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Advice CAD/CAM career


Was hoping to get some feed back about the jewelry industry and job
placement on the CAD / CAM side of things. I really want to go to
GIA for their Jewelry Art & Technology program. I’m just unsure about
the industry and the demand for higher. also any guidance on pay /
salary ?

Any advice, help, comments or suggestions would be awesome! Happy

Josh W

Josh, Dan posted this on the same day:

Without the hands on experience or at the very least base jewelry
making knowledge, there are just too many places to make a mistake
in the process. How thick? How Thin? What percentage of shrinkage?
How deep, how wide? all of those things that in my opinion are
"Must Know" to successfully, repeatedly draw and produce good
jewelry using CAD /CAM CNC methods. It takes all that plus the
skill and design talent normally required. It IS NOT A SHORTCUT! IT
IS A TOOL! Just like a prong pusher or a file at the bench. 

I agree, you’ll need some experience with the finished product:
settings, heads, prongs, etc.

But that said whatever program you decide to master most all of them
will do what you need. Stores doing custom are doing well and making
great money.

I’d say after 2-3 years you could get paid $40,000 min and get
upwards of $60k

You’ll need to work along someone for training and just need to do a
lot of jobs.

David Geller

Hi Josh,

I would be glad to help you out here. There are CAD jobs available
out there. Tiffany, Casting House, and others. You can check GIA’'s
database for some positions or get a head hunter to help you out. I
personally named the AJA program. Applied Jewelry Art for GIA. I was
instrumental in providing the classes aligned with the program.
Jewelry Design, Wax Carving, Casting, and CAD. The CAD comes last on
the schedule for you. All of these classes are important in
manufacturing but it does not include the GJ program which teaches
more metalsmithing and stone setting. It is an expensive program to
learn. If you are interested in being proficient in CAD I would
suggest you do the GJ program and come to us for the CAD. We can
give you a two week course that will eclipse GIA’s 7-week course for
half the money and put you on the road to success without all the
fluff. We get to the exact point of designing with workflow in mind
all along the way.

Just so you know I was the Jewelry Manufacturing Arts Manager for
GIA for over 5 years and brought many successes to all of the courses
there in the manufacturing arts. I brought all the video camera
systems to the benches, Smart boards, upgraded technology in bringing
in Matrix and Rhino increasing student enrollment from 6 to 20 with
one instructor instead of 2 on 6 students. So, I guess you could go
to a class of 20 and get less attention or come to a world class
online tutoring of workflow and pertinent that you will
need to succeed.

I will be putting together a personally trained staff to create a
line of jewelry soon for the high end market. They will be trained by
us for a ongoing department in manufacture. Our schedule for the new
year will be out soon. If you want Matrix for $295.00 for 6 months
let me know. All you have to do is enroll with us as a full time

If you have any questions let me know.

Russ Hyder
The Jewelry CAD Institute

Josh- Learning and using CAD is a very useful thing. It has many
applications for both custom and mass manufacturing. I recommend that
all of our students learn to do CAD. It is, so far, used mostly for
larger mass manufacturing where keeping costs low is important. It is
critical that good CAD operators know how to make jewelry and set
stones by hand before they take up CAD.

However do not forget that in the future your job could very likely
be outsourced to another country with cheaper rates. I have friends
who specialize in this who are already complaining about jobs going
overseas. As more and more folks learn to do CAD the scarcity of
skilled operators goes down along with the wages.

Before you commit the money to GIA, make sure that you can pay your
school loans with entry level income in the CAD trade. Have fun and
make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

I feel differently than many here. being in my price book I price
out cad/cam and I talk to stores I find that stores that aggressively
use and promote cad for designing jewelry are booked up with orders
and the people doing the cad are well paid.

Are some things being sent overseas? Yeah, maybe at Tiffany &
Company but independents doing custom using cad/cam are busy and it
keeps them afloat and profitable.

David Geller

Thank you very much everyone for the response. Tough decisions to
make :\

How widely is Rhino and Matrix used throughout the industry?

Are some things being sent overseas? Yeah, maybe at Tiffany &
Company but independents doing custom using cad/cam are busy and
it keeps them afloat and profitable. 

I wonder who they get to repair it.

Paf Dvorak

How widely is Rhino and Matrix used throughout the industry? In my
experience Matrix dominates the jewelry industry, so does Rhinosince
it’s what Matrix is built on. As far as career advice, I think it’s
very important to build experience as a well rounded goldsmith as
well as learning to operate CAD. By that I mean, you will be a much
better CAD guy if you understand how to do the whole job. Only by
struggling to make piecesfrom scratch by hand can you really
understand how your models should be made. People who have carved
many, many waxes by hand and then had to set them all up with stones
make much better models than people who only model with CAD, that’s
because they have experienced things not fitting or not being quite
right and have learned how to overcome those obstacles. That is very
valuable knowledge and I know of no other way to learn it other than
to struggle through it. That said, I do know a couple of excellent
CAD operators who have no bench experience, so it can be done, but
they a few and far between. In their case, they seem to be absolute
naturals at both having an intuitive understanding of the software
and at naturally grasping whatthe customer wants. They can visualize
what the details the customer wantsare and know what tools to use to
make the software build those details inspace. Most CAD operators
can’t quite visualize how it’s supposed to look and if they can,
they can’t work out which combinations of tools to use to make it
happen anyway. So they get as close as they can, which isn’t close
enough most of the time. Good CAD people can make 60K-100K a year as
employees in the right shop. Independent CAD operators can charge
about $200-$300 for an average model and then get another $80 to
grow or mill it. There are real and substantial tax advantages to
owning your own business, so if you make the same money in your biz,
you get to keep more of it. If you are really good at doing the
work, getting along, communicating, interpreting other peoples
designs and desires and maintaining you equipment, you canlive very
comfortably and look forward to retiring to your place on the lake
someday. But that goes for almost any career, the really good ones
usually do just fine no matter what the economy is like. The
downside with evolving your career into doing CAD exclusively is
that you can only find gainful employment at a fairly large
business. A small jeweler with 1-2 benches and one store is unlikely
to have enough work or income to pay you the 70K you deserve. You
will have to find a bigger outfit or go off on your own. That’s my 2
cents, Mark


seldom is any knowledge ever wasted. Learn anything and everything
you can.

I might suggest however spending the $$ learning specific CAD
programs. not CAD in general. The programs all vary greatly. You end
up in the same place most times but the route from thought to model
in one program is far far different than in another. I work in 3
programs. Each has it’s strengths and weaknesses. Look around and
see what is used the most and learn it. I would think you can learn
a little less expensive than at GIA. Nothing at all against GIA but
you need to come out of the learning process free of debt and with
the knowledge to go forward.

Good Luck. Dan.