About Jewellery career

hello, Im new to this list and was wondering if you guys could
help me out. I would like to go to school for Jewellery and
Metal. When I told my father about it he shot down the idea
because he is afraid that i will not be able to survive on the
skills i develop there. but You see this type of thing is the
only thing that i am half way passionate about. My question is ,
– How tough is it to make a living after you get through school?
What type of salary ,if you work for a company.?/. what is it
like if you are doing it solo?/? What is it like in general?? Any
type of on how you guys got started and so on would
be extremely helpful. thanks tracey

Hi Tracey, I can’t think of anything I could do for a living
that would bring me greater joy. If you follow your heart and do
what you love, you can always make a living at it. It helps to
have a sense of being in business and running a business is a
challenge. There are many schools out there, I personally have
been to the Revere Academy in San Francisco and recommend it
highly. Don’t let anyone discourage you from following your
heart. Best regards, Janine in Redding, Ca

Tracy Well it’s good to hear that you are going for what you
want. I am and art education major, with an emphasis in art
metals, still a year or so away from graduation. Try it,
personally i’d say go to a state school with a decent art
metals program, if you like it, that’s great. If not there are
lots of other choices out there. They do say students may
change their majors 3 or so times by junior year. \ If you
graduate with a degree in jewery or art metals, you may
decide to work somewhere, setting stones or the like, and from
there grad school is also available, after grad school you
could also teach at an upper level institution. Good luck!

Tracey, You can make a good if not great living making
jewelry.You will hear many people sniveling about how the world
is repressing them and they cannot survive.Don’t you believe
them.Go after your dream.I started out collecting rocks in egg
cartons when I was about eight.Don’t start there.I took classes
in high school.That was fun.Then when I got out of school I
worked in two different jewelry supply stores.This was the best
thing I did it not only linked me up with other people that were
in the trade it educated me as to what tools were in the trade
and how to use them also taught me the various measurement
systems.Pennyweights,carats,ect.This is a good way to learn and
earn.You won’t make killer wages but to pay for what you will
learn would be very expensive. You can also start buying tools at
a discount usally.Most jewelery supply stores offer their
customers a repair service I did that for years and took classes
at the same time…I apprenticed under jewelers.I swept floors cut
stones and did anything I could to learn.I bought instructional
tapes and took classes.I started at eighteen and never looked
back.Iam 46 now and still have the same desire to learn anything
I can about metals.I still take classes.I still dream.I have
focused on repair and custom orders.I have had my own stores and
now Iam a contractor for a chain.That means I do there work and
bill them as my own buisness.Right now I have five accounts.I
won’t get into specifics about what I make but I can tell you you
can make six figures or you can make three figures it’s up to
you.You ask what it’s like well it is fixin to be like a
hurricane.From tomorrow on I will be working mucho hours 70 and
up.It is not a job for people that like to share Hall mark
moments together at least not in the situation I’m in.The way you
do it is up to you.Repair is and always has been my bread and
butter.I do a lot of customs also and most of those come from my
repair customers or word of mouth.I have met jeweler from all
walks of life who do it in all types of ways.I met a guy who set
up a bench down in the virgin islands and he makes gold sailboats
and seagulls and such.Heard of some people working cruise ships
yes they have jewelery stores on ships.I know a lady that works
in Alaska where the cruise ships come in that is her market.If I
was just starting out again I would go work for Stuller for a
couple of years I guaronetee you would get a great deal of
knowledge there and get payed at the same time.I would start
buying tools imediately.They only go up in price.I would start
wax carving it is fairly easy to learn and is the cheapest way to
start making jewelry.Buy the book Basic wax modeling by Hiroshi
Tsuyuki and Yoko Ohba.If you can carve some of the pojects in
that book with the basic tools a wax file some sand paper ect you
can have another jeweler cast and even finish it this will give
you a sense of accomplishment.I would buy tapes and read anything
I could get my hands on.I would use the net.My father has
wondered how I could make a living since the get go.He is a
metallurgical engineer and went to school for seven years.Don’t
listen to naysayers listen to your heart and hang on! Best in

