A jeweler is an artisan who uses metals, gems and other materials to create adornments like bracelets, earrings, rings, and necklaces. They might also be called upon to repair, adjust, clean, and appraise pieces of jewelry.
The history of jewelry making goes back thousands of years. In fact, there is evidence that the people of Africa were making jewelry as far back as 75,000 years ago. Throughout its long history, jewelry hasn't only been used as adornment or decoration. It's also been used as currency, and as protection against evil. Today, skilled jewelry artists have many career opportunities.
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A jeweler might find themselves performing many different tasks at any given time. Jewelry design is perhaps the most creative aspect of this career, and requires a great deal of imagination and artistic skill. But jewelry artists also make, repair, clean and restore jewelry pieces. Some also specialize in appraising jewelry, using a combination of research and direct evaluation to determine a piece's worth.
Many jewelry artists do most of their work at a workbench, using tools similar to those jewelry crafters have been using for centuries to create and repair pieces of jewelry. However, many new technologies have found their way into the craft. For example, lasers are often used to cut gems and engrave intricate designs into precious metals. And, with computer-aided design (CAD) technology, a model of a piece of jewelry can be created on a computer. This allows the creator to see how the piece will turn out before they waste valuable resources on what could be a flawed design.
Many jewelers don't have formal training. Instead, they learn the craft on the job, often after being hired by a jewelry manufacturer. During these informal apprenticeships, they learn the basics of jewelry making, including setting stones and engraving.
Many trade schools offer training in this field. These programs can last anywhere from six months to a year, and can greatly increase an individual's job prospects. There is formal training available to those who want to pursue careers as jewelry makers. Many colleges and universities offer Associate's Degrees in Jewelry Design. In these two year programs, students learn the basics of designing and creating custom jewelry. Students might also take courses in gemology, design history and silversmithing.
An aspiring jewelry artist can also pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Metals and Jewelry Design. In these four-year programs, students learn more about the art of making jewelry. They also learn about the jewelry industry and professional practices. After completing a Bachelor's Degree, those who are interested can also pursue a Master's Degree in jewelry design.
There are many traits that can help a jewelry maker find success in this industry. Artistic ability will allow them to think of new and creative designs that will appeal to consumers. A keen fashion sense will allow them to keep up on the latest trends, and create jewelry pieces that will compliment new styles. A lot of jewelry work is very intricate and detailed, so a jewelry maker should be very patient, and should have a good an eye for detail. And, since these artisans work with their hands quite a bit, finger dexterity is also important. The intricate and detailed nature of this work requires excellent hand-eye coordination. Good eyesight is also a plus.
Good interpersonal skills are another important trait, especially for those who work in retail stores or who are self-employed. Those who work in jewelry stores must interact with customers and coworkers on a daily basis. And those who are self-employed will be better able to sell their wares to potential buyers if they have good people skills.
While many of jewelers are self-employed, others might work in retail stores, in jewelry repair shops, or in jewelry manufacturing plants. Those who work in retail jewelry stores often spend a lot of time interacting with customers, either helping them choose pre-made pieces, or taking orders and instructions for custom pieces. Jewelry store employees often earn a commission for each piece of jewelry they sell.
Those who work in repair shops usually spend a lot of time alone, with little or no supervision. While those who work in retail settings often have set schedules, they might also have to work on holidays, when customers often visit jewelry stores.
It is estimated that about 50% of all jewelry artists are self-employed. Self-employed jewelry artists are able to set their own work hours. In fact, many work from their own homes, where they'll usually have a workshop or studio in which they make jewelry. Self-employed jewelry makers often sell their wares at craft fairs and trade shows. Many have also started to sell their work online.
Many artists who make jewelry end up opening jewelry stores of their own. While this is a competitive field, those who are able to build a solid reputation in the jewelry trade are often very successful as jewelry merchants.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for jewelers, as well as precious stone and metal workers, was $ 35,170 as of May 2010. Those in the lower 10 percent of the pay scale earned $19,460 or less per year, while those in the highest 10 percent of the pay scale earned $61,380 or more per year.