Definition of Master Jeweller

Hello all

Recently I noticed an advertisement posted by a local jewellery
manufacurer here in New Zealand that was looking for a new office
staff member. In the advertisement the company discribes themselves
as a “Master Jeweller”. It got me thinking about the definition of
the term. I’ve also noticed various jewellers websites also using
the words Master Jeweller to discribe themselves. I seriously
question the ligitimacy of people using this definition when there
has been no official trade training or the company specialty is 9ct
low end mass produced product. For me the term Master jeweller
defines someone who has at least completed an aprenticeship or
lengthy term of training after which a period of advanced training on
more complicated or high end peices is completed to high level of
skill and competence. In my opinion a jeweller should not be able to
call themselves a Master jeweller without absolute proof of the
applicable skills. What do you think

Phil Walker

The term Master Jeweller comes from the time of Trade Guilds. A
person would become an apprentice and after a few years, if he can
pass a qualifying exam administered by the Guild, a person would be
called a Master Jeweller. It is interested to note that very often
the pieces made on these exams were, by some accounts, the most
elaborate and complicated pieces ever produced.

Nowadays, the term is meaningless. The exams, we have them here in
USA, have very low requirements, but a lot of business using the
term because it sounds good and give customer reassurance of some
competence. Another misused term is Goldsmith. “smith” comes from
"smite" to strike. The Goldsmith means someone who shapes the gold by
hammering. How many jewellers are out there who really knows how to
forge? My guess would be not to many.

But we should not single out jewellers because, we have master
chefs, master plumbers, and master everything, so why jewellers
should be any different.

Master Jeweller to discribe themselves. I seriously question the
ligitimacy of people using this definition when there has been no
official trade training or the company specialty is 9ct low end
mass produced product 

Me, I just nod my head, smile, and think, “Just a tad full of
ourselves, are we?” Some of it is mis-translation. It’s like “Becks
Bier”". In Germany, that means Beck’s Beer. In America that means Mr.
Beck’s final resting place. In Europe one who has finished their
apprenticeship is called a “Meister” or something depending on the
country. In America someone who has finished their apprenticeship is
a journeyman. If one did those things in Europe, then it’s
appropriate to call yourself a “Meister”, but if you translate that
into English it isn’t “master”, it’s journeyman. To me, this all
comes under the heading of, “I can’t change it, so…” A good
definition of a master craftsman I have heard is one who can work all
materials to a high level of craftmanship with equal facility. There
is one and only one person here on orchid who I would even consider
using the term about - J.M. over there in London, and although he
maybe accepts that, I doubt he blows the term around either. Most
real “Masters” either don’t accept the title, or it is earned in a
union or guild. “It’s just what I do.” is more typical. Someone here
on Orchid pointed to someone’s site about something and said “He’s a
master jeweler.” and on going there it was just “Huh? You definately
need to get out more…”

Phil Walker asks about the definition " Master Jeweler" as used by
some companies. Over here in the UK, I would call myself a “Master
Goldsmith” to achieve this name I served an indentured apprenticeship
of nearly six years, the length of my apprenticeship was set so that
I finished my indenture when I reached the age of 21. I was
indentured at the Goldsmith’s Hall in London and after serving my
time I was given my “Freedom” at the same place. I was taught my
trade by a Master Goldsmith who had trained two apprentices before
me. After completing my apprenticeship I was called a “Journeyman”
for a couple of years, this was a time prooving my credentials within
the workshop. Then it was time for me to train an apprentice as his
master. When you read the printed indentures that an apprentice
signs, the text refers to what duties an apprentice is expected to
perform while being trained by his “Master”. So this is where the
term master comes from. In my time I have trained two apprentices,
each term of indenture was five years. I agree with Phil Walker when
he says that anyone calling themself a Master Jeweller should have
attained the qualification by their skills and experience. I
personally regard a person who can create items of beauty and quality
from plain sheet and wire as a master craftsman. Peace and good
health to all Orchideans, from an ageing master goldsmith in the UK.

Hi Phil, Here in the U.S. we have Jewellery Certification from our
Jewelers of America. These test of practial and written are in 4
category’s from Apprentice to Certified Master Bench Jeweler.
Unfortunately I am still the only one that has reached the Masters
level and it is because most of our jewellers are not interested or
cannot read English very well. This is San Antonio, Texas, 150 miles
from the board of Mexico.

