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Ground Floor Studios

New House, 67-68 Hatton Garden, London EC1N 8JY

Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm

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Diary of a diploma student: Making my first jewellery business steps

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Diploma student Julie McKenzie updates us on her progress and her first jewellery sales

Well, here we are two-thirds of the way through the Diploma in Creative Jewellery. As you may remember I started this course back in January with absolutely no previous experience making any kind of jewellery but thinking it might be something I would enjoy and could potentially make some money to contribute to the family income.

As it turns out I seem to have a real passion for working with silver, metal clay and resin – and fortunately with the passion does seem to be a reasonable ability to actually produce pieces that people want to buy.

I have invested a little bit of money along the way setting up my own workshop at the bottom of the garden, including a kiln which I can use for metal clay, glass fusing and enamelling. I also have to confess that I have pretty much spent every weekday outside the school holidays practising the new skills taught during the diploma – it’s almost as if I have been on a full time jewellery course. This has included making LOTS of mistakes and having to correct them, not always successfully.

As a result though I now have a good collection of pieces which I can use to show case the types of jewellery which I can custom make for potential customers.

In the last couple of months I have had a good start selling some of my jewellery – mainly to friends at this stage but after materials and running costs I have managed to recoup a third of my diploma course fees, which I’m pretty happy with considering I haven’t even finished the course yet.

silver jewellery by Julie MacKenzie

Some of the pieces Julie has sold

I have been selling a real mixture of pieces:

  • Sterling silver & fine silver filigree lariat & matching earrings,
  • Sterling silver and resin pendant,
  • Fine silver pendants,
  • Sterling silver & fine silver earrings,
  • Sterling & fine silver charm bracelets,
  • Cufflinks
  • Semi-precious & silver bar/charm bracelets.
  • Sterling silver & fine silver rings
  • Fused glass pendant
  • Sterling silver pendants

Prices have also been quite wide ranging – my cheapest item being £20 to the most expensive of £240.

As this is such a variety of items and prices, I’m still finding it difficult to work out any kind of trending or target products yet. What I enjoy making the most does seem to sell but as they are the more expensive items I need to spend more time thinking about my target market and how to get to them.

And I have only just started stone setting so with a couple of months practising this will open up a whole new window of opportunity.

In the school holidays when it was too difficult to spend any time in the workshop, I have worked in the evening setting up a very basic website, Etsy page, Facebook page and getting to grips with some of the forums on Twitter.

I’ve not had any real success with the online front and this is leading me to the conclusion that I am going to have to find craft markets, places to rent shelves and pop-up shops. Without an established ‘brand’ I get the sense that people want to touch and feel the quality of the jewellery, especially over a certain price bracket. I now feel as if I could at least have a reasonable attempt at trying to put together a business plan for next year- probably not a perfect plan – still with lots untested assumptions but it will be a good starting point.

I am so happy with what I’ve achieved so far – I just love being able to give myself new challenges and spend my day making things. There is something quite satisfying about making jewellery for a customer and seeing their delight when you hand it over to them – AND actually making a little bit of money too.