Jewelry designers use specialized equipment to design and manufacture jewelry. Most are self-employed, although many work in jewelry manufacturing companies or jewelry shops.
Jewelry Design Job Responsibilities
Jewelry designers cut, set and polish gemstones. They adjust or repair necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings. They may also appraise jewelry. Some even create their own jewelry designs.
Jewelry designers first use designs or instructions from customers. They begin creating the jewelry by carving wax or shaping metal to make a model. The jewelry designer then solders the parts together and then may engrave a design or set a gemstone. Some jewelers specialize in finish work, such as polishing, engraving, or setting stones. Other specialize in repair work, which includes includes adjusting ring sizes, resetting stones and fixing or replacing broken mountings or clasps. Bench jewelers work in jewelry retailers and perform a variety of tasks, including cleaning, repair, moldmaking and creating jewelry from scratch.
Some jewelry designers, especially those in manufacturing firms, use computer software, such as computer-aided design (CAD), to simplify the product design, moldmaking and modelmaking processes. CAD allows jewelry designers to create a lifelike model of a piece of jewelry. Jewelry designers can then modify the design, change the stone or try a different setting. They can view the modifications on a computer screen before doing the actual work involved, thus saving time and money. When satisfied, they create a mold. The mold makes it easier for jewelry manufacturers to produce numerous amounts of a specific jewelry piece, which then can be distributed to jewelry stores and other retailers throughout the country.
Jewelry Design Training and Education Requirements
Jewelry designers typically learn their trade through on-the-job training; however, technical schools and online programs are becoming popular options for aspiring jewelry designers to learn their skills.
In manufacturing plants, jewelry designers have traditionally learned their skills through on-the-job training and apprenticeships. Training usually focuses on engraving, casting, setting stones and making models. Due to increasing use of CAD, more and more students are interesting in training in it. Classes in CAD can be found at most colleges, and some employers may train staff on its use. Some technical schools offer training programs especially for jewelry design. These programs include study in math, shop theory, blueprint reading, jewelry making, repair skills and types of tools used. Some art schools even offer bachelor’s or master’s degrees in jewelry making. Although advanced degrees are generally not required, most employers prefer candidates with a degree or some educational background, since they require less training. Those with college education also receive better opportunities for employment and sometimes higher pay.
Besides education and training, jewelry designers need to have other specific skills and personality types. They must be good working with their hands and have good hand-eye coordination, concentration and patience. Artistic ability and knowledge of fashion are highly sought-after skills, since jewelry must be attractive and stylish. In addition, because jewelry designers work with valuable materials, they must be honest and of good moral character.
Jewelry Design Salary and Wages
Annual salaries for jewelry designers range from $24,370 to $43,440, with the average at $32,940. Some earn more than $55,000, depending on skills and proficiency. Most jewelry designers start out with a base salary. Once they acquire skills, they may earn more, based on the number of pieces created. They may also earn a commission based on how much jewelry they sell. Job outlook is slower than average due to the number of imports and economy. There is a lot of competition for lower skilled manufacturing jobs. It is recommended that those interested in jewelry design learn as many skills as they can. Highly skilled workers are in high demand despite limited job growth.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Jewelry Design Certifications
Jewelers of America offers a certification for bench jewelers: the Jewelers of America Bench Professional Certification Program. There is also an online jewelry designing skills certification that tests important concepts, skills and knowledge pertaining to jewelry design.
A certification shows that a jeweler meets national standards for the industry by displaying the skills and proficiency needed. Although not required, a certification can improve a store’s reputation, since customers may feel more confident buying jewelry from someone who is certified. Plus, a certification can advance one’s career, offering them promotional opportunities and better pay.
Jewelry Design Professional Associations
Jewelers of America is the oldest professional association for jewelers. Its mission is to increase consumer confidence and promote responsible business practices, professionalism and high standards. It offers certifications and scholarships to its members. The Women’s Jewelry Association caters to women in the jewelry and watch industries. It offers members networking opportunities, training, competitions, scholarships and recognition programs. For those interested in the history of jewelry, there is The American Society of Jewelry Historians, a non-profit organization with a focus on providing information about jewelry history, cultural influences, jewelry design and collecting. Anyone interested in jewelry can become a member.