Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers held about 32,700 jobs in 2012. About one-third were self-employed. Many work from home and sell their products at trade and craft shows on weekends.
Most wage and salary workers in this occupation are employed in jewelry stores, repair shops, and manufacturing plants.
The industries that employed the most jewelers and precious stone and metal workers in 2012 were as follows:
|Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores||33%|
|Jewelry and silverware manufacturing||21|
|Merchant wholesalers, durable goods||7|
|Personal and household goods repair and maintenance||2|
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers spend much of their time at a workbench, using different tools and chemicals. Computers are also becoming an increasingly important tool in the jewelry industry as computer-aided design (CAD) can save workers time and resources. Many tools, such as jeweler’s torches and lasers, must be handled carefully to avoid injury. Polishing processes such as chemical baths must also be performed with safety in mind. Sharp or pointed tools also may pose hazards.
In repair shops, jewelers usually work alone with little supervision. In retail stores, they may talk with customers about repairs, do custom design work, and even do some selling. 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.
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers have varied work schedules. Self-employed workers often decide their own hours. Many work weekends, showing and selling their products at trade and craft shows. Retail store workers might also work nonstandard hours because they must be available when consumers are not working, such as on holidays and weekends. About 1 in 5 worked part time in 2012.
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers have traditionally learned their trade through long-term on-the-job training. This method is still common, particularly in jewelry manufacturing, but a growing number of workers now learn their skills at trade schools.
Many trade schools offer training for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers. Course topics can include introduction to gems and metals, resizing, repair, and computer-aided design (CAD). Programs vary from 6 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.
In jewelry manufacturing plants, workers develop their skills through on-the-job training. The length of training required to become proficient depends on the difficulty of the specialty. Training usually focuses on casting, setting stones, making models, or engraving.
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 sales person in a retail jewelry store. Time spent in a store with a bench jeweler or gemologist can provide valuable experience.
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; some open their own business.
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers who want to open their own store should first establish themselves and build a reputation for their work within the jewelry trade. After they achieve sufficient sales, they can acquire the necessary inventory for a store from a jewelry wholesaler. Also, because the jewelry business is highly competitive, jewelers who plan to open their own store should have sales experience and knowledge of marketing and business management.
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.
The median annual wage for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers was $35,350 in May 2012. 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 $19,600, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,940.
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers have varied work schedules. Self-employed workers often decide their own hours. Many work weekends, showing and selling their products at trade and craft shows. Retail store workers might also work nonstandard hours because they must be available when consumers are not working, such as on holidays and weekends. Jewelers who work in retail stores may earn a commission for jewelry sold. About 1 in 5 worked part time in 2012.
Employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is projected to decline 10 percent from 2012 to 2022. Employment of these workers will decline because most jewelry manufacturing is now done outside of the country.
Traditional jewelry stores may continue to lose some of their customers to nontraditional sellers, such as department stores, but they will still maintain a large customer base. In addition, new jewelry sold by nontraditional retailers should create some demand for skilled jewelers who can size, clean, and repair jewelry. Custom jewelry has become more popular and may be a source of demand for jewelers over the coming decade.
Job opportunities should be available for bench jewelers who are skilled at design or repair. New jewelers will be needed to replace those who retire or who leave the occupation for other reasons. As master jewelers retire, shops lose expertise and knowledge that is difficult and costly to replace.
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 lower skilled manufacturing jobs that are susceptible to automation. Jewelry designers who wish to create their own jewelry lines should expect intense competition. Although demand for customized and boutique jewelry is strong, it is difficult for independent designers to establish themselves. Experience with computer-aided design (CAD) makes creating custom pieces of jewelry easier.
During economic downturns, demand for jewelry products and for 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.