By Jacqueline Stone
Recently, an aspiring jewelry designer reached to me for help. While she appreciated my column, she had a ton of questions, which basically boiled down to one simple inquiry: Where do I start? 

Jackie-Stone-article2Jacqueline Stone is the chief creative officer of her company, Salt Stone, working primarily with private clients to build custom engagement rings and wedding bands. Trust me, there are days where I ask myself the same thing because I’m so overwhelmed, a new luxury problem that I’ll happily manage. But her thoughtful email brought me back to my early days, when I was in my mid-20s, lost and confused. A marketing account executive for HSBC Premier, I felt restless and unfulfilled. My job was fun and challenging, but I felt directionless, that is until my fateful trip to Buzios, Brazil for New Year’s 2007 that changed everything. Jewelry! I had found my calling.

I was totally blown away by the variety of creativity found in this remote beach town, referred to as the Hamptons of Rio. There you’ll find magnificent fine jewelry by masters such as H. Stern, baubles built in resin that curiously caught the eye of many a stateside news anchor even the brand’s U.S. launch, and incredible works created by manipulation of Mother Nature’s curiosities: seeds, coconut shells, hemp and vines. Not only was my childhood passion still alive and well, but it was a business.  An artist by nature, I rocked the subject in school but I, like so many others, was encouraged to direct my attention elsewhere by concerned parents. 

I started taking coursework at FIT and was hooked immediately. I also took classes at The Kristin Hanson Fine Jewelry School, which since has closed their doors so Ms. Hanson can pour her heart solely into her creative pursuits. I am so grateful for Kristin and ended up working my way from student to intern to school director. That’s how any entrepreneur gets started really. It’s just a fantasy. But the ones that actually make it are the ones that ignore the “you’re crazy to quit your job and go to jewelry school full time” speech and scoff at other diplomatic statements such as “cashing out your 401K and savings account to build your business is totally insane.” I had found my life purpose and no one was getting in my way. Jewelry is something I would happily do for free and I discovered quickly it also can be lucrative if you are willing to work at it.

If you are just starting out in this crazy, dynamic and fun-filled industry, welcome! We are glad you are here. Much work needs to be done to bridge the gap between new talent and retailers, but we’re on the case.

In the meantime, I have compiled a list of all the people, places and things that are near and dear to my heart to help you on your way. The list will appear in two parts; this week, it’s the research, schools and tools that I’ve found essential.

I’m sure I’m missing some but, as everyone’s journey looks different, I can only show you mine.

Don’t be scared to reach out or share some of your story. I once was in your very shoes and, as someone who is starting to find footing on this rocky mountain, I feel the least I can do is look back, call hello and throw you a line. 

An essential ingredient to getting started--I have stacks upon stacks of Moleskine notebooks in my studio of just notes. I study designers, retailers, bloggers, schools, trade magazines, guilds … you name it. Here are some great sites as a place to start:

Ganoskin: This where metalsmiths unite and geek out.

Metal Cyberspace: An oldie, but a goodie; think the Myspace of the jewelry world.

Diamonds in the Library: Becky’s love of jewelry is infectious and fun. She reminds me what it’s all about.

Savor Silver: Michael (Barlerin) and Isabel (Cajulis) (of the Silver Promotion Service) are silver gurus and so supportive of the silver community. 

Love Gold: Need I say more? It’s such a well-done site, on the pulse and fashion-minded.

Platinum Guild: Design contests are always a great way to get yourself out there!

Kitco: Don’t understand why everyone’s griping about metal costs? 2006, oh those were the days.

National Jeweler:  Run, don’t walk, to sign yourself up for the daily emails. We all read them. 

JCK: If you aren’t going to Tucson or Vegas this year you are just doing yourself a huge disservice.

World Diamond Council: If you plan on selling diamonds you need to understand the landscape.

American Gem Trade Association: I could sit on this site and drool all day. I love stones.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from an established jewelry designer and retailer at a JA New York show. I let her know I was just starting out and she asked me, “What do you want to do in the industry?” I proudly announced that I was going to design and build my own collection.  “By yourself?” she inquired. 

No, I said, I was going to create designs and have other people build them.

“That’s nice dear. Where did you learn how to set a stone?” she asked.

Set a stone? What was this lady talking about?

“Ma’am, I’m not sure I know what you mean,” I said.

“Well,” she explained, “How are you going to know if a stone is set correctly?” That one left me stumped. “Do yourself a favor and go to school. Keep going to school. Never stop learning.” 

I took this women’s advice and never looked back. This semester I’m enrolled in CAD/CAM classes and taking studio work to improve my bezel settings.

Where are you currently studying? Even if you are a retailer, it’s a fabulous way to spark your team’s creativity and love of the craft.

Bianca Lopez Studio: My mentor, my love, my cheerleader; it’s the best private education a jeweler could ask for.

Studio Jewelers LLC: Robert and Hiroko are institutions in this business and have taught us all.

Fashion Institute of Technology: I highly recommend trying a class here or, if you are farther along, applying to DENYC.

Jewelry Arts Institute: Jeanette and her team are old school. Think 22-karat gold and granulation.  Yum.

Fitzgerald Jewelry Studio: Such a warm, collaborative and helpful environment; I learn so much here.

The Gemological Institute of America: The Harvard of the jewelry world; it’s expensive, but oh so worth it. I still utilize the technical design skills I learned here on a daily basis.

Brooklyn Metal Works: The owners of this establishment make sure membership is something to be aspired to, not in an exclusive way, but in one that is building a community of extremely talented artists that are supportive, kind and knowledgeable. Consider yourself lucky if accepted.

Gosh, how I love a good set of tools. I’m a bit of a tool junkie if you will. For those of us who occasionally sit behind the bench when we find time from all the other fun stuff a business brings, these are some awesome places to pick up your gear.

Metalliferous: The mean manager (you know who I mean) is finally gone and serenity is restored at this New York City institution whose prices can’t be beat.

Zak’s: Paying full price? Shame on you. All these guys behind the counter (Ellie is my fav) are master jewelers and love to haggle.

Rio Grande: They have the best customer service in the world, seriously. Call, email or chat online and immediately get introduced to a passionate jeweler who will help walk you through your purchase and probably won’t mind talking shop for a little bit.

As mentioned above, I’ll be back next Tuesday (Oct. 6) with another Diary entry, this one listing helpful manufacturers, consultants, organizations and awards. 

Jacqueline Stone has a background in finance, marketing, advertising, product development, fine jewelry manufacturing, design and sourcing. She currently is the chief creative officer of her company, Salt + Stone, working primarily with private clients to build custom engagement rings and wedding bands. Stone can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Get the Daily News >
National Jeweler

Fine Jewelry Industry News

Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.