Welcome Back to Design Principles and Elements

In this portion of the Jewelry Design Basics series, we began by exploring the 7 Key Elements of Design

In the next post, we are going to learn about Design Principles and how they are used in conjunction with one another and these elements.

The principles and elements of design work together to create something that is aesthetically pleasing and optimizes the user experience

Let’s start by defining the design principles. 

The principles of design describe the ways that we, as artists, use the key elements of design in our design work and creative process. 
  1. Line
  2. Shape/Form
  3. Size/Scale
  4. Space
  5. Color
  6. Value
  7. Texture

Design Principles for Jewelry Artists

There are numerous schools of thought on exactly how many design principles there actually are.

And in today’s world, graphic arts include a plethora of digital art forms, so the number of principles, varies even more. 

For purposes of this series, I am going to focus on the principles that I have found relate well with Jewelry Design. After much research, I have complied this list of the most commonly mentioned design principles used professionally by jewelry designers and authors. But feel free to explore more on your own. 

  • Contrast
  • Variety
  • Emphasis
  • Repetition/Pattern
  • Movement ~ Flow Rhythm Action
  • Balance/Proportion 
  • Harmony/Unity

Now that we have our list, let’s explore each one individually.


Contrast is simply defined as difference.

Difference between design elements such as color, value, size and texture,  can intensify the elements used. As a result, the elements can become more powerful.

In jewelry design, contrast refers to the arrangement of opposite elements and components.

Examples of contrast used to create visual interest, excitement and drama include

  • light vs. dark colors
  • rough vs. smooth textures
  • large vs. small shapes

Contrast is closely related to variety,

One of the easiest ways to add contrast is by adding a variety of elements. 

Alternately, one of the easiest ways to add variety is to use contrasting elements. 


Variety is the use of several elements of design to hold the viewer’s attention and
to guide the viewer’s eye through and around the work.

Variety works through juxtaposition (placement) and contrast and is the principle of design that adds more interest to our work. 

  • Placing different visual elements next to one another, is using variety.
  • Straight lines next to curvy lines add variety.
  • Organic shapes among geometric shapes add variety.
  • Bright colors next to dull colors add variety.

Variety does not always equal contrast. 

Some elements of variety are complimentary. 

Variations in this sample:

  • Colors
  • Values/Hues
  • Size
  • Shape

Contrasting elements:

  • Size 
  • Colors

Complimentary Elements

  • Shape 
  • Values/Hues


Emphasis is the art of making a specific element or area of a design stand out and draw attention to the eye. 
Emphasis refers to the focal points or areas of the interest in the jewelry design that catches the viewer’s attention.
The strongest focal point with the greatest visual weight is the dominant element of the work.
A jewelry artist can make one area stand out by contrasting it with other areas in size, shape, color or texture.
Subordination is defined as minimizing or toning down other compositional elements in order to bring attention to the focal point.
Emphasis can be achieved in design by placing elements in positions where the eye is naturally drawn, and by using other principles such as contrast, repetition, or movement.
In this sample, notice how the use contrast, repetition and movement draw the eye from left to right towards the large focal point. 


Pattern is an underlying structure that organizes surfaces or structures in a consistent, regular manner. 

Pattern can be described as a repeating unit of shape or form.

But it can also be thought of as the “skeleton” that organizes the parts of a composition.

Repetition focuses on the same object or objects being repeated.

Patterns are made up from different components which are then repeated in the same way throughout the design. 

In this sample of bead work.  the pattern consists of these repetitions:

  • Diagonal lines
  • Color
  • Shape 
  • Size

In this sample, notice that the pattern and repetition move the eye along the diagonal lines.

Movement ~ Flow Rhythm Action

Movement, not only refers to the path our eyes follow in a particular piece of jewelry but can also refer to how the piece moves and drapes etc. 

A jewelry artist can control the movement of the eye by arranging elements within a piece a certain way.

This “movement” is commonly achieved through the use of repetition, rhythm and action.

The perceived direction of the movement refers to the flow. In design theory, the flow of a piece usually follows that base line structure of the work. 

Rhythm is the result of repetition which leads the eye from one area to another in direct, flowing or staccato movement.

In this example, rhythm creates the perception of movement. This piece uses the repeated pattern of color shading (an ombre effect) to create movement. The eye is drawn to the center and then downward. 

Action brings life and activity to a piece of jewelry. The jewelry moves with the wearer. 

In this example, each drop bead is connected to the necklace using jump rings that allow the beads to move and sway with the movement of the person wearing it. 

This example also demonstrates perceived movement by use of the layering.

In both of the samples above, the movement flows downward  from each side of the elongated baseline structure. 

Balance and Proportion

In visual design, Balance refers to the distribution of the visual weight of objects, colors, texture, and space.

Balance makes a design feel stable.

In symmetrical balance, the elements used on each side of the design are equally proportionate and visually weighted. 

In asymmetrical balance, the visual weight the elements on each side usually differ in proportions but have equal visual weight to achieve balance. 

In radial balance, the elements are arranged around a central point and may be similar.

Off balance is another form used by designers to create visual interest and suggest motion. 

Off Balance

Unity and Harmony

Design theory describes unity as the way in which the different elements of a composition interact with one another. A unified layout is one that works as a whole rather than being identified as separate pieces.
Unity can be created by proximity, grouping like items together in a design and repeating a color, texture or element throughout a design.
Harmony can be described as sameness, the belonging of one thing with another. The repetition of design elements like color, texture, shape, and form is one of the easiest ways to achieve harmony to create a composition.
Harmony refers to how the different elements in a piece of jewelry relate to and complement each other.

Using the samples from above, the Beaded Button with Radial symmetry is a good example of unity. We see the item as a whole rather than the sum of it’s parts.


While the Asymmetrical Earrings are a good representation of Harmony in that the diverse elements complement each other well. 

We have covered a lot of material in this series, that will aid us, in our quest, to become more professional with our jewelry design practices. 

Now that we have a really strong foundation, it is time to start combining this new knowledge with our design tools and artistic media.

In order to get started, I will begin practicing and reviewing some of the techniques from the newest addition to my library and from my research.

Here is my affiliate link for the book:

Drawing for Jewelers: Master Class in Professional Design

Stay tuned for more in this series...

and as always.... thank you for stopping by.