Whether a student or fledgling entrepreneur, by Alison Branagan.

Alison Branagan, author and creative consultant, provides some essential tips for students, fledgling retailers and entrepreneurs launching into the jewellery industry.

When I graduated from my masters at John Cass in the mid 1990s I left with virtually no understanding of the jewellery and silversmithing industries. My business knowledge was equivalent to a carrot, that of the root vegetable variety.


In the last decade I have discovered that there are many things an applied arts student, recent graduate, self employed maker, or fledgling retailer should know to be able to start, sustain, and grow a business.

First, if a student is just beginning to trade it is advisable to secure your domain name and set aside enough money to acquire a maker’s mark from The Goldsmiths’ Company. Simply find the Student Services button on their website and explore the offer for an introductory registration package.

If you desire to trade under your own or business name, then this is your brand. It is wise to explore if this name or mark is already in use and if not how to protect it in the market place. Whether you have just registered as self-employed or have set up a retail outlet, it is sensible to also explore trademark registration of your name, business name, or motif.

Failure to hallmark pieces of jewellery can cause problems in the future. Unless specifically exempted, e.g. under a certain weight, it is against the law in the UK to sell or describe un-hallmarked precious metal items as such. If you are currently selling un-hallmarked items then you could be prosecuted and fined £5,000 per article.

The importance of building a brand or profile is extremely important. Failure to comply with the law or invest in protecting your business identity can cost you dear.

Second, when setting up or expanding an established business it is essential to learn as much about any new developments and trends. It is very easy to become so focused on your own activities that you can lose your ability to retain an open mind. In a world that is continually innovating, it is vital that you prepare for change rather than react to it.

If we take for example the current problem with the high price of gold. This is causing a number of problems for UK jewellers and goldsmiths. Gold is now expensive and many British subjects and European citizens are flocking to metal traders and pawnbrokers to sell gold jewellery. This is not just because they can turn a fast buck but the downturn is driving people to it.

Alongside these factors is a growing ethical demand for recycled, fair trade or fair mined stones and metals. There are also many forthcoming trends based upon recycling and austerity themes.

Will this combination of influences encourage designer-makers to work with lower carat metals or make use of design technology to form lighter weight pure metal pieces? Could these trends create a surge in demand for mixed materials and a rejection of the precious?

Third, learn about what is happening in your area of trade by reading industry magazines such as Professional Jeweller. The more you know about industry developments the more likely you will be able to spot an opportunity.

It is important to escape from the internet and actually go out and meet people. A key step to being successful is to become well known in your industry by winning awards, gaining editorial coverage and networking.

My book, A Pocket Business Guide for Artists and Designers, is very handy and answers 100 business questions in fewer than 250 words. The Essential Guide to Business for Artists and Designers goes into further detail about these subjects and more.

This piece was taken from the October issue of Professional Jeweller.


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