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Bench jeweler skills


#1

Hi,

Just curious on any experienced jeweler’s thoughts on what one would
be specifically expected to demonstrate (stone setting, finishing,
soldering, etc) if they were called in for an interview as a
prospective bench jeweler?

I am an amateur metalsmith with good soldering, finishing skills but
little stone setting or repair experience. If I am lacking skills
they are looking for, I’ll have to think what else I can bring to the
table.

Thanks for your feedback!
Chris


#2

Hi Chris,

Just curious on any experienced jeweler's thoughts on what one
would be specifically expected to demonstrate (stone setting,
finishing, soldering, etc) if they were called in for an interview
as a prospective bench jeweler? 

If the job is with a store, it is repair skills will be very
important. These can be difficult to learn without already having
that job. If you already have jewelry making skills, a short list of
the most commonly called for repair skills would be:

sizing and re-shanking rings
re-tipping prong settings
replacing settings and knowing how to solder them without causing
damage
repairing chains

Mundane stuff. Not nearly as much fun as designing and making new
creations. Also comes with a level of stress, since there is always
the chance of screwing it up.

If you can get your hands on some of the worn out junk people have
sold for scrap, you can practice these skills without the risk of
ruining someone’s precious heirlooms. Practice is the only way you
are going to get good at it.

Stephen Walker


Andover, NY


#3

Chris,

I am an amateur metalsmith with good soldering, finishing skills
but little stone setting or repair experience. If I am lacking
skills they are looking for, I'll have to think what else I can
bring to the table. 

Just be honest (well sort of) If they are worth working for they
will see through any BS. I had a job for a long time hired to make
custom jewellery. I told them up front that I was not a setter and
had limited experience with repairs. Two weeks in and I got a job
setting fancy cut stones or else don’t bother coming back from lunch.
Repairs you learn by doing them endlessly. Too many repair followed.
Watch what you are good at.

Setting requires very good goldsmithing skills, repairs just not
doing dumb things or being able to fix them.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#4

Chris- It depends on the shop. A small high end shop will want you do
be able to do everything. A busy trade shop foreman usually will find
your strengths and then give you jobs that are your specialty. I’ve
worked in places where the setters only turned on their torches to
melt shelac or to light their cigarettes. One guy just does setting,
one gal sizing, another person soldering chains and so on. This is to
make the shop the most time efficient. Even if you don’t do setting,
I can’t tell you how important it is to at least know how to do it.
You don’t have to be an expert setter, just be able to make pieces
that can be set properly and you can’t do that unless you know the
basics. Don’t be surprised if they put you in the polishing dept. for
starters. Although it’s often thought of as an entry level position,
it’s really important. A good polisher can make or break a shop.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com


#5

Snagging a bench job requires at the very least and basic
understanding of the tools, equipment and processes involved in a
modern goldsmith shop along with some demonstrated skills. It sounds
like you may have that already. Also needed is a real and tangible
desire to learn the craft and make it your career, an ability to get
along with others and a willingness to cheerfully do whatever is
needed to get the job done. Take in samples of your work and dress
like you really want a job, an example would be to leave the 10mm
stainless steel ball for your tongue piercing at home, one guy I
interviewed had it clacking against his teeth during the
interview…it was very distracting. Look for a good company, find
out what they are all about and if you feel like you’d really like to
work there then do your best to impress upon the interviewer how much
you would love to work there and how hard you are willing to work to
prove you can be an asset to the company. A typical bench test will
be based on your stated skill set. Usually they will give you things
they know you can do, plus a couple of things that stretch your
abilities just to see how you handle them. I think most people doing
the testing understand how nervous and uncomfortable people are
during a bench test at an unfamiliar bench and cut people a little
slack.

What they are looking for is your ability to do what you say you can
and, if things go awry, they want you to be able to explain what went
wrong, why and how you would correct or avoid it in the future.

Mark


#6

Check out the Drouhard Jewelry School website
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/1d0

Their Program I and Program II cover the skills that are the basics
of a bench jeweler. If you decide that you need to learn some of
these skills, you’ll find Tim Druhard to be an excellent teacher. I
learned so much and enjoyed my time in both programs.

Jamie


#7

Chris,

Others may have more specific tasks but the ones I would look for
are what retail business needs to be successful in everyday routine
jewelry service.

I have typed this directly from first thoughts and others may
certainly alter this list. Here listed are basics, knowing of course
that some skills require more than one technique to complete:

CLEANING, with appropriate use of steam, ultrasonic and other
methods.

SOLDERING with fuel gas/oxygen torch, including use of all ranges of
precious metal solders including the most useful hard solders. The
joints must be complete and free of defects when finished. (You
should know how to use both liquid and paste flux.) Basic work would
be jumprings, perhaps, with soldering a bezel in place considered
more complicated.

RING SIZING in gold and silver (some shops do not do silver) and
knowing how to care for various gemstones in the process. Work
includes enlarging and reducing without cutting, sizing by adding or
removing metal, sizing ring sets joined together when received.

CHAIN REPAIR (basic)

PRONG AND SETTING REPAIR, including retipping so it is not apparent
and resetting stones in repaired settings.

APPLICATION AND INSTALLATION OF BASIC FINDINGS such as jumprings,
necklace and chain clasps, earpost replacement, etc.

BASIC STONE SETTING, including “tiffany” style settings.

GENERAL STONE TIGHTENING in prong and bead set designs. (Even if you
cannot yet do bead setting, you need to learn to tighten stones in
those settings)

FINISHING, including from the pickle pot to the customer, providing
a well finished item in the original style as received with repair
service not visible if at all possible. This means using a flex
shaft machine and assorted wheels, burs, sanders, etc.; use of a
full sized dust collector/buffing station and proper use of buffs
and different compounds.

Chris, work in platinum or palladium will be needed at some time and
that can often be learned on the job. Of course, a bench test shows
ability to do basics to get started, with consideration that you are
not acclimated to the particular work set-up at the time of the
bench test. Time at the bench with actual daily work is the real
teacher. On the job you would be expected to know how to do the
basic work and to get better and faster at you gain experience. I
have listed basic skills. Any other skills you can bring to the
table will be a plus, certainly so if the shop does creative design
and custom work.

This testing does go two ways. I have seen job applicants given
bench tests which were pulled out of the sky by store owners, it
would seem, with no apparent thought to what the test would
accomplish. What I witnessed was terribly unfair to the applicant
and honestly useless to the employer in defining the skill levels of
the jeweler tested. Some store owners are not so knowledgeable in
professional bench work and do not know how to test properly. If the
test seems totally inappropriate, you may ask about it. You may
learn something of the employer in this regard and it might not be
the right place to work. What the test is made of and how it is
presented will tell something of the working environment and what may
be expected of you. Chain stores will often have a proven and
consistent testing method. An independent store may or may not
present an adequate or fair test.

Best Wishes. Tom


#8

Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts. This will help me get
on track to what skills I should plan on acquiring while searching for
a bench job here in the St. Louis, MO area.

Best,
Chris