A jewellery designer these days is a tech-savvy one, working with 3D and graphic software, though one does need to know about the hands-on technique, mix of metals, stones etc to decide which designs can go from the drawing board to the store shelf

What do they do?

It is hard to link jewellery designing with lab coats and number crunching, but chemistry and maths both go into the making of a nice necklace.

“Jewellery designing requires great aesthetic sense, illustration skill, technical skill, familiarity with chemistry, alloy and a comfort level with maths for the chemical equations,” says Sangeeta Dewan, head of design at Tanishq. These things are taught at design schools like the National Institute of Design (NID) and the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) as part of their course.

Things have changed from the time our grandmother’s trustee goldsmith would reproduce a design granny or mom had copied for his reference. Today, the Indian jewellery industry is a mini-behemoth, employing 13 lakh people, as per, a career information website.

The buyer base is so huge and jewellery so much a part of Indian life that the market accommodates numerous small to medium houses as well as big players. So, job prospects are bright.

However, the industry is yet to develop the kind of structure that will tell an aspirant where the stepping stones are. “They will find jobs (mostly) with private players, and it’s likely to be so in future,” says Dewan.

Interning for a top brand is like tonic for a designer’s career. Dewan went to NIFT, worked with a jeweller, got a scholarship to go to Milan and then interned with Van Cleef & Arpels, the French jewellery house, before the circle closed in India.

Elsewhere in the world, the career graph of South African Pieter Erasmus, a fine arts student, was also heading towards designing. A section in his art course was on jewellery design. One thing led to another, and Erasmus got a job in London at Erickson Beamon, the “baubles-and-bangles empire”. Now based in Delhi and most recently famous as the person whose creation graced Michelle Obama’s neck, Erasmus makes costume jewellery and for one with a bent for this kind of jewellery, “research and creativity matter more than craftsmanship”. That means studying trends and staying ahead of the curve.

Luckily, a start-up does not mean huge money. “To work with semi-precious gems, you at first need Rs 1.5 lakh-2 lakh,” says Rekha Arora, a designer who sources raw material from all over the world — from Jaipur to Turkey to Thailand — for her label Rika.

Arora, who retails in Delhi from White, a store in Hauz Khas village, closed the deal quite easily, but usually, networking through a design school is the way ahead.

At NIFT, jewellery designing is a part of the BDes programme and students get to work with retailers such as Tanishq and Hazoorilal. “The World Gold Council collaborates with us, and we have tie-ups with international institutions,” says Preetha Hussain, associate professor, BDes, NIFT.

The students learn software, sketching, use of wood and metals, and also marketing strategies. After graduation, the ties with the alma mater remain. As Hussain says, “Our graduates keep coming back for guidance.”


Skills Needed

.     A knack for illustration
.     A keen eye for detail
.    An affinity for fine art
.    Comfort level with numbers

How do I get there?

A student with a Bachelor’s degree can go abroad for an internship with a jewellery house or study further at an institute like the Politecnico di Milano. The NIFT graduation programme requires a student to do a 22-week project with a jewellery house, making two or three collections for them. “They first understand the trends, go to the shop floor to see the production process and learn about marketing before deciding how their idea can be translated into a viable visual language,” says Preetha Hussain, associate professor, BDes, NIFT.


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