The inspiring environment where the students of the Royal College of Art are trained is not only limited to the campus. Contemporary gold and silversmith work is particularly abundant in London’s art and culture scene. Galleries such as Electrum, the Lesley Craze Gallery and others support the work of young gold and silversmiths to a special degree. Exhibitions at a high artistic level underscore the fact that this craft and the network belonging to it has been particularly cultivated for centuries in England. That includes the Goldsmith’s Fair organized every year by the Goldsmiths’ Company and the Chelsea Crafts Fair organized by the Crafts Council.

Royal College
The Royal College of Art is between Hyde Park and Albert Hall
Students working in their studios
Embroidered brooch by Lina Petersson

The Royal College of Art (RCA) has declared it is advancing an agenda of making students the leading designers to get the world moving and shaking with their creations. The school was conferred the status of a university in 1967 and these days the RCA only offers advanced courses of study. The goldsmithing, silversmithing, metalwork and jewelry department accepts 20 students every year. You can get three degrees at the Royal College of Art: The MA (the masters of arts), the Mphil (the master of philosophy) and the PhD (doctor of philosophy). There are 20 art fields and the MA-Degree can be achieved at the Royal College of Art. Due to the high standard set by the RCA, it takes two years to get a master’s degree, although it only takes on year to get this degree at other colleges. The team of instructors help students work very much on their own so that they can find their own unmistakable vernacular of form. The school supports both drafts for industry and artistic work and individualized manual skills are important both in the traditional and innovative environment in the school. Finally, the study program is rounded out by school trips, exchange programs and practical training.

The Royal College of Art has been in existence in London since 1837 and it has developed into one of the most recognized design schools anywhere. A wide range of excellent jewelry artists include Lara Bohinc, Christoph Zellweger, Francesca Amphitheatrof, and Elizabeth Galton, have graduated from the RCA. Studying at the RCA is particularly attractive because talented designers have come from all around the world to the Royal College of Art because the exchange of ideas from other countries cross-pollinates the students’ knowledge.

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Body piece by graduating student Claudia Crisan, made from hand-molded wax
Necklace by Shu-Yee Mak made from pipe cleaners and drinking straws
Stone Brooch by Lynne K. Murray made from rapid prototyping and decorated with Swarovski crystals
Pocket watch with sterling silver, 18 karat yellow gold and pearls by Kelly McCallum
Play as you go ring by Minji Kim, made from silver and styrene
Silver neck adornment by Minji Kim

They have a wide variety of research projects underway. The students investigate for example the potential of metal deposition on flexible substrates. The research objectives, supported by practical and virtual reality testing, lie in the fields of decoration and engineering, drawing on the disciplines of applied art and biomimetics. In another project the students explore the potential of a number of new and emergent technologies to engender new jewelry artifacts, mainly through CAD/CAM and CNC processes, including rapid prototyping, micro-milling and fine casting. The goldsmithing, silversmithing, metalwork and jewelry department has a long history of research activity into technical and cultural aspects within the field. The subjects which fall within the sphere of interest are many and varied, from innovative use of technology to historical simulation to inter and multidisciplinary issues.

Applicants are supposed to zero in on the themes they would like to work at as early as when applying for college. The student should have the potential to benefit from and contribute to the course for which they are applying. Prior knowledge and experience should indicate the potential to achieve the independence necessary for postgraduate study in a particular discipline. With enthusiasm and aptitude the student should confront the issues to be addressed in preparation for professional practice.

David Watkins has been the head of the goldsmithing, silversmithing, metalwork and jewelry department since 1984. He takes responsibility for the program content and the liaison with outside institutions and industry, including projects and competitions and liaison within the college. Supported by a team of part-time tutors and technician instructors he encourages the take up of computer modeling, CAD/CAM, rapid prototyping and laser technologies. The technical equipment at the goldsmithing, silversmithing, metalwork and jewelry department at the Royal College of Art is enormous. State-of-the-art machines from the jewelry industry are available along with an abundant selection of silversmith tools and there’s an enameling workspace and electroplating shop in the numerous rooms. Every year, David Watkins invites four designers to hold master classes and workshops lasting five to ten days, including lectures and seminars. They came up with this program to confront students with as many ways of looking at and approaching things as possible in their subject area.

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Mixed-media body adornment by Kye-Ok Kim creates light patterns on the wearer’s skin
Silver ring by Jo Hayes-Ward
Bone and plant rings by Kelly McCallum

The academic and technical staff of the core teaching team all are practicing artists, many of them running their own studio or workshop. Among them are such well-known designers as Michael Rowe who has made himself an international reputation as a silversmith, lecturer and author of specialized books.

A study launched in 2001 has borne out how effective this teaching strategy is. 90% of the graduates found work in an area corresponding to their degree between 1997 and 2001. Final year students at the end of their studies are required to showcase their collections to the public. The exhibition is called. The Show: One and opens from 26 May to 4 June with free admission.

The RCA jewelry students will also be showcasing their work at New Designers, an exhibition of work by over 4,000 art and design students from UK universities. Disciplines are divided into two groups, jewelry and precious metalwork will be shown in the first part from 29 June to 2 July.

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