Training, Certifications, Skills, Advancement: Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Jewelers usually learn their trade in vocational or technical schools, through distance-learning centers, or on the job. Colleges and art and design schools also offer programs that can lead to a Bachelor of Fine Arts or Master of Fine Arts degree 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 jewelry-making and -repairing skills, such as design, casting, stone setting, and polishing. Technical school courses also cover topics such as blueprint reading, math, and shop theory. To enter some technical school, 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. Because computer-aided design is used increasingly in the jewelry field, it is recommended that students—especially those interested in design and manufacturing—obtain training in CAD.

Various institutes offer courses and programs in gemology and jewelry manufacturing and design. Programs cover a wide range of topics, including the identification and grading of diamonds and gem stones.

Most employers feel that vocational- and technical-school graduates need several more years of 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, or 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 3 to 4 years, depending on the difficulty of the specialty. Training usually focuses on casting, stone setting, modelmaking, or engraving. In recent years, a growing number of technical schools have begun to offer training designed for jewelers working in manufacturing. As a result, those in manufacturing now prefer graduates of these programs because they are familiar with the production process, requiring less on-the-job training.

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 experience in selling, as well as knowledge of marketing and business management. Courses in these areas often are available from technical schools and community colleges.