Later, Stephen Wyrick

The term Master Jeweller comes from the time of Trade Guilds. A
person would become an apprentice and after a few years, if he can 

I was once at a gallery opening and someone introduced herself to
the group as a Master Jeweler. This person had graduated a year or
two before with an MFA.


When I wrote my definition of a UK “Master Goldsmith"yesterday I
forgot to add a detail about my indentured apprenticeship. When I was
close to completing my time as an apprentice, I had to make a piece
to show my skill attainment. This piece was called my " Masterpiece”.
I had to make this masterpiece, on my own without any help from the
other craftsmen in the workshop. When completed I took this
masterpiece to the Goldsmith’s Hall, where I attended an ancient
ceremony of obtaining my “freedom” in front of the Prime Warden and
two other Wardens of the Goldsmith’s Company, they were all dressed
in their ceremonial robes. They examined my “Masterpiece” and after
some speeches I was officially made a “Freeman of the Worshipful
Company of Goldsmiths”, after this ceremony I was taken to the London
Guildhall, where I was also given the “Freedom of the City of London”
which was given to me because I had served an official indentured
apprenticeship of the Goldsmith’s Company which is a Liveried Company
of the City of London and has been since gaining its royal grant in
1327. Details of the Goldsmith’s Company are here if anyone is
interested My “Masterpiece” was given to me
by my employers as a gift when I finished my apprenticeship and I
treasure it today some 40 years after finishing my apprenticeship. I
was a silver crest, designed originally as a badge of office for the
National Association of Goldsmiths" but not accepted by them. It
measures 5 inches by 3 inches, and it was fabricated entirely by
hand, by me, from silver sheet. It encorporates many of the skills I
had learnt over my 5 years and 10 month apprenticeship. I have sent
a photo of my “Masterpiece” as an attachment,

perhaps Hanuman will make it viewable to anyone interested. If so
please remember it was made by an apprentice who was 20 years old at
the time.

Peace to all
James Miller

In my opinion a jeweller should not be able to call themselves a
Master jeweller without absolute proof of the applicable skills.
What do you think 

Well lets define it, all provided by

  • Master, a fully qualified artisan or craftsman in a guild

  • A Guild is an association of craftspeople in a particular trade

  • Master Tradesman is a person who has a greater level of skill than
    most in the licensed trades

  • Master Craftsman (my personal favorite) was a member of a guild.
    In the European guild system, only master craftsmen were allowed to
    actually be members of the guild.

An aspiring master would have to pass through the career chain from
apprentice to journeyman before he could be elected to become a
master craftsman. He would then have to produce a sum of money and a
masterpiece before he could actually join the guild. If the
masterpiece was not accepted by the masters, he was not allowed to
join the guild, possibly remaining a journeyman for the rest of his
life. Becoming a master was often very hard. In many guilds, the
master craftsman had strict obligations, one of which was to take on
an apprentice (or several depending on the craft) to ensure the
survival of the guild.Without apprentices, there would be no one
left to continue the craft.

Personally in modern times, the tem Master is bestowed upon one by
their peers in recognition of their expertice in their given
craft/trade. The term Master should NEVER be self appointed, unless
that person has gone thru the formal training (see above), even at
that point, it is bestowed upon them.

Asking a good budy of mine many years ago, who has been a self
taught silversmith/mosaic artist longer than I have been on this
earth, if he considers himself a Master at his trade, his remark
was very humbling. “Calling yourself a Master is recognizing that you
have accepted your ignorance and closed your mind to learn. When
others call you a Master, it is their recoginition that you excell in
your trade or craft and remain open to learning new things about what
you do.”

Lastly, let us not forget…

  • Jedi Master, the highest rank in the Star Wars, Jedi Order.


well after seeing the masterpiece james did 40 years ago i can truly
say there are no flies on james !! ( that is american for you are a
master ) i am humbled . i did stumble into goldsmiths hall when i
went to london some 17 odd years ago. the door man asked me what i
wanted and i told him i had come from america to see goldsmiths hall
and he told me that it was not a museum so i looked at the ceiling
and the walls and i left. i am curious, james about the choice of
word you used INDENTURED APPRENTICESHIP could you please explain what
that means ?

