Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers design, construct, adjust, repair, appraise and sell jewelry.

Duties

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers typically do the following:

  • Design and create jewelry from precious metals and stones
  • Examine and grade diamonds and other gems
  • Clean and polish jewelry using polishing wheels and chemical baths
  • Repair jewelry by replacing broken clasps, altering ring sizes, or resetting stones
  • Smooth joints and rough spots and polish smoothed areas
  • Compute the costs of labor and material for new pieces and repairs
  • Model new pieces with carved wax or computer-aided design, and then cast them in metal
  • Shape metal to hold the gems in pieces of jewelry
  • Solder pieces together and insert stones

Technology is helping to produce high-quality jewelry at a reduced cost and in less time than traditional methods allow. For example, lasers are often used for cutting and improving the quality of stones, for intricate engraving or design work, and for inscribing personal messages on jewelry. Jewelers also use lasers to weld metals together without seams or blemishes, improving the quality and appearance of jewelry.

Some manufacturing firms use computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) to make product design easier and to automate some steps. With CAD, jewelers can create a model of a piece of jewelry on a computer and then view the effect of changing different aspects—for example, the design, the stone, or the setting—before cutting a stone or taking other costly steps. With CAM, they can then create a mold of the piece, which makes producing many copies easy.

Some jewelers also use CAD software to design custom jewelry. They let the customer review the design on a computer and see the effect of changes, so that the customer is satisfied before committing to the expense of a customized piece of jewelry.

The following are examples of types of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers:

Bench jewelers, also known as metalsmiths, silversmiths, goldsmiths, and platinumsmiths, are the most common type of jewelers. They possess a wide array of skills. They usually do tasks ranging from simple jewelry cleaning and repair to making molds and pieces from scratch. Some specialize in particular tasks such as repairs, hand engraving, stringing, wax carving/model making, enameling, stone cutting, soldering, stone setting, and hand building.

Gemologists analyze, describe, and certify the quality and characteristics of gemstones. After using microscopes, computerized tools, and other grading instruments to examine gemstones or finished pieces of jewelry, they write reports certifying that the items are of a particular quality. Most gemologists have completed the Graduate Gemologist program through the Gemological Institute of America.

Jewelry appraisers carefully examine jewelry to determine its value and then write appraisal documents. They determine value by researching the jewelry market and by using reference books, auction catalogs, price lists, and the Internet. They may work for jewelry stores, appraisal firms, auction houses, pawnbrokers, or insurance companies. Many gemologists also become appraisers.

Jewelry designers create design concepts and manage the prototype and model-making process.

Production jewelers fabricate and assemble pieces in a manufacturing setting and typically work on one aspect of the manufacturing process.

Work Environment

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers held about 38,100 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers were as follows:

Self-employed workers 32%
Clothing and clothing accessories stores                                32
Jewelry and silverware manufacturing 19

Some jewelers and precious stone and metal workers work from home and sell their products at trade and craft shows. Online sales are also a growing source of sales for jewelers.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers spend much of their time sitting at a workbench or standing at a polishing station. Computer-aided design (CAD) is also an important tool in the jewelry industry.

There is exposure to machines, fumes, and toxic or caustic chemicals, and risk of radiation. Many tools, such as jeweler’s torches and lasers, must be handled carefully to avoid injury. Polishing processes such as chemical baths also must be performed in a safe manner.

Self-employed workers usually work at home in their workshop or studio. In retail stores, jewelers may talk with customers about repairs, perform custom design work, and sell items to customers. Because many of their materials are valuable, jewelers must follow security procedures, including making use of burglar alarms and, in larger jewelry stores, working in the presence of security guards.

Work Schedules

Most jewelers and precious stone and metal workers work full time.

Many self-employed workers show and sell their products at trade and craft shows during weekends. Retail store workers might also work nonstandard hours because they must be available when customers are not working, such as on holidays and weekends.

Education and Training

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers typically need a high school diploma to enter the occupation, and they learn the skills of the trade through on-the-job training.

Education

Although most jewelers and precious stone and metal workers have a high school diploma, many trade schools offer courses for workers who seek additional education. Course topics can include introduction to gems and metals, resizing, repair, and computer-aided design (CAD). Programs vary from 3 months to 1 year, and many teach students how to design, cast, set, and polish jewelry and gems, as well as how to use and care for a jeweler’s tools and equipment. Graduates of these programs may be more attractive to employers because they require less on-the-job training. Many gemologists graduate from the Gemological Institute of America. Trade programs usually require applicants to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training

Many jewelers learn and develop their skills on the job. The length of training required to become proficient depends on the difficulty of the specialty, but often lasts at least a year. Training usually focuses on casting, setting stones, making models, or engraving.

Other Experience

Some workers gain their skills through related work experience. This may include working alongside a bench jeweler or gemologist while performing the duties of a salesperson in a retail jewelry store. Time spent in a store with a bench jeweler or gemologist can provide valuable experience.

Advancement

In manufacturing, some jewelers advance to supervisory jobs, such as master jeweler or head jeweler. Jewelers who work in jewelry stores or repair shops may become managers.

Personality and Interests

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers typically have an interest in the Building and Creating interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Creating interest which might fit with a career as a jeweler and precious stone and metal worker, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers should also possess the following specific qualities:

Artistic ability. Jewelers must have the ability to create designs that are unique and beautiful.

Detail oriented. Creating designs requires concentration and patience. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers must give attention to large and small details on the pieces they make.

Fashion sense. Jewelry designers must know what is stylish and attractive because that is what people are likely to buy.

Finger dexterity. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers must precisely move their fingers in order to grasp, manipulate, and assemble very small objects.

Interpersonal skills. Whether selling products in stores or at craft shows, jewelers and precious stone and metal workers interact with customers.

Visualization skills. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers must imagine how something might look after its shape is altered or when its parts are rearranged.

Pay

The median annual wage for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers was $40,870 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,520, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,420.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Clothing and clothing accessories stores                            $44,670
Jewelry and silverware manufacturing 35,070

Jewelers who work in retail stores may earn commissions for jewelry sold.

Most jewelers and precious stone and metal workers work full time.

Many self-employed workers show and sell their products at trade and craft shows during weekends. Retail store workers might also work nonstandard hours because they must be available when customers are not working, such as on holidays and weekends.

Job Outlook

Employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is projected to decline 7 percent from 2018 to 2028. This is largely because of projected employment declines in jewelry and silverware manufacturing, which are expected due to anticipated increasing imports of jewelry and rising productivity. Additionally, traditional jewelry stores may continue to lose some of their customers to nontraditional sellers, such as department stores and online retailers, and this shift is also likely to result in declining employment levels for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers.

Job Prospects

Some jewelers will be needed to replace those who retire or who leave the occupation for other reasons.

Job opportunities in jewelry stores and repair shops should be best for those who have graduated from a trade school or training program and have related work experience.

Strong competition is expected for mass manufacturing jobs and for jewelry designers who wish to create their own jewelry lines. Although demand for customized and boutique jewelry is strong, it is often difficult for independent designers to establish themselves in the market. Experience with computer-aided design (CAD) makes creating custom pieces of jewelry easier.

During economic downturns, demand for jewelry products and jewelers usually decreases. However, demand for repair workers should remain strong even during economic slowdowns because maintaining and repairing jewelry is cheaper than buying new jewelry.

For More Information

For more information about jewelers, precious stone and metal workers, and gemologists, including job opportunities and training programs, visit

Gemological Institute of America Inc.

Jewelers of America

Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America

 

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FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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