|Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|
Jewelers make, repair, and adjust rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and other jewelry. Using drills, pliers, jeweler's soldering torches, saws, jeweler's lathes, and a variety of other handtools, they mold and shape metal and set gemstones. Jewelers also may use chemicals and polishing compounds, such as flux for soldering and tripoli and rouge for finishing.
Jewelers usually specialize in one or more areas of the jewelry fieldbuying, design, gem cutting, repair, sales, or appraisal. In small retail or repair shops, they may be involved in all aspects of the work. Regardless of the type of establishment or work setting, however, their work requires a high degree of skill and attention to detail. Those working in retail jewelry stores, in addition to their primary responsibility to sell jewelry, may spend some time repairing or adjusting it. In other cases, retailers send jewelry to specialized jewelry repair shops. Typical work includes enlarging or reducing rings, resetting stones, and replacing broken clasps and mountings. Some jewelers also 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 are then soldered together, and the jeweler may mount a diamond or other gem or may engrave a design into the metal.
Jewelers who own or manage stores or shops hire and train employees; order, market, and sell merchandise; and perform other managerial duties. In manufacturing, jewelers usually specialize in a single operation. Some may make models or tools for the jewelry that is to be produced. Others do finishing work, such as setting stones, polishing, or engraving. A growing number of jewelers use lasers for cutting and improving the quality of stones.
Technology has not yet greatly affected the jewelry industry. However, some manufacturing firms use CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and manufacturing) to facilitate product design and automate some steps in mold and model making. Use of such systems should increase in the future as they become more affordable for smaller companies. In retail stores, computers are used mainly for inventory control; some jewelers use computers to design and create customized pieces according to their customers' wishes. With the aid of computers, customers visualize different combinations of styles, cuts, shanks, sizes, and stones to create their own pieces.
Jewelers usually do most of their work seated in comfortable surroundings, and the trade involves few physical hazards. While the work is not physically strenuous, there is a lot of work with detail and intricate designs which may be tiring to some. Caution must be taken because the chemicals, sawing and drilling tools, and torches a jeweler uses can cause serious injury. In addition, doing delicate work on precious stones or metals while trying to satisfy demands for speed and quality from customers and employers can cause stress, and bending over a workbench for long periods can be uncomfortable. In the future, the use of computers may ease some of these conditions since applications like CAD/CAM greatly increase the speed and accuracy of the design and manufacturing process.
Because many of the materials with which they work are very valuable, those working in retail stores must observe strict security procedures. These may include locked doors that are only opened by a buzzer, barred windows, burglar alarms, and the presence of armed guards.
In repair shops, jewelers generally work alone with little supervision. In retail stores, on the other hand, they may talk with customers about repairs, perform custom design work, and even do some sales work.
Jewelers held about 30,000 jobs in 1994. About 35 percent of all jewelers were self-employed; many operated their own store or repair shop, and some specialized in designing and creating custom jewelry.
Nearly 55 percent of all salaried jewelers worked in retail establishments, while another 30 percent were employed in manufacturing plants. Although jewelry stores and repair shops can be found in every city and many small towns, most job opportunities are in larger metropolitan areas. Many jewelers employed in manufacturing work in New York, California, or Rhode Island.
Jewelers' skills usually are learned in technical schools, through correspondence courses, or informally on the job. Some aspiring jewelers begin working as clerks in department stores and transfer to jobs in jewelry shops or manufacturing firms after gaining experience. Colleges and art schools also offer programs which can lead to a bachelor's or master's degree 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 well-rounded jewelers with design, repair, and sales skills.
For those interested in working in a jewelry store or repair shop, technical schools or courses offered by local colleges are the best sources of training. In these programs, which vary in length from 6 months to 2 years, 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 like blueprint reading, math, and shop theory. Most employers feel that graduates need several more years of supervised on-the-job training to refine their repair skills and to 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 sample making, wax carving, or gemology. Many employers pay all or part of the cost of this additional training.
