Becoming a Jewelry Maker: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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Get the truth about a jewelry maker's salary, training requirements and career prospects. Read the job duties and see the pros and cons of becoming a jewelry maker.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Jewelry Maker

Although this field is expected to see a decline in the future, a career as a jewelry maker can be creative and rewarding if you enjoy fashion, gems and delicate handiwork. If you are still unsure about entering this field, read the pros and cons to help you make a decision.

Pros of a Becoming a Jewelry Maker
Some employers don't require you to have a college education*
Outlet to develop creative designs*
Technological advances in computer software allow for efficiency and lower production costs*
Self-employment may allow for flexible schedules*

Cons of Becoming a Jewelry Maker
Field is in a decline (ten percent decrease between 2012 and 2022)*
Demand for jewelry is reliant on the state of the economy*
Fierce competition in custom jewelry-making*
Some positions may be replaced by machines*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Information

Job Duties

As a jewelry maker, you can expect to handle precious metals and gemstones, decide gemstone layouts and ensure seamless designs. You may also be tasked with altering jewelry to adhere to customer specifications, selling designs and manipulating materials. Since jewelry production can be an expensive trade, computer-assisted design (CAD) software, cutting lasers and gemstone alternatives can help lower production costs. Since you are dealing with small materials, you may need to work with special jeweler magnifying glasses to assess gemstone clarity and purity. You may also need to be proficient at creating earrings, rings, necklaces and costume jewelry.

Career Prospects and Salary

According to the BLS, this field is expected to show a ten percent decline between 2012 and 2022. Much of this decline may be caused by outsourcing. The best opportunities may be found with department stores, repair services and nontraditional retailers. You can see the most competition in entry-level and custom jewelry-making positions. As of May 2014, the BLS estimated that workers in this field earned a median salary of $36,870.

Skills and Training Requirements

According to the BLS, two common ways to enter this field are by completing either an apprenticeship or trade school program. These options can usually take up to one year to complete. During these programs, you can learn to cast forms, design jewelry, polish materials, operate jeweler tools, select materials and repair damaged jewelry. You may also develop required skills by working in a jewelry store or completing an associate's degree program. To be successful in this field, you may need to be detail-oriented, dexterous, personable, fashionable and creative. The following general traits may be required by employers:

  • Strong organizational and multi-tasking skills
  • Ability to work well alone and with others
  • Exceptional leadership and customer service skills
  • Strong presentation and communication skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

If your employer relies on the use of CAD software, you may need to have experience using GemVision, Rhino or Matrix. If your company lays focus on developing entire outfits, you may need to have a background developing other types of fashion accessories. Potential employers may also require you to be familiar with additional manufacturing techniques, purchasing supplies and merchandising options. The following job posts were from real employers in April 2012.

  • A jewelry company in Arizona was looking for a jewelry designer with an understanding of 3-dimensional modeling and jewelry merchandising.
  • A fashion design company in California was looking a senior jewelry designer with a background in accessory design and the ability to sketch.
  • A fashion manufacturing company in New York searched for a candidate who had previously earned an associate's or bachelor's degree in fine art or jewelry design.

How to Make Your Skills Stand out

Joining a professional organization can help you network and stay up-to-date with industry trends. Jewelers of America, for instance, offers certification and scholarships to members. You can become certified as a bench jeweler, sales associate or manager to prove your dedication and qualifications to potential employers. You may also find local organizations for jewelers, such as the Chicago Jewelers' Association. As a member you might receive newsletters, discounts and educational resources.

Alternative Career Paths

A career as a craft or fine artist can allow you to apply your creativity and vision to larger projects. You may be tasked with combining elements to produce a piece of work that is aesthetically pleasing; additionally, your activities would include working with various types of materials, sketching out your artwork, submitting artwork to exhibition galleries and building a personal portfolio. Although you don't need to have a college degree, some colleges offer various related degree programs to help develop your portfolio and fine-tune your skills. According to the BLS in May 2011, workers in this field earned a median salary of $45,000.

As a fashion designer, you may be in charge of creating various articles of clothing, determining materials for use, developing clothing according to current fashion trends, sketching articles of clothing and predicting future trends. Workers in this field can also choose to design footwear, accessories or costumes. Although success isn't based on earning a degree, fashion design or merchandising programs can help you develop related skills. As of May 2011, the BLS estimated that the median salary for fashion designers was $65,000.

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