Job Descriptions, Definitions Roles, Responsibility: Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers
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; and repair or adjust rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and other jewelry. 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 using specialized tools, and polishers bring a finished luster to the final product.
In small retail stores or repair shops, jewelers may be involved in all aspects of the work. Jewelers who own or manage stores or shops also hire and train employees; order, market, and sell merchandise; and perform other managerial duties.
Jewelers typically do the handiwork required to produce a piece of jewelry, while gemologists study the quality, characteristics, and value of gem stones. Gemologists usually sell jewelry and provide appraisal services. A few gemologists are employed by insurance companies that offer their own appraisal services for those customers who wish to insure certain pieces of jewelry. Many jewelers also study gemology in order to become familiar with the physical properties of the gem stones with which they work.
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 the jewelry.
Some manufacturing firms use computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) to facilitate product design and automate some steps in the mold- 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 wax-like 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 different 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 to the expense of a customized piece of jewelry.