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Diversity in our trade

Greeting’s ,

My last thread was a fun one . Remember? Shop Injuries ? OOOOOO. K .
Not again…but this might be an interesting one just the same. ln
all of my years in the trade (Too many ) I think I have worked with
Maaaby one or two Black Jeweler’s ( setters,model makers and everyone
else ) For the most part, the only area’s I have seen black people in
the trade in any number at all is in the finishing depts. I was just
curious what all of the good people of Orchid have found to be thier
experience and what you think might be the causes for this obvious
disparity? I have from time to time asked co-workers this question
and found that almost all of them have noticed the same disparity
(including my wife who has a masters in human resources and has never
seen such a wide disparity in other fields). Soooo what can be done
in the trade (us- we ) to bring our brothers and sisters on board?

In Gassho Karl

Ok Karl, since I am Black and one of the few… I guess I should
begin in answering your questions.

Hopefully, I won’t be stereotyping, but we love to wear it more
than make it. It’s so much easier to go to the store and pick out
the pretties to wear.

But on the other hand, which is probably truer than my above
statement, there are fields of education that just are not
available in the inner city/urban schools where most blacks attend.
I grew up in Washington, DC… though I did not attend the public
schools there (Catholic school education all the way), we did not
have the means to provide this type of art. In my catholic school,
we were taught the more advanced mathematics, and chemistry
classes. For the other classes which were taught to make us
well-rounded, we were given classes like home-ec, and sewing

I can’t speak for what occurred in the public schools, but from my
limited experience of when my siblings and my son attended school
there, fine arts were not emphasized and rarely taught. The
schools are not equipped for teaching metalsmithing and that sort
of thing.

So, those of us who are out there, and there are few that I have
run into in the recent years, have stumbled upon the jewelry
industry in our “older” years of life. I’m unique in that I come
from a family who was into artistic things … my mother being a
seamstress. I broke a necklace about 6+ years ago, put it away.
Then I broke another one, put it away also. While browsing in the
fabric store one day, I ran across the supplies for making jewelry
… and decided that I could fix my necklaces that I had broken.
And the rest is sort of history. My jewelry experience has sort of
progressed from using costume type jewelry components to the
precious metals and

I’ve been fortunate to move to a very artsy community and have had
the honor to meet Sam Patania, who has guided me into other methods
of jewelry making. For this I am very grateful, for without his
mentoring and taking me under his wing for a time period, I would
not be pounding on metals the way that I am now. Thanks Sam…
btw, that bracelet is still sitting on my counter waiting to be
finished with you. :wink:

Helen (in Tucson where its feeling like fall weather outside)

Karl, A subject near and dear to my heart.

I have been associated with rock and mineral clubs since the 70’s,
and through them a Federation of Mineralogical Societies.

The first club I joined had a Black gentleman as their Federation
Director. He was a wonderful man and was very diligent to
responsibilities, and disseminating When I began to
attend Federation meetings, all I saw was a sea of white hair on
white men and women.

I went back to the clubs and asked why there was no minority
involvement. What I got in response was pure and simple
discrimination. I found not only toward African Americans, but
toward Hispanic and Asians.

Rock and Mineral clubs and their field trips, lapidary shops, and
jewelry making classes are the beginning exposure to Earth Sciences
and Jewelry as careers. If you don’t get them in young, they have no

I have never prevailed to get a minority outreach program beginning
with the Federation and via them down to the individual clubs.

This is an area that is fast dying just as the senior members, those
who stood in the way of embracing minorities. I will soon be making
a presentation at my Federation Business meeting to recognize this
glaringly discriminatory practice, and take measures to end it. I
probably will not prevail, as there still are too many entrenched
members with dug in heels wishing to thwart any such suggestion.

Frankly, I have never met a child who did not love rocks. This is
where we must start, the youngster finding beach pebbles and running
them through a rock tumbler and gluing them to pot metal findings.
From there will come future faceters, lapidarians, designers, silver
and gold smiths, as well as of course platinum. Jewelers of the
future begin as children, do not push them aside for any reason.
Nurture them no matter what heritage they spring from.

I live fairly close to GIA and make pilgrimages to the campus. The
students come from every quadrant of the globe. The bookstore has
books in many languages. Their money is accepted no matter what it
looks like. They are as we are members of the human race.

Some clubs still require prospective new members to be recommended
by current member. the board then reviews them and anoints those
with surnames known to be Anglo-Saxon. Those which end in “ez” or
are similar to George Washington Lincoln, are summarily rejected.

