To Be A Jeweler in Nigeria or Not to Be A Jeweler : Part 1 by Ibironke Odunuyi
I have always loved Jewelry and thoughts of been a Jeweler. Gold jewelry to be precise because growing up my mum loved adorning herself with a variety of them: simple styles when I was younger and bigger and complicated styles as I grew up. She even bought us (My sister and I) a couple of gold earrings and we had gold identity bracelets really cute ones but we always got it misplaced and will automatically switch to G.L. jewelry before we ran her bankrupt. I’ve always been curious about how these jewelry pieces were created but never pursued the curiosity.
My Journey to Becoming A Jeweler in Nigeria
Fast forward years later, university final year in University of Lagos (UNILAG) a riot broke out where our Vice Chancellor’s house got burnt and the school was shut down so we all had go back home, dear Lord it was a really long wait and this is where I first got introduced to beading, how you ask?
My sister had started her fashion line (Tosho Woods), making a range of sequined/beaded ankara skirts inspired by Tae’s ankara Fashion collection. She ran out of sequins and I happened to be going out so she asked if I could stop by Aleshinloye market (I grew up in Ibadan) to help buy sequins from her supplier, sure why not I said, off I went to the supplier’s store.
To my amazement it was a beads store and for some crazy reasons I was drawn to them. I got so carried away that I got buying different strings of affordable plastic beads in the colours available and also got some elastic wire. Bearing in my mind that I was going to make bracelets to match my outfits.
I made them just as soon as I got home which got me more interested. I started hanging around the store for hours buying beads and also watching their in house beader string beads, so as to learn from her. I would go back home and make a couple of pieces for my sister and even make a mini collection where I used her friends for my models.
Here are some of the pictures from the beads I made in 2009 below;
In the course of hanging around the beadshop (I can’t remember her name anymore) the in house beader also introduced me to wire works and I automatically fell in love with it because they looked nicer in terms of jewelry (please mind you that’s my own perspective because I never for once liked beads but I was interested in how they were made).
All good things they say must come to an end because the school reopened and I moved back to school. I completely forgot all about making jewelry till one day I came across a newspaper advert of a goldsmithing training in Lagos you could have imagined my excitement because by then I knew about goldsmithing.
In addition to the fact that the feedback I got from people that bought my wire work jewelry kept complaining about it breaking and so I had researched online and realized I could only secure the links by soldering which I didn’t have the skills or know who could teach me here in Nigeria.
My Bestselling Wire jewelry pieces back in 2009;
I enrolled immediately for the training at the Wy-Art Foundation, the founder Prof Peju Layiwola of Creative Arts Unilag facilitated the training and I can never forget my first class; Polishing, I was in awe watching her polish an old looking ring and bring back the shine and lustre and I was later asked to polish a couple of gold jewelry items she needed to polish, from this exercise I got a rude shock of my life!!!
Of-course at that junction I didn’t know you could regain precious metal jewelry shine and lustre by using the buffing motor so I went ahead to bring all her fashion jewelry pieces for polishing the next day, oh boy the item I attempted polishing first was a silver bangle, the moment it touched the buffing wheel the buffing motor immediately revealed the original metal underneath the plated metal which was copper to my uttermost dismay.
This was my very first major goldsmithing lesson which keep till date and I always repeat to my now students every day, which is: You cannot polish a costume or fashion jewelry via the same medium used for polishing precious metals because costume or fashion jewelry items are made using base metals and masked to look like precious metals by electroplating them and what polishing does is that it get rids of the upper rough and tarnished layer of metal bringing out a fresh layer of the metal so if a material is plated all the buffing wheel will do is to clean out the plated layer to release the inner layer of metal which is the original base metal used in production.
Sighs….I can tell you how much I mourned the loss of that bracelet for a very long time.
Next lesson Soldering; Almighty Father in heaven I struggled so much and I just never got her technique right and till date I’ve still never attempted to retry that her technique of soldering. I never finished my training with her because I had to go and serve my Country, National Youth Service Coups (NYSC) in Ibadan.
After service year I moved back to Lagos in pursuit of a masters degree in environmental management but oh well that one is another story for another day. Fast forward few years after, I got a job in a private owned software testing company but to be honest never enjoyed my year at the company because of too much drama and was really clueless about the software testing.
My parents asked me to move back home and voila I picked up my beading and wire works again but I wasn’t enjoying the beading so I focused more on my wire works but I kept getting back the same feedback over and over again saying; lovely designs but they kept breaking, aaaarrrgggh!!!
Finally, I managed to convince my parents about going for training in the UK, I was finally on my way to Central Saints Martins-University of Arts, London for the beginning of my goldsmithing journey proper and realising my journey to becoming a Jeweler.
To be continued on the next post……………
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