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Affordable jewelry schools and training

could anyone recommend an affordable program that would teach the
skills necessary to gain entry into the jewelry design or
manufacturing industry? are there any programs that have a reputation
for offering excellent job placement assistance and/or
apprenticeships while training? i would like a complete career
overhaul (BA in sociology, working in research now, and in massive
student debt) and i have no idea where to begin a comprehensive
technical metals/jewelry training program without breaking the bank
and supporting myself in the interim… or at least saving in order to
take a few months hiatus from work to do an intensive, inexpensive

Revere School
North Bennett Street School, Boston
two with very good reputations.
Penn Foster Career School – mailed lessons and internet interaction
Several in NYC, but off hand I don’t know their names.


With your education background it sounds like you are headed towards
a career with benefits and a good retirement. Keep in mind that you
won’t be getting that in jewelry job. Don’t get me wrong, I love
working with metal and creating beautiful things. But the reality
you as a young person need to face is, it is a starving artist
position. We all start out with a longing to be designers.
Realistically, we spend 95% of our day doing repairs. That is were
the money is. You learn your craft on those repairs, but it’s not the
rewarding feeling you are looking for. Don’t expect to pay off a
student loan on a bench jewelers pay.

I understand your passion for this. It consumes me. My recommendation
to you is this… Find a job in the field you studied with a good
benefit package. This is what you studied, so you must have had a
desire to do this at one time. Then continue your jewelry knowledge
pursuit. There are great classes offered at “Wildacres Retreat” and
"William Holland" during the summer for very little money. It is a
Great education experience set in the mountains. Or take on a part
time job in a Fix It kiosk in the Mall. There you will get a cram
course in jewelry repair. Keep your passion! You can always make
jewelry. Just think long and hard before you make it a career.

Go on Craigslist and ask for jewelers tools. You might be surprised
what comes of it. Maybe even a connection.

could anyone recommend an affordable program that would teach the
skills necessary to gain entry into the jewelry design or
manufacturing industry? 

No, I can’t. I don’t think affordable ones exist, unless you happen
to have a community college near you with a trade program.

Hmm. Perhaps Paris Junior College in Texas (they’ve changed the
name) might be the most affordable, if you can get there.

Otherwise take basic metalsmithing in your own community while still
at work, then do intensive trade school using up all your vacation
time. There are places that have one and two week classes.

Know that the jewelry industry is not the easiest thing in the world
to break into.


Nicloe- I am afraid that starting a career in the Jewelry Trade will
put you even further into debt.

It’s not so much the cost of training, but the years of learning and
practice and the cost of all the tools that will set you back. Not
to mention the silver, gold, platinum, and gemstones it will take to
learn this stuff. This will not ease your education debt any time
soon. It really takes a minimum of 5 years to master the basics.

After some schooling an entry level trade shop job will earn you
maybe 10 bucks an hour here in Portland. You would be starting in the
polishing room as a newbie. After maybe 7 years or so you can get up
to journeyman wages a whopping 15-17 bucks an hour.

In the mean time you will have to spend thousands of dollars on hand

If this is what you love more than anything in the world and cannot
do anything else then go for it.

If you are looking for a higher wage job to get you out of debt then
don’t do it. You will find yourself in even bigger debt.

There is no cheap and fast way to learn this trade.

Sorry to be the voice of doom, but I owe you the truth.

I feel that it’s a crime the way colleges have enticed young folks
to spend fortunes on degrees that cannot earn enough money to pay
back the huge debt they incur. Spending a fortune on an advanced
degree in the arts, dance, childhood education, social
sciences,etc.will guarantee that you will never be able to afford to
practice your discipline. You will be to busy working jobs that pay
real money to pay off your student loans.

Jo Haemer

The Jewelry Training Center in Colorado Springs Colorado. Our
programs range from one to 24 weeks. We specialize in preparing
individuals to work in the jewelry business: design, fabrication,
repair, stone setting, tool modifying & making, pricing, customer
service, bench & shop management We are also one of the only (if not
the only) jewelry schools that teaches pricing (retail and labor

Our Sister company is an appraisal company (Anton Nash LLC,
Independent Jewelry Appraisal).

