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Birmingham UTC receives top-of-the-line jewellers’ equipment for new Goldsmiths’ Institute

Aston University Engineering Academy (AEUA) has taken delivery of top-of-the-line equipment for its new jewellery designer-maker training facility.

Several tool boxes containing industry-standard equipment have been gifted by the Leopard Institute, a group of top jewellers who work to preserve the skills and craftsmanship of the British jewellery industry and mentor young people entering the industry to fill critical vacancies.

Three of The Leopards founding members Stephen Webster, Carol Woolton and Theo Fennell visited the Birmingham-based University Technical College on Thursday 21 March to hand over the toolboxes to AUEA for its new Goldsmiths’ Institute.

Young people and business will benefit from new facility

The new institute, set to open in September 2024, is being funded by a £500,000 Landmark grant from The Goldsmiths’ Company and match funding. It will benefit students across the UTC and the country, by delivering training in designer-making from the institute’s base in AUEA’s new vocational skills building, as well as remotely.

Two hammers and a measuring tool in the foreground with various pieces of equipment including pliers in the background.
The equipment included in the toolboxes.

Students will also be able to study a dedicated T Level jewellery qualification, equivalent to three A-levels. After Easter, key jewellery projects that make use of the toolboxes will be part of the wider curriculum for AUEA’s Year 9 10, as well as a non-curriculum optional weekly enrichment activity

Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and the city’s reputation as a centre for the industry will also be boosted by the institute, which is being supported by 10 key local employers, including Fattorini & Co, Weston Beamor, Cooksongold, Hockley Mint, The Birmingham Assay Office, and the National Association of Jewellers.

During their visit, the Leopards and The Goldsmiths’ Company’s former Prime Warden Judy Cobham-Lowe OBE, who has closely supported the institute’s creation, toured the state-of-the-art facilities at the UTC, which delivers a curriculum specialising in engineering, science, health and business.

Stephen Webster and Theo Fennell then celebrated the delivery of the equipment by cutting through a metal ribbon in the part of the centre which will house the institute.

The Baker Dearing Educational Trust and Aston University Engineering Academy will be working to spread the provision of jewellery-making training around the 44-strong programme of University Technical Colleges.

An image showing what the Goldsmiths’ Institute will look like.

Aston University Engineering Academy principal Daniel Locke-Wheaton said:

“I am very proud that AUEA has been chosen as the first recipient of a set of Leopards jewel-tool boxes.

“These toolboxes are going to provide the expansion and opportunity to gain first-hand, practical skills in jewellery-making, not only benefitting AUEA students, which will also be available to primary and secondary school pupils across the region as part of our outreach projects.”

Speaking after his visit,  jewellery and silverware designer Theo Fennell said:

“The aim is to shine a light on jewellery making, to nurture young talent into the industry and to reach young people in secondary education around the UK, who otherwise wouldn’t have access to jewellery as a career.

“It will be a way to encourage confidence, self-satisfaction and the pure fun to be found in the joy of working with hands. Design is one area of expertise, but The Leopards also want to encourage the ‘Made by Hand’ ethos as an achievement to be celebrated.”

Jewellery designer Stephen Webster MBE commented:

“The objective of the toolboxes is to interest young people in learning the skills of jewellery and silversmithing to give them a trade for life and a rewarding career as a jeweller – with the longer-term aim of encouraging ancient artisanal skills which are currently threatened in this country, to be passed to a new generation.

“A Leopard jewel-tool box is the key to some fundamental techniques of jewellery-making and how to be at the work bench. A jewel is greater than the sum of its parts: design, craft and materials combine to make something decorative and unique.”

Carol Woolton, a jewellery historian and contributing editor to British Vogue, commented:

“Working closely with the Goldsmiths’ Institute, the toolbox will be placed in schools where applied arts education funding is low, where the boxes will be available for experimentation.

“Phase two of the project will be to raise funds for internships, apprenticeships or placements for students interested to further their jewellery education.

“By the end of 2024 The Leopards aim to have at least 50 working boxes placed in schools with the appropriate department’s curriculum approved. We and our friends will visit these schools to talk and encourage young people into the world of jewellery.”

Pictured top, left to right: AUEA Head of School David Chapman, Collette Waudby, Stephen Webster MBE, Carol Woolton, Theo Fennell, Judy Cobham-Lowe OBE, Daniel Locke-Wheaton.