Harriet Kelsall responds to Robin Bell’s views on jewellery degrees.

By Harriet Kesall

I was particularly interested to read Robin Bell’s piece in the March issue of Professional Jeweller asking whether university is the right place for basic making skills and hoping to inspire a discussion about jewellery education.


It is my own belief that an apprenticeship is a far better way for goldsmiths to learn their craft and here at Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery we fully support the Goldsmiths’ Company scheme. We have an apprentice through this scheme now and the support we get from the Company is really good in many different ways.

Jewellery design degrees aren’t about becoming a goldsmith, but about becoming a jewellery designer, which is very different. It is important that a good jewellery designer can make some jewellery, but they also need a lot of other skills too. When it comes to jewellery design, I favour jewellery design graduates as my entry criteria as they learn a lot about designing to a brief and harnessing their creativity into a finished design.

However, I strongly believe that there is a lot lacking in what currently constitutes a jewellery design degree in the UK. I wrote a paper on this subject last year, which I am currently discussing with the British Jewellers’ Association and the National Skills Academy with the aim of creating an improved basic core skill set for jewellery design graduates that will better serve both the industry and the young people taking the courses.

Ultimately though, I think we have a long way to go to make jewellery design degree courses better engaged with industry and producing graduates who know about precious metals, gemstones, hallmarks and other basic and core jewellery skills along with their design and making skills.

This Guest Column was a response to Robin Bell’s column Is uni the right place for basic making skills?, as featured in the March issue of Professional Jeweller. Read Robin’s column here.