A good Jewelry Design program, either undergraduate or graduate, requires a great Fine Arts program.
The right materials and facilities are essential; faculty who can teach craft and process must also be able to give students a vision of life as a working artist.
Each of these ten programs offers great facilities and an accomplished faculty. Some of the greatest Fine Arts programs in the country are represented in this list.
But each Jewelry Department here has its own atmosphere and philosophy.
Where are students making conceptual pieces, wearable art that might appear in a gallery show? Where is the next supervisor of gem-cutting for Harry Winston training today? Where might someone learn blacksmithing techniques?
Jewelry Design students can choose from the East or West coast, from the Northeast to the South.
Big city, suburban, and college-town settings are available. Sustainable campuses, strong mentorship programs, collaborative student groups: different amenities characterize each excellent school.
Students should remember that applying to undergraduate or graduate programs in Fine Arts of any kind can be quite different from the traditional process.
Transcripts and letters of recommendation still bear weight, but SATs are often optional. For these competitive schools, GPA will still be important.
Portfolios are required, and most schools recommend attending National Portfolio Days conferences during application season to get an independent review of materials before submission.
These conferences can be a good time to get a sense of the school from its representatives.
Whether a student designer envisions creating one-of-a-kind, handcrafted works, or dreams of executing and mass-producing that one iconic design everyone in the world will want to wear, one of these schools can provide the perfect training and environment to master the necessary skills and confidence to pursue a career as a jewelry designer.
Here are College Gazette’s picks for 10 of the best jewelry design schools in the US.
SUNY New Paltz (New Paltz, NY)
The Metal concentration in the Fine Arts program at the State University of New York at New Paltz offers students extensive facilities, renowned working artists as faculty, and many opportunities to gain valuable professional experience.
The graduate program also offers great value, recently listed as one of the country’s Top 26 Schools for Master of Fine Arts Programs.
At SUNY-New Paltz, undergraduate Visual Arts majors can choose a B.S., B.A., or BFA degree, following interdisciplinary studio paths or a single area of focus.
The campus has exceptional facilities for ceramics, graphic design, and especially for metal.
Over 10,000 square feet of studio space is devoted to the metal program, one of the country’s largest spaces for metalwork and jewelry design.
Because of its proximity to New York City, students at SUNY-New Paltz are able to find assistantships and internships with working artists and galleries.
Summer teaching internships with craft programs across the country (Penland, the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Arrowmont) also give students a chance at practical work experience.
Alumni, faculty, and current students in the Metal program at SUNY-New Paltz are trailblazers in the field of contemporary jewelry design.
Besides craft and technical studio and coursework, students learn here to expand traditional concepts around jewelry design. Their work appears in museums and galleries as much as it would as streetwear; there is a strong intellectual and imaginative component to the curriculum.
Temple University Tyler School of Art and Architecture (Philadelphia, PA)
Committed to providing students training in and access to the most technologically advanced methods, the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University represents the vanguard of modern jewelry design.
The Metals/Jewelry/CAD-CAM program (MJCC) at Tyler helped initiate the use of CAD-CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) and electroforming in jewelry creation.
This innovative program continues to prepare students to create using next-level techniques and equipment.
Studying at a large public research university with ample funding renders distinct benefits: Tyler students enjoy access to workspace boasting an extensive assembly of large-scale 3D printing equipment with multifold capacities.
Working artists fill the program’s faculty, and the setting of Philadelphia, a historic center for the arts, artists, and craftsmen, provides a rich context for creative exploration and growth.
The undergraduate and graduate programs connect students to internships, opportunities to study abroad, and the potential to show their work at school or in galleries.
Besides BFA and MFA degrees, Tyler offers (in conjunction with Temple’s excellent Fox School of Business) a BFA with Entrepreneurial Studies.
This unique program includes courses in art, art history, business, entrepreneurship courses, and electives as a means of helping students learn how to develop their work into a commercial business after graduation, or to prepare them for an MFA program with a versatile and compelling undergraduate course of study.
Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY)
At the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Metals and Jewelry Design division of Studio Art prepares students for many different related career paths.
While many graduates establish themselves as fine artists, RIT alums also lead the industry as custom designers, jewelers, goldsmiths, or as part of corporate jewelry design teams.
Quite a few RIT alumni work for jewelry giant Tiffany & Co., in roles from stone cutting to accessory design.
RIT’s jewelry arts programs include an MFA in Metals and Jewelry Design, and an undergraduate Studio Art BFA with Metals and Jewelry Design Option.
