Jewelry design and repair is a hands-on practice that requires manual dexterity and creative visualizing skills. Undergraduate certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree programs vary in length. These programs provide significant hands-on practice using various jewelry equipment, but can also teach students topics like art history, styling and repair.
Certificate in Jewelry
Students can prepare for entry-level positions in jewelry design and repair by studying the basics of metalsmithing, soldering and setting gemstones in a 1-year certificate program. Courses cover jeweler's bench techniques, art history and sculpting on a small scale. Applicants are expected to have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Budding jewelers learn various methods of modifying and repairing different types of jewelry. Such techniques are taught in courses including:
- 3-dimensional (3D) modeling
- Design rendering
- Wax working
Associate's Degree in Jewelry Design
Associate's degree programs teach students how to use anvils, hydraulic presses and pitch bowls to form custom jewelry designs from scratch. Students learn about design history, sketching and different types of precious and semi-precious stones. An associate's degree takes 2 years to complete and requires studio time and hands-on participation.
Associate's degree students learn to integrate contemporary concepts in art and aesthetics into wearable art. Programs offer diverse courses in materials and methods, such as:
- Mechanical drafting software
- Silversmithing procedures
- Soldering techniques
- Wax carving designs
Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Metals and Jewelry Design
Students in a BFA program learn to fuse metal, etch designs into metal surfaces and incorporate stones or other materials into a design. Students in a 4-year professional degree track learn to find inspiration in classical pieces of art, as well as elements of everyday life that excite their imagination.
Bachelor's degree students learn to use acetylene torches, anodizers, drill presses, etching tanks and polishing machines to create designs. Students may hone their creativity, marketing and technical skills in courses, such as:
- 3D construction
- Art history
- Computer-aided design (CAD)
- Metal casting
- Small business ownership
Jewelers design jewelry, set stones, resize rings and replace damaged parts on existing pieces, using chemicals, metals and special tools. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 25,270 jewelers and precious stone and metal workers employed across various industries as of 2015 (www.bls.gov). Entry-level jobs include:
- Bench jeweler
- Pawn broker
- Diamond polisher
- Repair jeweler
In 2015, the BLS reported that jewelers and precious stone and metal workers earned an average wage of $42,380. As of 2014, 40% were self-employed, according to the BLS. Bachelor's degree holders may find work as:
- CAD jewelry designers
- Custom jewelry stylists
- Master jewelers
- Stone setters
According to the BLS, the number of jeweler jobs was forecast to decrease 11 percent from 2014-2024. In 2015, the largest employers of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers were jewelry, luggage and leather goods stores, miscellaneous manufacturers and durable goods wholesalers.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Master's degrees are available in jewelry design. Professional jewelers may also find individual courses and continuing education programs available through schools, as well as from individual craftsmen. Given that fashion is an ever-changing industry, it's helpful for jewelers to be informed about current styles. Trends are documented in magazines and blogs, and design programs offer courses in the history of fashion.
The Jewelers of America runs a voluntary certification program, which distinguishes among four different levels of bench jeweler expertise. The bench jeweler technician certification exam is for repair technicians who have one year of experience. With two years of experience, jewelers are eligible to become Certified Bench Jewelers. Those with moderate to advanced skills may pursue the Certified Senior Bench Jeweler credential.
Aspiring jewelers can develop their practical skills by enrolling in a certificate, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree program in the field.