The Department of Gemstone and Jewelry Design of the University of Applied Sciences of Trier is the only one of its kind in Europe. In the summer of 2002, the department celebrated its fifteen-year anniversary by honoring its graduates and celebrating its good reputation with a retrospective showing over 100 projects and final projects dating back to the founding of the department.
The small city of Idar-Oberstein is known worldwide for its gemstone and jewelry industry. Agate and chalcedony have been mined in the region for over 500 years. Improvements in stone working techniques and the founding of corresponding professions followed logically from the 1531 dedication of the first agate-cutting mill, in Oberstein. Upon the creation of the Department of Gemstone and Jewelry Design in the winter semester of 1986/1987, the practical and theoretical training relating to this specialized regional economy improved greatly. By drawing upon this long tradition of working with gemstones for the training program at the university, the department took a position unique in Europe.
In addition to education in the area of Gemstone and Jewelry Design with an emphasis in Stones, the department is unified through the diversity of its curricular offerings. Further courses of study include Precious Stone and Jewelry Design with an emphasis in Metals, Basics of Design, Drawing, Painting, Plastic Arts, Photography, CAD, Art History and, since only recently, Design Management/Design Organization. This new subject, introduced in the summer of 2002, allows the location to further orient itself toward the needs of the economy, which is increasingly demanding designers with business skills. Professor Dr. Ulrich Kern, himself a doctor of design and currently employed as a business consultant, is the head of this newly created division of an otherwise design-oriented course of study. His approach: “Universities, like businesses, must increase their efforts in marketing.” Another goal is to present students in the Department of Gemstone and Jewelry Design with ideas for potential future professional opportunities. A brief glance at the professional situation shows that a high degree of flexibility is expected of jewelry designers today.
“They must be able to work both as artisans and as artists, and increasingly also as providers of services,” says Kern An up-to-date education in design therefore includes the dual functions of design and business sense. For the former, students develop their design skills by means of mode s and projects, and for the latter, they learn to work with economic marketing concepts. “The economic tools available to the designer are unfortunately underrepresented in many courses of artistic study,” says Kern. Therefore, his daily program for future designers includes topics such as fees, advertising, marketing, and communications.
The strongest emphasis of this course of study remains on working with gem stones. This involves the development of creative perspectives on jewelry and decorative objects, containers, and devices Gemstone-related design outside the realm of jewelry is therefore given high priority and is the main factor in the decision of a large number of our students to study in Idar-Oberstein. In a manner unique in the German gemstone world, the University of Applied Sciences offers opportunities to include gemstones in their rich original forms, along with their innate aesthetic value, in sensitive artistic endeavors.
The multiplicity of gemstones, their colors and structures, their material, their shine, and the many other factors that determine a stone’s personality are an intriguing challenge for designers. In addition to jewelry design with gemstones, the students are therefore explicitly instructed to seek new methods of artistic work with gemstones. Professor Udo Ackermann, who has been the chairman of the Department of Gemstone and Jewelry Design from its foundation until his retirement this year and who has shaped its development, considers a designer’s highest precept to be a high esteem for raw materials.
“In their design plans, students should ensure that in realizing their ideas, they also allow room for the characteristic material features of the stones, so that their unique nature and value are retained.” This applies equally to pebbles and highly valued minerals, to design of tabletop lights, bowls, and pocket charms made of stone as well as to rings, brooches, and pendants.
The course of study is divided into two parts: The Basic Course includes four semesters and ends with the Preliminary Degree Examination. The Main Course continues for four more semesters and ends in the Degree Examination. Along with the written exams, the Degree Examination also includes a practical project from the area of Gemstone, Jewelry, or Object Design, for which students are allowed from three to six months, depending on the topic or problem.
This study principle is borne out by the successful participation of students and graduates of the Department of Gemstone and Jewelry Design of the University of Applied Sciences of Trier in numerous national and international competitions, as well as by the many industry-renowned prizes and distinctions earned. Cete