About Jewellery schools

hello all . thank you for all your encouragement on choosing
jewellery as a career. I have been reading some of the archives
on jewellery programs. There seems to be allot of people stating
that most schools don’t teach the skills that will be needed to
go out and work and that you’ll still need to go out and get an
apprenticeship from somebody. It a little discouraging. Could
anybody tell me of schools that thoroughly train in the skills
needed to get out and work.?. Any really great programs that i
should look into. thanks again for all your help.

I’ll start by saying that I am really biased when answering this
question. I am currently a senior at Tyler School of Art -
Temple University in Philadelphia PA.

I could not be happier with my education. Tyler was recently
featured in a magazine publication which reviewed art schools and
jewelry programs from around the world (specifically the US and
Europe). One of the major points make in the article (which I
feel is applicable to this discussion) is that jewelry programs
in the US tend to focus on concept and design, whereas programs
in Europe tend to focus on craftsmanship and technique. I don’t
know how true this is. I know that the program I am in stresses
concept and design (not to say craftsmanship is not an issue, but
good concept and design outweigh the technical aspect of how
well crafted the piece is). I think that the reasoning behind
this is that while in school it is important to learn how to
develop interesting designs and concepts in the work, and the
craftsmanship will simply continue to improve as you work.
Also, if I’m not mistaken, I believe that Tyler was one of, if
not the only, program in the US to be mentioned in the article.

The facilities at Tyler are excellent. In talking to the new
graduate students who have come from other programs for their
undergraduate studies, I have discovered that there no other
facility in the US that compares to Tyler (at least none that I
know of). As a senior at Tyler, I have found that I know more
processes than many of the students coming from other schools for
graduate work. I think that says alot for our program. In
addition, Tyler is (as far as I know) the only jewelry program
that offers CAD-CAM as part of the curriculum… For those that
don’t know, CAD-CAM is Computer Aided Design-Computer Aided
Manufacturing. Students who choose to pursue this technique
actually design their pieces on the computer, and send off the
disc to a service bureau to have the work produced. It is a
completely hands off process (which I’m sure has traditional
jewelers quite upset). The program is very broad, and you learn
many techniques and processes, however the program does not go
into very extensive detail of any one process. Much of that
comes from your own exploration of a process.

Ok, sorry about my rambling. My advertisement for my school is
done now, and if you want to learn more about it, you can check
out the web site. There is an online gallery of student work, as
well as all sorts of interesting info about the school!

Hope I didn’t ramble too much…it’s 2 am, and I’m having some
trouble concisely stating my thoughts!! Sorry

Kim Zercher
BFA Candidate
Tyler School of Art
Philadelphia, PA


With all the talk about training and careers I have to make some
comments. Being the Jewelry Dept Chair and being involved with
jewelry career counseling for the past 14 years, I have some
thoughts I wold like to share.

First, jewelry has a close parallel to music. There are many
kinds of people who appreciate music. These people could either
just like to listen to it or they could write a symphony. Some
people would love to be a rock star or jazz sax player. Music
has a full spectrum of participants. Some folks are tone deaf
and yet could dance up a storm. There are child prot�g�es and
people who take up playing an instrument later on in life. Bur
let’s say you wanted to play music. What would you do?

I think listening and looking at the kind of music you like is
where I would start. Then picking out an instrument and finding
a place to play, take lessons and practice would be next. Some
folks can be totally self taught, others might find someone who
could give lessons. But all in all there is a commitment and
love that can truly bring a lot of joy and satisfaction.

Jewelry has all the same areas of study and interest. Some
people might just like shinny things. Others have a natural
ability to sit in a little area looking at little things and be
simply fascinated by them. Others still may see a monetary value
worth being involved with. Lots and lot of areas of interest and

Lets say you have decided you want to make jewelry. You also
want to make money at it. Part of the challenge you now face is
that there is a certain amount of competence and expertise
others have given this occupation. The people who have done this
have a lot of money. You are also going to spend your own money
on tools, supplies and training. So you really can’t ignore
doing and making what you choose to certain standards. It would
be also really really great to get paid well for what you do.
Now here’s the hard part. You really can’t get this skill
overnight and it might be a very long learning curve to get
where you want to go. What do you do?

Well’ part of the problem is that you will probably fall in love
with jewelry making. So now you have decided to go forward and
make a commitment. There will be sacrifices along the way.

But where do you start. My recommendation is in lessons, but not
in any lessons. I believe in courses that give you the necessary
time to practice the skill. Two day seminars are excellent for
someone with experience but for someone just starting out, time,
practice and repetition are essential to develop the skills and
competencies necessary to survive.

I also believe is a certain sequence of learning. Just think of
that jazz sax player. If a beginner, what kind of thing is he or
she going to do after six months of playing and lessons? A lot
of repetitive confidence building stuff. The first few years are
more skill building than creative. However the creative process
is very much present and alive with everything put together.
Every time a satisfied customer leaves with something you have
done delivers fuel for the next challenge.

