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Jewelry classes in high school

Dear Orchidians,

After reading all the interesting answers to "jewelers former lives"
I noticed quit a few said they had taken a class or were exposed to
jewelry classes in high school. As I teach high school art and am
usually able in each school I work in to set up a jewelry section in
my program I am always interested in what you were taught. How was
jewelry taught? How much equipment was there? I am starting over
again here in Dhaka and setting up jewelry making in this new school
and am always looking for new ways to get set up and ways to get kids
excited about metals. By the way are there any high schools left in
the U.S. who still include jewelry making in their art curriculum?

I hear ceramics has fallen by the way side so assume the same is
happening to art metals. Sad for the future.

Sharron, in Dhaka, setting up new jewelry classes, again.

I started in a high school jewelry class. 1st thing, saw piercing,
then a ring, then a bezel set stone. These could all be incorporated
into one piece or not. When people want me to teach them, that’s
where I start. And in the process they learn about soldering,
annealling and lots of other goodstuff, including how to get a broken
drillbit out! :wink:

Not many tools needed, lots of sawblades. The school here teaches
metals, since the teachers spouse is a “Locally famous” silversmith.

I like teaching. It’s especially rewarding when I have a student
with desire to learn and the apptitude. Had a student recently,
picked up the saw and it was like they were old friends. 1st pierced
piece was preatty darn good.

Good luck and enjoy.

Sharron, I took a lapidary/jewelry making class as a 9th grader. We
started out making bracelets out strips of aluminum. We learned how
to stamp, saw, file, and some crude engraving using flat head
screwdrivers. Then we made simple rings out of low dome silver
wire-probably 4 gauge-I don’t know if it was fine or sterling. These
we also stamped. My uncle is still wearing the one I made for him 30
years ago. We made letter pendants by forming the letter shape out
of bezel strip which was then soldered to a piece of silver sheet.
The sheet was then cut to the shape of the letter. It was filled with
crushed mother of pearl or turquoise mixed with an epoxy. We did all
of our soldering with alcohol burners. We learned basic round and
oval cabochon making. Our final project was a pendant or ring. We
had to make the bezel, decorate it with stamping or engraving, solder
it to the back, solder the bail or ring shank on, and set the cab
which we had made. The workshop was large, and had a soldering
station, a lapidary station, a polishing station and large work
tables. We were given kits with the materials for the class, and had
the option of buying more if we needed or wanted to.

My boys had a fantastic Art teacher here in Saudi who had jewelry
making as part of his curriculum. I didn’t go in the workshop area,
so don’t know how it was set up. I do know there was a large buffing
machine and that he used propane plumber’s torches for soldering.
The boys learned basic wax carving, casting, soldering, bezel
construction, and cabochon setting as well as the fundamentals such
as sawing, filing, and polishing. I have to scoot the boys out my
workshop quite often when they are home for holidays because they
like to make things. Of course, it could be that they are just
obsessed with fire and tools. That is not a bad thing.

Evalie Lockard


My high school introduction was in a >1000 kid school in Vermont
around 1970. The projects were very tightly defined although each
had a couple of variations. Minimal tools… file(s), torch, saw, a
couple of pliers, and polishing machine. Any body who finished early
could explore their own ideas and received a lot of support providing
that it wasn’t an incursion into jewellery 2, no casting in jewellery
1 ! I taught a couple of classes a few years later. One an exact copy
of my first very tightly controlled one in a co-op student workshop
at a non arts college, no tools or budget other than class fees. The
other an experiment where I taught every thing I knew (remembered ??)
about a given technique and let them loose, this was in a established
government supported studio with tools. Two classes of 6 (20 -30 year
old students), each one resulted in one going off to a jewellery art
school. I think the student satisfaction factor was better with the
structured environment was better, but Jim really excelled with no
structure. A very controlled environment worked well for me in the
beginning, later I learned by rebelling against much milder attempts
at control. You are in a culture I know nothing about although I
suspect the culture will probably dictate what you have to do. Good


PS: When I was at school I remember one master talking about an
experiment where they taught casting to first year students rather
than basic metal smithing, leaving casting to year 2. They were
quite disappointed in the metalsmiths their experiment produced, but
1 out out of 20 was the a damned impressive wax worker. -

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing

I had jewelry first offered in High School. Of course, that was
back in the Dark Ages (early 1970’s) and things have probably changed
a lot since then. I was in a large high school (more than 2500
students) and we had soldering stations and casting equipment. The
standard curricula was teaching pierced and cutout pieces soldered
onto a backing, bezel stone setting a ring, and casting a pendant. I
did OK on the pierced piece, got hung-up on the casting piece
because of the design of my piece (either I didn’t listen to advice
simply wouldn’t work as a cast item), so I never got to the bezel set
ring. Fortunately, those days are long behind me and I’ve done a
few (LOL) of those rings since then. That year I also took
leatherworking for a semester, and I have to admit that I had a lot
more fun in the leatherworking class than in the jewelry class.
Guess I was just slow coming along :-))

Sandi Graves, Beadin’ Up A Storm
Stormcloud Trading Co (Beadstorm)
Saint Paul, Minnesota USA


I teach Metal Work in a northern BC town. In my program I offer
jewelery making componets, for those students who may not want to do
traditional projects. We do decortive belt buckles, wire jewelery,
band rings and bracelets, and recently silver rings using low domed
wire and pre-made bezel cups.

I’m still working out the bugs for traditional enameling, and will
be purchasing a small enameling kiln this semester. Also I have
found chain making to be a process that kids really enjoy. There are
many resourse on the net for patterns etc. So far I have needed very
little additional equipment, other then specialized pliers and
jewelers saws. If we really need something, such as chasing tools,
we make our own.

We work mostly with copper, brass, and non traditional materials
(stainless steel, steel etc) as silver is just to damm expensive for
learning on.

I’m really enjoying the jewelery making aspects of the program,
students are making things that they are proud of as they should as
I’m amazed at the quality of work they are producing. The program
now is attracting a higher level student who normally would come
into my shop. And my administration is pleased when they come into
the shop and see students actively engaged in learning.

In my district there is another fellow who offers a complete
jewelery making course, which is quite successful. And I do know
that there are many other metal programs that do offer what I do or
have a complete jewelery course in this province.

In the course of experimenting and developing projects for my
students, I’ve found that I have a talent. So much so that I’m in
the process of starting my own jewelery buisiness. Talk about a
strange twist, as I never felt that I was really all that creative.

Maybe you could help me, I’m looking at buying one or 2 jec ultra
lite kilns for enameling and I would love some perspective on this
product and the whole process of enameling. It looks like it could
be a good process that the students could really get into. What has
your experience been?

Chris Gravenor