ARTS485 Advanced Jewelry Design, Marissa Racht Ryan, Summer II 2018 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ARTS485 Advanced Jewelry Design, Marissa Racht Ryan, Summer II 2018

Course Description

  • The course is designed to give direct practical experience in the design and fabrication of contemporary and traditional jewelry, and to hone manual and creative skills.
  • The course aims to build on the student’s technical skills in jewelry design and fabrication, experience in workshop practice, use of tools and materials, and safety.
  • Emphasis is placed on both design and craftsmanship. Students should know how to practice patience, attention, precision, and display a passion for creating new forms.
  • The structure of the course for advanced students aims to build on and perfect one’s own technical and creative experience, as well as to develop a conceptual project goal. Students must have prior jewelry making skills and provide images or actual pieces of previous work to determine their project goals.

Course Requirements

A. The design and fabrication of minimum 4 projects per term selected from the following (listed in order of difficulty), is based on each student’s experience and the complexity of the project. The course demonstrations will cover the subjects listed below, in addition to safety in the workshop. The design and planning of each project is done with the consultation of the instructor. The following is a list of techniques which may be learned. After one or more techniques are practiced, they may then be combined within a project.

• Ring (basic flat)
• Convex ring
• Stone Inlay (scagliola)
• Married metals
• Stone settings:
» Round or oval stone
» Triangle or square
» Bezel on a convex base
• Pulling wire
• Chain
• Hollow box ring
• Concave ring
• Square ring (hollow box construction)
• Tube
• Hinge
• Project with movement
• Box – 3D object:
» Square
» Sphere
» Cone
» Cylinder
» Hexagon
» Irregular shape
• Round ring (hollow box construction)
• Melting metal & making an ingot
• Study of different types of clasps
• Basket settings:
» Round or oval stone
» Square, triangle or an irregular shape
» Boat or drop shape
• Faceted Stone setting
• Bracelet or necklace (using cast parts)
• Reticulation
• Complex chain (Etruscan, Indian, etc.)
• Mokume

B. The student selects projects in consultation with the instructor. Previous experience in metalwork and jewelry fabrication is taken into consideration with the planning of each individual program. Slides or photographs of work are needed to establish the level of experience and what projects may be excluded from a student's program.

C. Advanced jewelry students are expected to develop a concept for the term’s projects. This concept must be described in a one-page text proposed at mid-term and presented at the final presentation.

Note on the Final Project
Regardless of what your first 3 projects are, your final project will consist of using a found object which will be incorporated into the design and fabrication of your piece. The found object can be of various materials and does not necessarily need to be formed or soldered. Keep your eyes open for something fun to use! Designs must be approved by the instructor.

Means of Evaluation

  • Informal discussion and critique of student’s projects
  • Instructor's evaluation of completed projects and note/sketchbook
  • Midterm exam, midterm and final critiques
  • Design concept and success at expressing this concept

Grading System

Projects are assessed on the basis of:

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

Grading is based on the student’s effort, design originality, technique, production, and note/sketchbook (include notes, sketches, inspiring ideas, magazine clippings, etc). Students will not receive a grade for each project because to allow for improvement of pieces during the term as techniques are more perfected. Each project will not have a specific deadline because the working speed of each student varies. At midterm, each student will have an individual informal critique and grades can be discussed at any time. Students must keep all of pieces 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 will be a continuation of previous learning experience in jewelry fabrication which may vary from student to student. After showing previous work to the instructor, a specific project program will be discussed, based on technique level and according to the project list administered by the studio requirements. Although some students may have to fulfill the same project requirements as the intermediate students, an advanced status will be considered and better technique, speed, and design originality will be expected.

Please be aware that our studio may have subtle differences with machinery or techniques than you are accustomed to. As you begin to learn each new process, you will be able to combine techniques to make your designs more complex. If you are interested in a particular subject, please inform the instructor and you will be given some extra reading material, 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 as reference and inspiration. Students will be given various resources, but it is important to 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.

Each student is required to pay a lab and tool kit fee, totaling 130 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, bring them and you will only have to pay a 50 Euro lab fee. 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 near market cost rate. PLEASE BUDGET to purchase silver, stones, and extra materials. Depending on your designs, you may spend any amount of approximately 20-50 euros.

Class Structure

The advanced level students will have a schedule based on their personal experience and course goals. After instruction, much of the studio work time will be independent. A project schedule must be discussed with and approved by the instructor.

The pace of the class is based on how quickly individual students work. Some students work at different speeds than other students, sometimes due to technical experience or level of design complexity. 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 a student falls behind because of absences, she/he will have to discuss a make-up work schedule with the instructor.


Throughout the four projects, various demonstrations and lectures will cover the above-mentioned techniques in addition to safety in the workshop. Active work at the goldsmiths’ bench with practical instruction in the various methods and techniques will be demonstrated. The design 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 a student misses a demonstration, she/he must inform the instructor in order to schedule another one. It is required to keep a note/sketchbook which will be reviewed as part of the final grade.

Once a technique has been demonstrated, students have independent time to continue working, supervised by the instructor. Approval should be obtained to move on to the next step during a process. Asking questions helps 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 Galleria degli Argenti in the Palazzo Pitti which houses a historic and contemporary jewelry collection, visits to local jewelry artisan studios, an exhibition by contemporary Italian jeweler/sculptor Bruno Martinazzi, contemporary jewelry gallery exhibitions, and a train excursion to Arezzo to see a contemporary collective. And just 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. Students 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. 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 the restroom.


Students will be provided with a locker to store 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 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. Please share and respect all tools and do not lose any parts, especially parts of the flexible shafts, 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 Assistant Dean/Registrar 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. If you are absent for a class, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed. You will need all the studio time you can get. You must inform the instructor when field trips for other classes are scheduled during your jewelry class.

Classes begins: Monday, July 2

Classes ends: Friday, July 27

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