Outside of North America this training is structured into
several years. From teenage introduction through apprenticeship
in industry. From Italy, India, Germany and many other countries
this training has a structure for success based on time and
tradition. Some of the most successful Italian jewelry designers
swept the floors for a year before touching a file.

But here in the good old USA we don’t have any strong sense of
tradition. With the Internet fortunes are made with the click of
a mouse. High tec careers are the quick sell. Traditional
occupations are hard pressed to receive the support because they
are expensive and time consuming. With several metal arts and
occupational jewelry training programs being shut down in the
last several years in the USA, where do you go?

If any one would ask me on a one to one recommendation where to
go I would say either Paris Texas Community College, or here at
the Minneapolis Community & Technical College. There are three
reasons. The first is time. Both of these programs offer
programs of approximately one to two years of training to
develop some of the foundation technical skills necessary to
survive. A strong emphasis is place on technical expertise.
Wouldn’t it make sense to work as a bench jeweler as you strive
for self employment? You would be learning and honing the skills
necessary to be successful while traveling your own jewelry
career path. A lot of negative thing have been said about
working at the bench doing repairs. But think of what that is
going to give you, a skill no one can ever take away. A skill
you can go any where with. And a decent wage if you are any
good. Starting wages for my student a

The second is cost. Sure you are going to spend money. If you
have a lot of money to start off with many of the private
schools are excellent. Some things are unavoidable like eating,
lodging and transportation. But a non profit public school I
feel will give you the most for your money. For example our
diamond plate setting course for a resident is 60 hours long and
costs about $175.00. You start out setting a lot of stones with
measured results. And you have the time to practice what you are
taught. I’m sure it is the same in Texas.

The third is the success of the graduates. The big question is
"Are they making a decent living doing the thing they love to
do?" You can find this out you know. Most schools have placement
available. If you don’t ask you won’t find out. If
you spend $60,000.00 to $100,000.00 on a BA will you be able to
make you loan payments? Will you have the different various
skills necessary to survive and become successful?

I truly wish everyone the best. I do have a Lot to say about
this topic and if any one want more info you can email me off
line at trhltd@pclink.

Best Regards
Todd Hawkinson
TR the Teacher

Todd Hawkinson, from your perspective are there any people who
should be directed away from trying to become professional
jewelers? Some of us just lack the manual dexterity to become
more than dedicated hobbyists. Using myself as an example with my
familial tremor which slows me down to about half the speed of
the other students in my evening class, some people have trouble
doing things with precision. Geo.

Wow! what a contrast reading Alan Revere’s loving commentary
about his feelings from early on through the present with
reference to our beloved craft.

Kim’s commentary is truth to her at this stage of her life. As
we have so very often discussed on these pages, there is a real
need for an incorporation of both. There must be a marriage of
design and creation. The best designer needs personal interaction
with the medium. Cad/Cam is wonderful for those who use it. The
replication of an ancient design, created without the aid of
cad/cam, as Alan has just lovingly completed, can never come from
a mechanical device.

There is a need for both, nothing is absolute, only time and
trial teach us that. Teresa

Geo, Even with the limitations you may have there are many
aspects of jewelry manufacture in which you may be superb. Sure
construction techniques or stone setting may not be suited to
you. However forging might be more your speed. Maybe using the
rolling mill for roll printing textured designs on sheets of
precious metals and then forming it into bracelets would be a
possibility. We all need to steer towards those areas where we
excell and avoid those where the limitations are overwhelming.

Best Wishes,
Etienne Perret
Designing Colored Diamond Jewels
< www.etienneperret.com >

Excellent contribution to the discussion, Todd. Thank you. You
bring up a very good point, that different people are going to
have different goals, which, in turn, will require different
approaches to learning. Another thing worth remembering, I
think, is this: you can aquire excellent training, but you may
not be given direction as to how to make and achieve goals. You
might consider, for instance, training at a college like Paris
Texas Community College or Minneapolis Community & Technical
College, and even spend some time in the trenches, but then why
not consider attaching yourself to a mentor? Perhaps some old
veteran, struggling along with fading vision and aching back,
who just needs someone to help out a bit with the endless
details in return for seeing how bills get paid, customers and
accounts get handled, etc. A lot of teachers just produce
teachers. I learned under a lot of teachers who couldn’t have
made a living outside of teaching, and I was such a teacher once
myself! Finally,never let yourself get “out of the loop” . . .
meaning, go to all the conferences, galleries, workshops you
can, meet people, build friendships, because there will be
lonely times ahead, no matter how much luck you can manage.
Thanks again Todd, and good luck yourself.

