Too bad the idea of apprenticeships aren't popular these days.
Actually, if there is a jewelry manufacturer in your area you
might want to check with them about a model making
apprenticeship. After taking silversmithing in college I moved
to RI (where there are a ton of jewelry companies) and got a job
as one for a costume jewelry companies making models in white
metal. They were basically looking for someone who could light a
torch and saw metal. Learned a lot about the workings of a
jewelry business there.
Hi, I’m new to the list. A few days ago, I noticed a post from Kevin
in N/W England in which he mentioned he apprenticed, which inspired
me to post. Anyone who can help me, especially Kevin: I am relatively
young (I haven’t yet attended post-secondary schooling) and I’m
looking for an apprenticeship or similar learning method in England,
specifically in West or South Yorkshire in the Wakefield/Leeds area.
Any I could get, whether about this specifically or in
general about apprenticeship would be greatly appreciated. I am
really interested in getting into the jewelry field, so thanks in
advance for any help.
Hi Melissa. I don’t know which of my messages you are refering to,
maybe the one about borax cones? Anyway, you somehow read more into
it than I said, or at least, more than I meant. Whatever, I have
not received formal training in jewellery, apart from attending the
summer school that I mentioned, which was just a short course. What I
know about jewellery comes from books and just doing it! Background
in chemistry and general tinkering helps, I suppose.
There are four universities that I know of here that offer degree
courses in jewellery. They are Birmingham, Loughborough, Wrexham and
Edinburgh. I’m sure there are others too. Cannot offer any
on apprenticeships though.
Hi, I’m new to the list. A few days ago, I noticed a post from Kevin
in N/W England in which he mentioned he apprenticed, which inspired me
Kevin (NW England, UK)
One of the best colleges for classical jewelery courses id the Sir
John Cass College in London. The tutors are all practicing goldsmiths,
setters and jewelers.
The courses are really tough - they also work with apprentices from
the trade who take their City and Guilds exams.
These are horrific old fashioned examinations that make the students
replicate techniques from the 1800’s!
Once you’ve been forced to hand make a diamond cluster ring using a
saw and hand files you’ll never feel the same about Tiffany or Van
Cleef and Arples. Graduates of John Cass turn the rings over and sniff
at the piercing on the backs! it can be really rough, even on million
I did the Silversmithing, Diamond Mounting, Enameling, Casting,
Setting and Spinning courses.
Working with minimal tools and learning to make up complex settings
added enormous confidence to my design skills.
I hated every moment of the foul designs they made me do - but I
learned such a lot ( such as how to keep a saw blade for a week
without breaking it - and how awful it is to have to use half a blade
for the rest of the week when it breaks.)
Tony Konrath Gold and Stone firstname.lastname@example.org
I don’t know if there is a standard on this, I can only relay my
I was a Camp Ranger ( I did maintenence) In TX. I loved my tools but
hated having to be outside all the time - 100 degrees and above in
the summer. I always said that if I could sit inside in the A/C and
play with tools, I’d be happy forever. I encountered a jeweler who
upon hearing this asked if I’d ever considered being a jeweler. I
asked what this would entail? He showed me a bench and the rest was
history…16 years now.
I had to promise 2 things. That I would stay for a minimum of 4
years and that I would never go into business in his town in
competition with him. In exchange he would give me use of the bench
and tools I needed. When I wanted specific lessons, there were
tapes and books all over the shop. (If I interrupted him to ask
something like 'explain bezel setting", he’d kick back in his big
chair and say “$300.00 and I’ll tell you”, I’d go find out) Once I
learned how to do things like sizing and chain repair, he paid me
wholesale labor on the jobs I completed without help. As I got more
proficient I got more money.
This was all on a cash basis and therefore he didn’t set hours. I
was there on and off for 14 years. This eventually worked out to
where even though I had opened my own store I still helped him when
he had overflows. He was a great help in my getting off the ground.
To minimize paperwork at the year end our monthly bookwork looked
like this: I did X amount ($) of repair work for him. I owe him
X($) for stones, parts, watch services…
Jay’s reply sounds like a good arrangement.
I had started with a friend showing me the basics of making a
straight and beveled herringbone chain out of silver from melting my
own material through rolling, drawing wire, annealing, etc. The
first ring I sized was my own…He walked away from me and said to
call him if I needed help. It took me 1 hour to size that ring.
Most of that time was spent wondering what to do.
The point is you learn by doing. I got that tone from Jay’s
response too. I wouldn’t pay anyone to be an apprentice…Why would
they teach you enough to become independant? They should pay you for
the work you are able to do for them albeit at trade rates.
Since you want to keep your full time job, my suggestion would be to
find a partime job with a local small jeweler. One who works the
bench themselves.(You’ll find out pretty quickly if they are capable)
This way you can get some experience in small doses, help out in the
store, and in return ask for exposure to the bench. It will also give
you access to help should you need it for projects you undertake on
your own. Everyone needs help they can rely on when things get busy
both on the floor and in the shop. Think of it as symbiotic
Just have to include my opinion in this thread.
Apprentices definitely must be paid! This attitude that when we
teach someone a useful trade they should be grateful enough not to
expect payment is a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the
original apprenticeship system and one of the things that has
contributed to keeping wages in our field among the lowest in the
skilled trades. Here we have it . . . so few really good jewelers
left with the time or willingness to train the next generation, and
men and women practicing a trade that takes decades to master making
the same wages as an auto mechanic. In the old days of
apprenticeship, the apprentices were kids, and they got room and
board and guidance. And then they were expected to leave to work for
other masters as “journeymen” after their training. There were no
high schools or colleges for the children of the working class. I
really resent the idea that just because someone is enjoying what
they do for a living that all the money should go into the pockets of
the man who is “gracious” enough to exploit them. I can speak from
experience that if you really know your trade, you can pick the right
employee, train them properly, and have them making money for you
such that you will realize that when you create another skilled
artisan and pay him/her properly, it’s the best investment you can
ever make. But this is the job of a master, not a mere businessman.
You’ve got to know how to recognize that diamond in the rough before
you start cutting just any old rock. That’s the other side of
mastery. Understanding temperament. You should spend the time to
train someone, even when it puts a strain on your cash flow and your
time. Attitude and aptitude are equally important and more important
than anything else. We skilled trades cannot pony up the capital to
achieve independence. We only have our skills. Invest your skills in
another just as the son of a merchant will borrow money and invest in
inventory and a storefront. Your goal should be to end up with the
best paid, best trained, and best equipped jewelers in the trade.
What? Are you expecting to get rich making jewelry? You don’t get
rich just making this stuff. You get rich if you are a skilled
self-promoter and a quick study at marketing and mostly if you are
lucky, lucky, lucky. But if you think exploiting your employees is
going to get you there, you are on a dangerous path. If you get a
reputation as a skin-flint and a slave-driver, your turn-over problem
will make your life a living hell and in the end you will go broke.
Meanwhile, people like me will be breathing down your neck and hiring
away people you’ve already spent time and money training, and don’t
expect any pity from anyone but your own kind. Pay your people well,
train them well, treat them well. Let them inside the business where
they can both help and understand the decisions that you have to
make. This advice used to be based on my working class values, but
now I believe it is actually the most sound financial advice as well.
David L. Huffman
And to all this I would add, if you do not wish to have a painful
encounter with the US Department of Labor, apprentices MUST be paid!
Dos Manos Jewelry