Become a Jewelry Maker: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 09, 2020

Research the requirements to become a jewelry maker. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in jewelry making.

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Should I Become a Jewelry Maker?

Jewelry makers, or bench jewelers, are professionals who work with metals, gems, stones and other materials to create fashion accessories. They fashion jewelry from metals and precious or semiprecious stones. The process involves smoothing and polishing, positioning, setting or mounting, and drilling or cutting stones and gems to produce a piece of jewelry.

A large percentage of jewelry makers are self-employed, which allows them to work and sell jewelry from home. They often work in the evening and during holidays to meet consumer demand.

Aspiring jewelry makers can prepare for a career in this field through an apprenticeship, or by completing a formal education program in jewelry design or the fine arts. Optional certifications give job applicants a competitive edge.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None
Degree Field Fine arts, jewelry design
Licensure and Certification No license is required; voluntary certifications available
Experience Previous experience may expand job opportunities
Key Skills Artistic ability, fashion sense, finger dexterity, visualization and interpersonal skills, proficiency with computer-aided design (CAD) programs
Salary (2018) $39,440 per year (median salary for all jewelers and precious stone and metal workers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual salary for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers was $39,440 in May 2018.

No degree is required to be a jewelry maker but if you want to pursue one then obtain a degree in fine arts or jewelry design. While no licensing is required, voluntary certifications are available.

You will need artistic ability, fashion sense, finger dexterity, visualization and interpersonal skills, and proficiency with computer-aided design (CAD) programs. Experience can expand your job opportunities.

Steps to Become a Jewelry Maker

Let's go over the steps you should take to become a jewelry maker.

Step 1: Complete an Educational or Training Experience

Numerous technical and vocational schools offer jewelry making programs that can last from six months to a year. These programs teach the basic skills involved in polishing, setting, crafting and repairing jewelry, and provide enough training to give a graduate an edge when it comes to finding work as a bench jeweler. Vocational jewelry making programs tend to focus on lab classes and studio work, which deal with specific aspects of the profession, like stone setting, enameling, laser welding and casting.

An apprenticeship can be completed in addition to earning a degree, or as an alternative to formal education. During an apprenticeship, you work under a professional in the field learning jewelry making techniques and skills. Work experience in a related field, such as jewelry retail, may also provide relevant training.

Success Tips:

  • In a postsecondary education program: take computer-aided design courses. Taking classes in computer-aided design (CAD) is helpful in the modern era of jewelry making. Many vocational programs include CAD training, and CAD courses are taken as elective courses in bachelor's degree programs.
  • In a postsecondary education program: take business courses. Taking elective courses in business provides an aspiring jewelry maker with valuable sales and marketing skills to help you in future career endeavors, including entrepreneurship.

Step 2: Find Employment

Bench jewelers can find work at jewelry manufacturing plants, retailers, repair shops or jewelry stores. And, they can operate their own business. The jewelry field is competitive, and bench jewelers trying to make it on their own need professional credentials and a good reputation. Entrepreneurs must have money to invest in their business in order to pay for the initial costs like rent, inventory and supplies.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional organization, such as the Jewelers of America. Organizations offer a variety of membership benefits, including networking opportunities, professional listings, marketing materials and more.

Step 3: Consider Certification

Jewelry makers can get a professional credential from the Jewelers of America. This organization offers four distinct credentials to bench jewelers: Certified Bench Jeweler Technician (CBJT), Certified Bench Jeweler (CBJ), Certified Senior Bench Jeweler (CSBJ) and Certified Master Bench Jeweler (CSMJ). The first of these, the CBJT, is intended for the entry-level jeweler with a general focus and about a year's worth of experience in jewelry repair. The CBJ reflects a level of expertise typically associated with about two years of experience in the field. The CSBJ is a credential for experienced jewelers with advanced skills in jewelry making, while the CMBJ is indicative of complete mastery over all skills inherent to the craft. Additional certifications afforded by the Jeweler's of America include the Sales Professional Certification and Management Professional Certification.

Each of these credentials is obtained by passing both a written and a practical examination administered by the Jewelers of America. Successive credentials are considered benchmarks of professional competence, and obtaining the skill needed for these credentials improves your career prospects.

Step 4: Consider Continuing Education

While continuing education isn't required, several fashion and design schools offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Jewelry Design. Unlike programs found at technical and vocational schools, these are four-year programs that provide an enormous amount of information and training for the prospective jeweler. In addition to typical undergraduate coursework and specific jewelry design classes, programs consist of metalworking, the history of jewelry, color techniques and alternative materials. Master's degree programs are also available in jewelry design.

Obtaining some formal training and gaining experience are the best steps to take to become a jewelry maker.

Expert Contributor: Jared Ward Jared has MA and PhD degrees in religious studies and Asian history. As a professor he teaches history, philosophy and anthropology

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