Jewelry brands are entering the classroom to help shape the next generation of artisans

Jewelry has long been an art form passed down from generation to generation, but now, some brands are looking to broaden the exchange of skills — making sure it goes deeper.

Many brands offer company-wide, next-generation hands-on training, often with local companies and labor departments.

For example, the Virtuosi Academy is a partnership between Milan-based Pomellato and the city's Caltus vocational school. Established in 2018, the program offers apprenticeships, with courses taught by Pomellato Master Goldsmiths.

Programs run from three to seven years, and for the first four years, students must contribute a fee of €300 per year. For the remaining three years, fees total €4,400, with grants available for low-income applicants. Other recent initiatives include specialized training aimed at students under the age of 25.

Meanwhile, the LVMH Métiers d'Excellence Institute was established in 2014 as a vocational training program with a work-study format. One of its early partners, Dior Jewellery, now regularly welcomes apprentices to its Paris and Lyon workshops. Also, last October, the institute and LVMH-owned jeweler Tiffany & Co announced plans to offer education in design and fabrication. Tiffany also initiated a two-year program with the Rhode Island School of Design and the Rhode Island Department of Labor to provide advanced apprenticeships in high jewelry.

But not all corporate training programs are targeted recruitment drives. Now in its third year, Van Cleef & Arpels From hands to hands („From Hands to Hands”) The initiative works with young students aged 13 to 16, immersing them in the world of jewelery making and craftsmanship. After the first lockdown in France, when young people were significantly out of school, the project partners with the French National Ministry of Education and works with junior high schools in Lyon – a city with its own jewelery schools and Van Cleef & Arpels. There is a workshop.

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Students examine designs and stones at the Van Cleef & Arpels de Mains en Mains event © Van Cleef & Arpels

Hands to hands Designed as a free year-long program centered around a dedicated week of workshops and educational seminars held at the end of November. Van Cleef & Arpels is partnering with junior high schools to launch curriculum in October that integrates subjects like math, physics, art and English. Following the main event in November, the program concludes in May with a presentation by the students in front of their teachers, peers and family.

Hands to hands It has grown from working with one school in 2021 to six last year, while the most recent public event in November drew about 7,500 visitors. The event offers sessions for adults looking to make a career change.

However, Marie-Aude Stocker, Van Cleef & Arpels People, Development and Prospects Director, emphasizes key objectives. From hands to hands Access and awareness. „The intention is not to turn these students into future jewellers,” he says. „The idea is to show them that these metiers of work exist and are accessible. And, if not [jewellery], which could be another craft. . . Most would do something else, but at least they would have found out [jewellery].”

There is also a sense of inclusion and exclusion. The project has partnered with Télémaque, a social mobility organization specifically for students from disadvantaged areas, and Bleu Network, which promotes professional inclusion for people with autism. Hands to handsStocker adds, „It can give them confidence, open doors and see a wider range of work than they've probably heard of”.

Diversity and inclusivity feature heavily in De Beers' jewelery education programs. For example, since 1995, the company's Shining Light Awards have highlighted up-and-coming jewelry designers from De Beers diamond-producing countries. It ran for 26 years in South Africa, 15 years in Botswana and Namibia, and five years in Canada. Award winners receive a one-year postgraduate scholarship to Italy's Politecnico di Milano, with many recipients going on to establish their own brands or retail outlets.

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This year's finalist, Laone Kaelo Rahele, received a one-year internship at De Beers' London office. Céline Assimon, chief executive of De Beers Jewelers and De Beers Forevermark, said it was critical to provide business and design employment opportunities for people from these countries. „Communities where diamonds are recovered are generally not part of the design and cultural discussion around jewelery – it's a miss for everyone,” he says. „If we don't foster that diversity, we won't be relevant in the cultural debate.”

Elsewhere, the company's #BlackisBrilliant campaign has supported five black designers to date by awarding them De Beers diamonds from Botswana. The jewelry is uniquely created for red carpet events, including the Met Gala. In addition to giving each designer around 25 diamonds and supporting them with production budgets, De Beers pairs designers with celebrity stylists to create brand awareness.

© Van Cleef & Arpels

Acimon's mission is to create specific training programs that connect MBA students with designers. „When you're learning your business skills, it's great to learn early on how to collaborate with creative people,” he says. „Similarly, it's important for designers to understand that while you don't want to clip your wings creatively, you need to be very curious and understand that business needs must be met in order to thrive.”

Such educational programs are not limited to large, deep houses. Last September, Taiwanese jeweler Cindy Chau became the first Asian guest lecturer invited to Paris' Haute École de Joaillerie (HEJ), one of the oldest jewelry institutions in the world. Chao, who has a background in sculpture and architecture, taught a week-long workshop of 28 students on wax sculpting, which Chao says is usually learned on the job or through short internships at jewelry schools. and precise instruction” in HEJ.

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On February 2, the students will present their work at the Louvre in Paris. Chao says she is most impressed by the students' „enthusiasm and learning spirit” and hopes Asia will see more „specialized jewelry schools aligned with the industry.”

Jewelers expect these schemes to expand. The Van Cleef & Arpels stocker jewelry industry is seeing growth, with many brands opening workshops to meet demand.

Van Cleef & Arpels, for example, is currently recruiting for two upcoming workshops in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France, each with capacity for 250 artisans. And, despite an ever-digitalized world, Stocker says, „there's a longing for craftsmanship and a real interest in artisanal work.”

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