Passion and creativity rule jewellery design

Lebohang Nthongoa

Lebohang Nthongoa

When one first sees an engagement ring on the finger of a beaming bride-to-be, a thought hardly ever goes to the creative face behind the ring.

The work of a jewellery designer begins with passion for design, and is a mixture of creative skills and commercial awareness to ensure that they meet clients' needs.

For Nicole Neetling, who works as a jewellery designer for her father's company, Mynhardts Diamonds, the journey began in graphic design. But the transition for her was an easy one because she grew up watching her father crafting jewellery.

"Design is an interesting job. You meet interesting people every day, solve problems every day. It is never boring," says Neetling.

Jewellery designers plan the style and pattern of jewellery, silverware and other decorative metalwork products using a variety of materials including gold, silver and precious stones. And though creativity is important, designers also need to have business savvy, good communication skills and be approachable enough for clients to be able to convey their ideas to them.

On initial consultation with a client, Neetling has to get as much information as possible to be able to put their ideas together into a piece of jewellery, though this is not always easy.

"It is difficult getting into someone's head and knowing what they are interested in. I have remade many rings because the client thinks they know what they want when they don't," she says.

The important thing is to satisfy the clients.

"The client is going to wear the ring for the rest of her life, and if she is not happy with it, it's your fault," she says.

After a design is completed, a cast of the ring is made by the jeweller, which is then sent to the factory where a lost-cast method is used to burn away the cast, replacing it with metal.

Neetling's working hours are flexible, but can often be long. Because most clients keep the regular 8am to 5pm working hours, meetings can end up being scheduled for after hours. Time management skills are essential to be able to get the most out of your day.

Neetling's creative outlet is not limited to designing for existing clients. She aspires to marketing her original designs overseas in the near future.

"I would love to get back into the factory and make my own jewellery. Designing and making jewellery have a lot to do with each other, but one can get away with exclusively designing and never working with the material," she says.

"I would love to get my own range overseas, original designs that are really from my heart," she says.