Arthur Anton Skuratowicz GJG (GIA)

The most affordable jewelry school is on-the-job training.

40 years at this, including 6 years at university art programs, has
convinced me that you will learn more, learn it better and make a
better living if you just get a job. Many, if not most employers in
this business are highly skeptical of art school. The reason is that
there is no substitute for practice and experience. I personally
like the New Approach School, but even that is a waste of time if you
don’t follow it up with lots of practice.

If your goal is to have your own business or to get a good job with
a successful business, my advise is to get an entry level job in a
workshop or a store that does custom work. Take a few short courses
at somewhere like the New Approach School and then after a year or
two get another job with someone else.

What I am really talking about is apprenticeship, but be careful how
you use that word. Many people will talk about “apprenticeship” and
what they imagine is sort of like an in-house student/studio buddy.
Ask for a “job” and the employer will take you seriously. Ask for an
"apprenticeship" and they may think you have unrealistic fantasies.
The type of apprenticeship I am suggesting is a full time job. I am
all in favor of apprenticeship. I have apprentices in my shop. But
several times a year I get someone asking about “apprenticeship” and
they think they are going to keep their day job and I am going to
give them private lessons week-ends and evenings. There are good
jewelers who will hire new help that have little or no experience
because those people are just as likely to work out as the ones with
formal training. But they hire workers, not side-kicks.

Stephen Walker

Hi there, Affordable jewelry school? Well, yes, you may want to
check out our school Jewelry studies intl. in Austin Texas. We have
11 weeks programs which also can be broken down to class by class.
Please check it out you will not be disappointed.

Ps: Yes, the jewelry industry may seem hard but it’s also what you
make of it. I have students and former apprentices that are doing
very well. If jewelry is your passion go for it and everything comes
together. At leastyou will be doing something you love for living and
that’s the greatest joy.

Good luck!

I spoke with a young metalsmith recently with a graduate degree in
metal arts. Her work is quite nice, design-wise, but not what you
would call traditional metalsmithing. She confided in me that she now
owes over $200,000 in student loans. She says she has student friends
who owe at least that much and more in loans.

The teaching jobs she expected to apply for are just not there, and
I don’t think she has the practical skills to start work in a
commercial jewelry shop learning how to repair and make custom pieces
for the public.

I understand many"art jewelers" are having a very tough time
financially, and that commercial jewelry shop positions are very low
paying and not very creative. So what marketable skills are metals
programs offering for such a high price?

Over $200,000 in student loans to get a metalsmithing degree? How
can one ever hope to pay that off??

I can’t say I have answers, but I certainly hope this prompts more

Jay Whaley

The most affordable jewelry school is on-the-job training. 

I would agree with that, but the trick is finding a job that "will"
train you.

It’s very difficult in Australia at the moment to get an
apprenticeship :frowning:

Regards Charles A.

40 years at this, including 6 years at university art programs,
has convinced me that you will learn more, learn it better and
make a better living if you just get a job. 

I could echo Stephen’s quote except in my case it’s one year
university and many hours consulting, lecturing or what-have-you in
those venues. Except (usually) for bezel setting, here’s how you set
a diamond: you select the right size and shape setting to begin
with. You get a certain sized hart bur in your flex shaft - both of
which I could show you in ten minutes if it were’s just typing. You
make little bearing cuts in each prong or wall, all level and even.
You put the diamond into those bearing cuts and you push the metal
over and you finish it off.

There, you all owe me $100/each. That’s what you’ll get in a school
except you’ll get some actual practice and coaching. But it still
won’t make you a diamond setter in any real way. Get a job - it
probably won’t pay much at first but it will pay instead of YOU
paying for basic skills.

Hello Jay,

Your points are well taken.

