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Making it as a jewellery designer

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Guest blogger Laura McCreddie, editor of Retail Jeweller, takes a look at some of the things budding jewellery designers should think about in 2013.

There has never been a more exciting time to be a jewellery designer in the UK. Consumers and the fashion press are starting to show an interest in jewellery as a statement in its own right rather than it just being an accent, while the clothing provides the real focus, and more and more designer-makers are garnering the kind of column inches usually reserved for those who know what it means to cut cloth on a bias.

However, that doesn’t mean that it is easy to be a designer these days. As being a jewellery designer has become perceived more and more as a glamorous career option, students are flocking to jewellery design courses meaning the market is becoming flooded with graduates both good and bad, which means that in order to survive you not only need to be exceptional, you also need to stand out and be able to adapt.

The major challenge those in jewellery design have is they have to compete not only for the consumers’ limited spare cash but having to do so against a background of an increasingly crowded market and rising metal prices.

The first decision is whether to occupy a niche or offer a broad collection to appeal to the largest number of consumers.

clair english

Claire English’s Things Beginning with M collection

One of the things some of my favourite designers, who are also very successful, do is actually manage a bit of both.

People such as Claire English, Jessica de Lotz, Clarice Price Thomas, Katie Rowland, and Alice Menter all have styles that, at first glance, are not particularly geared towards the mainstream, but look closer and you’ll realise that there is always a crowd pleaser in the collection.

Take Claire English for example – her bracelets and necklaces cast from dead mice and magpie claws might not be to everyone’s taste but her matchstick and bubble blower pieces are hardly outré.

The same goes for Jessica de Lotz, her handcuff necklace may be a little too confrontational for some but her wax seal pendants work on everyone.

Jessica de Lotz’s bangle with wax seal

All these women have achieved an important but vital balance with their designs  – they have managed to stand out, but their jewellery still has commercial appeal, which is so necessary in an environment where consumers are becoming more and more reticent to open their wallets.

Designers these days cannot get away with ploughing the avant-garde furrow that got them rave reviews at their graduate show. In order to survive that individualism has to be translated into something that people will buy.

And that is not the only way designers now need to adapt – rising metal prices has meant that creating entire pieces in precious metals can be prohibitive both for the designer and for the consumer.

However, this can be an invite to experiment. Setting silver with precious stones is one option, but well-made brass jewellery as well as pieces mixing precious metals with material such as wood has become more popular and consumers are becoming less snobby about jewellery that commands a decent price but isn’t made from precious metals.

It is an amazing time for the British jewellery industry but in order to succeed in it now you need to have a clear idea of where you’re going as well as the desire to work hard to get there.

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biz 2To follow up on any of the advice this week check out the LJS distance learning jewellery business course which covers all aspects of running your jewellery business in detail. Don’t forget to take advantage of the special jewellery week 15% discount on the course.  It over a hour of videos, a workbook and case studies of successful jewellers, as well as including a year’s membership of LJS which gives you discounts from suppliers and a listing on the LJS Members’ Directory.

To get your discount buy the course before midnight on Sunday 20 January 2013 and enter the code LJSDL13 at the check out. Please note the discount is restricted to one per person.

You can find out more about all LJS’s business courses here.

And don’t forget to have a look at thedaily business tips appearing on the LJS Facebook page all week.