The Gemological Institute of America offers programs lasting about 6 months, and self-paced correspondence courses lasting several years, leading to a gemologist diploma and a jeweler diploma. These advanced programs cover a wide range of topics including appraisal, evaluating diamonds and colored stones, identifying gems, and designing jewelry.
In jewelry manufacturing plants, workers traditionally have developed their skills through apprenticeships and informal on-the-job training. This training may last 3 to 4 years, depending on the difficulty of the specialty. Training usually focuses on casting, stonesetting, modelmaking, or engraving. In recent years, a growing number of technical schools and colleges have begun to offer training designed for jewelers working in manufacturing. Like employers in retail trade, those in manufacturing prefer graduates of these programs because they are familiar with the production process, allowing less in-house training.
To enter most technical school or college programs, a high school diploma or its equivalent is required. Courses in art, math, mechanical drawing, and chemistry are useful. Since computer-aided design is increasingly used in the jewelry field, it is recommended that studentsespecially those interested in design and manufacturingobtain training in CAD.
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 someone of good character because jewelers work with very valuable materials.
Advancement opportunities are limited and greatly dependent 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 salaried managers; some open their own businesses.
For those interested in starting their own business, a substantial financial investment is needed to 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.
Employment of jewelers is expected to increase more slowly than the average for all occupations through the year 2005. Traditionally, job opportunities for jewelers depended largely on jewelry sales and on demand for jewelry repair services. Now, however, non-traditional jewelry marketers such as discount stores, mail-order catalogue companies, and television shopping networks have limited the growth of sales made by traditional jewelers, limiting job opportunities because these types of establishments require few if any jewelers.
Because the demand for jewelry is largely affected by the amount of disposable income people have, the increasing number of affluent individuals, working women, double-income households, and fashion conscious men are expected to keep jewelry sales strong.
Jewelers have a relatively strong attachment to their occupationsreflecting the large proportion of self-employed workers. Nevertheless, job openings will largely result from the need to replace jewelers who transfer to other occupations, retire, or leave the labor force for other reasons.
Opportunities in jewelry stores and repair shops will be best for graduates from jeweler or gemologist training programs. Demand for repair workers will be strong because maintaining and repairing jewelry is an ongoing process, even during economic slowdowns. In fact, demand for jewelry repair may increase during recessions as people repair or restore existing pieces rather than purchase new ones.
Increasing automation within jewelry manufacturing will adversely affect employment of low-skilled occupations, like assembler and polisher. Automation will have a lesser impact on more creative, highly skilled positions, such as mold and model maker. Because of recent international trade agreements, exports are steadily increasing as manufacturers become more competitive in foreign markets.
Median weekly earning of jewelers in all industries were $400 in 1994. Depending on the employer, jewelers may receive commissions on what they sell or bonuses for outstanding work. According to the Jewelers' Circular-Keystone annual salary survey, the median salary of jewelers in retail stores was approximately $25,700 in 1993, while the median annual salary of jewelry repair workers was $26,200.
For those in manufacturing, earnings of experienced, unionized jewelry workers averaged between $12 and $17 an hour in 1994, according to the limited information available. According to the Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America, the median average hourly wage of jewelers in companies with more than 10 employees was $11.64 in 1994. Beginners in jewelry factories generally start at considerably less than experienced workers; as they become more proficient, they receive periodic raises.
Most jewelers enjoy a variety of fringe benefits including reimbursement from their employers for work-related courses and discounts on jewelry purchases.
Other skilled workers who do similar jobs include polishers, dental laboratory technicians, gemcutters, hand engravers, and watch makers and repairers.
Information on job opportunities and training programs for jewelers is available from:
Gemological Institute of America, 1660 Stewart St., Santa Monica, CA 90404.
General career information is available from:
Jewelers of America, 1185 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036.
Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America, 1 State St., 6th Floor, Providence, RI 02908-5035.
To receive a list of technical schools accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology that have programs in jewelry design, contact:
Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology, 2101 Wilson Blvd., Suite 302, Arlington, VA 22201.
|Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|