I hesitate to add this, but nearly all college graduates are
scratching for a job. A few areas are still in demand (info. tech.,
most engineering, health care). However, the student loan situation
is appalling. I don’t know how a young person can hope to make a
living and pay down a loan for US$30,000 - many times it’s even
more. No wonder so many graduates live with parents or other
relatives. The effort by the feds to keep loan interest down is not
enough. Costs at universities continue to rise and government support
continues to decline, so tuition increases, exacerbating the student
loan long-term problems.

If I had a child wanting to obtain a degree, I’d have them start out
at a community/junior college and get the basic courses much more
cheaply. Then gain entrance to the university and plan coursework to
finish the degree in as little time as possible. I would also
encourage them to live modestly and take a small job to reduce loan

It’s a sad commentary on the need for higher education if the degree
puts a young person in the poor house!

Judy in Kansas, who has a post-graduate education and is retired
from a university!!

I’m signed up for the GIA’s GJ program that starts in August. I’ve
had a lot of people speak very highly of it. I think at the end of
it, I’ll be a competent, if extremely beginner, bench jeweler. I
expect I’ll have a steep learning curve, but on the other hand, I’d
actually like to specialize in repairs, and do creative custom work
on the side. There’s something about making a piece of jewelry
wearable and and beautiful again that appeals to me.

I’ve read a number of people on here talking about repairs being the
bread and butter. I guess I’m hoping that if I work hard and get
good and get experience and lots and lots of practice under my belt,
I’ll always have bread and butter. I won’t starve on that. ;> I
don’t have any grand aspirations to sell jewelry to the stars. I’ll
report back on my impressions of the course as I go along, if
anybody’s interested.

I find these numbers hard to believe! Not saying you’re wrong just
who in their right mind would spend $200,00 to get a $40,000 a year
job. I know kids who gradated law school and have only $100,000 in
loans. When the economy comes back lawyers get paid over $100K.

David Geller

I'll report back on my impressions of the course as I go along, if
anybody's interested. 

Oh yes, please do.


Thanks for all the informative advice, everyone. Many great leads on
schools I had never heard of before. I’m located in Chicago, but
willing to travel and utilize my vacations to complete short training
programs / workshops. I did take a beginners course at an art center
here, and it was a nice introduction to the medium, however, it was 3
hrs/night once a week and catered to hobbyists, and I am looking for
actual training i.e. more technical and intense. I had a feeling
on-the-job training would be the most reasonable route. I am only
having difficulty finding someone who will actually hire me, having
no experience at all. I have no connections / knowledge of the
jewelry community here, so I should probably put my feelers out.

I am not terribly concerned about the “starving artist” aspect. As I
am currently a “starving academic” in my positon at a university. The
pay is crap and there is absolutely no opportunity for raises or
growth without obtaining a PhD in my field, which I am vehemently
against (cannot justify the cost / debt of further education.) The
benefits, though, are what keep me. Since I am working for the state,
I have good health, retirement, paid time off and sick leave, etc.
The job and environment, however, are absolutely dulling and
uninspiring; I’ve just been at it for 2.5 years and am almost at my
tipping point. My only happiness lately is coming home to my bench
and creating with metal. Hence the thoughts of making it a career.

I find these numbers hard to believe! Not saying you're wrong just
who in their right mind would spend $200,00 to get a $40,000 a
year job. I know kids who gradated law school and have only
$100,000 in loans. When the economy comes back lawyers get paid
over $100K. 

Unfortunately there is a large number of college students with this
same sad story. The expansion of private student loans in the past
decades has only compounded the problem with private banks and
schools colluding to entice students to take out these huge loans
without any regard for how one can possibly pay off $100k or more in
loans with as you say a $40k/year job. There is blame to go around
for all involved but the schools who are supposed to be teaching and
advising these young people are especially deserving of scrutiny and
rebuke for encouraging a student in something like the arts or
humanities to take out these huge loans.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

There, you all owe me $100/each. That's what you'll get in a
school except you'll get some actual practice and coaching. But it
still won't make you a diamond setter in any real way. 

