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
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
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!