A great piece of jewelry can elevate any outfit, mark a once-in-a-lifetime special occasion, or tell a story from generations ago.
None of this would be possible without jewelers—the artists behind these stunning accessories.
If you have a special place in your heart for jewelry and have ever considered becoming a jeweler yourself, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ll go over everything you need to know about working as a jeweler, how to get started, how much you can expect to make, and what kinds of jobs you could potentially get.
Let’s see if jewelry making is for you!
What Is a Jeweler?
A jeweler is anyone who designs, makes, or repairs jewelry. Just as there are many different types of jewelry—fashion, handmade, fine jewelry—there are different types of jewelers, and they vary greatly in their skill sets and the work they do.
What Is a Bench Jeweler?
The title “jeweler” is quite broad—it can refer to a fine jewelry artisan who crafts diamond rings, a small business owner who makes polymer clay earrings, a hobbyist who strings together glass beads to make a bracelet, and everyone in between.
Some jewelers can get started relatively quickly in the comfort of their own homes and with minimal experience, while others need access to specialized equipment, knowledge of precious stones and metals, and extensive training.
The term “bench jeweler” refers to the latter category and was created to help differentiate trained professionals from other types of jewelers. Bench jewelers have education and experience in gemology (working with precious stones) and metal arts (working with metals like gold and silver). They’re named after the specially equipped bench they use as their workspace.
You’ll often find bench jewelers in the backs of small fine jewelry stores, cutting and setting stones, resizing rings, or repairing broken jewelry.
Jeweler Job Description
So what does a jeweler do on a day-to-day basis? Again, this depends on the type of jewelry they make.
Jewelers who don’t work with precious stones and metals may be involved in tasks like:
Bench jewelers who craft or repair fine jewelry have more complex responsibilities, such as:
- Selecting and acquiring precious gems and metals
- Working with a gemologist to appraise gems
- Cutting, shaping, and polishing gems
- Cutting, shaping, and soldering metals
- Positioning and securing gems in place using setting tools
- Constructing molds and creating casting models
- Adjusting ring sizes
- Repairing broken fine jewelry
- Engraving and embossing designs onto jewelry pieces
- Appraising precious stones and metals
How to Become a Jeweler
If you’re not looking to become a bench jeweler, but simply want to make DIY jewelry as a hobby or a small business, you can get started in a matter of days. Simply acquire the necessary tools and materials, watch a few online tutorials, and start crafting.
Skillshare has countless classes that will teach you to make all kinds of jewelry, including wire wrapped and polymer clay pieces. If you’re a complete beginner, try the class Introduction to Jewelry Making: From Amateur to Artist or Jewelry Making: Introduction to Wire Wrapping for Beginners.
As you practice more and more, you’ll be able to tackle more complex projects, complete them faster, and try out new techniques.
How to Become a Bench Jeweler
The road to becoming a certified bench jeweler is much longer. In the past, aspiring jewelers would find an apprenticeship and learn the craft directly from a master jeweler. Today, though apprenticeship is still a vital part of the process, there are also post-secondary programs you can complete to learn how to be a jeweler.
The only real educational requirement for bench jewelers is a high school diploma. However, it is highly recommended that aspiring jewelers complete some sort of post-secondary program to learn the fundamentals.
Almost all jewelers attend a trade school where they learn and practice important skills like casting, welding, polishing, stone setting, and using jewelry design software. The program may only last six months to a year, but it’s an invaluable opportunity to work alongside skilled masters and learn from the best.
Some jewelers, especially those who’d like to eventually work in jewelry design or appraising, also pursue a jewelry design degree, a gemology degree, or a metal arts degree in addition to attending the trade school.
Whether or not you attend a trade school, you’ll definitely need to find an apprenticeship before you’re ready to work as a bench jeweler. Some masters will only accept apprentices who’ve had a bit of training, while others may accept you straight out of high school.
In either case, you’ll spend a significant amount of time alongside a master—often a few years—learning the trade, practicing your skills, and gaining experience.
As is the case with most creative careers, you’ll need to showcase your past work when applying for jobs. At every stage of your training and apprenticeship, be sure to take high-quality photographs of your work so you can demonstrate your skills to a potential future employer or client.
