A lot of people are fascinated with jewelry and jewelry making. Just the adornment of jewelry dates back to the beginning of time. Jewelry design has always been a creative adventure that captivates many into life long careers.
P.S. Read a great book about the daily life of a jeweler from Amazon here: Adventures at the Bench.
Whether it’s carving wax (like in this cool wax carving jewelry kit) or designing great pieces of art, or if it’s just in fixing and repairing jewelry, millions of people have the desire to become a jeweler, or to get involved in the jewelry business.
Jeweler or Jeweler?
Keep in mind, when I’m talking about becoming a jeweler, I’m not talking about owning a jewelry store, I’m talking about the guys in the back of the shop that actually create, repair, fix and design rings, pendants, earrings from scratch. The workers. The goldsmiths (similar to blacksmiths). The actual jewelers themselves.
So what is needed to become a jeweler?
What training is needed to become a goldsmith or wax carver? How do you even get into the field of jewelry making and jewelry design?
Many jewelers get into the field of jewelry creation… by having their friends and family drag them into it. For generations on end, goldsmiths (metal workers) and lapidarists (gemstone and diamond cutters) have handed down their knowledge, traits, talents, and passion to their family and friends. Most jewelers never strived to become a jeweler, it just happened that way. The best way to learn is being taught from the ground up. Talented jewelers can teach you everything there is to know about this wonderful profession.
Still, many do get their foot in the door with hands on training (plus a lot of perseverance and assertiveness). All great jewelers start out with the basics and work their way up the ladder.
Where does one begin?
You begin on the first rung. You begin with polishing. You see, most new jewelers are brought into the jewelry shop to polish jewelry (that’s putting the pieces on a buffing wheel). Once a jeweler has created or repaired a fine piece of jewelry, it gets professionally polished so it looks shiny and new. This is where a rookie steps in. They get this tedious polishing grunt work dumped on them. They’re stuck on the polisher for hours on end making the gold shine and the diamonds dance (you have to start somewhere).
From there on, it’s all watch, learn and practice. Usually ring sizings are the next step. Ring sizings for the most part are the same thing over and over again. You’re either sizing a ring up, or you’re sizing a ring down.
So what’s the first hard lesson a newbie learns?
The first hard lesson a new jeweler learns is how sharp those saw blades are. They quickly learn to pay constant attention to them. Those hand-held blades are extremely sharp and very unforgiving. Jewelers are always slipping with the blade, breaking the blade, or sawing into their fingers.
Ouch is right!
(Super glue comes in handy…) Hopefully the sight of your own blood and bones doesn’t make you squeamish.
Repairing jewelry is no easy work. Jeweler’s forceful hands and forearms become very strong from gripping, holding and manipulating jewelry eight hours a day. Their hands get contorted into horrible cramping, painful positions.
Not to mention how many times they accidentally stab themselves with a sharp pic, or burn themselves on the torch. It happens all the time. Most jewelers even burn their fingerprints off from grabbing scalding hot metal rings before they cool (sizzle sizzle). Does this sound fun yet?
The heat from the torch will make you hot. The head-visor eyewear will make your scalp itch and sweat (salt will drain down into your eyes). The hunched over position you have to get into will make your neck and back ache. Sounds like a pleasure, eh?
But is it worth it?
You bet! Usually jewelers will be jewelers for a lifetime. It all starts with a passion and it only gets better with time.
Usually professional jewelers who have years of training and experience will also get into the wonderful world of jewelry design and wax carving (see picture of a carved wax ring, ready for the mold and melting). Creating stunning pieces with gold and gemstones is what jewelry is all about. Jewelers can let their personality shine through. Every jeweler sees things differently. It’s all art. That’s why the jewelry industry thrives today. It’s unique.
What do jewelers actually create and design?
Jewelers today create endless beauty. Intricate, detailed rings and pendants and bracelets are in an abundance of shapes, sizes and colors. Big name brand designers have carved out their own little niches in the field. Many mix silver with 18kt yellow gold. Some work exclusively with platinum. Others sterling silver or steel. It’s all about the love of the trade and the ability to be free and create interesting adornment.
Who doesn’t want to play with diamonds all day?
New jewelers will quickly learn what temperature gold melts at. They’ll learn how hard it is to work with platinum. They’ll learn how to retip prongs and rebuild channel walls. They’ll learn what gemstones are brittle and chip easily. They’ll learn what gems can take heat, turn colors, burn and even crack under pressure.
The architecture of jewelry is fascinating.
Now there are classes you can take on becoming a jeweler or jewelry crafting. If you’re interested, check it out. Most community colleges have these types of classes and they’re great fun to participate in. You’ll quickly know if you have the drive or desire to become a goldsmith or jeweler.
I took a jewelry making class in high school, and I actually made some jewelry using the lost-wax process (like the wax ring in the picture). That was a very cool experience that taught me plenty about making rings and setting stones.
So let’s cut to the chase…
How much money does a jeweler make? (The question on everyone’s mind.) It all depends on your talent, skills and experience. Polishers usually start out anywhere from minimum wage to around fifteen bucks an hour. Good jewelers can make $15 to $20 an hour. And great jewelers that are very talented and have been in the business for decades, can make up to $20+ an hour or more.
It’s just like any profession. The more you put into it, the more you get back.
I’d advise you to buy some books on the trade.
Do some reading.
Visit some jewelry stores and talk to the real jewelers behind the scenes. Ask them questions. You can also buy kits on jewelry making that can help you decide if jewelry is the right career path for you.
You never know. Next time you hear someone say “I’d like to custom design my own ring” you can look at them, smile, and say “I can do that!“