n early 2020, First Quantum Minerals – through its Kansanshi Foundation – began funding a new training centre to provide women with jewellery-making skills, giving them an opportunity to become self-reliant. Adding value to copper from Kansanshi’s Solwezi-based mine was another of the project’s goals. It was named Nsanshi Art.

What started as an idea has become a fully-fledged workshop that’s turning out highly-skilled young graduates who have been employed by jewellery retailers where – thanks to the quality of their training – they’re capable of working in metals other than copper, including gold and silver. Two graduates have taken up full-time roles at Nsanshi Art as jewellery designers and manufacturers – while also helping to train the next batch of apprentices.

So, what skills are these women gaining during their time at Nsanshi Art?

An apprentice’s journey

Learning how to use a jeweller’s saw is one of the first steps in an apprentice’s journey, and it’s considered one of the foundational skills in jewellery-making. “It’s not like a saw you might imagine, like for sawing wood,” says Michele Scholtz, a skilled goldsmith and jewellery designer, and Nsanshi Art’s head trainer. “A jeweller’s saw is only about 1mm thick; it’s not about strength, it’s about technique.”

Perthister Mulambisha, who was part of Nsanshi Art’s first cohort, says that having a “patient and understanding” trainer was central to her progress as a jewellery maker. “Michele taught me things that I never in my entire life imagined I’d be able to make! I’ve learned to make enough different things in two months that could have been tackled in a year.”

One of the students in Nsanshi Art's first cohort working with a jeweller’s saw
Perthister Mulambisha working with a jeweller’s saw

“When I joined Nsanshi Art I didn’t trust whether I’d be able to make jewellery, and I was somehow scared,” said Gracious Kazhila, who was only 19 when she joined the first training cohort. “But after a couple of weeks of training, I was told to make a spoon, and I was so impressed to see this marvellous thing being made with my own hands!”

Gracious Kazhila removing a copper piece from an 850 degree oven
Confidence – and other key skills

Naturally, confidence is something that every apprentice needs to gain – especially when it comes to working with extremely high temperatures.

Even Lucy Kashipo – one of the two graduates who now works at Nsanshi Art and helps the newer students to internalise stringent guidelines for keeping the workplace safe – was intimidated by equipment like blowtorches and melting pots when she started the program in 2020. “At first, I wanted to give up because I thought I couldn’t do this job. Michele advised us to keep on trying, and to keep on working with those machines so that we could get used to them. Now, I’m also able to teach the new ladies the things that Michele taught me.”

Lucy Kashipo modelling some of her creations in front of a selection of Nsanshi Art's products
Lucy Kashipo modelling some of her creations in front of a selection of Nsanshi Art’s products

All the copper used in the workshop comes from Kansanshi’s smelter, and arrives at the workshop as offcuts and odd pieces. “We put these in the furnace and convert them into copper bars,” explains Michele. “From there, we work the bars into flat or round pieces, or wire – depending on what we’re making. We design the piece, decide what material you need, and then work it through the roller.” 

Each item that the apprentices are taught to make builds on a skill they’ve just learned. Making spoons, for instance, teaches foundational skills like filing and handling pliers.

“I’m happy to be a member of Nsanshi Art,” said twenty-something Venna Mukwala, adding: “I didn’t know anything when I started training and in just two months I learned how to make spoons, bangles, and rings.”

Making spoons teaches foundational skills like filing and handling pliers

Learning to set stones – like the cubic zirconias in these intricate earrings – is another skill that Nsanshi Art’s apprentices gain. 

Intricate handmade copper earrings with cubic zirconia stones

They learn how to sand using a special sanding disk called a Moore’s disk. Below, it’s being used in combination with a machine called a flexible shaft that’s designed to assist with drilling, cutting, carving, and polishing jewellery. 

Sanding with a moore using the flexible shaft

Below, a flexible shaft is being used in combination with a diamond bur to remove solder (or, small pieces of alloyed metal that are melted in order to fuse two other pieces of metal). 

Removing solder with a diamond bur using a flexible shaft
Delicate strength

Since the days before Nsanshi Art moved into a dedicated work space, it’s grown into a fully-fledged studio and workshop with equipment for manufacturing products that extend far beyond everyday copper items and jewellery – including everything from belt buckles to royal sceptres.

A state-of-the art laser cutter is among the biggest investments in giving these women the opportunity to acquire competitive skills. This machine can cut any metal and do very fine engraving, down to a few microns. The students are all trained to use the software required to operate a laser cutter, which will eventually be another skill for them to add to their tool kit.

The quality of some of the pieces that Nsanshi Art’s second cohort of apprentices recently submitted for their first examination – including the collection below – is quite remarkable, and shows that they’re well on their way to making careers in this field after graduating, if they choose to.

One of the pieces that a Nsanshi Art student submitted for their first examination
The work submitted by a student for their first examination
Skills for all seasons

Nsanshi’s students are also offered both financial and computer literacy classes, via the Kansanshi Foundation.

The reason? FQM Kansanshi’s goal is to go beyond equipping these students with jewellery design and manufacturing skills. The company hopes to empower these young Zambians to develop money management skills too, so they know how to plan financially, save and invest money, and make informed decisions about debt and credit.

Financial know-how will also be essential if running a business is in their future. Indeed, introducing students to entrepreneurship and financial opportunities so that they can obtain financial independence and stability at a young age is another of the program’s aims.

Nsanshi Art students attend a financial literacy lecture
Entrepreneurial ambitions 

Some of the young women who joined Nsanshi Art’s first 24-month apprenticeship program set their sights high from the beginning. “When I return home [after the apprenticeship] I plan to buy my own copper and start my own jewellery business,” Lucy Kashipo said, just three months in. And that dream is still alive. Today, she’s working at Nsanshi Art to gain all the experience she can, and opening a workshop of her own with her sister is her ultimate goal.

With her can-do attitude and skills like these under her belt, Lucy’s time at Nsanshi Art has set her up for success.


Keep a look out for the next story in our series on skills development, in which we meet some of the graduates from the FQM-supported Kwambula Skills Training Centre, where artisanal skills such as welding and metal fabrication are equipping Zambians for work in the mining sector.

Look out for it later this month on our website and social media platforms, or email info@miningforzambia.com to receive a message the minute it’s published.

See also: Copper’s new cycle: from women to the world




  1. It is so interesting and so wonderful to our community.Now our community will grow big and big.And it is also job creation.

    • Thanks to everyone who shared their enthusiasm for Nsanshi Art on this article. For those who expressed interest in applying for the training program, we’d suggest contacting the organisers of the program via Nsanshi Art’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NsanshiArt/. Alternatively, please feel free to email info [at] miningforzambia.com and we’ll connect you directly.

  2. This is wonderful and amazing, am happy that there’s such development in Zambia, such things like this is what we need in Zambia, and will see that Zambia will develop in no time. Congratulations to the FQM for bringing such development in Zambia and for empowering woman in this. I has a woman am happy and am happy that they’re women who are indulging them selves in such development. Am looking forward to be one of the learners if they will be another opportunity. THANK YOU for the FQM you have done a great job thanks once again.