J Morley Coyote Ridge

I think that recent grads of Paris start on the bench at $10-
$14per hour depending on your skills. Whether you go to school
or not it will always depend on your skills. Have you considered
a series of short classes and then

part-time apprenticeship, until you get to a level where you can
make the leap? John

Tracey. Life’s highway is littered with the wrecks of people
who didn’t persue something they were passionate about. The only
limits in this field are those you set yourself. Going out on
your own is the hardest but it also holds the most rewards. I
have been making jewelry on my own for 25 years and I wouldn’t
trade my situation for anything. It is challenging, creative,
often exciting and sometimes exhausting. So, follow your heart
and give it your all, I don’t think you will ever regret it.

Anthony Toepfer
Anthony Toepfer Jewelers
Keene, NH

Tracey, Your father’s concerns are probably well-founded, as it’s
not easy to make a living in the arts. But a good idea would
probably be to find out about and talk with some people at
jewelry departments at colleges and jewelry schools. The best
thing would probably be to study somewhere where you could get a
degree if you don’t already have one. Fashion Institute of
Technology in NYC has a very good jewelry program, I’ve heard,
although a bit accelerated, even for beginners. It’s helpful if
you already have some jewelry knowledge before you go there, but
not required. They’ll be happy to send you a catalogue
describing the program. There’s a school in Miami, Fl that I
also hear is very good, although the name escapes me now. It’s
often advertised in MetalSmith. Perhaps another Ganoksonian can
help on this one?

Some programs are accelerated and you can get certifications in
6 months or less; others, like F.I.T., offer a 2-year degree (I
think they also offer a 1-year degree of some sort). Anyway,
good luck in your pursuits.

-Madeline, Arts Umbrella

Tracey, I have read what others have ben saying on this topic and
I agree with them 150%. Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t make
a living out of the jewelry business… That is a crock. When I
started I was 18 just like J Morely (previous posting). Basically
I did the college thing out of high school for a year and it
didn’t agree with me. So My father actuially suggested that I get
into the jewelry business of which he had been in at that point
for 25 years or so. The original plan was for me to go to a
school to learn the trade but I got lucky and was offered a job
as an apprentice for a 6.5 million dollar store here in my area…
I worked there for a year and basiclly taught myself because as I
am sure you are bound to find out, some jewelers won’t share much
with you while sitting next to them. Not all jewelers
are like us here on Orchid… So with that I left that place and
went to work in a trade shop, we did work for probably 23 or 24
different accounts. When you get into an attmoshphere like that
you are bound to learn quick… Especially when you have to do
about 20 to 30 ring sixings an hour (not polished of course, we
had another guy to do that.). So I gained experience there but it
still wasn’t what I saw myself doing for the long haul. SO I
worked for two other stores over a couple more years learning on
my own really and working at home at the same time… During the
years working for others my father and I bought casting
equipment, I had started carving waxes somehwere in those years,
and now about two and a half years ago I quick working for other
people and now run my own small manufacturing business. I do all
of my own work, carving, casting, setting and finishing… I do
mainly custom pieces, and I make a great living… This all
happened for me within the span of 11 years… Lets just put it
this way, I started at 18, now I am 29, I just bought a beautiful
house, I am getting married and thankfully have no money
problems… So the long and short of it is, if this is what you
want to do, don’t EVER let anybody tell you , “you can’t” in my
life those words mean absolutley nothing… If there is one thing
I have learned, it is never ever let anybody dictate how you
will make a living or what you can or cannot do… If you are
persistant and have a desire, you can do anything… Oh and as
for Christmas time… J Morely said it best… forget about warm
fuzzy Hallmark moments with your family, they wil be spent at
your bench cozying up next to the flame of your torch… And
wishing your fingers didn’t hurt so bad…But I wouldn’t trade the
months of November and December for the world. This business has
ALOT to offer… It all depends on how much you want to take… Oh
and after a couple years away from college I did go back, I
cruised thru with a 3.6 GPA and got it done… But I don’t really
use my degree for much of anything… Good luck Tracey, and let us
know what you decide to do… and remeber, if you are ever stuck,
and the person who is supposed to show … doesn’t, the Orchid
members will tell you anything you need to know… Marc Williams

