Becoming a jeweler

I’m 18, and I live in oregon. I took a jewelery class at Sherwood
High School, and fell in love with the art. I would like to know how
to pursue a career in jewelry making. I know you can go to school
for it, but it’s a trade and can be learned from a master. I also
need to know what will be a must have before persuing it more.

So basically how do i persue it as a career, should I go to a school
or get an apprenticeship (and how do i get one) and what will I need
before I go after this further. I’m very passionate about this and
want all the i can get.

Thank you very much.

I have some posts on that on my blog:

And in brief, what I would strongly suggest to you, is that you plan
to do a residency at someplace (Penland, Arrowmont, etc.) for a year
or more.

If you choose college, find one with good technical training; and
also realize that you will most likely need trade school in addition
to college. Sorry. It’s great that you’re starting young and have
lots of options.

Hmm. Wouldn’t it be cool to do some trade school this summer, before
you (presumably) start collegee

If you aren’t planning to go to college, then I’d choose an
excellent trade school, say, Revere, and complete their diploma

Then I’d set about creating a body of work, enough to be able to
apply to the residency programs.

In between trade school classes and residencies, apply for work
study and study assistantships at the crafts camps (such as
Arrowmont) and learn, learn, learn.

Other than that, set up a bench at home and make a bunch of stuff.

Don’t approach anyone for an apprenticeship until you have some
skills to offer.

Good luck!


Hi Lacey

Doing an apprenticeship means

  1. finding someone who will teach you
  2. Will put the time into it
  3. ARE AN EXCELLENT jeweler themselves (important)
  4. You could be taught the wrong way.

Go to a good school and bypass years of training and get up to speed
quicker. On your side of the country is The Revere Academy

I was taught with apprenticeship as a kid, my father was in the
business. Never got the true time given to me to teach me correctly.
Schooling would have gotten me 10 years ahead.

Good Luck
David S. Geller

Lacey -

There are as many paths as there are jewelers. Go through the
archives and look for the post that asked the question (something
like this), “How did you get into the jewelry tradee” It was directed
at people who didn’t start their career as a jeweler, but came into
it from an unrelated field.

This will help you get an idea of how others did it. Granted, most
of them were older than you. Their main advantage is that they (most
of them) had years of work experience they could use to show an
employer they would be a good hire. All beginner jewelers start out
as beginner jewelers. But which ones will be prompt, reliable,
honest, and give a good day’s labore

That said, here is my advice (take it with a big grain of NaCl):

First get a job, any job that appeals to you/is available, and be
the best employee they ever had. Start putting money away to fund
your dream.

Buy some decent equipment (torch and basic soldering tools, two or
three good files [use your recent experience], hammer and bench
block, flex shaft if you can afford it, and lots of silver. Make
things for yourself, friends and family. Nice stuff, that you would
be proud to wear or have someone say that you made.

Go online and research jewelry schools across the country. Find out
where they are, how/what they teach and how much it costs. Figure in
room and board too. Decide if you can afford it and how you would pay
for it if you did it.

Read the Orchid archives and the bench tips. Become very familiar
with gemology.

Find local jewelers. Visit them absolutely clean, wearing good clean
clothes and your best jewelry. Ask politely if you can make an
appointment to talk to them about the jewelry trade. If they say
’yes’, then make the appointment and keep it. Find out under what
circumstances they might take on an apprentice and what the terms of
service would be. If they say ‘no’, then thank them for their time
and don’t bother them again.

(BTW, when you do the asking, do it like they will say ‘yes’ if you
give them half a chance. Don’t go in with the fear that the answer
will be ‘no’.)

Compare your perceptions of what it would be like to get the
schooling (relative short time, high cost, no guarantee of a job)
versus becoming an apprentice (lowwwwwww paying job, plenty of
hands-on experience (including the boring scut-work) and the
possibility you won’t like the boss, but you will learn things they
never teach in school).

You are adult enough to know what you have a tolerance for. Get
plenty of advice, but run it through your own personality filter.
Weigh the factors, make a decision, prepare, and then pursue it
relentlessly. It’s your life, your dream. Your are the only one who
can do it for you.

