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About to start my first Bench Jeweler Job... advice?

Hi everyone,
I am so excited to be starting my new job here in a couple weeks. I have a degree in jewelry & metalsmtihing, and have experience working in silver & gold. I will be working with two other jewelers, who are exceptionally knowledgable and i am really excited to learn!

If you had to give yourself one bit of advice when you were first getting started, what would it be? What is something you wished you had known earlier?

Thank you all so much in advance!

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Hi Julia,

Congrats! Your attitude sounds great. I discovered Metalsmithing

in college and then immediately began work at the bench in

a variety of jewelry shops and stores. It was an eye opener to

discover that most if not all of my co-workers came at the field

from an entirely different place. The things that I wanted to make were just not of interest to them. I was also surprised that many couldn’t draw, a skill that seemed so basic to my jewelry world. I heard the phrase “artsy fartsy” everyday and I had to learn to just shrug it off and keep my eye on what I wanted to ultimately make.

The thing is that these co-workers and colleagues were willing to share what they knew and they were excited and patient with a young and impatient student. The information was, of course, absolutely applicable to what I was planning to make. We were all in the same room, we just entered through different doors. It was the best technical education that I could have hoped for and I think of those makers every day. Good luck!


Please excuse any typos-- curse my clumsy digits…


Even after 40 plus years making and repairing jewelry, I see that there is always something new to learn, and even those new to the field can have something you can learn from, if you remain open.
Learn something new every day, and you will never stop growing.

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Dear Julia, So glad you have a new learning experience waiting for you. I started way back in the day with no internet. Most of what I learned was by doing, and doing the hard way. Don’t be afraid to learn by doing. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Especially for anything expensive. I am still learning after 40 years of being in business. And I know when to say no to a project. Probably one of the best things I know how to do. LOL

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I was a computer programmer in the very early '80s, I was not only a woman but one of the few in the department with a college degree. I had only said Hi when I was told that just because I had a degree, it didn’t mean I knew everything. I responded that the degree only proved that I could learn and I couldn’t wait for him to teach me. My other advice is observe and ask polite questions. take notes! No one likes to repeat themselves.

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First congratulations on your new beginning at the bench. One small tip from a recruiter who has helped many many jewelers with bench jobs in the past 22 years. Keep a small spiral note book handy and track the jobs you complete each day and if available from the job envelope
the dollar amount of each. That way when it comes to your annual review and discussion about a raise, if you are told you did not do enough dollar volume to merit a raise, you have a good idea what those numbers are.

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I love that concept of “We were all in the same room, we just entered through different doors”. I find that my experience in the shop I work in right now is much the same. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom, Andy!

Thats a wonderful idea. Thank you!

I have both a fine arts and a trade shop background.
When I was breaking into the trade shop world I played down my university training and even omitted that from my interviews so as not to be labeled artsy fartsy. It was tough enough breaking in 49 years ago as a woman. Let alone an artist.
Your first year will suck. Big time. You will learn more in one year than in 4 at a school. You will be the lowest paid person and will be expected to go fetch coffee or beer, sweep the floors daily to search for dropped diamonds and clean scrap. Newbies are usually expected to start out polishing. Be prepared to do that for at least the first 6-12 months before being allowed to work a bench. Even though I was a better metal smith than the old farts I worked with, (I did keep my mouth shut about that bit), I still had to do the grunt work like polishing, making wire, sheet, tubing and jumprings. All of which are very important skills. You will be given a lot of challenges. Some of them purposely made to frustrait you. It’ll be fine in the end. Just don’t whine or ever let them see you cry.
Good social skills are really important when working in a high stress environment and close quarters. Do your best to be friendly and flexible.
Speaking of important skills… the best benchies I worked with knew how to draw jewelry very realistically. Being able to hand render a piece quickly in just pencil that looks 3-D in a matter of minutes especially right in front of the client is crucial for a successful career.
Hand made custom work, like repair work is not price sensitive as much as trust sensitive. If you can draw well right in front of your clients they will trust you to make what they see on paper.
Good luck and enjoy the ride.

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From what you said, this may be wasted words for you since you’re not a novice, if so I’m hoping it may help someone…I’d add that it’s important to learn how to do everything, as much as you can, important for your career I mean. Some shops want only specialists, worker bees who only set or only size. That’s good for productivity so it’s good for the shop but it really limits your future opportunities. So it’s bad for you. Usually you start sizing rings and doing simple repairs, that’s okay for a year or so because those sawing, fitting, filing, fabrication, soldering…etc, skills are the foundation of jewelry making and you need to perfect them (under some pressure). But you need to move on to more complex work to get better and make more money. If you pester them and they won’t give you the opportunity to grow you’re better off leaving for a new job. If you coast too long doing the same thing you can get trapped. Most smaller shops need an all purpose benchie. Specialists have to work in big shops and there’s fewer of those. Plus you may want to go off on your own someday and you can’t do that if you’re only expert in one task. To help keep your skills going in the direction you want it’s always good to set up a studio at home to do your own work to sell, work that doesn’t conflict with your employers business in some way. Just food for thought.

On the route people take to bench work…I own a business that employs goldsmiths. I hire talented people, sometimes right out of high school, sometimes with fine arts degrees from well known art schools. I did not go to art school myself. Here’s what I think.

Once trained the high schoolers are as capable as the fine arts degree people at preforming the tasks required. But, the people who went to the university tend to have a much deeper reservoir of understanding and knowledge than the HS onlies. They seem more experienced even if they weren’t with that particular task.

Not only that, they had a much bigger picture and understanding of the world. They had met and worked with all different kinds of people, both students and professors. Plus they’d been exposed to ART so when I was asking them to do something they could relate it to something I’d never seen. They just knew more because they had the opportunity to work on art and solve art related challenges without having to make a profit. They’d been immersed in it, unless they wasted the opportunity.

Additionally they, almost all, left my business to start their own businesses (with my blessings). They just had greater expectations because of their education and experiences.

So I absolutely, 100% encourage people to go to art school and graduate. Even if it doesn’t add to your income it will surely help you to have a more fulfilling life. That’s what it’s all about in my book.

That said, life is a series of rich experiences and opportunities no matter what you do, school, work, travel, prison time…It’s a human tendency to give greater weight to our own paths in order to justify our choices. The older I get the more I understand that each path I choose means I’m trading away the chance to explore something else. This is getting a little too preachy and obvious, I’m just saying you can learn an awful lot from anyone if you give them a chance.

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Something i always did was practice soldering jump rings. It doea help. The twrm finesse conea to mind.