ARTS485 Advanced Jewelry Design, Naomi Muirhead, Fall 2019 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ARTS485 Advanced Jewelry Design, Naomi Muirhead, Fall 2019

Course Description/Objectives/Pre-requisites

  • The course is designed to give direct 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 needs time, patience, attention, precision and a passion for creating new forms.
  • The structure of the course aims to build on one’s own experience. Students must have prior experience with soldering and must provide images or actual pieces of previous work to determine their project level.

Course Requirements

A. The design and fabrication of 4 (or more) projects per term selected from the following (listed in order of difficulty), is based on your experience and the complexity of the project. The course lectures and demonstrations will cover the subjects listed below, in addition to safety in the workshop. 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. The following is a list of techniques you may learn, in order of difficulty. After one or more techniques are practiced, they may then be combined within a project.

• Exercises in piercing, sawing, filing, soldering, and finishing
• Ring
• 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
» Emerald cut
• Faceted Stone setting
• Bracelet or necklace (Casting)
• Reticulation
• Etruscan chain
• Indian chain
• Mokume
• Filigree
• Bracelet with a box clasp
• Box clasp
• Snap Shut clasp
• Granulation

B. Students select their projects in consultation with the instructor. Previous experience in metalwork and jewelry is taken into consideration with the planning of their program. Photographs of previous work are needed to establish the level of experience and what projects may be excluded from a student's program.

NOTE: The techniques of the first projects can be carried out at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. They do not reflect a particular proficiency level.

Note on the Final Project
The final project will consist of using a found object that will be incorporated into the design and fabrication of the 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

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 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. Each project will not have a specific deadline because the working speed of each student varies. 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 will be a continuation of previous learning experience in jewelry fabrication, which may vary from student to student. After showing examples of work to the instructor, a specific project program will be discussed, based on level and according to the project list administered by the studio requirements. Although a student may have to fulfill the same project requirements as the beginning students, status will be considered and better technique, speed, and design originality will be expected.

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 experienced in the studio, but 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 want to experiment on your own, you will have to do so after the base projects are finished. If you are interested in a particular subject such as metallurgy or gemology, please inform the instructor and you will be provided with extra information and 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 former students’ work to be used 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.

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

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 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 difficult 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 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 Galleria degli Argenti 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. If you have any health issues that could 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 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 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 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, December 18.
Final critiques and presentations will take place on Wednesday, December 18.


Mondays and Wednesdays 9am-11:45am

this page