I'm wondering how apprenticeships work.
I learned the trade through an apprenticeship program in CA through
a state sponsored program in 1971. I believe I was the last person to
benefit from this program. That program worked with state matching
funds. The employer paid me half of minimum wage and the state picked
up the other half. If my wife hadn’t been working, I couldn’t have
afforded to participate.
I mention the above because I learned something about
apprenticeships through it. I don’t know how much it will help you,
but I’m glad to share some of it.
I think I approached every single jewelry store and manufacturer on
the S.F. peninsula over a period of about 3 months. Finally, a
jewelry store manager called me back and gave me a lead. That lead
led to a position where I was to participate in the program mentioned
above. The apprenticeship was quite basic. I learned jewelry repair
and machine engraving. For four years, I basically sized and repaired
rings, soldered chains and charms, and engraved jewelry. The
experience was invaluable in getting me into a real apprenticeship
in a S.F. manufacturing trade shop. In other words, without some
fundamental training, it’s terribly difficult to find an
On that note, Riddle’s Jewelers in North Dakota (or is it South
Dakota?) offers (or used to offer) apprenticeships in their
manufacturing shop. What will you learn to do there? Basic soldering,
and probably some other skills including casting and finishing. Basic
grunt work, but invaluable in getting your foot in the door
This is basically how it works. Some shops need trainees to perform
simple and repetitive tasks. They are generally very low paying
positions and boring work, but you will learn some basic skills.
People who take on apprentices usually want to earn a profit from
them, otherwise it just doesn’t work. It takes a lot of time to train
someone, and that means lost income.
When I worked in a union trade shop as a journeyman jeweler in S.F.
(early 1970’s), there was a union rule that only one apprentice was
allowed per 7 bench workers. In the early 80’s the union all but
disappeared except in L.A. I believe. That was the last union shop I
worked at. I think it was in '82 that watchmakers and jewelers
struck, and that was the start of the end, or something like that…
Okay, the above was basically about repair, the way many trade shops
earn money. You, however, may want to learn jewelry making. That’s a
toughie, you may be basically on your own. Some universities offer
programs, but they co$t! I managed to learn real jewelry making
skills after years of practice at the bench, and I did most of it on
my own. I set up a bench at home, bought books, asked questions of
other jewelers and so on.
It takes a tremendous amount of determination and persistence to
learn this craft. There’s just so much to learn!
If you have an idea of exactly what kind of jewelry you’d like to
produce, there may be dramatic shortcuts in your education. If you
desire the kind of broad ranging skills that trade shop jewelers have
learned over years of work, then you will most likely have to go the
Maybe you can develop a relationship, and a friendship with the
German lady. I think you’ve got a good idea there. If she likes you,
she might just agree to something…