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Setting up jewellery classes

Hi Richard, you’re in for a great time! I ran jewellery classes a
few years ago while I was in Australia. Here are my thoughts and

The course was for eight weeks. Each week I demonstrated something
new, that the students went on to make, if they wanted to. They were
also free to do their own thing provided I approved it first. I
limited the class size to 10 adults, no children. Adults could bring
a child along to watch, but they were absolutely and totally
responsible for the child at all times. For certain operations I
insisted (no exceptions) that everyone wear safety glasses. I bought
some large ones (the type that fit comfortably over ordinary glasses)
at the DIY shop beforehand and sold them at cost to any that didn’t
have their own. They had all been told about this earlier and some
brought their own pairs along. I ran the course for a local arts and
crafts group. Some of my students came from that group, some not.
They came with the full spectrum of artistic ideas and manual skills
i.e. some had never held a file before. Insurance was covered by the
arts group existing policy.

I had a range of silver wire, sheet and shot for them to buy, and I
made a small profit on this. It was all sold by weight, with the
students cutting what they needed, weighing it and putting money in a
box, on the honour system. I asked them to check with me before
chopping bits out of sheet, to avoid waste. They could also bring any
silver they already had, or indeed copper if they wanted to, which one
or two did initially. I also had a small range of stones and
findings. Silver solder was provided free, included in the course
cost. I also had gold available, but there wasn’t much demand. Oh
yes, very important, I also took along a small range of packaging,
just small pouches and boxes, for those who were making items as

I made an absolute promise that each week they would take home an
item which they had made themselves and either finished on the night
or at least got to a suitable stage so that they could hand finish it
at home. They could all take small pieces of wet and dry paper away
with them as needed.

One or two students each course watched the weekly demonstrations,
but just wanted to make (typically) a small number of bangles, all the
same, for presents. This was fine.

The weeks went like this:

  1. Make a ring (what else?). I actually included the cost of modest
    width silver in the course costs for this first week, so they got
    something “free”. Measured finger with paper strip or soft wire.
    Annealing, bending, fileing ends, soldering. Rounding up, filing as
    necessary, finishing by hand with wet and dry papers and Garrards
    cloth. Showed some pre-prepared rings with simple surface

  2. Make a bangle. Similar to the ring, but now a bit more serious.
    Use of the polishing machine. Alo explained how to work out the legth
    of wire required to make a bangle or ring to a certain size.

  3. Cold wire work. Jump rings cut from a coil with snips. Wire hoop
    earings including a design with three loops nested together.

  4. Using the piercing saw to cut small shapes for earrings. Hammer
    texturing and low doming. They each got two blades “free”.

  5. Cut a pendant shape, make a bezel and set a cab.

  6. Twisted wire. From twisting oval and square section for bangles
    to twisting two or more wires together.

  7. Casting. Simple carved or impressed cuttlefish moulds. In
    Australia I could go down to the beach and fill a bucket with
    cuttlefish during a pleasant walk. Not possible in UK, but you can
    buy it from petshops or jewellery suppliers. If I was doing it again
    but in the UK I might consider precasting some investment slabs to be

Casting enabled students to use up accumulated scrap from their
earlier projects, supplemented with casting shot as necessary. For
each cast I lent a few grams for the sprue and button. The idea was
that they wouldn’t be left with any scrap that they couldn’t use
outside the course.

  1. No fixed schedule. Intended to be workshop time for making
    repeats of earlier items, in practice almost everyone wanted to do
    more casting.

Each week I had a number of pre-made pieces illustrating how the
demonstrated method could be taken a bit further … surface
decoration on rings, heavy bangles made from multiple twisted wires
and so on. I didn’t provide notes to take away, although this was
requested several times. I did always take along a few books though.

All in all it was great fun, and only came to an end when my contract
finished and I returned to the UK. The greatest thrill is when you
get students coming back for another eight weeks.

Kevin (Cheshire, UK)

Hi Kevin, Thanks for your ideas and suggestions. This is some of the
text I ma going to use on by brochure to get people interested. Do you
think it is too stuffy? Basic jewellery: You will learn about the
basic principles of jewellery making. This will include making simple
rings from copper. Forming, soldering, finishing and polishing. You
are free to bring your own ideas.

Intermediate jewellery: These classes are for people with a sound
basic understanding of the jewellery making. You will be able to make
rings and other pieces of jewellery from either copper, gilding metal
in using sheet or wire. The techniques covered will be soldering,
bench work, hammering, finishing and soldering. Stone setting using

Advanced jewellery: The class is for people with good understanding
you will be able to bring your own ideas and designs and work on them
with the minimum of supervision. You will be able to use all the
facilities that are available which include individual benches. A
range of files, soldering equipment, various hammers, stakes and

Basic silversmithing techniques: These classes are for those who have
little or no knowledge about silversmithing. You will learn basic
techniques such as using hammers and mallets, use of forming
techniques, soldering, filing and polishing.

Intermediate silversmithing techniques: These classes are for those
who have some basic knowledge of metalworking techniques. You will be
able to a finished item to your own design. You will be taught some of
the more advanced techniques such as raising and box making. You will
also learn the more advanced techniques of soldering and polishing.

Advanced silversmithing techniques: You will be able to work on your
own with a minimum of supervision. You may bring your own work and
drawing to either create something from scratch or complete something
you have already started. You will work with the minimum of
supervision, but may ask question or ask for help at any time.