REVIVING THE ART OF JEWELRY MAKING
In June 2023, we embarked on a journey into the world of jewelry making by joining the TOUS jeweler training program. This unique initiative, led by the renowned brand TOUS, allowed two students from the PRO course at the Antidotum School of Design, Paweł and Marika, to continue their education. Join us as we share their experience and take a closer look inside the TOUS headquarters.
TOUS, a family-owned company, traces its roots back to its founders and is currently managed by three sisters, who aptly named the jewelry brand after their family name. The main TOUS headquarters is nestled in Manresa, a picturesque town in Catalonia with a rich history dating back to Roman times. Among its notable landmarks is the Basilica La Seu, an architectural gem that exudes a timeless allure. A mere 50-minute drive from Barcelona transports you to this charming destination.
Paweł and Marika resided in the heart of Manresa during their time at TOUS, with Albert, their instructor, picking them up each morning for the commute to work. The building itself once housed a textile factory, embodying the region’s heritage in fabric production before the majority of clothing manufacturing shifted to Asia.
Today, the restored complex houses the main TOUS headquarters, a boutique, a daycare center for employees’ children, and a well-organized cafeteria. The interior boasts a modern design, featuring spacious open-plan floors that house various sales and post-sales departments. The jewelry workshop occupies a separate space, enclosed by glass panels, allowing the jewelers to have a clear view of the activities while maintaining a serene atmosphere conducive to concentration. Twelve traditional workstations with wooden countertops and intricately designed drawer handles infuse a touch of antiquity into the contemporary setting. It is at these stations that jewelry prototypes are crafted and meticulously refined. The jewelers assess the optimal technical execution and add the final touches or suggest modifications. Once approved by the management, the designs enter production and find their way to TOUS boutiques worldwide.
THE TOUS WORKING ENVIRONMENT
“Our expectations of a Mediterranean vibe were quickly dispelled as we witnessed the meticulous work ethic prevailing at TOUS,” commented the Polish students during their initial days. Albert, their teacher, evaluated the assigned tasks and their execution. With 24 years of experience at TOUS, he comes from a lineage of goldsmiths, suggesting a familial tradition deeply ingrained in Catalonia. Interacting with a new mentor provided a unique opportunity to explore different work methodologies. Each jeweler develops their own approach, and discovering diverse perspectives within the jewelry craft can be immensely enriching. It allows one to choose the methods that resonate most with their artistic sensibilities and cultivate their own distinctive style.
The workday at TOUS commences at 8 a.m. and concludes at 4:30 p.m., with a lunch break in between. The curriculum encompasses various aspects, including working with titanium, the hardest of metals that can only be soldered using lasers, as well as the art of crafting clasps. Students also delve into complex repairs, such as delicate chains and intricate weaves that TOUS incorporates in their compositions. Repair work represents a distinct realm of goldsmithing, requiring not only precision and courage (as artisans work on entrusted pieces), but also a profound understanding of the construction employed in each composition. To mend a damaged piece, one must restore it in accordance with the underlying logic and techniques previously employed.
OUR VISIT TO TOUS
Accompanied by Małgosia Michalska, a teacher from Antidotum, and Paulina Tyro-Niezgoda, representing the school’s founder, Alina, we embarked on an intensive tour of TOUS. The itinerary included a visit to the jewelry workshop where our students honed their skills, as well as a tour of the TOUS factory. It was here that we became acquainted with the technique of electroforming. This method allows for the application of a thin layer of precious metal onto any desired shape, resulting in a lightweight yet voluminous design. While electroforming can be practiced in a small studio, with artisans building their own galvanization tools, witnessing its industrial-scale application at TOUS was truly captivating.
The TOUS factory, although not extensive, adheres to the classical process of jewelry production. Wax models for casting, rubber molds, and casting trees are meticulously crafted on-site. The finished components undergo various treatments, including gold plating depending on the design. Polishing of the completed pieces is carried out in specialized tanks using ceramic beads or coconut sand. Finally, the team of jewelers sets stones and assembles clasps. The prepared elements then undergo a machine process that marks them with the appropriate hallmark. The state-of-the-art equipment automatically recognizes the orientation of the shape, imprinting the hallmark accurately even if the piece is placed upside down.
To conclude our visit, we joined the annual TOUS fiesta. The vibrant ambiance filled with music, delectable cuisine, and refreshing beverages fostered new connections while bidding farewell to the wonderful individuals Paweł and Marika had come to know—almost everyone, it seemed. Until now, TOUS had predominantly trained students from Spain, Mexico, and Portugal, making the Polish team the first from this part of Europe to be integrated so seamlessly into the TOUS family. We are confident that our presence will be warmly remembered. The upcoming team from Antidotum will face the challenge of upholding this warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Stay tuned for updates on the ETOJA TOUS 2024 program.
Antidotum School of Design is the sole Polish institution participating in the ETOJA TOUS program. “ETOJA was born out of our commitment to preserving the art of jewelry making and our passion for craftsmanship. Through this project, we are able to pass on the value of restoration and rejuvenation of jewelry, which lies at the core of our industry’s sustainable development. We create enduring pieces and work diligently to ensure that their longevity is made possible through restoration techniques,” says Rosa Tous.