hi tracy: i too am a self made businessman…28 yrs in the trade
has taught me much but yes a lot comes from within to learn and
create your own style… no matter how bad it gets a quiter
never wins and a winner never quits… life will always have
another dish to offer… i know it is a scary thing to have
nobody writing you a check but with effort you will always
succeed…have faith in god and your fellow humans… when i
realized i had something going was when my first piece got
stolen before i finished it…from there it was establishing
confidence… would not trade my life for the world… i can
fire myself for a week and then rehire when it’s time…i have
also worked some part time jobs to make ends meet when things
were slow…chin up and gods blessings we all have inside us
what it takes… good luck…John Henry aka ringman


The Society of North American Goldsmiths hosts a conference
every year. This year it is in Boston from March 8-11, including
a special event that SNAG is beginning is called the Connections
Room. It is designed with people like you in mind. Educational
programs of many calibers and styles will be available for
prosepctive students to come by and meet teachers, current
students, talk about their programs, pick up literature on their
institutions etc… So far about 20 eductaional programs from
across the nation have registered. The organization, SNAG
publishes a magazine, Metalsmith, that can be found on newstands
at places like Barnes & Noble. Inside each issue from now until
the conference is an insert about conference details as well as
subscription if you are interested. It would be worth
your while to join SNAG for a year. With a membership in SNAG you
get the magazine and a newsletter that comes out 5 times a year
which inlcudes all kinds of interesting what schools
offer scholarships, technical etc… If you want/need
more help contact me off line: Jan Baum at @Jan_Baum.
Your father is right in asking you to take a close look at what
you are considering doing. It is not a walk in the park if you
need to support yourself. Good Luck.


Marc, Bully for you! You’re right on target. Those who can’t
make it in the jewelry field are victims of their own
negativism. I really enjoyed your letter. I sometimes get the
impression that those who do the most whining are the ones who
think they are the reincarnation of Da Vinci and expect the
public to beat a path to their door. And then there are those
who always want to blame the other guy. Ah well, it takes all
kinds… Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA

Of course, I’ll put my 2 cents in here. Yes Tracey, you can
make a living in the jewelry business. But a living is not just
money; more than anything it’s choices! Here’s my perspective on

  1. If you work for someone else, you may get someone who’s
    fairly generous, and they will pay you the best of the going
    rate, seldom more (You’d do better, financially, to go into
    dental tech). At this point, that’s not bad, but you’d better
    not have a large debt load with it, or you will spend a long
    time in wage-slavery.

  2. You can start your own business and work for yourself. Well,
    this is difficult, even with good bench training, because you
    must learn something about business too, and you must know how
    to get help from people like. . . . . . S.C.O.R.E. . . an
    accountant . . photographer, when needed . . someone to answer
    phones and wait on customers as soon as possible so you can get
    some work done when your business picks up. . . in short,
    anything you need done that you’re not as good at as you are
    jewelry. . .you get the picture.

  3. start by working for someone else, don’t use credit cards,
    don’t drink or drug, don’t stay in one place too long,
    especially if you’re not learnig anything, and while you’re at
    it, start collecting equipment, hoarding metal and stones,
    making the occaisional piece of jewelry (resist the temptation
    to give it away for Xmas presents), then, when the oportunity
    arises, your work is known to some degree in an area you think
    is promising, and you’ve got a little financial cushion, GO FOR
    IT! (and when the going gets rought, e-mail us for

David L. Huffman (the not so cynical when it comes to young
people bench rat).

