Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers
- About 40 percent of all jewelers are self-employed.
- Jewelers usually learn their trade in vocational or technical
schools, through distance-learning centers, or on the job.
- Prospects for new jewelers should be excellent; many employers
have difficulty finding and retaining workers with the right
skills to replace those who retire or who leave the occupation
for other reasons.
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers use a variety of
common and specialized handtools and equipment to design and manufacture
new pieces of jewelry; cut, set, and polish gem stones; repair
or adjust rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and other jewelry;
and appraise jewelry, precious metals, and gems. Jewelers usually
specialize in one or more of these areas and may work for large
jewelry manufacturing firms, for small retail jewelry shops, or
as owners of their own businesses. Regardless of the type of work
done or the work setting, jewelers require a high degree of skill,
precision, and attention to detail.
Some jewelers design or make their own jewelry. Following their
own designs or those created by designers or customers, they begin
by shaping the metal or by carving wax to make a model for casting
the metal. The individual parts then are soldered together, and
the jeweler may mount a diamond or other gem or may engrave a
design into the metal. Others do finishing work, such as setting
stones, polishing, or engraving. Typical repair work includes
enlarging or reducing ring sizes, resetting stones, and replacing
broken clasps and mountings.
In larger manufacturing businesses, jewelers usually specialize
in a single operation. Mold and model makers create models
or tools for the jewelry that is to be produced. Assemblers
solder or fuse jewelry and their parts; they also may set
stones. Engravers etch designs into the metal with specialized
tools, and polishers bring a finished luster to the final
Jewelers typically do the handiwork required to produce a piece
of jewelry, while gemologists and laboratory graders analyze,
describe, and certify the quality and characteristics of gem stones.
Gemologists may work in gemological laboratories or as quality
control experts for retailers, importers, or manufacturers. After
using microscopes, computerized tools, and other grading instruments
to examine gem stones or finished pieces of jewelry, they write
reports certifying that the items are of a particular quality.
Many jewelers also study gemology in order to become familiar
with the physical properties of the gem stones with which they
Jewelry appraisers carefully examine jewerly to determine
its value, after which they write appraisal documents. They determine
the value of a piece by researching the jewelry market, using
reference books, auction catalogs, price lists, and the Internet.
They may work for jewelry stores, appraisal firms, auction houses,
pawnbrokers, or insurance companies. Many gemologists also become
In small retail stores or repair shops, jewelers and appraisers
may be involved in all aspects of the work. Those who own or manage
stores or shops also hire and train employees; order, market,
and sell merchandise; and perform other managerial duties.
New technology is helping to produce jewelry of higher quality
at a reduced cost and in a shorter amount of time. For example,
lasers are often used for cutting and improving the quality of
stones, for applying intricate engraving or design work, and for
inscribing personal messages or identification on jewelry. Jewelers
also use lasers to weld metals together in milliseconds with no
seams or blemishes, improving the quality and appearance of jewelry.
Some manufacturing firms use computer-aided design and manufacturing
(CAD/CAM) to facilitate product design and automate some steps
in the moldmaking and modelmaking process. CAD allows jewelers
to create a virtual-reality model of a piece of jewelry. Using
CAD, jewelers can modify the design, change the stone, or try
a different setting and see the changes on a computer screen before
cutting a stone or performing other costly steps. Once they are
satisfied with the model, CAM produces it in a waxlike or other
material. After the mold of the model is made, it is easier for
manufacturing firms to produce numerous copies of a given piece
of jewelry, which are then distributed to retail establishments
across the country. Similar techniques may be used in the retail
setting, allowing individual customers to review their jewelry
designs with the jeweler and make modifications before committing
themselves to the expense of a customized piece of jewelry.
A jeweler’s work involves a great deal of concentration and attention
to detail. Working on precious stones and metals while trying
to satisfy customers’ and employers’ demands for speed and quality
can cause fatigue or stress. However, the use of more ergonomically
correct jewelers’ benches has eliminated most of the strain and
discomfort caused by spending long periods bending over a workbench
in one position.
Lasers require both careful handling to avoid injury and steady
hands to direct precision tasks. In larger manufacturing plants
and some smaller repair shops, chemicals, sharp or pointed tools,
and jewelers’ torches pose safety threats and may cause injury
if proper care is not taken. Most dangerous chemicals, however,
have been replaced with synthetic, less toxic products to meet
In repair shops, jewelers usually work alone with little supervision.