To address your concern that you need all the you can
get, realize that you will never have enough. Get enough to make an
informed decision. Then go do it. If you make a mistake, take it as a
learning experience. Don’t beat yourself up over it, but don’t make
the mistake again.

Sorry for the lecture. Hope you have fun in your quest!

In addition to attending school, or apprenticing, another way is the
same as many, many others here have done, and thats to to take the
bull by the horns, and start teaching yourself- buy books, hand
tools, ask for equipment for birthdays, Christmas, etc… I started
nearly 35 yrs ago this way. I used an old teachers desk, setup in my
Mom’s laundry room, as my workbench. I found that pieces of brass
and copper from the hardware store were perfect, and inexpensive, to
learn and practice with. I was the only 13 yr old kid on the block
to request, and receive, an acetelyne torch for his birthday. I was
able to get a parttime bench job at 16 yrs old, at a local retail
custom/trade shop, worked for a few others, and have had my own
bricks and mortar shop for the last 22 yrs. If you can find it
anywhere, I highly recommend Murray Bovin’s books on making,
repairing jewelry- excellent for mastering basics like cutting,
filing, soldering,even some basic stone setting. All of your local
book stores, Bordens, Barnes & Nobles, have several books about many
avenues of jewelry making. Alot of magazines available at the
bookstores too. If you really have a passion for jewelry, dont let
lack of schools, or apprenticships stop you. First make yourself
valuable, then you can more easily persuade someone to take you on.


Hello Lacy,

So basically how do i persue it as a careere should I go to a
school or get an apprenticeship (and how do i get one) and what
will I need before I go after this further. 

Congratulations on knowing what you want to do at such a young age
and also for knowing that there is more than one way to get there.
The sooner you start, the sooner you get there. Historically kids
would be at your career starting point at about age 15 - 16, but now
it is not at all uncommon to change your mind and waffle about your
life’s work well into your 20s or even later.

I see 4 paths to becoming a jeweler:

Art School, probably the most expensive and most time consuming.
This usually comes with a lot of indoctrination about what it means
to be an “artist” Unfortunately a large percentage of graduates never
have actual careers in the field that support them. I spent 6 years
in art school myself. I don’t regret it, but I am cautious about
recommending that path.

Apprenticeship or on-the-job-training. This can be excellent
training or you can just wind up learning to do the donkey work for a
very specific production line. I worked a year and a half for another
craftsman after I graduated. I did not learn much in the way of bench
skills that would be useful doing anything other than making exactly
the same kind of thing my boss made, which is to say the skill set
was very narrow. But i did learn to keep my nose to the grindstone
with long days of endlessly boring repetition. That is a very
important discipline to master. I also learned a lot about business
that way. I have had several apprentices myself, which I make it a
point to teach a range of skills. My deal with the apprentices is
that they give me their labor cheap, but I will give them a wide
range of skills and help them with projects on their own time. Other
masters who might be reading this. Remember that when you teach
someone to make something exactly the way you already know it should
be made, you are not teaching them problem solving skills. If you
encourage them to work on some projects of their own initiative, they
are going to learn at a much deeper level. This will make them much
more useful to you in the long run. Plus if they go on to be
successful on their own you get bragging rights.

Trade school. From what I hear these are pretty good value for the
money and get right to the point. I personally have no experience and
don’t know anyone very well who was trained this way, but I suspect
this may be your best path. You can skip a lot of trial and error for
the basics and also satisfy your parents that you are following a
real education sort of training. When you are done you can much more
easily get a job. Even if your goal is self employment, working for
someone else for a few years will help you prepare for that.

Self taught. Truly creative people are always self taught to a
certain extent. Even at school you figure some things out on your
own. An amazing large percentage of successful jewelry businesses are
run by craftsmen who are self taught. It really makes you wonder how
good the schools really are. I started out as self taught in High
School. My art and shop teachers were very helpful, but they didn’t
really have any experience with precious metals. They were excellent
in helping me find out how to do it on my own. You can supplement
being self taught with workshops and short courses at schools like
Peters Valley or Penland. Read a lot and be willing to take risks.

