Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Summary

jewelers and precious stone and metal workers image
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers typically work at a jeweler’s bench.
Quick Facts: Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers
2012 Median Pay $35,350 per year
$16.99 per hour
Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 32,700
Job Outlook, 2012-22 -10% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2012-22 -3,200

What Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers Do

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers design, manufacture, and sell jewelry. They also adjust, repair, and appraise gems and jewelry.

Work Environment

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers spend much of their time at a workbench, using tools and chemicals. About one-third were self-employed in 2012. Many work from home and sell their products at trade and craft shows on weekends. Others are employed in jewelry stores, repair shops, and manufacturing plants.

How to Become a Jeweler or Precious Stone and Metal Worker

Although most jewelers and precious stone and metal workers have traditionally learned their skills through long-term on-the-job training, a growing number now learn their skills at trade schools.

Pay

The median annual wage for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers was $35,350 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is projected to decline 10 percent from 2012 to 2022. Moderate competition is expected for skilled positions, and strong competition is expected for lower-skilled manufacturing jobs.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about jewelers and precious stone and metal workers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers Do

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers
Jeweler’s torches are used to resize and repair jewelry.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers design, manufacture, and sell jewelry. They also adjust, repair, and appraise gems and jewelry.

Duties

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers typically do the following:

  • Examine and grade diamonds and other gems
  • Create jewelry from gold, silver, and precious gemstones
  • Shape metal to hold the gems when making individual pieces
  • Make a model with carved wax or with computer-aided design, and then cast pieces with the model
  • Solder pieces together and insert stones
  • Smooth joints and rough spots and polish smoothed areas
  • Clean and polish jewelry using polishing wheels and chemical baths
  • Repair jewelry by replacing broken clasps, altering ring sizes, or resetting stones
  • Compute the costs of labor and material for new pieces and repairs

Technology is helping to produce high-quality jewelry at a reduced cost and in less time. For example, lasers are often used for cutting and improving the quality of stones, for intricate engraving or design work, and for inscribing personal messages on jewelry. Jewelers also use lasers to weld metals together without seams or blemishes, improving the quality and appearance of jewelry.

Some manufacturing firms use computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) to make product design easier and to automate some steps. With CAD, jewelers can create a model of a piece of jewelry on the computer and then see the effect of changing different aspects—the design, the stone, the setting—before cutting a stone or taking other costly steps. With CAM, they can then create a mold of the piece, which makes producing many copies easy.

Some jewelers also use CAD software to design custom jewelry. They let the customer review the design on the computer and see the effect of changes, so that the customer is satisfied before committing to the expense of a customized piece of jewelry.

The following are examples of types of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers:

Precious metal workers expertly manipulate gold, silver, and other metals. They use pliers and other hand tools to shape and manipulate metal. Some may mix alloy ingredients according to chemical properties.

Gemologists analyze, describe, and certify the quality and characteristics of gemstones. After using microscopes, computerized tools, and other grading instruments to examine gemstones or finished pieces of jewelry, they write reports certifying that the items are of a particular quality. Most gemologists have completed the Graduate Gemologist program through the Gemological Institute of America.

Jewelry appraisers carefully examine jewelry to determine its value and then write appraisal documents. They determine value by researching the jewelry market and by using reference books, auction catalogs, price lists, and the Internet. They may work for jewelry stores, appraisal firms, auction houses, pawnbrokers, or insurance companies. Many gemologists also become appraisers.

Bench jewelers usually work for jewelry retailers, doing tasks from simple jewelry cleaning and repair to making molds and pieces from scratch.

Work Environment

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers use various tools and chemicals.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers held about 32,700 jobs in 2012. About one-third were self-employed. Many work from home and sell their products at trade and craft shows on weekends.

Most wage and salary workers in this occupation are employed in jewelry stores, repair shops, and manufacturing plants.

The industries that employed the most jewelers and precious stone and metal workers in 2012 were as follows:

Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores33%
Jewelry and silverware manufacturing21
Merchant wholesalers, durable goods7
Personal and household goods repair and maintenance2

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers spend much of their time at a workbench, using different tools and chemicals. Computers are also becoming an increasingly important tool in the jewelry industry as computer-aided design (CAD) can save workers time and resources. Many tools, such as jeweler’s torches and lasers, must be handled carefully to avoid injury. Polishing processes such as chemical baths must also be performed with safety in mind. Sharp or pointed tools also may pose hazards.

In repair shops, jewelers usually work alone with little supervision. In retail stores, they may talk with customers about repairs, do custom design work, and even do some selling. Because many of their materials are valuable, jewelers must follow security procedures, including making use of burglar alarms and, in larger jewelry stores, working in the presence of security guards.

Work Schedules

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers have varied work schedules. Self-employed workers often decide their own hours. Many work weekends, showing and selling their products at trade and craft shows. Retail store workers might also work nonstandard hours because they must be available when consumers are not working, such as on holidays and weekends. About 1 in 5 worked part time in 2012.

How to Become a Jeweler or Precious Stone and Metal Worker

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers
Jewelers and precious stone workers examine diamonds and gems.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers have traditionally learned their trade through long-term on-the-job training. This method is still common, particularly in jewelry manufacturing, but a growing number of workers now learn their skills at trade schools.   

