ARTS281 Beginning Jewelry Design, Naomi Muirhead, Spring 2020 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ARTS281 Beginning Jewelry Design, Naomi Muirhead, Spring 2020

Course Description/Objectives/Pre-requisites

  • The course is designed to give basic practical experience in the design and fabrication of contemporary and traditional jewelry, and to develop manual and creative skills.
  • The course aims to give a solid foundation in workshop practice and to introduce the students to workshop safety, use of tools and materials.
  • Emphasis is placed on both design and craftsmanship. Students should know that jewelry design and fabrication need time, patience, attention, precision and a passion for creating new forms.
  • There are no pre-requisites for a beginning level course, but drawing, design, and 3-D experience will be advantageous.

Course Requirements

  • Exercises in design transfer, cutting, piercing, sawing, filing, sanding, and buffing/polishing.
  • Sketchbook and design development
  • The design and fabrication of 4 (or more) projects using techniques taught in the studio. These projects cover the techniques of: (a) Layout (design transfer), (b) Drilling and sawing, (c) Soldering, (d) Filing and Sanding, (e) Buffing and polishing, (f) Forming and fabrication, (g) Stone setting, (h) Simple chain (see below).
  1. Rivet project
  2. Ring (straight or convex)
  3. Cabochon bezel stone setting
  4. Crushed stone inlay
  5. Married metals or simple chain
  6. Optional project to be discussed with instructor

Means of Evaluation

  • Informal discussion and critique of student’s projects.
  • Instructor’s evaluation of completed projects.
  • Midterm exam, midterm and final critiques and note/sketchbook.

Grading System

Projects are assessed on the basis of:

  • Design and creativity, originality.
  • Craftsmanship, technical competence in realizing an idea.
  • Attendance, effort and development.

Grading is based on effort, design originality, technique, production, and a note/sketchbook (include notes, sketches, inspiring ideas, images, etc.). A grade will not be given for each individual project in order to allow time to improve pieces during the term as more techniques are learned. At midterm, expect an individual informal critique and your grade can be discussed at any time. All pieces must be shown for a final critique at the end of the term where all work from the semester will be considered for the final grade.

A=93-100%, A-=90-92%, B+=87-89%, B=83-86%, B-=80-82%, C+=77-79%, C=73-76%, C-/D=60-69%, F=0-59%, I=Incomplete.

Graduate Students
Students in MFA, MA, and Post-Bac programs are expected to complete additional assignments and to produce work at a level appropriate for students in a graduate program. They are graded accordingly and, if they successfully complete all course requirements for graduate students, receive graduate-level credit for the course.


This course is an introduction to jewelry design and fabrication, stone setting, and metal working. Projects begin with practice exercises in brass or copper before proceeding with silver and semi-precious stones. The projects are based on certain primary techniques you must learn before attempting difficult more projects. If you are interested in a more complex technique, please understand that the difficulty may be beyond your means as a beginner and you will be required to follow the course projects.

Process and technique are very delicate in the jewelry studio. Some techniques will vary depending on your experience or preference. You will find your own preferences as you get more experience in the studio. As you begin to learn each process, you will be able to combine techniques to make your designs more complex. If you want to experiment on your own, you will have to do so after the base projects are completed. If you are interested in a particular subject, please let the instructor know and extra reading material will be provided for you, but in order to concentrate on practical technique, the course will not be extremely scientific.

Materials & Supplies

Students are not required to buy any textbooks but are encouraged to refer to numerous books and periodicals available in the studio and the SACI Library. Information and articles describing techniques will be provided. There are numerous photo albums of previous students’ work for you to use as reference and inspiration. You will be given various resources, but it is important that you take detailed notes during the demonstrations, as every step is important for technique and safety. Please keep a note/sketchbook on hand at all times.

On the first day of class, each student is required to pay a lab and tool kit fee, totaling 150 Euros (cash only) before being allowed to begin the course. This fee includes most basic materials (copper, brass, soldering supplies, etc.) and tools (tweezers, saws, files, sand paper, etc.). It does not include silver or stones. If you have your own tools, you may want to bring them. Additional supplies that should be brought by the student are: a sketch book, a hand towel, and superglue. Silver and some supplies are available for purchase in the studio, or may be purchased at local supply shops. The price for 925 (sterling) silver purchased from the studio is sold at approximate market cost rate. PLEASE BUDGET to purchase silver, stones, and extra materials. Depending on your designs and your budget, you may spend any amount up to 50 euro or more.

Class Structure

The pace of the class is based on how quickly individual students work. Some students work much more quickly than other students, sometimes due to experience or efficiency. If a student works extra quickly, he or she can repeat a project for more practice or move onto a more complex one. Sometimes the difficulty of a project may make a student fall behind, but the complexity of a good design may also merit the slower pace. On the other hand, technical difficulties may determine the speed of work. If you are falling behind, you will be encouraged to catch up with the other students. If you are behind because of excused absences, you will have to discuss a make-up work schedule with your instructor.