Stephen Walker

Hi Lacy,

Over thirty years ago I was a senior in high school who felt much
like it sounds you do now. I found a trade shop (a goldsmith shop who
does work for retail jewelers) with a good reputation and offered to
work for free if they would train me to be a goldsmith. They hired me
and made me an apprentice soon after, I stayed with them for 10 years
before going off on my own.

One good way to find a great shop to work for is to go around to
retail jewelers in your area and ask who does the best work in town,
particularly custom work. You will get different answers (so ask lots
of different jewelers) but it will familiarize you with possible
places of employment and training. I have often hired young
enthusiastic people who have little more than some familiarity with
the tools and processes but who had a strong desire to learn.

Once you get a job in a shop, it’s then your job to push your
employer to train you. In a shop it’s natural for the person running
it to train you to do something well, like sizing, and then have you
just do that…nothing else. You get fast and productive and
profitable, but you’re not learning any thing new. It’s your job to
self educate and to push the people you work with to teach you
progressively more difficult work. I think this is something most
people fail to do. They get into a comfortable and predictable
routine, doing basically the same thing every day and they can
stagnate for years. Those same people usually have the ability to do
the most complex work, but they don’t have the drive to push and do
what’s needed to have the opportunity to actually do the more
challenging jobs.

There are few ways of doing this. One is that you go to school, this
is great, you get exposed to people and ideas that you may never see
in any other way. Another is you get right to work in a shop, this
way you make money and begin to get better every day. In my
experience, people who went to a 4 year metals or fine arts program
and then applied for a job as a goldsmith are often not much better
than people right out of high school. They make about the same money
and do about the same quality of work. But I do think those that went
to school often have a broader view of the world, they know things
that they others don’t. The career as a goldsmith doing work for
retail jewelers provides a more regular income than making your own
jewelry and selling it in some way. As a goldsmith in a shop you are
forced to do work that you don’t really necessarily want to do, super
difficult work sometimes, and that really broadens your skill set. So
even if you want to have your own line or a store or gallery, it’s
not a bad idea to work in the trenches of a shop for a few years at
least (while still keeping the vision of your future burning brightly
in your mind).

Bottom line is, like with anything, it’s all really up to you.
Whatever you do, just make sure you show up every day to get the
most out of whatever you’re doing, I can’t tell you all of the
opportunities to learn something new that I see people pass up. As my
Dad said, you will get out of it what you put into it.

Best regards,

I’m not going to become a jeweler but I enjoy making jewelry as a
hobby. I’m middle age and work full time so my ability to attend
classes is limited to evenings and weekends. It seems when I take a
’workshop’ over a couple of days I’m given a materials list, tools
list, and get written instructions. If I take a ‘class’ over a few
weeks, the notes I take while watching the instructor are my
instructions. It’s frustrating because it’s hard to write enough
down and not miss something the instructor is doing. I buy books on a
regular basis and now I see many of the authors are on ganoskin. I
learn best reading, watching, then following written steps doing
until I have the technique down. I live in central NH and I’m
looking for suggestions on building a foundation of the how and why
basics of metalsmithing.


Speaking as a jeweler with 33 years of experience and now a store
owner as well, I can tell you for certain that you should do both.
Get the education in jewelery design and construction along with a
gemological degree and don’t forget the degree in business. Because
no matter if you are wholesale or retail, a crafts person or bench
jeweler working in someone else’s store. You are in business.

John Wade
Wade Designs Jewelry

college, then I'd choose an excellent trade school, 

All the usual good advice… When I was in the “making it in the
garage and learning from books by the seat of my pants” phase, I
happened into a tiny little silversmith’s shop - this in southern New
Mexico, turquoise jewelry country. He didn’t take me as an
apprentice, but he did befriend me and spend time talking with me.
Eventually he gave me some menial labor to take home - I WAS an
amateur. For such a small thing, it was a surprisingly formative
experience. He didn’t really teach me much by way of skills, just an
insight into being a craftsman, having a business, what it all
means. I remember him fondly… You never know where things will