Reading through this thread it is obvious that many of the more
experienced contributors cannot remember what is was like getting
started. I attended a school. Among my classmates were students with
a vast background working with tools, and also people that had never
used anything more than a hammer to hang pictures. Those of us with
a background using tools skated through much of the program. But many
of the students did not know how to even hold a saw, for instance.
Square one for them. To those without this experience, the ‘actual
practice and coaching’ was invaluable, and it is the entire reason to
attend a hands-on school.

In addition, newbies in the jewelry trade do not know what they do
not know. “So, that was prong setting a round diamond. There are also
ovals, princess cuts, marquise and other fancy shapes. Each one
requires a different technique. And then there are stones much more
difficult to set than diamonds, and setting techniques more
difficult than prong setting.” Etc. Schooling will at least let you
know what you DON’T know before you hit the pavement.

Get a job - it probably won't pay much at first but it will pay
instead of YOU paying for basic skills. 

This advice is absolute whimsy in many parts of the country. Again,
those with their own store or already employed might not realize
what the market is like. Where exactly is the owner or manager who is
willing to take in a neophyte with no skills and teach them
everything they need to know to become a competent benchie? During a
recent bout of unemployment, I was shocked to discover the
expectations of the hiring managers or owners. They wanted
EVERYTHING: from casting, to setting everything including micro-pave
and bead-and-bright, to CAD, to hand carved waxes, and to every other
possible skill they’d ever heard of including hand engraving (!).
They wanted everything done FAST. They wanted it PERFECT. They wanted
all this in one person, and most didn’t want to pay ANYTHING. Many of
them job out their repairs. Cheaper. Many of them job out setting.
Cheaper. Some places (and I mean major stores) showed me a dirty
little back room with a bench and nothing else. It was expected that
I would furnish the rest of the set-up on my own nickel, yeah,
including the polisher, and then be happy to work piece-meal at the
cheapest possible rates with no benefits. Because they are already
jobbing everything out to a family of immigrants working long hours
for peanuts. Yup, your competition.

So that’s my reality. It’s recent and it’s factual. A very tough job
market for the benchie. Ugly and not getting better that I can see.
If you have a complete skill set (more than my 10 years gives me) it
looks better, probably much better. But by then you are working for
yourself and this discussion is moot.

To the O.P. - if I haven’t put you off, search ‘redwing mn jewelry
school’ - dubdubdub southeastmn edu - jewelry manufacturing and
repair. Probably as reasonable as you will find. It’s public and not

Good luck!

You’re lucky to be in a large metro area like Chicago. Check for gem
and mineral clubs in the area. These are often a source of not only
inexpensive instruction, but private instruction if you find an
accomplished member willing to take you on. Many so-called
"hobbyists" have their own backyard workshops and are actually very
talented but are doing this simply for the enjoyment of it. I started
that way, and my experience has been that they love to share their
knowledge and are a joy to learn from.

Being in Chicago, you can easily fly to San Francisco for the Revere
Academy; east for the New Approach School; Austin for Jewelry
Studies Intl (2 former instructors from Revere operate this). Don’t
forget craft schools such as Haystack in Maine, Idlewyld in CA,
Penland in North Carolina, and workshops offered through
organizations such as the Florida Society of Goldsmiths in their
Winter Workshop, and COMA in Colorado. Also, check out SNAG. They
have a page on their website of instructors and their specialties,
along with photos of work. Their 2013 conference is in Toronto, easy
to get to from Chicago. Look at magazines such as American Style and
Metalsmith for more on instruction.

With that in mind, don’t become a workshop groupie. Focus on what
you want to learn and build on it with each workshop. Otherwise, you
can spend a lot of money and time and end up scattered amongst
unrelated techniques and with no direction. Find instructors whose
work and approach you admire, follow them on Facebook if they have a
page (most do), find out where they’re teaching, and move heaven and
earth to go there.

Good luck!


I am just coming into this thread so my apologies if you’ve already
discounted them… but what is wrong with the Chicago Jewelry