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Nature of the Work
* Over one-third of all jewelers were self-employed; many operated their own store or repair shop, and some specialized in designing and creating custom jewelry.
* Slightly over half of all salaried jewelers worked in retail establishments, while 33 percent were employed in manufacturing plants.
* Employment is expected to decline slightly, further limiting the number of available jobs in this small occupation.
Jewelers design, make, repair, and adjust rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and other jewelry. Using a variety of common and specialized handtools, and increasingly, computers, they mold and shape metal and set gemstones.
Jewelers usually specialize in one or more areas of the jewelry fielddesign, 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 repair work includes enlarging or reducing ring sizes, 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 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 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. In larger manufacturing establishments, jewelers may be required to perform several tasks as new manufacturing processes make their way through the industry.
Technology, in the form of various computerized systems, is beginning to affect the jewelry industry. 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.
While the work of jewelers is not physically strenuous, there is a lot of work with detail and intricate designs that may be tiring to some. In manufacturing and repair shops, 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 because applications such as 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, jewelers 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 32,000 jobs in 1996. Over one-third of all jewelers were self-employed; many operated their own store or repair shop, and some specialized in designing and creating custom jewelry.
Slightly over 50 percent of all salaried jewelers worked in retail establishments, while 33 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 Rhode Island and New York.
Jewelers' skills usually are learned in technical schools, through correspondence courses, or informally on the job. Colleges and art schools also offer programs that 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. Some aspiring jewelers begin working as clerks in department stores, and transfer to jobs in jewelry shops or manufacturing firms after gaining experience.
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 including 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 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 lasts 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, though, those in manufacturing now 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. Because 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 decline slightly through the year 2006. Jewelers have a relatively strong attachment to their occupationreflecting 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.
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.
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.
Within manufacturing, increasing automation will adversely affect employment of low-skilled occupations, such as assembler and polisher. Automation will have a lesser impact on more creative, highly skilled positions, such as mold and model maker. 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 steadily increasing as manufacturers become more competitive in foreign markets. However, these same agreements have allowed imports from foreign manufacturers to increase as well.
The demand for jewelry is largely affected by the amount of disposable income people have. Therefore, the increasing number of affluent individuals, working women, double-income households, and fashion conscious men are expected to keep jewelry sales strong.
According to the Jewelers' Circular-Keystone annual salary survey, the median salary of jewelry repair workers in retail stores was between $30,200 and $32,100 in 1995. Depending on the employer, jewelers may receive commissions on what they sell, or bonuses for outstanding work. According to the Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America, the median average hourly wage of jewelers in companies with more than 10 employees was $12.63 in 1996. 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, 5345 Armada Dr., Carlsbad, CA 92008. Homepage: http://www.gia.org
General career information is available from:
Jewelers of America, 1185 Avenue of the Americas, 30th Floor, New York, NY 10036.
Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America, 1 State St., 6th Floor, Providence, RI 02908-5035. Homepage: http://mjsa.polygon.net
To receive a list of technical schools accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology which have programs in jewelry design, contact:
Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology, 2101 Wilson Blvd., Suite 302, Arlington, VA 22201.
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