The School for American Crafts, a separate but coordinated part of the Institute, provides more facilities, visiting artists and lectures, and opportunities to participate in workshops and fashion events.
Students at RIT enjoy seven-day-a-week access to the department’s extensive studio space, workshops, and equipment.
Welding and forging facilities, enameling and casting facilities, a polishing and finishing room, and many other tools are available for projects. Undergraduates have their own personal workspaces; graduate students have designated private studios.
Experiential learning figures heavily in RIT’s school mission and process. U.S. News ranks RIT #11 nationwide for co-op and internship programs, a feature that aligns well with the design program’s focus on both artistic ingenuity and practical application.
University of North Texas College of Visual Arts and Design (Denton, TX)
The Metalsmithing and Jewelry concentration is housed within the Studio Art program at the University of North Texas College of Visual Arts and Design (CVAD).
Students benefit from an impressive roster of visiting artists moving through the department. The permanent faculty themselves are working artists, many with prominent roles in various arts communities, keeping the campus vibrant and active with workshops and lectures.
While the program does provide students training with and access to digital fabrication printers, laser cutters, and all up-to-date equipment, CVAD is also the place to go if you want to get your hands on a Blacksmithing forge. The program features training in both traditional craft and the most recent innovations in computer-assisted design.
Rotating student exhibitions in CVAD galleries provide a way for students to see and critique each other’s work, and also to begin to get a sense of public life as an artist. BFA and MFA degrees are offered, as well as a minor in Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design.
Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA)
The largest jewelry design program in the United States, Savannah College of Art and Design is home to Fahm Hall: 13,800 square feet dedicated solely to the jewelry program.
Students earn certifications while still in the program, preparing them to work with various kinds of state-of-the-art jewelry-making equipment in an array of possible careers after graduation.
SCAD’s reputation within the fashion world opens many doors for its graduates. SCADstyle, an annual event, puts SCAD students together with industry leaders for lectures, workshops, and lasting connections with mentors and potential employers.
The program encourages students to choose a coordinating major or minor area, including options like Design for Sustainability, Fibers, or Industrial Design.
Not many design schools offer the option of studying in a medieval village, but SCAD students may choose to spend a quarter on the SCAD campus in Lacoste, France.
Who wouldn’t be inspired by this picturesque town situated in rural Provence, where artists and craftspeople from all over Europe serve as visiting faculty?
SCAD graduates go on to illustrious careers as fine artists or as designers, makers, and consultants for small boutiques, exclusive design houses, and global corporations like Givenchy, Swarovski, Kate Spade, Macy’s, and many more.
Massachusetts College of Art (Boston, MA)
Massachusetts College of Art and Design students follow a strong technical program, mastering the full spectrum of design, modeling, and construction techniques.
Students are encouraged to embrace experimental methods on the way to finding a personal voice, and independent work plays an important role in the curriculum.
In the Fenway neighborhood of the vibrant city of Boston, MassArt is near the Museum of Fine Arts and the legendary Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
At this public, independent college, total undergraduate enrollment is below 2,000 students, allowing for close mentorship and support.
MassArt students are invited to engage with the genesis of the artistic impulse itself, to question the purpose of creation, and to consider the problem-solving potential of art.
At the same time, they learn the practical skills of metalworking techniques, hydraulic press techniques, and lost wax casting.
They work with base and precious metals, and they have access to foundry processes, blacksmithing, and welding. The mixture of mechanical and theoretical practice at Mass Art provides a rich, multilayered student experience.
Founded in the 19th century alongside the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Museum of Fine Arts by wealthy, civic-minded captains of industry, MassArt, from its beginning, was meant to foster both practical and intellectual skills.
Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, NY)
New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology prepares students to be competitive in the dynamic world of commercial fashion design, merchandising, and marketing.
School-wide resources, along with its strategic Chelsea location, give FIT students the chance to start their careers in fashion while they learn.
The Jewelry Design Program’s focus reflects the school’s practical, fast-paced, results-oriented curriculum. Students graduate ready to approach the job market with confidence, practical experience, industry connections, and an 80-piece portfolio of finished jewelry.
Internships aren’t required, but the school’s Career and Internship Center helps students plan and find the right kind of experience to coordinate with their studies.
From Swarovski to Judith Ripka, FIT Jewelry Design Program students have secured jobs with design and retail firms ranging from behemoths with broad market reach to the most exclusive, legendary jewelers.
The program equips students with skills in hand-rendering and digital modelmaking, and training in the kind of rapid prototyping necessary to enter the commercial market.