David L. Huffman

Elias, The problem you’re running into here is the eternal one
that occurs whenever the academic world and the practical world
rub up against each other. Any school will teach you its
particular viewpoint, any teacher will teach you his/hers, any
master will teach his/her apprentice to copy the master. The
academic world will teach you to treat each jewelry piece as an
artistic microcosm, an end in itself; the commercial jewelry
world will try to get you to finish X number of nearly identical
pieces each and every hour, plus three more than than you can
possibly do. Finding your balance point and your comfort level
somewhere on that continuum is something that only you can do.
No-one can wrap that up in a neat package and sell it to you in
a 10-week or two or four- year course of study. So do your
homework - hit the shops and shows, surf the web, visit schools,
read Metalsmith, and Ornament and other magazines until you find
the art that speaks to your soul, then go learn how to do
something similar. Mike

David, Todd, Today I attended a Lapidary Society Christmas Party.
I overheard an older gent mention Apprentices, and how no one is
willing to do that today. I told him how often we spoke of the
need to have apprentices, and immediately got a strong commentary
on how no one wanted to spend money on value, only wanted to buy
cheap stuff from overseas from underpaid slaves.

I followed through on wages and insurance getting in the way of
more apprenticeship programs, and that there will always be a
market for quality. This gent is an instructor at the club, but
he rants the party line of cheap imports and prices.

I got nowhere in trying to turn that conversation around. As
long as people keep touting that line, it can be self fulfilling.
I find too often, that loud male voices prevail. There are too
many people of great skill too unwilling to totally share their
knowledge, because “it is no use.” We need younger people with
less rigidity to get us back on track. There needs to be more
schools from High School on up with vocational courses toward a
career in all phases of jewelry. School Districts out here where
"Social Promotion" is phasing out, are now more aware of the
value of vocational education.

I have wanted to share my lapidary skills in the class I take.
The teacher is primarily metals, and is not into stones except to
teach bezels and settings with pre formed material. The students
miss out. I would be doing this on a voluntary basis. He is
already sending students to me for chain making. I am feeling
frustrated. Teresa

Teresa, I think you have an opportunity to teach the skills you
have in the high schools or adult education programs in your
home town. Tell the world how excited you are about the stone
cutting art and sign them up for the class. it is up to each of
us to teach the skills we have learned to the next generation so
that they are not lost. If no one teaches how to make things in
this country then the skills will in fact be lost to those in
other parts of the world.

Good Luck,
Etienne Perret
Designing Colored Diamond Jewels
< www.etienneperret.com >

Dear Goerge, In almost 15 years of teaching I’ve only had one
student I tried to direct into another field. I hope not offend
anyone here, but he could not see very well. He stayed with my
program for over a year and a half only to fail courses because
he could not finish the assignments. He was so persistant I’m
sure he could be successful in several other areas. I asked him
why he was so determined and his reply was that he always
finished what he started. He could return tomorrow if he choose.

We do have real assignments due for credit and review, but we
also have indivuals who audit the classes for content and not
grades. One of my biggest criterias for success is an indivuals

Todd Hawkinson

Geo, I read with interest your query about whether people should
be steered away from a jewelry career. It’s just my opinion,
but I feel if a person wants something badly enough and
perseveres they can do just about anything. We’ve all heard the
stories of actors that were discouraged and “made it,” yada
yada. Fred Astaire was told he’d never make it in movies
because he couldn’t sing well, and early on in his career he
wrote of himself that he could dance “a little.” Just one
example. Someone may not naturally excel at something, but if
they keep at it long enough to learn the technical skills I
believe that they might be hard to differentiate from an expert.
I saw, a few years ago, a documentary about a woman who, after
years of being a painter, developed severe Parkinson’s disease.
She had to learn to paint differently, but she did, and may have
even painted better. And certainly someone shouldn’t be
discouraged from doing anything they’re not “good” at if they
simply get enjoyment out of doing it. I hope this inspires.
Happy holidays, everyone - Madeline

I am sort of a newbie here, and have been watching the
discussion about schools with interest. I graduated from a tech
school in '77, worked in jewelry for a few years, and then went
back to school to study computer science. I’ve been out of the
jewelry world for 20+ years, and have decided to take it up again
as a hobby. Of course I love it, and I remember just enough to
be dangerous. :slight_smile:

I’m wondering if anyone can tell me if my old school still
exists - Bowman Technical School in Lancaster, PA. They had
programs in watchmaking, clockmaking, jewelry
repair/stonesetting, and hand engraving. Anyone else out there
graduate from Bowman’s, AKA Tick Tock Tech?

Laura (Griffith) Toms

Hi Laura, Sounds familiar except I was self taught and I put
myself through engineering school by making jewelry and selling
at craft shows. Now, after 22 years I am getting back into
jewelry making as a hobby and hopefully a way to have some extra
income when I retire. The big difference between 22 years ago
and now is that now I can better afford the nicer tools and
supplies. I’m also new to this list and find it very helpful.
Thanks to all and Merry Christmas.

Chris Tegard

Savannah College of Art and Design also offers CAD-CAM program.
Being a crafstyman though I hated it!!! But… I can design in a
computer. YEY!! Check out SCAD. Great teachers.