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Award adds sparkle to Keelie’s glittering jewellery career

Keelie Sander, a jewellery apprentice with Toowoomba’s Hogans Family Jewellers, has won TAFE Queensland's 2023 Apprentice Jeweller of the Year Award.

At the prestigious awards ceremony, the 25-year-old also won the Best Overall Design Award, Best Technical Aspects Award and Best Design Folio Award, with Hogans Family Jewellers winning the 2023 Employer of Apprentice Jeweller of the Year.

Training for her dream career began as a retail assistant when Keelie was allowed to consult on the design of clients' jewellery.

“I needed a better understanding of manufacturing techniques to provide the best service for my customers to create pieces that weren’t only beautiful but would last a lifetime.”

“And the more I learnt about this industry and its amazing people, the stronger my love for jewellery grew.”

Taking on an apprenticeship with Toowoomba’s Hogans Family Jewellers, Keelie has found a way to expand her skills and create unique pieces for her customers.

“My apprenticeship at Hogans Family Jewellers has enhanced my passion, as Hogans give me so much creative freedom. The more I design, create and paint, the more I want to push the boundaries of my skills.”

Keelie’s apprenticeship saw her attend block training through TAFE Queensland, enhancing her jewellery repair, stone setting, metal casting, chain making, and technical drawing skills while earning her a Certificate III in Jewellery Manufacture (MEM30619).

“I was apprehensive about studying with TAFE as it meant I would have to travel to Brisbane and be away from home for months. But it opened the door to meeting new people and gaining beneficial experience and knowledge.”

“TAFE also creates a gateway to make jewellery industry contacts for a lifetime, and I will work alongside these people for many years.”

Through her training, Keelie developed the planning, design and manufacturing skills that saw her win many awards in 2023.

“My training honed my skills, and the theory helped me delve deeper into topics we may not focus on while training in the workplace.”

Each year, the awards celebrate the talent and creativity of graduating students through an awards program that forms their final assessment. 

Students had four weeks to create three pieces of jewellery to fit this year’s unique theme of Fantasy, which allowed Keelie’s imagination to run wild and her technical skills to shine.

“My designs were inspired by the love story of Romeo and Juliet, and I wanted to create romantic and fantastical pieces that hearkened to another time, that were luxurious yet personal.”

Keelie designed and crafted a collection of Romeo and Juliet inspired pieces, including a fully functioning gemstone set lipstick case.

She also made a wax seal ring for sealing love letters and a silver dagger brooch featuring a garnet briolette blood droplet - because you cannot tell the story of Romeo and Juliet without a dagger. 

Winning the Apprentice Jeweller of the Year Award acknowledges the quality of Keelie’s design, manufacturing, finishing skills, and overall portfolio. 

“Winning the Apprentice of the Year award was an incredible honour. There are so many people in my class who are just as, if not more, talented than I am.

“To say my heart was beating out of my chest was an understatement. I was just glad that my family and friends were there to support me, regardless of how the night went.”

TAFE Queensland Brisbane General Manager Brent Kinnane was impressed by the quality of the jewellery on display and is excited to watch the careers of each apprentice unfold.

"The jewellery on display was amazing, and we’re proud to train such talented apprentices who will graduate and enter the industry with the skills to make stunning creations and build lifelong careers," he said.

“We look forward to seeing our jewellery apprentices embark on their careers, particularly as Australia’s Fashion, Industrial and Jewellery Design industry is projected to grow to 17,700 (or 28.4%) over the five years to November 2026*," concluded Mr Kinnane.

*Fashion, Industrial and Jewellery Designers Employment Outlook