Hi all, this is James Miller.

I have had a number of emails asking for details on how I made my
masterpiece as shown here:

Many of the enquiries assume that I made the figures in wax and then
cast them. This is not true, each figure on the crest was fabricated
from silver sheet and hand carved to shape before textures were
added by chasing methods, NONE of this badge is the product of any
casting methods. As this was my end of apprenticeship masterpiece it
had to show all of the techniques of manufacture that I had learned.
These techniques were as follows. Following a design and deciding how
to manufacture the badge, each section was made seperately and the
whole piece was assembled when finished using small hand made screws
and threads. First was the drawing of the design sections onto sheet
before outlining the drawings by hand engraving them, then hand
piercing ( my speciality ), followed by hammering the sections into
shape where needed then chasing and texturing the shapes, and finally
polishing, colouring and gilding. To cap it all I made the interior
fittings to the presentation case as well. When finished the badge
weighed three ounces. If anyone is interested take a look at page 14
on the Ganoksin “Bench Exchange” section and there you will find a
photo of me, as an apprentice actually making the masterpiece
badge/crest. The badge design was a design drawn up for a badge of
office for the National Association of Goldsmiths, this design was
not accepted so it was given to me as my masterpiec project. The
designer was Mr. Theodore Wise, who was a Master hand engraver, who’s
workshop was one floor above our workshop, as an apprentice I used to
visit his workshop every day, because I used to do Hand saw piercing
for him as a sideline.

Peace and good health to all
James Miller, and if anyone is interested here are my official titles,
Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths
Freeman of the City of London
Fellow of the Institute of Professional Goldsmiths

JM, you have certainly put in the work, time, and formal training to
earn the title MASTER. Your crest is stunning and a piece of work
that shows great craftsmanship, skill, attention to detail, etc.

I believe that a person with your training and skill level
definitely DESERVES the title as well. I envy your training and your

I also believe that some people are so gifted that they can be self
taught and, over many years, attain a similar level of skill. I truly
feel that MASTER is becoming too much like “Kleenex” as a term
applied to artists. Those who have your exceptional skill level, no
matter where they learned, and have the title "bestowed upon them"
seems an appropriate level of honor.

I liked what Pat Pruitt wrote below for those of us who have a lot of
work ahead of us before we hear the term “master” in relationship to
our skills. I would never term myself a Master…that is for sure!

Personally, I just like to call myself Mister Jeweler.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

If so please remember it was made by an apprentice who was 20
years old at the time.

Congradulations, and more than that, James, you are fortunate to
have had an opportunity that you were able to use to your advantage
and develop discipline and a mastery of the skills needed to pursue a
lifelong career in jewelry and to be able to produce the exquisite
art objects you have created. There is no such program or school in
America that would produce someone capable of making anything like
“masterpiece” you made for your graduation. This also puts in
perspective the value of the system of an indentured apprenticeship
in relationship to the value of a college degree, and the difference
between the level of skill you have, and the obvious potential for
employment you had compared to the lack of skills a college graduate
has and therefore the lack of potential for employment. Obviously a
difference between getting an education and being trained and being
held responsible to develop skill in order to graduate. At 20 you had
developed skill most will never achieve. I regret that I had the
desire to learn but no way to commit myself to a system here in the
U.S. that would have given me the opportunity you were so fortunate
to have. The way I learned and what I learned severely limited what I
was able to achieve.

Richard Hart

The Goldsmith means someone who shapes the gold by hammering. How
many jewelers are out there who really knows how to forge? My guess
would be not to many. 

I know how to forge and I learned it at a University!

Only 30 years ago in the USA there where trade unions/guilds for
Jewelers/Goldsmiths and the trade union had very strict rules about
how you got promoted from apprentice to journeyman to master

In the early 1980s I applied to one of the last jeweler’s guild in
San Francisco for my journeyman’s papers and I was given strict
guidelines to follow.

I had to make from scratch a complex project in gold or platinum, the
project had to be approved for technical difficulty by two other
master goldsmiths who were in good standing with the union. The
project had to include faceted stone setting in a flush or bezel
mount and it had to include a fabricated box closure with hinges.

