INTERVIEW WITH MADELI VILJOEN (continued)
regarding her whirlwind three month programme with Forevermark in Milan

APRIL 2016. MILAN, ITALY.

My experience of the Shining Light Awards, from when I applied to date:

I am passionate about anything related to jewellery – the history, the practical bench work, gemology and metallurgy, the commercial industry and especially the infinite aspects of designing jewellery.

As I adore the variety of the jewellery world, I also apply it in my everyday life by trying to keep a balanced lifestyle. When I’m not designing or doing benchwork, I like to keep active by jogging, or doing some activities at the gym, playing the piano, and strolling through vintage markets. Reading interesting books take up some of my time and I also love to relax with friends and family. I believe that my way of living holistically influences my distinctive design style.

As a current Honours student in Jewellery Design and Manufacturing at the Tshwane University of Technology, I feel tremendously fortunate that the Shining Light Awards has been part of my humble journey of becoming a top international jewellery designer. In 2015, jewellery students from all over South Africa, Botswana and Namibia were given the once in a lifetime chance to take part in the SLA competition from De Beers and Forevermark to forever change their stars. I was a 3rd year student and excited for this big competition which also formed part of our curriculum at the University.

Required to approach my design entry from a different angle, namely commercial, and not the usual artistic creative perspective with which we became more familiar with when we were first taught to think outside the box whilst designing, the competition proved thought-provoking. During my design process, I realised that designing a commercial piece, in fact, attested to be more of a challenge. I had to keep in mind that my design proposals needed to be likeable by the majority, contemporary and practical, simplistic, yet elegant and timeless.

Our collections were sent in for judging by the accomplished judging panel from De Beers and so the nerves set in while we waited upon the results. First came the delightful news that my collection made it into the top 12 finalist places. As I was nearing the end of my 3rd year of studies, the questions of where to go and what to do next, as in every graduate’s thoughts, were lingering. Then with word of  winning the Shining Light Awards and being rewarded with the incredible prospect of spending 3 months in Milan at Forevermark, my questions has been answered and I was set for a bright future.

The anticipation of going to Milan catapulted me onto another level of focus, motivated me to work harder than ever to achieve my aims and resulted in the completion of my University studies Cum Laude as well as winning an award for my platinum ring design in Anglo American's Plat Africa competition 2015.

Traveling arrangements were made by the diligent De Beers and Forvermark teams, and by early 2016 I was on my way to the one and only Milan, Italy. Only once I got onto the plane, I could finally believe that I’m not just running, but literally flying towards my dream!

Arriving in Milan, I was greeted by a strikingly beautiful city, architectural masterpieces, chic design, inviting people and a cultural mecca. Inspiration is everywhere, from the Art nouveau ornamentation on the buildings, the ancient architectural remnants scattered around the city, the Navigli districts water channels and boats, the vibrant nightlife, the abundance of museums and the vivacious spirit of the people and their fashion.

Thus far, I have learned so many new skills and concepts and also realised that the design possibilities are endless if you really love what you do and challenge the boundaries of jewellery design. My fellow designers and team members at the Forevermark Design and innovation center in Italy are truly talented and their enthusiasm keeps me motivated to succeed!

In the Forevermark team I have found true lifelong friends and acquaintances. They have aided me to integrate into a different culture, see jewellery design from a new European perspective and I have of course been treated to the world renowned fantastic Italian coffee! At the office I am also awarded the platform to give my own input and contribute with my ideas, thoughts and representing my uniquely South African style and background with pride. I’m learning a great deal from the best in the industry and I am so fortunate to be getting first hand practical experience alongside these designers and innovators.

Even though I’m here in Milan, my whole journey still feels so surreal and sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m awake. The De Beers group of companies has truly turned my dreams into reality and I am forever grateful to have been so blessed! I still have 2 months left at Forevermark Italy and plan on making every second count and take in as much as possible, whether it be design influences and inspiration, designing tips, learning behind-the-scenes processes or sampling the delicious Italian cuisine!

At the end of my Shining Lights journey, I wish to have truly enriched my knowledge and understanding of the diamond jewellery industry and responsible diamond trade and through this vessel make a significant impact on the promotion and development of aspiring young jewellery designers alike.

 

 

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