For more than two decades, the British Academy of Jewellery has been providing cutting-edge training and inspiration to the next generation of jewellers and supporting existing jewellery professionals through opportunities for upskilling. During this time, we’ve grown from a small school set up beneath a jewellery shop to a respected, world-class institution offering accredited courses. This is our story.
Take a walk through our history to find out how we championed our way of providing quality jewellery education, revived the UK’s Apprenticeship system, and supported the industry, using our interactive timeline:
An industry under threat
A report from the department for trade and industry painted a bleak picture of the jewellery industry; craftsmen were a dying breed with a lack of new entrants. Jason Holts wrote a government bid for the first incarnation of Holts Academy, now known as the British Academy of Jewellery.
Hatton Garden Gem School is born
Initially the school was comprised of 6 lapidary wheels and 6 jewellery benches in the lower-ground level of the Holts Gems boutique in Hatton Garden. Headed by Roger Dunkin and supported by Holts lapidaries Claire Westenhofer, Jan Hugye and Emma Barne, 70 people were trained in the art of gem-cutting and design in the school’s first year of opening.
The Holts School of Jewellery
Over the next few years, the Hatton Garden Gem School continued to develop additional training for jewellers according to the needs of the industry and, in 2003, renamed the school the Holts School of Jewellery.
City Fringe Technology Partnerships
In conjunction with the Birmingham School of Jewellery and London Metropolitan University, Holts set up a City Fringe Partnership in the Technology Sector, which would go on to help over 1,000 businesses embrace new technology over the next three years.
The Future in the Making with Aldyth Crowther
Working with the Palmer Hamilton Partnership and jeweller Aldyth Crowther, Holts set up another City Fringe Partnership: ‘The Future in the Making,’ with the aim to help over 500 mid-career independent jewellers to evolve and embrace modern business practice over the next three years.
Holts opens a new campus in London: Langdales
The Academy opened its first dedicated site at Langdales in Hatton Garden, complete with two jewellery workshop studios and a CAD suite.
The Sonar Project with Newnham College
In partnership with Newnham College Centre for Innovation and Partnerships, the Academy launched the ERDF Sonar Project: the first-of-its-kind CAD/CAM training and development centre for the jewellery industry at Temple Yard, Bethnal Green. The centre provided facilities to encourage experienced jewellers to adopt more modern jewellery manufacturing methods in order to remain competitive.
The Ethic Project with Newnham College
In partnership with Newnham College Centre for Innovation and Development and funded by the European Social Fund, the Academy drove an initiative to engage industry to adopt ethical and sustainable jewellery practices. Alongside communicating their importance, Holts provided support on embedding ethical supply chains, business practices, and environmental improvements to jewellery businesses.
Jewellery Connections with Change Act Share
In conjunction with the Camden Council and the Change Act Share organisation, the Academy created the Jewellery Connections Initiative, which aimed to help local UK designers and makers to connect with each other and develop new products and partnerships, helping the trade to flourish.
Holts becomes Scottish Qualification Authority accredited
Holts Academy gained accreditation from the SQA to offer vocational training qualifications.
The Founding of Jewellery Manufacture NVQ
Holts Academy created and launched the first ever NVQ in Jewellery Manufacture.
Creating the jewellery manufacturing diploma
Working with creative and cultural skills, the Academy developed a new suite of jewellery manufacturing diplomas at beginner and intermediate level in response to the industry’s desperate need for craftsmen with manufacturing savoir-faire. The courses were designed with a core focus on equipping students with a technical manufacturing and design skillset, so that they would be able to produce their creations to the highest level of excellence.
Becoming the British Academy of Jewellery
Just like its students, BAJ grew and matured. In 2017, the Academy made a statement of intent through a new name that reflects its vision and destination, with a new curriculum and a brand new image.
BAJ launches Live Projects to enable students to work on real industry briefs
Partnering with real jewellery brands, BAJ gives students real industry briefs to design and make jewellery, challenging them to push their design and technical skills while getting invaluable experience working on genuine industry briefs. The Live Projects have included partnerships with jewellery brands Alighieri, Alex Monroe and Alba Rose.
BAJ launches short courses
Professional jewellers and beginners alike can learn new skills, from digital design to specialist jewellery manufacturing techniques, with BAJ’s range of short courses, launched in 2017. BAJ has continued to expand its short course offerings as its community grows with a focused, technical curriculum.
BAJ travels to Beijing
BAJ students travelled to Beijing, China to showcase innovative pieces of jewellery at BAJ’s ‘Valuing Amber’ exhibition. The exhibition was then shown in London, continuing to spark discourse on the meaning of ‘value’ in the jewellery industry.
BAJ joins Erasmus: Building a jewellery community across Europe
Joining forces with jewellery schools across Europe for the Erasmus project ‘The Future is our Jewel’, BAJ students created innovative pieces of jewellery. These toured Europe in a travelling exhibition. Over the course of the three-year project, students also visited world-famous jewellery workshops, learnt about other cultures and sustainability, and forged connections with international students.
BAJ offers masterclasses with industry leaders
Beginning with international jewellery artist Wallace Chan, BAJ launched a series of masterclasses with industry leaders, free for students to attend. The ongoing series has welcomed a wide range of guests including jewellery editor Carol Woolton and jewellers Theo Fennell and Castro Smith among many others, providing BAJ students with unique industry insight first-hand.
BAJ expanded into new areas of study and a new location
With the same practical, industry-focused approach which has gained BAJ recognition across the UK jewellery industry, accredited courses in subjects including business and marketing launched in London and Leicester to train the next generation of entrepreneurs and creative professionals.
BAJ opened its doors in Sheffield to offer a range of HE courses in the city
Now operating in London, Birmingham, Leicester, and Sheffield, BAJ has expanded across the South and Midlands.
In 2023, BAJ achieved substantial growth by introducing two cutting-edge courses: HND Digital Technologies and HNC Art & Design 3D. Relocating London facilities to Camden and Euston enriched students' learning with modern amenities. Additionally, BAJ expanded to Birmingham's Mill Wharf campus, dedicated to Business & Digital courses. These steps showcase BAJ's commitment to diverse education and state-of-the-art learning environments.