Throughout the four projects, various demonstrations and lectures will cover the above-mentioned techniques in addition to safety in the workshop. Demonstrations may be repeated to enable all students to attend them. Active work at the goldsmiths' bench with practical instruction in the various methods and techniques will be demonstrated. The design development and planning of a project is an important part of the process of realizing a piece of work. This is done with the consultation of the instructor. Note taking is essential to understanding and retaining information.

Demonstrations will be scheduled according to the pace of the class, but occasionally they will be spontaneous depending on the needs of individual students. If you missed a demonstration because of your schedule, please inform the instructor and you will be given another one. You are required to keep a note/sketchbook that will be reviewed as part of your grade.

Once a technique has been demonstrated, you will have independent time to continue your work, supervised by the instructor. Be sure to get approval to move on to the next step during a process. Asking questions helps you to avoid mistakes during the process.

Field Trips

Each term the class will be taken on a field trip, depending on current local jewelry-related exhibitions and availability. Past field trips have included a Florentine silver-chasing workshop tour with demos by a master silversmith, the silver museum in the Palazzo Pitti, which houses a historic and contemporary jewelry collection; an exhibition by contemporary Italian jeweler/sculptor Bruno Martinazzi; a train excursion to Arezzo to see a contemporary collective; a train excursion to Pistoia for an exhibition of work by Giampaolo Babetto, Francesco Pavan, and Mario Pinton; visits to local jewelry studios; and exhibitions of contemporary international jewelry artists at a local gallery. Simply by walking the streets of Florence, one can see many examples of traditional and contemporary metal artisanship in the shop windows, especially in the famous Ponte Vecchio gold boutiques.


The studio is full of potentially dangerous machines and chemicals. You will be taught how to use each machine as necessary. Please do not attempt to use a machine that has not been demonstrated, even if it looks familiar to you. Do not leave hot pieces or instruments unattended as someone may attempt to move them and get burned. Be alert as you work in the studio and do not rush. Take breaks as needed. Working at a very small detailed scale may cause hand cramps or eye strain. If you need to take a few minutes break, please ask the instructor. If you have any health issues that may potentially put you or anyone else in danger while working in the studio, it is important to inform the instructor about any conditions. A first aid kit is located in each restroom.


You will be provided with a shared locker to store your personal items. If a tool is borrowed from the studio or an instructor, please be sure to put it back in its place. Order in the studio is paramount and missing tools or materials can be very frustrating to those who need to use them. If you accidentally break a machine or if something needs to be replaced, please inform the instructor or assistant immediately. Clean up substances that can be dangerous or damaging (even water causing rust can damage tools). Everyone must help keep order to the studio by putting all tools and supplies back in their places. We are not here to clean up after you. Please share and respect all tools and do not lose any parts, otherwise they will become unusable for other students.

Attendance Policy

Attendance is compulsory. In the case of illness, medical proof is required to obtain an excused absence that must be signed by the Dean and given to the instructor. For every 2 unexcused absences, instructors should lower the student’s grade by 1/3 of a letter. Two late arrivals to class are considered the equivalent of one unexcused absence. Students who do not stay for the duration of a class session should be marked absent. Students who miss more than 20% of a course owing to unexcused absences cannot be given a passing grade for the course. It is the responsibility of the student who is absent from class to become informed about lectures, demonstrations, and informational announcements missed.

Please come to your scheduled class on time so you do not miss any demonstrations or announcements. You will need all the studio time you can get. Repeated absences will lower your grade. If you are sick, a doctor’s note signed by the dean is required. You must inform the instructor when field trips for other classes are scheduled during your jewelry class.

End-of-Term Exhibition

All students are required to participate in the end of term student exhibition.

Final Critiques & Presentations

All required projects must be completed by Wednesday, April 22.
Final critiques and presentations will take place on Wednesday, April 22.


Mondays and Wednesdays 9am-11:45am

Week 1

JAN 13/15

Exercise 1: Layout, cutting, drilling, sawing, sanding, and polishing

Week 2

JAN 20/22

Exercise 2: Cut-out – due January 27

Week 3

JAN 27/29

Project 1: Rivet – due February 3
Lecture: Italian Jewelry

Week 4

FEB 3/5

Exercise 3: Soldering – due February 10

Week 5

FEB 10/12

Project 2: Convex Ring – due February 24

Week 6

FEB 17/19

Studio time
Field trip to Palazzo Pitti jewelry collection

Week 7

FEB 24/26

Midterm Critiques/Exam

Week 8

MAR 2/4

MIDTERM BREAK (February 29 – March 8)

Week 9

MAR 9/11

Project 3: Stone setting – due March 23

Week 10

MAR 16/18

Continue projects

Week 11

MAR 23/25

Project 4: Stone inlay – due April 15

Week 12

MAR 30/APR 1

Continue projects

Week 13

APR 6/8

Project 5 (optional): Married metals or simple chain

Week 14

APR 13/15

APRIL 13 EASTER MONDAY, NO CLASS (To be rescheduled)
Finish all required projects

Week 15

APR 20/22

Complete projects / Final Critiques

this page