Plans for the launch of the Bright Young Gems mentoring scheme for graduating and recently graduated jewellery designers have been announced.
Previously one of the key highlights of International Jewellery London, but due to the Show not taking place in either 2020 or this year because of the pandemic, Reed Exhibitions have appointed Hammond PR as the interim custodians of the Bright Young Gems initiative.
The Bright Young Gems project has evolved over the past 15 years to become the foremost industry-recognised platform for new talent with many previous winners going on to carve out successful award winning careers. To date the programme has enabled 68 BYG designers to showcase their work to the industry, retailers and opinion formers.
IJL Show Director, Andy Ventris, says: “IJL has always been committed to encouraging and supporting the design talent of the future, providing the winners with their first commercial platform. In the absence of the show this year, we are delighted that Hammond PR are taking on the organisational mantle to ensure that the scheme continues to thrive.”
Suzanna Hammond, CEO of Hammond PR, says: “In light of the many challenges created by the pandemic, we have been in touch with the key colleges, industry leaders and influential press to discuss how best we can all work together to ensure the relevance and success of the 2021 BYG competition. Encouragingly, their feedback has been very supportive and everyone we have spoken to has confirmed that Bright Young Gems provides a vital lifeline for the chosen graduates to launch their careers within the commercial world.”
Jennifer Hall-Thompson, Hammond PR Associate, adds: “Talking to the colleges, it is evident that lockdown has had a huge impact on both the curriculum and students. The support from the industry to help us launch this year’s BYGs initiative is very welcome and much appreciated.”
Working closely with the National Association of Jewellers, this year’s competition is open to current year graduates as well as those who have graduated in 2020. For the first time, there will be two categories to reflect the growing demand and interest in sustainability:
- Show Off – Statement pieces
Designs and/or finished pieces showing creative flair with innovative use of materials and which demonstrate potential commercial viability
- Responsible Thinking – Sustainable eco-heroes
Designs and/or finished pieces made with ethically sourced or sustainable materials and which demonstrate potential commercial viability
NAJ Ambassador, Lindsey Straughton, says: “This mentoring initiative has grown in stature every year, with the chosen young designers being immediately highlighted as the ‘stars of tomorrow’. The initiative has particular relevance this year with so many colleges and final year students affected by the pandemic, so the NAJ are delighted this is going ahead and to be involved.”
Archive image: Photo of the 2018 Bright Young Gems, with Hilary Alexander, one of the 2021 judges
The judging line-up includes press and industry leaders, including Hilary Alexander OBE (President of the Graduate Foundation who has been involved since the scheme’s inception), Imogen Belfield (award winning jewellery designer who herself started her career as a Bright Young Gem), Melanie Grant (Luxury Editor of the Economist’s 1843 sister magazine, influential social media commentator and speaker on luxury, jewellery and watches), Katerina Perez (social media influencer with more than 12 years’ experience in the jewellery sector, including running the successful online course ‘How to sell jewellery on Instagram’) and Susi Smither (Founder of both The Rock Hound, East London’s Gemmologist Jeweller, specialising in creating sustainable iconic design-led jewellery and, more recently, Fair Luxury, an independent collective of jewellery industry entrepreneurs with a shared vision for a responsible and sustainable industry.)
Hilary Alexander says: “I am thrilled and honoured to be part of the judging panel for Bright Young Gems. I have been involved with BYGs since it began 15 years ago and have watched it evolve into the premier platform for the jewellery industry’s best and most exciting new talents, spearheading the careers of many fine jewellers including Pippa Small, Fernando Jorge, Ruth Tomlinson, Tomasz Donocik, and, most recently, the exceptional Zeemou Zeng, who was awarded Young Jeweller of the year in December 2020. I am very much looking forward to seeing the creativity and expertise of the 2021 cohort of Bright Young Gems.”
Supported by Melanie Grant, Luxury Editor of 1843 Magazine at The Economist, who said: “Up and coming jewellery artists need our support and guidance to find their creative voice in what is a crowded and sometimes brutal industry. Awards like these play a crucial role in the development of talent and in turn keep design alive.”
Imogen Belfield said: “It’s great to hear that the wonderful Bright Young Gems initiative is proceeding this year! I always reminisce very fondly about my time with BYG and the support and platform it gave my brand – so I am thrilled to be a judge.”
The five winning Bright Young Gems will have the opportunity to attend and display their collections as part of the National Association of Jewellers’ showcase at the new one-day UK Jewellery Festival, organised by Retail Jeweller, on 1 September at The Brewery on Chiswell Street. Here the BYGs will have the opportunity to show their collections to senior retail decision makers and buyers. They will also have the chance to hear from some of the most respected names in retail, talking on topics including the future of the store and experiential retailing.
To help towards travel and showing costs, the Benevolent Society have kindly agreed to provide each winner with a bursary of £300. The winners will also benefit from publicity and valuable online mentoring in July, in conjunction with the NAJ, leading up to the Festival. This will include virtual meetings with each of the judges to discuss their work.
Giles Last, Course Leader BA Jewellery Design, Central Saint Martins, said: “New Graduates from Central Saint Martins have been participating in Bright Young Gems for many years and the opportunity has given the selected graduates a wonderfully supported launch into the jewellery industry. The feedback has always been very positive and the advice, networking and connections the grads have benefited from have helped highlight successful career paths.”
The deadline for submitting entries is Sunday, June 6, 2021. Interested designers can also contact [email protected] for more information.