All, Jewelers, lapidarys, metalurgists, wax carvers, and casters
are some of the most talented, skilled, and exploited workers.
Ask yourself these questions. How many hours per week do you
work to make your salary? Do you have medical and dental
insurance? Do you have a retirement plan? Is your work
environment safe? Do you have dissablity insurance? Do you have
job stability and a gauranteed wage for experience level? Do you
have protection from unfair management practices? The answers to
these questions are what you get when you organize. I am a
citizen of the USA. Not a foreign country. My expectations are
higher for myself and my fellow citizens. Gerry Galarneau

Another thought to pass on to Tracey. Having a skill like making
jewelry can be a great long term endeavor. If you set up a shop
in your home you can work there, full time, part time, along
with any other job outside your home. You can stay home with the
kids and continue working as much as you like at times that are
convenient to the family time schedule. You can retire and your
jewelry business can offer you travel to shows where you might
be buying or selling. It is really a great stress reliever even
if you work a different full time job elsewhere because it
offers you possibilites and adventures, hopes and dreams. It
keeps you young because it’s a continual discovery and learning

Happy Holidays to all you little elves on Orchid, I wanted to
add a bit of wisdom for those considering a career in jewelry.
The most satisfaction comes from working for yourself and being
flexible in “following your muse.” With that goal in mind, I
strongly recommend taking a couple business courses, one on
bookkeeping and the other on business practices and operation.
When you set up your own business, you will then be equipped to
make some decisions and know which records to keep for tax
purposes. Even people who pay an accountant to do their books,
save themselves headaches and money when they understand how the
financial stuff works. I would go so far as to include these
basic business courses in the course of study for any fine arts
degree. Athletes who have visions of playing professional ball
should also take the same courses so they will have some
preparation for their career in “entertainment.” These thoughts
are based on some painful experiences and extensive discussions
with other artists. Have a wonderful holiday. Judymw Judy M.
Willingham, Consumer Pollution Prevention Specialist 237 Seaton
Hall Kansas State University Manhattan KS 66506 (785)532-5418
FAX (785) 532-6944

Ron, and all Thanks for your compliment… I really do believe
that a person has the absolute power to achieve the results they
want out of life when you put your heart into it… I think one
of the biggest things that pushed me as far as I have come in a
short time is the fact that unfortunately there were people that
I worked for that wanted or thought they could hold me back, and
when I asked to do more challenging jobs at the bench, they would
say NO the guy that has been working here the longest gets the
toughest jobs… That is like saying to a baseball player, well
you haven’t been on the team that long and even though you have
more talent, you will sit the bench… Ya right… I love to hear
anybody say they want to learn this trade… I say go for it… It
has a lot to offer… Those people who are continue to say no you
can’t, well I think they may be afraid of losing their jobs to
someone with more skill… So for everyone out there who may be in
this situation where you feel like you are being held back in
what you can do… get a bench at home and start doing things
for yourself, make the mistakes (and don’t be afraid to make
mistakes, because everyon-esle makes them to) mistakes are part
of learning… If someone tells you they never broke a stone, they
are probably lying… Live and learn from your mistakes… and most
of all have fun learning… that is the best part… Tracey,
if you are still reading these postings… I am sure I won’t be
the only one that says this but I learn something new every
single time I sit at my bench and work… a new way to do one
thing or another, or a better way of something as simple as
filing prongs… I still say to people when they ask me what I
do for a living, that I can’t believe that I get paid to have a
blast working… Sure I have my stressful days but who doesn’t but
for the most part I have a blast… “Those who can’t make it in
the jewelry field are victims of their own negativism.” Ron at
Mills Gems (Tracey, he says it best… words to live by…) Marc

Excellent point. The issue here goes beyond just the trade.
Are not all who work dilligently, honestly, and faithfully,
passing on the majority of the profit of their labor to their
employer, entitled to humane treatment and a quality of life
that allows them dignity among their peers? Should not this
standard be extented to those of other nations, in other lands?
What is the goal of Democracy? What is it that we are
attempting to lift with the labor of our hands and our hearts?
Pray, it is not another idol to wealth and power for it’s own
sake. When should this equity be enacted? When Bill has
another 35 billion? When Donald gets to build another Tower? I
work for bread, and my wife deserves roses, while we’re at it.
And by the way, compared to most I know, I do pretty well.