Education and Training

Many trade schools offer programs that teach the basics of jewelry design and production. Programs vary from 6 months to 1 year. Students typically learn gem identification and grading; how to design, cast, set, and polish jewelry and gems; and how to use and care for a jeweler's tools and equipment. Graduates of these programs may be more attractive to employers because they require less on-the-job training. Many gemologists graduate from the Gemological Institute of America. Trade programs usually require applicants to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Most jewelry stores also require workers to have a high school diploma for positions that don't require trade school.

In jewelry manufacturing plants, workers develop their skills through on-the-job training. The length of training required to become proficient depends on the difficulty of the speciality. Training usually focuses on casting, setting stones, making models, or engraving.

Other Experience

Some workers gain their skills through related work experience. This may include working alongside a bench jeweler or gemologist while performing the duties of a sales person in a retail jewelry store. Time spent in a store with a bench jeweler or gemologist can provide valuable experience.

Advancement

In manufacturing, some jewelers advance to supervisory jobs, such as master jeweler or head jeweler. Jewelers who work in jewelry stores or repair shops may become managers; some open their own business.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers who want to open their own store should first establish themselves and build a reputation for their work within the jewelry trade. After they achieve sufficient sales, they can acquire the necessary inventory for a store from a jewelry wholesaler. Also, because the jewelry business is highly competitive, jewelers who plan to open their own store should have sales experience and knowledge of marketing and business management.

Important Qualities

Artistic ability. Jewelers must have the ability to create designs that are unique and beautiful.

Detail oriented. Creating designs requires concentration and patience. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers must give attention to large and small details on the pieces they make.

Fashion sense. Jewelry designers must know what is stylish and attractive because that is what people are likely to buy.

Finger dexterity. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers must precisely move their fingers in order to grasp, manipulate, and assemble very small objects.

Interpersonal skills. Whether selling products in stores or at craft shows, jewelers and precious stone and metal workers interact with customers.

Visualization skills. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers must imagine how something might look after its shape is altered or when its parts are rearranged.

Pay

Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Median annual wages, May 2012

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers

$35,350

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Other production occupations

$29,330

 

The median annual wage for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers was $35,350 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $19,600, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,940.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers have varied work schedules. Self-employed workers often decide their own hours. Many work weekends, showing and selling their products at trade and craft shows. Retail store workers might also work nonstandard hours because they must be available when consumers are not working, such as on holidays and weekends. Jewelers who work in retail stores may earn a commission for jewelry sold. About 1 in 5 worked part time in 2012.

Job Outlook

Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations

11%

Other production occupations

2%

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers

-10%

 

Employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is projected to decline 10 percent from 2012 to 2022. Employment of these workers will decline because most jewelry manufacturing is now done outside of the country.

Traditional jewelry stores may continue to lose some of their customers to nontraditional sellers, such as department stores, but they will still maintain a large customer base. In addition, new jewelry sold by nontraditional retailers should create some demand for skilled jewelers who can size, clean, and repair jewelry. Custom jewelry has become more popular and may be a source of demand for jewelers over the coming decade.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities should be available for bench jewelers who are skilled at design or repair. New jewelers will be needed to replace those who retire or who leave the occupation for other reasons. As master jewelers retire, shops lose expertise and knowledge that is difficult and costly to replace.

Job opportunities in jewelry stores and repair shops should be best for those who have graduated from a trade school or training program and have related work experience.

Strong competition is expected for lower skilled manufacturing jobs that are susceptible to automation. Jewelry designers who wish to create their own jewelry lines should expect intense competition. Although demand for customized and boutique jewelry is strong, it is difficult for independent designers to establish themselves. Experience with computer-aided design (CAD) makes creating custom pieces of jewelry easier.

During economic downturns, demand for jewelry products and for jewelers usually decreases. However, demand for repair workers should remain strong even during economic slowdowns because maintaining and repairing jewelry is cheaper than buying new jewelry.

Employment projections data for Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers

51-9071 32,700 29,500 -10 -3,200 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Craft and fine artists

Craft and Fine Artists

Craft and fine artists use a variety of materials and techniques to create art for sale and exhibition. Craft artists create handmade objects, such as pottery, glassware, textiles or other objects that are designed to be functional. Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create original works of art for their aesthetic value, rather than for a functional one.

High school diploma or equivalent $44,380
Fashion designers

Fashion Designers

Fashion designers create original clothing, accessories, and footwear. They sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, and give instructions on how to make the products they designed.

Bachelor’s degree $62,860
Industrial designers

Industrial Designers

Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make products that people use every day. Industrial designers focus on the user experience in creating style and function for a particular gadget or appliance.

Bachelor’s degree $59,610
Retail sales workers

Retail Sales Workers

Retail sales workers include both those who sell retail merchandise, such as clothing, furniture, and automobiles, (called retail salespersons) and those who sell spare and replacement parts and equipment, especially car parts (called parts salespersons). Both types of workers help customers find the products they want and process customers’ payments.

Less than high school $21,410
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers

Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers weld or join metal parts. They also fill holes, indentions, or seams of metal products, using hand-held metal joining equipment.

High school diploma or equivalent $36,300
Woodworkers

Woodworkers

Woodworkers manufacture a variety of products such as cabinets and furniture, using wood, veneers, and laminates. They often combine and incorporate different materials into wood.

High school diploma or equivalent $28,440
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/jewelers-and-precious-stone-and-metal-workers.htm (visited November 27, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014