High School Jewelry and Metals

Hi there!
I have been teaching Jewelry for about 5 years. I took a few lessons to get some of the basics, but I really struggle with:
-taking the students to a higher level/being able to create more dynamic pieces
-knowing how to efficiently began the course for the first few months (some of these students have never had an art course and start here, therefore I see very basic shapes/ideas not rooted in any principles of design).

Thanks for any advice or help. I would also appreciate any lesson plans or help with executive skills in an art room (rubrics as related to jewlery; sketchbook organization; sheets or forms that would be useful when administrators want to see data). Thanks again!

Can you post examples of what they are making now? It would also help to know what tools and materials you have available to work with. Is your course part of an art curriculum or stand alone? I am a retired school administrator and have also made art jewelry for nearly 50 years. I would be happy to help, but a little more information is needed. Thanks…Rob


why not give them a non metal material to work with. This is just a short project. something like a sheet of paper, and have them twist or fold it into a new form. This is outside the box, so do not make them think of putting it into jewelry (yet). See what shapes they come up with. let them explore the fluidity of changing the shape of that sheet of paper. Add in some string, crepe paper, etc, you get the idea. Once they have made multiple designs from one of their manipulations, ask them to think of it as jewelry, and see if they can make something with metal from what they did in paper. Just let them play without the need to fulfill a metalwork assignment. Pictures of their paper designs can be attached to forms for administration.

Have talks individually with each of your students. Find out what type of art work they like. This is not about jewelry, but artwork in general. Some might be influenced by a building. Others might like the art work in a computer game. Still others might find nature intriguing. Try and give them direction on art books that might hold the images they seek. Have them collect at least 10 images from those books or computer sites. Then have them write a paper on what it is that they like, being detail specific. It needs to be at least 200 words in length. Again this is something for the administration to judge by.


Hi Courtney,

I taught jewelry in my high school for 30 years. I just retired at the end of the 19/20 school year. I have lesson plans, rubrics for the things I taught, quizzes, tests, readings, projects for beginners, and more advanced students, safety stuff, syllabi for courses. You can have any or all of it I created. Contact me directly: mike[at]mikecampbell.org.


I am with Aggie on this one. Jewelry starts with shapes and composition and then it goes to materials and techniques. Any shape you can imagine in paper, leather, wood, bark, stone, cement, resin… can be realized in copper, silver, gold, etc… with variable degrees of success. I showed my son a sheet of paper and pencil when he grew tired of watching and wanted to learn how. He ignored my advice just as he did when he asked about guitars but he came back to the design aspect soon after a few disappointments at the bench came his way. Now he has some interesting things coming from his bench.

Don Meixner


Hello Courtney,
If you want to teach the students model making and casting, you can use virtually any material…various plastics, paper and cardboard with glue, balsa wood, etc. There are a lot of ideas on this in Gerald Wykoff’s book You Can: Master Jewelry Design and Creation. Also a lot of info on various mold making materials besides vulcanized rubber.

There are a number of books on elementary silverwork which have various elementary projects, some with variations. If you looked over some books with various projects, you could probably come up with projects for your students with various options and variations. Any good public library would probably have some of these elementary silversmithing books. Then there’s always interlibrary loan, too. -royjohn

I am brand bed here. I will go and try to post what they’ve worked in before. It’s a stand alone course.


Thank-you! Working with paper id something I consider, but seeing the validation helps! I might just have them do this the first or second week.

Especially on a school budget (or a starving artist budget…), paper prototyping is an important step. I do that with most of my pieces just to prove my concept to myself before I pick up a saw.

I’m thinking about all the things I’ve learned over the years that acted as gateways to other skills. I’d say cover wire-wrapping. At least basics like links, drops, simple clasps and earwires. Being able to do that takes a beginning jeweler up a big step from entry-level beads-on-string. I’d want to see things like using crimps and crimp-covers, speaking of bead stringing. Maybe even a lesson on knotting between pearls. Enough little fundamental skills like that and the range of designs your students can attempt broadens significantly. You introduce the saw, now they have pieces they need to connect so the next step is cold connections and then soldering, now that they can solder they can create the structure and strength to go all sorts of directions. I’m sure we all know that feeling of it kinda snowballing! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: Although as I say all this, I realize the broader the curriculum goes, the bigger the budget is going to need to be for all those different supplies. So I don’t know how feasible that would be. I’m just happy these kids are getting this class at all, I wish I’d had an opportunity like this!

Having been asked a number of times to put together a conceptual curriculum and budget for a jewelry class at the high school, BOCES and Adult E level, you need to think beyond what you would do for the first couple classes. Yes, you need a hook to get students interested, but there is a lot of planning needed to make sure that you develop both an interest and the skills needed to continue. You also need the resources to support this instruction. I would typically scope out the tools and supplies needed and, the last time I did it, it was about $500 for a basic student set of tools. This does not include the tools that would be shared and a place to hold the class. This is where the conversation would stop. You might think more specifically like how to wire wrap, beading, possible some lapidary since the tools are all shared. Design and drawing skill development is essential. You could add current jewelry design in art, fashion and fine jewelry and explore what is involved in these types or works. Look for local people who already work in metal and other jewelry mediums to come in and talk to your students. Look for a local rock and mineral club to work with as they oftentimes have a group of people working in metal. Again, it would help to know if you are running just a club or a formal course offering that requires evaluation of you and your students with planned outcomes and a curriculum to follow…Rob

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I taught this for many years. Jewelry is such a wide open field, that it is hard for new people to figure where to start. So in my case I had stone cutting machines. We all started together and cut one stone to work through the machines and get a stone for metal work. Some people stayed with stone cutting. Most moved on to fabrication…We made simple rings (rings for them because their fingers were there to size from),. After this some stayed in fabrication and the rest moved on to casting. Here they learned the very basics of wax work and casting. I was always available to all the students whichever area they practiced. But they all started a simple project together which makes it easier on the instructor. As far as books, I would recommend something like "The Complete Metalsmith as a class reference set. You need to write or contact companies and let them know you are setting up a class in a public school. ,Most can help you.


I already teach a formal course as described and have been for 7 years. We have all of the necessary basics to run a class.


based on your original post, i am thinking that this book might be helpful to you…it sounds like you have the “making of jewelry” and class setup pretty well covered, but that you might be looking for ideas on teaching the “design/ inspriation” aspect…(?)

check out the index…

i have this book and it is one of my favorite books on design…

it is offered on many book sites for varying prices

check out the many reviews on the sites

the author is a teacher…


hi again,

this is my all time favorite book on design…

i have posted the below blurb a few times already, but it may give you some ideas…

it is s totally different book from the Olver book i posted above…

i would definitely recommend buying the Olver book…it has very good “structure”…and is quick and concise…a beautiful book to have as well!

one chapter talks about how the the road from imitation to creation can be difficult even with many resources at hand…and one way to bridge the gap is through the exercise of “variation”…it picks up where imitation ends and creation begins…

it shows examples of taking a shape, say a diamond. and then breaking it up into sections…making variations…and then also taking those sections and creating more variations…

hope these are helpful


When I was in high school we first did lost wax casting, spending a week on sculpting and in one day cast everything then the polishing for a while.
Of course wire wrapping is another skill set that can be done without a lot of equipment.