A day in the life of… a goldsmith

By Gill Sherry

Emma Millar, Goldsmith and Gemstone Setter at Laings Jewellers, has spent the past ten years honing
her skills within the industry and is a recent graduate of the prestigious Alexandre School in Antwerp. Her incredible knowledge and skills allow her to add extraordinary elements to bespoke designs at Laings.

How long have you been a goldsmith?
6 years, 1 year specialising in stone setting.

What training did you need to do?
Everyone’s path into goldsmithing is different. I worked in jewellery sales whilst studying 3-dimensional design, specialising in jewellery design at university. I practiced a lot on my bench skills and spent time on placements at a couple of different independent jewellers in Scotland where I was taught a range of skills, learning about the creation of incredible pieces of jewellery as well as repairing sentimental pieces. A lot of what we learn is done on the job and is very practical in nature. I have found over the years that having different colleagues is instrumental in developing your skills and we can expand each other’s knowledge and techniques.

What do you like best about being a goldsmith?
Every day brings a new challenge and the chance to learn, you will never know it all. It’s very special to work in a career that combines age-old skills with innovation. It’s a constantly evolving world and I share in the passion for creating exquisite new pieces and helping to preserve the crafts of the past.

Do you dislike anything about your job?
It can be quite taxing on your body. Manufacturing delicate high-end pieces to strict deadlines with fragile gemstones throws up its own hurdles and your body absorbs a lot of that pressure and stress.

How many hours a week do you normally work?
38 hours.

What time does your working day start and finish?
I work from 8am to 4pm.

Can you briefly describe what a typical day involves?
I spend most of my day setting precious gemstones in bespoke pieces. However, no two days are ever the same! I work very closely with the designers daily on new projects and commissions, advising on how we can set and manufacture pieces to bring clients’ jewellery dreams to life in a practical way. If I am working on any repairs these are usually tricky restorations, including replacing stones, re-tipping claws and rebuilding settings, allowing us to continue the emotional and personal stories of jewellery.

One piece of advice for someone looking to become a goldsmith?
Speak to as many people as you can. We love what we do and are happy to share what we know with anyone who is interested. The passion of a goldsmith is undeniable and training the next generation is something I care deeply about so that we can carry on this incredible tradition.

What would you be if you weren’t a goldsmith?
I would likely keep my links to creative working within the jewellery retail industry, or within wedding or bespoke products. My very first job was making bespoke cakes which I absolutely loved, not only for the smell of freshly baked cakes!

Career highlight so far?
Being involved in the creation of a bespoke piece commissioned by Sir Jackie Stewart in support of his charity, Race Against Dementia. It was an incredible handcrafted white gold, 2ct diamond and sapphire necklace that was influenced by the Scottish landscape. It was an honour to help create a beautiful piece of jewellery for a legendary sports icon and such a worthy cause.

If you had to sum up your job in one word, what would it be?

Laings Glasgow – Argyll Arcade
Laings Edinburgh – 72 George Street