Jewelry Design Connection, a club open to FIT students, allows collaboration with jewelry designers worldwide. FIT students show their work and compete across the world in industry-sponsored events.
While the primary focus is preparing for a fashion career, campus life at FIT promises a rich experience.
Elective offerings show the scope of student options, from expected classes like Geometry and the Art of Design, Art in New York, to classes in philosophy, literature, and culture, such as Religious Dissent in American History and Introduction to Western Philosophy.
Galleries and museums abound near FIT, some school-sponsored and some public. The school’s award-winning sustainable campus uses green rooftops to reduce carbon emissions, absorb wastewater, lessen the need for heat and air-conditioning, and create an aesthetically soothing and beautiful environment for students.
Applicants should keep in mind that while the acceptance rate is a little over half for the undergraduate school, the program is 2+2, meaning that after completing a two-year Associate in Applied Science Degree, students must apply to continue toward a B.S. or BFA Graduate. In the Jewelry Program, the AAS degree is designed to ready students for employment on its own.
University of Georgia Lamar Dodd School of Art (Athens, GA)
The University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art may be accidentally known for nurturing famous rock bands, but it’s the diverse degree programs in areas like Printmaking, Fabric Design, and Scientific Drawing that make it a nationally-ranked studio art program.
The Metalwork and Jewelry Design program include coursework in fabrication fundamentals alongside classes in professional practices and inquiry-based courses on contemporary art theory.
The Dodd School offers the widest variety of degree programs, from undergraduate fine arts degrees to multiple Master’s options: M.A., MFA, M.A.Ed., and Ed.S. in Arts Education.
Ph.D. programs in Art History and Art Education are also available.
UGA is one of the top state schools in the country, so admission, in general, is competitive, with an overall acceptance rate well under half (a little over half when looking at only Early Action admissions).
Its strong retention rates, location in the iconic college town of Athens, Georgia, and renowned, award-winning faculty keep UGA – many who teach at its Dodd School of the Arts – near the top of the rankings.
For graduate students, various assistantship opportunities through the department offset tuition and provide practical experience.
Gallery work, studio tech jobs, or positions in the art library coordinate with classwork to broaden student skills and give students a chance to envision life after graduation. Teaching assistantships are competitive.
Dodd students are also eligible for assistantships with Ideas for Creative Exploration, an interdisciplinary research body encouraging cross-collaboration across disciplines at the University.
Many galleries and arts centers expand the University’s own extensive facilities. The Willson Center for the Arts draws artists, designers, scholars, and writers from all over for events, workshops, and lectures.
New this year is the Athenaeum, a contemporary art exhibition space in downtown Athens. Open to the public, the gallery will allow Dodd School students to display work alongside internationally-known artists and designers. Educational programming at the Athenaeum will further connect the program to the town, enriching both in the process.
California College of the Arts (Oakland, CA)
The Jewelry and Metal Arts curriculum at California College of the Arts has been training students in metal arts for more than a century.
CCA’s small classes, close mentorship, and supportive, creative community contribute to its ranking as the number one art program for return on investment, meaning students graduate from CCA with the tools and confidence to succeed in their careers.
CCA starts first-year students with their own dedicated curriculum. Core requirements during the year introduce students to visual literacy, prepare them for college-level writing, and offer a range of academic core courses and electives.
At the same time, students begin studio work, including collaborative and research-based projects.
The full Jewelry and Metal Arts path of study encourages students to explore traditional and contemporary crafting techniques on the way to finding their own particular means of expression.
Extensive workshops and studios offer hands-on access to professional jeweler benches and tools. Project-based courses help students prepare for a senior solo show, the capstone of a student’s work during the program.
Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI)
RISD’s Jewelry and Metalsmithing program encourages students to think critically about their own work.
Students have access to traditional forging, casting, and enameling equipment while also gaining experience with the most up-to-date CAD/CAM equipment and design software.
Around 35 undergraduates are closely mentored by full-time faculty and visiting artists from around the world.
RISD students have gone on to receive grants and fellowships from companies like Etsy and Tiffany & Co. Alumni design for top design houses worldwide, teach in other highly-ranked schools, and exhibit their work in museums worldwide. A new site, RISDmade, features work only from RISD graduates.
RISD ranks not only as one of the best art schools in the United States, but often as one of the top five art schools in the world.
It also has one of the lowest acceptance rates, offering admission to about a quarter of applicants. A pioneer in studio-based education, RISD still leads the way.