Under the oversight of the two master goldsmiths I forged out
platinum wire and sheet stock from an ingot. Thankfully platinum was
only $500 an ounce. I used every pennyweight and reclaimed my sweeps
using aqua regia.

A few years after I completed my project cheap immigrant labor broke
the jeweler union. Does that mean the title of journeyman is
meaningless? I think not.

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext.228

A most respectful hello, James Miller. Thank you for sharing the
photo of your masterpiece. It is a lovely work of art, made even more
amazing by the knowledge that you were a mere 20 years old!!
Awe-inspiring, indeed.

Judy in Kansas, who is speechless with admiration.

what a beautiful image you have relayed of the rite of passage from
student to the mastery of the art…It is unfortunate that the US
does not have an equivalent standard or prescription for the award
of titled master jeweler without having to pay a membership fee to an
independent organization before being allowed to take a test that is
juried by other members and then only recognized within that
organization…Degrees from universities are a separate matter
entirely and incur their own amount of work to an end result,which
again one pays for the right to receive, in the context of art which
is as subjective as the art school awarding the degree…I know
someone that received an MFA from Bard, and another from the
University of Illinois…what was amazing to me was that their skill
levels were so disparate- one working without using much metal at all
( barely even any cold connections save for the occasional clasp or
closure,and more in the style of the Dada movement ) and the other
very well trained and able to execute fabricate and discuss anything
in a wide range of metals and techniques…and like Elaine’s
experience the one with the Bard MFA describes herself as a ‘master
jeweler’ yet couldn’t pave a marble!..the other believes that mastery
is an ongoing process…

It is unfortunate also that the workpiece was not open able, yet
sometimes people show pieces for criticism…i personally don’t
understand the difference…unless it has something to do with
spamming the which case i am glad to have someone looking
out for our security…


James Miller was the first one who came to mind when I saw this
subject line. He worked his way up through the established ranks and
his workmanship and end-result inspires awe. James Miller is a master
Jeweler; plain and simple… but his work is really neither plain;
nor simple.

He is, in my very humble opinion, a true master.


i am curious, james about the choice of word you used INDENTURED
APPRENTICESHIP could you please explain what that means ? 

Can’t resist jumping in here… I think that means you do as you’re
darn well told or you get it in the teeth!


I am curious, james about the choice of word you used INDENTURED
APPRENTICESHIP could you please explain what that means ?

I copied this explanation from a website, I think it explains my

The Apprentice’s Indenture

This document is called an indenture. It is a legal document that was
signed by apprentices and their masters to agree the conditions of an
apprenticeship. Apprenticeship dates back to the later Middle Ages
(1300-1500). Master craftsmen, such as cobblers, blacksmiths,
tailors, weavers, goldsmiths, silversmiths and printers benefited
from cheap labour by taking on apprentices, usually a child in their
early teens, offering board and lodging and training in return for
their cheap labour. Starting at the age of 15 an apprentice signed
for 6 years until his 21st birthday. He also vowed to: ‘not commit
fornication, nor contract matrimony’, ‘not play at cards, dice,
tables or any other unlawful games’, ‘not haunt taverns or play
houses, nor absent himself from his master’s service day or night’.
In return for the apprentice’s service, his master agreed to provide
‘sufficient meat, drink, lodging and all other necessities’. Modern
indentures are on two or more legal documents but indentures were
originally drafted on a single piece of paper that was torn in half
so that an apprentice’s legitimacy could be proved by putting the
two pieces back together. The agreement between apprentice and master
could only be broken by the Justices of the Peace and only in
serious circumstances, such as abuse or ill-treatment.

James Miller

I agree that JM has earn the title of Master but there is a lot of
companies and people calling them self’s Master who do not deserve
the title. In my mind it is not how you got to the master level that
is important. It is the level of work that you can do now that makes
a master and the title should never be self proclaimed only given my
the masters in the field. I Also knew a man (he is now dead) the
study in Germany and earn the title of master. In his later years
when someone would call him a master he would correct them my saying
that it was the art he like to study but he never master it for it
did not know everything about it he was still learning. this was
after 45 years of working. The point he was trying to make was is
anybody really a master because the title implies that you know
everything about that field. A good example of how humble the true
Master are. My only hope is that one day I will be half as good