No matter what a prospective designer’s dream, he or she should consider if they have what it takes to do the work needed to succeed in the field, from costume to couture jewelry.
Those whose creative juices go into overdrive at the thought of a jewelry design career might be surprised to hear that I believe wholeheartedly that creativity plays only a 10 percent role in the career of a successful designer. The other 90 percent? Business sense.
Despite this seeming inequality, both are essential. It’s like that old song with the refrain, ‘You can’t have one without the other.’ You simply can’t. And the proportions may shift at various times throughout your career.
In the world of designers, a creative person will almost always get hired somewhere, or if it is someone who has some financial means of his or her own, they will be able to finance some of their designs and there is no predicting where that might lead.
But for the average person who is not to the manor born, I have one crucial piece of advice from my training as both a designer and a bench jeweler: Understand the history of jewelry, something I was able to do from taking many classes in New York and Florence, Italy, two epicenters of jewelry design.
“Immerse yourself in the different eras, what the influences were then and how jewelry from that period came to be,” a respected professor once told me. It was among the best advice I got.
The second essential is to understand how jewelry is fabricated and to know the weights and measures of metals and stones. Not knowing this puts the designer at a distinct disadvantage.
Nothing is more of a waste than for someone to design a piece of costume manufacturer that cannot be manufactured, either by a bench jeweler or mass-produced, or that is not functional. An inability to assess the functionality and understand the fabrication of a design can leave you vulnerable to exploitation by those looking to sell you gems and other materials, by stores or lines asking you for a particular type of design and by individual customers who insist on a design that is simply impossible.