Professional Jeweler Certifications
Obtaining a professional certification is not a requirement, but it will make it much easier for you to get a job as a bench jeweler or build a client base as an independent jeweler.
In the United States, jewelers can get certified through the Jewelers of America trade association, which offers four levels of certification:
- Certified Bench Jeweler Technician (CBJT): For entry-level bench jewelers with at least one year of experience.
- Certified Bench Jeweler (CBJ): For bench jewelers with two or more years of experience.
- Certified Senior Bench Jeweler (CSBJ): For bench jewelers with advanced skills and knowledge.
- Certified Master Bench Jeweler (CMBJ): For bench jewelers who demonstrate mastery at all skill levels.
It may take a number of years (if not a decade) before you reach the highest level of certification. As you gain more work experience and develop your skills, keep getting certified at the appropriate level to make sure your role and responsibilities grow with you.
If you’re seriously considering a career as a jeweler, you may be wondering, “How much does a jeweler make?”
Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer to this question. The average jeweler salary in the United States in 2021 was $35,000 per year. However, your salary will largely depend on the type of jewelry you make, your level of experience, and the capacity in which you work.
Bench jewelers who are hired by small stores or production companies are typically paid by the hour and have the potential to earn commission on the pieces they sell.
Of course, an independent jeweler or a small business owner has the capacity to earn much more, but again, it depends on the value of the jewelry they sell. Someone who crafts fine jewelry made with precious metals and stones can charge a lot more than someone who makes fashion jewelry, though they also pay a lot more for the materials and spend more time on each piece.
If you’re considering starting your own jewelry business, your knowledge of effective business and marketing practices will also greatly affect how successful you will be.
Not only are there many different types of jewelers, but they can also work in different capacities. Here are a few of the main types of jobs you can get as a jeweler.
As we’ve already discussed, a bench jeweler works primarily with precious stones and metals. They need many years of training and usually start out in jewelry repair before they can craft new pieces from scratch.
Bench jewelers work in small jewelry stores or small tradeshops, providing products and services to stores that don’t have their own in-house workshops. A tradeshop typically has a team of a few bench jewelers, each with varying levels of experience and skills they specialize in or have a particular interest in. Even then, most experienced bench jewelers are skilled in just about every aspect of jewelry making and can confidently craft a piece from start to finish on their own.
Production jewelers typically work in larger companies that provide products for big-box retailers. Unlike bench workers, who possess a vast number of different skills, production jewelers usually work in a manufacturing setting and focus on just one aspect of jewelry making. For example, one person may be responsible for cutting gems before passing them onto someone else for setting.
Independent jewelers work on a freelance basis and essentially run their own business. This model can work for both fashion and fine jewelry makers.
Almost all jewelers who make handcrafted fashion jewelry are self-employed. Their startup costs aren’t particularly high because the materials they use aren’t very expensive. It’s also fairly easy to set up an online store, promote their creations on social media, or set up a booth at a local artisan market.
It’s also possible to work as an independent jeweler who crafts fine jewelry. These jewelers are typically very experienced and have likely worked as bench jewelers or designers in the past. They have saved enough capital to cover steep startup costs and may even hire a few employees to take care of administrative tasks or help fulfill orders.
Independent jewelers often work one-on-one with a client to design and craft a one-of-a-kind piece of fine jewelry. Because of their personalized approach, they usually charge more than what one would pay at a large retailer.
Jewelry designers draft and plan out the creation of jewelry pieces, often using jewelry design software. It’s perhaps the most creative aspect of jewelry making.
Nearly all jewelry designers start out as jewelry makers, since it’s essential for them to know how their designs will translate into finished pieces. They need to ensure that their vision is feasible and will result in a high-quality, durable, and wearable piece of jewelry.
Some jewelry designers, especially those who own their own business or work out of small shops, also play a large role in the crafting process. They may create and test their own prototypes before passing the rest of the production to another jeweler or make every piece entirely on their own.
Jewelry designers who work in large companies typically don’t do any crafting themselves, but do oversee the process and approve the finished products.
What Kind of Jewelry Will You Make?
Has this article inspired you to start your own career as a jeweler? Whether you want to make handcrafted fashion jewelry or train to be a bench jeweler, it’s never too late to start learning the art of jewelry making.
Before you know it, you’ll be creating beautiful pieces that will delight both you and the people who wear them.
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