We need to reach out to minorities and welcome them, before the
clubs bury the last standing member and have a yard sale of what



I used to employ a black couple in New Mexico, Carol was a very
skilled wax puller and Charles was pretty handy with a torch, he
could braze pin joints and catches and ear studs with great accuracy,
the man had an excelent eye for center and alignment.

I used to cast for a black lapidary in Vallejo CA. and for a black
jeweler in Richmond and a couple in Oakland. Since we operated a
full service trade shop at the time, and our prices were reasonable,
I’m inclined to think they did their own setting and finishing.

I think a lot of it has to do with geography and
demographics,traditionally the Ashanti Tribe in Africa were very
skilled casters of gold, silver and brass.

But I also remember when starting out in Los Angeles, most of the
less desireable jobs (investing, polishing) were generaly done by
black american people, and a lot of times by Illegal Aliens ,
espically in the investing room. Think about THE STUFF THAT WENT
INTO THEIR LUNGS. I think the company

Kenneth Ferrell

The jeweler’s trade has always been a little “clannish”, with the
old apprenticeship process being “friend of a friend” if not
outright family. Another factor is simple cultural inertia and lack
of exposure. Many of my own family don’t see what I get out of the
hobby I indulge in. Locally, however, there is a very strong arts
community, with several local shows and festivals. Most of these
have a fairly significant minority participation and attendance.

Basically, I think that your mileage will vary by locale. I think
having art available to school kids can go a long way, but this is
falling prey to the “teach them enough to pass the state/federal
testing” mentality that is poisoning our current educational

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
@Ron_Charlotte1 OR

In Austin – it is a pretty ethnic mixed group but thin on
the ethanic side after hispanic, Although there are a bunch of
older people and a few young kids. They give about 6 scholarships
a year for graduate work in earth sciences mostly at UT.

Had another hd crash send me your address stuff again. Hope you are


Hi As an African American who has been a goldsmith for about 30
years, I have to agree that there is a dirth of African Americans who
would consider themselves to be professional jewelers or goldsmiths.

It has been my experience that the problem stems from the fact that
this art is rarely promoted as a viable career to young minority
students and also because until recently there has been a lack of
opportunities for training.

I feel that we work in one of the few areas that is truly merit
based. Regardless of your race,if you are a good craftsman there are
plenty of opportunities to ply your trade and make a good living at
it. But it is also an art that requires a lot of personal initiative.
In order to succeed in this business you have to self motivated,
patient and resouceful. Along with this, a young person who is
interested in pursuing this career may find that it isn’t always easy
to locate a good jeweler who is willing to take on the responsibility
of working with and properly training an apprentice. It is also
difficult to find good jewelry training programs in many local areas.

Fortunatly for any young person (regardless of their ethnicity) who
is interested in joining this noble profession , things are changing.
The jewelry industry is rapidly becoming more diverse on all levels
and the availablity of about training is increasing.

I think that we as professional craftsmen have at least two
responsibilities in this area. First we must increase understanding
that the general public has about our industry. Secondly we must work
to increase the number of training opportunities for all young people
who have a desire to join us.

Ted Curtis

Hi Terrie,

    Some clubs still require prospective new members to be
recommended by current member. the board then reviews them and
anoints those with surnames known to be Anglo-Saxon. Those which
end in "ez" or are similar to George Washington Lincoln, are
summarily rejected. 

Are you sure of this? I have no doubt that such practices existed
but I would hope they’ve long been retired. Maybe I’m naive.

Perhaps I’m spoiled by my own club, the Culver City Rock & Mineral
Club, since I assume we’re the one you referred to as having an
African-American Federation Director for many years. I joined the
club in 1991 and, while we’ve never had a large percentage of black
or Hispanic members, we’ve always had some and have never in that
time discriminated against anyone.

We’ve also initiated youth programs, one that tailors topics at our
meetings for kids and another (in conjunction with the Culver City
after school program) which holds workshops showing kids how to cut
cabochons. The majority of the kids in this case are
African-American or Hispanic. You’re right that it has to start with
young people. I just hate to think that our club is an exception in
this area.


While teaching to a test is not particularly intellectually
stimulating there have been real problems with obtaining basic
knowledge any other way… Schools turned out “Graduates” who could
barely read , write or calculate at all. The system was poisoned. –
functionally dead for many students. So we have to go back to the 3
Rs and rebuild from there. Lazy teachers can no longer get by with a
pass through of nearly total illiterates . This problem with non
students is a major US problem. We are surpassed by Asian schools
and students and the jobs are going where the education system is

There are still some AP programs with superb teachers that help
stimulate the better students. Some schools can’t educate period They
are being found out now. Some teachers and administrators will
deservedly go to the discard pile instead of just their students.