In retail stores, they may talk with customers about repairs,
perform custom design work, and even do some selling. Because
many of their materials are valuable, jewelers must observe strict
security procedures, including working behind locked doors that
are opened only by a buzzer, working on the other side of barred
windows, making use of burglar alarms, and, in larger jewelry
establishments, working in the presence of armed guards.
|Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Jewelers usually learn their trade in vocational or technical
schools, through distance-learning centers, or on the job. Colleges
and art and design schools offer programs that can lead to the
degree of bachelor of fine arts, or master of fine arts, in jewelry
design. Formal training in the basic skills of the trade enhances
one’s employment and advancement opportunities. Many employers
prefer jewelers with design, repair, and sales skills.
For those interested in working in a jewelry store or repair
shop, vocational and technical training or courses offered by
public and private colleges are the best sources of training.
In these programs, which can vary in length from 6 months to 1
year, students learn the use and care of jewelers’ tools and machines
and basic jewelrymaking and jewelry-repairing skills, such as
designing, casting, and setting and polishing stones. Technical
school courses also cover topics such as blueprint reading, math,
and shop theory. To enter some technical school programs and most
college programs, a high school diploma or its equivalent is required.
However, some schools specializing in jewelry training do not
require graduation from high school. Computer-aided design is
being used increasingly in the jewelry field, and students—especially
those interested in design and manufacturing—may wish to obtain
training in CAD; however, most employers will provide such training.
Various institutes offer courses and programs in gemology. Programs
cover a wide range of topics, including the identification and
grading of diamonds and gem stones.
Most employers feel that vocational school and technical school
graduates need up to a year of additional supervised on-the-job
training or apprenticeship in order to refine their repair skills
and learn more about the operation of the store or shop. In addition,
some employers encourage workers to improve their skills by enrolling
in short-term technical school courses such as fabricating, jewelry
design, jewelry manufacturing, wax carving, and gemology. Employers
may pay all or part of the cost of this additional training.
In jewelry manufacturing plants, workers traditionally develop
their skills through informal apprenticeships and on-the-job training.
The apprenticeship or training period lasts up to 1 year, depending
on the difficulty of the specialty. Training usually focuses on
casting, setting stones, making models, or engraving. In recent
years, a growing number of technical schools have begun to offer
training designed for jewelers working in manufacturing. Employers
in manufacturing may prefer graduates of these programs because
they are familiar with the production process, requiring less
The precise and delicate nature of jewelry work requires finger
and hand dexterity, good hand-eye coordination, patience, and
concentration. Artistic ability and fashion consciousness are
major assets, because jewelry must be stylish and attractive.
Those who work in jewelry stores have frequent contact with customers
and should be neat, personable, and knowledgeable about the merchandise.
In addition, employers require workers of good character, because
jewelers work with valuable materials.
Advancement opportunities are limited and depend greatly on an
individual’s skill and initiative. In manufacturing, some jewelers
advance to supervisory jobs, such as master jeweler or head jeweler,
but for most, advancement takes the form of higher pay for doing
the same job. Jewelers who work in jewelry stores or repair shops
may become managers; some open their own businesses.
Those interested in starting their own business should first
establish themselves and build a reputation for their work within
the jewelry trade. Once they obtain sufficient credit from jewelry
suppliers and wholesalers, they can acquire the necessary inventory.
Also, because the jewelry business is highly competitive, jewelers
who plan to open their own store should have sales experience,
as well as knowledge of marketing and business management. Courses
in these areas often are available from technical schools and
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers held about 42,000
jobs in 2004. About 40 percent of these workers were self-employed;
many operated their own store or repair shop, and some specialized
in designing and creating custom jewelry.
About 1 out of 5 jobs for jewelers and precious stone and metal
workers were in other miscellaneous manufacturing, which includes
jewelry and silverware manufacturing. Another 3 out of 10 jobs
were in retail trade, primarily in jewelry, luggage, and leather
goods stores. A small number of jobs were with merchant wholesalers
of miscellaneous durable goods and in repair shops providing repair
and maintenance of personal and household goods. Although jewelry
stores and repair shops were found in every city and in many small
towns, most jobs were in larger metropolitan areas. In 2004, many
jewelers employed in manufacturing worked in Rhode Island, New
York, or California.
Employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is
expected to decline slightly through 2014. Employment opportunities,
however, should be excellent. New jewelers will be needed to replace
those who retire or who leave the occupation for other reasons.
