Jobs Outlook: Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is expected to grow more slowly than the average through 2012. Employment opportunities, however, should be excellent, because jewelry sales are increasing. New jewelers also 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 the rise.

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 these marketers enjoy increases in sales, however, they will need highly skilled jewelers to make and repair the jewelry they sell.

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. Traditional jewelers 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 mold- 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.