Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers design, construct, adjust, repair, appraise and sell jewelry.
What they do
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.
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.
How to become a Jeweler and/or Precious Stone and Metal Worker
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is projected to decline 10 percent from 2019 to 2029. 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.
Similar Job Titles
Bench Jeweler, Earrings Fabricator, Gemologist, Goldsmith, Jeweler, Diamond Cutter, Diamond Grader, Diamond Picker, Diamond Polisher, Diamond Sawer, Diamond Setter, Facetor, Gemologist, Lapidarist, Quality Control Specialist, Artist, Bench Mechanic, Caster, Fabricator, Goldsmith, Pewterer, Platinum Smith, Restoration Silversmith, Silversmith
Musical Instrument Repairer and Tuner, Tailor/Dressmaker/Custom Sewer, Gem and Diamond Worker, Precious Metal Worker, Potter-Manufacturing
Gem and Diamond Worker:
Musical Instrument Repairer and Tuner, Prepress Technician and Worker, Tailor/Dressmaker/Custom Sewer, Jeweler, Precious Metal Worker
Previous Metal Worker:
Musical Instrument Repairer and Tuner, Watch Repairer, Model Maker-Metal and Plastic, Jeweler, Gem and Diamond Worker
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Gem Society
- American Gem Trade Association
- Gemological Institute of America
- American Craft Council
Magazines and Publications
Whether it’s creating a diamond wedding ring or making a one-of-a-kind necklace, jewelers create wearable art. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers design and make jewelry, and often sell it as well. They also repair older jewelry, and may appraise the value of both gems and jewelry. Precious metal workers use hand tools to shape gold, silver, and other metals. Gemologists use microscopes and computerized tools to examine gemstones or finished pieces and certify their quality. Jewelry appraisers research the jewelry market using reference books, auction catalogs, price lists, and the Internet to determine the value of jewelry, and then write appraisal documents. They may work for jewelry stores, appraisal firms, auction houses, pawnbrokers, or insurance companies. Bench jewelers usually work for jewelry retailers, doing tasks ranging from simple jewelry cleaning and repair to making molds and pieces from scratch. Many jewelers and precious stone and metal workers are self-employed… selling products at trade and craft shows or online. Others work in jewelry stores, repair shops, and manufacturing facilities. Most have varied schedules, and spend much of their time at a workbench. Although high school education and on-the-job training are typical paths to enter these fields, taking classes at a technical school may improve employment prospects.