When master jewelers retire, they take with them years of experience
that require substantial time and financial resources to replace.
Many employers have difficulty finding and retaining jewelers
with the right skills and the necessary knowledge. Some technological
advances have made jewelrymaking more efficient; however, many
tasks cannot be fully automated. Jewelry work is a labor-intensive
process that requires excellent handiwork.
The increasing numbers of affluent individuals, working women,
double-income households, and fashion-conscious men are expected
to keep jewelry sales strong. The population aged 45 and older,
which accounts for a major portion of jewelry sales, also is on
Nontraditional jewelry marketers, such as discount stores, mail-order
and catalogue companies, television shopping networks, and Internet
retailers, have expanded the number of buying options and increased
their sales volume. However, these establishments require fewer
sales staff, limiting employment opportunities for jewelers and
precious stone and metal workers who work mainly in sales. Because
such establishments enjoy increases in sales, however, they will
need highly skilled jewelers to make and repair the jewelry they
Opportunities in jewelry stores and repair shops will be best
for graduates from training programs for jewelers or gemologists.
Despite an increase in sales by nontraditional jewelry marketers,
traditional jewelers should not be affected greatly, because they
have the advantage of being able to build client relationships
based on trust. Many clients prefer to work directly with a jeweler,
to ensure that the product is of the highest quality and meets
their specifications. Many traditional jewelers expand their businesses
as clients recommend their services to friends and relatives.
The jewelry industry can be cyclical. During economic downturns,
demand for jewelry products and for jewelers tends to decrease.
However, demand for repair workers should remain strong even during
economic slowdowns, because maintaining and repairing jewelry
is an ongoing process. In fact, demand for jewelry repair may
increase during recessions, as people repair or restore existing
pieces rather than purchase new ones. Also, many nontraditional
vendors typically do not offer repair services.
Within manufacturing, increasing automation will adversely affect
employment of low-skilled occupations, such as assemblers and
polishers. Automation will have a lesser impact on more creative,
highly skilled positions, such as moldmakers and modelmakers.
Furthermore, small manufacturers, which typify the industry, will
have an increasingly difficult time competing with the larger
manufacturers when it comes to supplying large retailers.
Because of recent international trade agreements, exports are
increasing modestly as manufacturers become more competitive in
foreign markets. However, imports from foreign manufacturers are
increasing more rapidly than exports, due to these same agreements.
Imports compete mainly with mass-produced jewelry. Therefore,
employment in luxury and custom jewelry manufacturing is least
susceptible to decline caused by import competition.
Median annual earnings for jewelers and precious stone and metal
workers were $27,400 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned
between $20,510 and $37,280. The lowest 10 percent earned less
than $16,040, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $49,020.
In May 2004, median annual earnings in the industries employing
the largest numbers of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers
were $30,530 in jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores and
$23,590 in other miscellaneous manufacturing.
Most jewelers start out with a base salary, but once they become
more proficient, they may begin charging by the number of pieces
completed. Jewelers who work in retail stores may earn a commission
for each piece of jewelry sold. Many jewelers also enjoy a variety
of benefits, including reimbursement from their employers for
work-related courses and discounts on jewelry purchases.
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers do precision handwork.
Other skilled workers who do similar jobs include precision instrument
and equipment repairers; welding, soldering, and brazing workers;
and woodworkers. Some jewelers and precious stone and metal workers
create their own jewelry designs. Other occupations that require
visual arts abilities include artists and related workers, and
various designers—commercial and industrial, fashion, floral,
graphic, and interior. Finally, some jewelers and precious stone
and metal workers are involved in the buying and selling of stones,
metals, or finished pieces of jewelry. Similar occupations include
retail salespersons and sales representatives in wholesale trade.
|Sources of Additional Information
Information on job opportunities and training programs for jewelers
is available from:
- Gemological Institute of America, 5345 Armada Dr., Carlsbad,
CA 92008. Internet: http://www.gia.edu/
For information on the jewelry industry and on schools offering
jewelry-related programs and degrees by State, contact:
- Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America, 45 Royal
Little Dr., Providence, RI 02904.
To receive a list of accredited technical schools that have programs
in gemology, contact:
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology,
2101 Wilson Blvd., Suite 302, Arlington, VA 22201. Internet:
For more information about careers in the jewelry industry, including
different career paths, training options, and a list of schools,
of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition