Jewellery Designing as a Career

The growing market for branded ornaments has led to a demand for a new breed of jewelry designers and other professionals like gem appraisers. With several institutes offering specialized courses in this field, jewelry designing is no longer a family trade but a lucrative career option for first-generation gemologists who can cater to a niche market for custom-made and designer jewelry.

Jewellery designing has come out of the closet: It is no longer a cloistered trade carried out by semi-literate goldsmiths in family vaults, passed down like a well-kept secret from generation to generation. Instead, thanks to the advances in technology, it has landed on the drawing board with some firms even using computer-aided designs to create exquisite pieces in virtual reality.

Along with the technological finesse has come a paradigm shift: Jewellery is no longer purchased with only the intrinsic value of gold in mind. The working woman wants trendy and functional trinkets, which can be worn at office, at home and on outings. Says Manikchand, who has been associated with his family jewellery business for two decades, The needs of the working women have largely influenced the worldwide trend in jewellery. On the one hand, a working woman wants to make a fashion statement and, on the other hand, she wants trinkets for regular wear. That in turn has spawned a lifestyle industry and demand for jewellery designers.

There are several institutes offering long-term, short-term and distance learning courses in jewellery designing. Here, the students not only hone their designing skills, but also learn to use a jewelers tools and pick up rudimentary skills like casting, stone cutting, engraving and polishing. They also learn special skills like electroplating, metal colouring, anodising, enamelling, stone setting and silversmithing.

Says B.K. Narula, the man behind the Jewellery Design & Technology Institute, Noida, Despite the technological changes, I stay wedded to the belief that a good designer is one who grasps the fundamentals of manufacturing. Most designers begin their careers as apprentices in jewellery showrooms or in their family businesses; the duration of apprenticeship may depend on their line of specialisation and the nature of appointment. At the entry level, the apprentices are only designing products for the mass market but later they graduate to customised jewellery. Once they have evolved their inimitable style, some like Naina Balsavar Ahmed, former Miss Femina, start their own retail business. Naina, who often falls in love with most of her own creations, operates from an upmarket store in Delhi. Her pieces can cost anything between Rs 600 and a couple of lakhs.

Incidentally, design studios that specialise in custom-made jewellery are becoming increasingly popular.

Rheas Studio in Mumbai is one such place. It even issues a certificate of originality to the client to assure him that the design will not be repeated. Custom-made jewellery starts at Rs 2 lakh; so you can imagine the kind of money that is there in the profession. The demand for sleek and ready-to wear designer jewellery has, in turn, spurred the demand for cheaper alloys like platinum and gunmetal. Adds Manikchand: These days designers are even ready to experiment with paper, wood, ceramics and plastics. Given the endless possibilities, the designer must understand the metal that he is handling. He will also be immersed in a world full of gems, diamonds, rubies and sapphires, which he should be able to handle with acumen. The ability to identify and rate a good gem or a stone can throw up career option as an appraiser and help one in the retail business, if one is so inclined.

The Delhi-based National Institute of Fashion Technology, the Noida-based JDTI, the Mumbai-based Gemmological Institute of India, the Chennai-based Dr Dhamambal Government Polytechnic for Women and the Surat-based Diamond Institute of India are offering jewellery designing and allied courses.

The Gemological Institute, for instance, is also offering courses in pearl identification and stringing, jewellery casting, diamond grading and gemology. The Chennai-based polytechnic, which has executed a joint project with the World Gold Council, is offering courses in Gold smithing and stone setting. The Surat-based Indian Diamond Institute is conducting PG Diploma and certificate courses in diamonds, coloured gemstones and machine cast jewellery.

Most jewellery designing courses are of six month to two-year duration. The Noida-based JDTI, which plans to open a branch in Chandigarh by year-end, is offering a comprehensive jewellery designing course of six-month duration, basic jewellery designing for three months, a customised jewellery manufacturing course of six months, a gemology course of three months, a diamond grading course of 45 days, a Computer-Aided Designing course of one month, Casting and Stone Setting, Engraving and Enameling, Finishing, Polishing and Electroplating -- all courses of two-week duration.

The JDTI, which happens to be a division of Silver Smith India Ltd, is also offering an Industrial Jewellery Design Solutions certificate programme in Jewellery Retailing of 45 days. The institute also provides six to eight weeks internship to students enrolled in the two-year programme. The fee for a two-year course is Rs. 1.80 lakh and for the short-term courses between Rs. 10,000-15,000. Says Narula, "The JDTI educates and trains people in all aspects of jewellery designing and manufacturing. The underlying principle is: If you cant make jewellery, you cant design jewellery".

Most institutes, as a part of their curriculum, conduct special workshops for students inspired by traditional Indian and Western designs. Incidentally, the JDTI is one of the few institutes that provides gold to the students to create studded jewellery at its own cost. The institutes also "guide the students once they pass out". External jurors from the industry are invited to evaluate the work of the students enrolled in the long-term courses.

The facilities provided at the institutes are state-of-the-art and fully equipped with the latest reference material and machinery. The workstations are especially designed for fatigue-free long hours. The classrooms are specially constructed to provide relief from boredom. Those who have cleared their plus two are eligible to apply for jewellery designing courses. Admissions are on the basis of an interview. So, get set for a glittering career.

Training talk
The Gemological Institute of America recently opened its education centre in Mumbai. The centre will link jewellery professionals in 14 other centres across the globe. The centre has been set up with the aim to educate Indian jewellery professionals in the common language of the global gem industry.

The institute will offer the GIA Graduate Diploma Programme and the diamond grading extension classes along with the GIA distance education curriculum. The course imparts knowledge in diamond grading and colored stones and gem identification, among other things. From next year, the centre will begin the Graduate Gemologist (GG) programme and a course on jewellery design.

The eligibility for the course is plus two and the fee ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh, depending on the programme opted for.