Beth, Yes I was referring to Culver City, my very first club. I have
belonged to a total of seven clubs, and sorry to say, Culver City is
an exception.

I still find it to be vibrant and forward looking. The annual show
is one I drive the 100 miles one way to attend. So how do we clone
Culver City? It did spoil me for what came after.


Lazy teachers can no longer get by with a pass through of nearly
total illiterates.

Granted, there are plenty. But there are also great teachers who
are hobbled by the administrative idiocies of the system, underpaid,
under-appreciated, second-guessed at every turn, and loaded with
non-academic chores and bad materials. We can’t talk about teachers
as one homogeneous group, any more than we can talk about "blacks"
or “women” or any other group stereotype.

Tas <–who has taught and considers that engineering is WAY easier
than teaching!

Tas and all on Orchid

“If you are a teacher, you must feel it in your soul.” As in diamond
setting, its like being a artisan, either you “feel” the untapped
beauty in your hands or you don’t.

I can teach anyone the mechanics, but I cannot teach them the feel
of it. I was setting some diamond rings for Zales this morning, in
Toronto. I thought about this same feeling, who is going to buy this
ring and then be presented an offer of marriage???..I have this
innate feeling of passing this craft to others. Also in teaching,
many folks can talk and communicate. But, how many can instill the
"feel, or the love" of a subject that is important to the student.

The student must have an “awakening” of sorts…“so thats what he
means, wow!..” fireworks explode ! then what happens after is that
the student will go on his/her own and rise to higher awareness on
this topic…its the skill of the teacher to grasp the moment. I
personally have seen this in my many classes…I go home and thank
G-d I showed someone a thing or two…:>) Case in point, one young
girl drove each way 75 miles, but one thing I said in one class paid
for her setting class with me…“one little idea.” …a new awakening
for her!!!

Am I a lazy teacher? “G-d Forbid”…Gerry!

    "If you are a teacher, you must feel it in your soul." As in
diamond setting, its like being a artisan, either you "feel" the
untapped beauty in your  hands or you don't. 

Gerry, I agree with you, You have to have students who have the
desire to learn.

It takes a great teacher to be able to listen to the students
questions and needs, and then be able to teach from your soul your
passion so that they may learn from you.

I love making jewelry, it is my passion. But greater than making it
I love to teach it. Not everyone can be a teacher and those of us
who do it , love it. It is kind of a “catch 22” the creation of a
great piece or teaching someone the ability to create their great
piece. I find that I learn “oh so much” from my students they have
questions sometimes that I never thought of and to figure out the
answers is such a challenge. I have my books, Orchid, and other
artists to get those answers from. Most of the time the answers
come from experimentation and learning from the errors.

Teaching is a passion and most certainly mine.

Jennifer Harris Friedman
enamelist, jewelry artisan and holloware
Ventura, CA

Hi Charles,

I find that I learn "oh so much" from my students they have
questions sometimes that I never thought of and to figure out the
answers is such a challenge. 

Boy, I couldn’t agree more!

Students are the BEST teachers in the world, if we only keep an open

I’ve taught many subjects (all of them technical) other than those
connected with jewelry & I’ve learned lots by researching questions
asked by students whose answers I didn’t have. The other type of
class that’s instructive to teach (for the instructor) is one whose
students are experts in the general field the class is about, but
not in the particular subject of the class. You really have to dig
to anticipate what questions might be asked.


Hello Charles and Jennifer,

I wonder how this thread about Diversity (lack of) in our trade,
(Thank You for all of the good responses, I will follow up on this
thread ) has turned into Great teacher’s and passion??? I must say
that if I hear much more of the non stop spin’s and self promotion I
will scream!!! Please Orchid give us a seperate venue to promote our
work (you have in the galleries ) and possibly all of the self hype
could go to a similar place. Does every answer have to be accompanied
by the reminder that "my next class will be on…"Am I alone here or
am I misunderstanding the Orchid Mission?? I don’t mind at all a
posting regarding classes offered by our members every now and again
or a notice of outside teachers offering classes that would be
helpful to the community it’s the constant “PLUG” every time a
question is asked. How about we give freely to our beloved Orchid
community and leave the hype elsewhere.

In Gassho Karll


       The other type of  class that's instructive to teach (for
the instructor) is one whose students are experts in the general
field the class is about, but not in the particular subject of the
class. You really have to dig to anticipate what questions might be

Boy is that the truth, but it’s “FUN” isn’t it? I have a friend who
is a ceramics instructor and when he gets a question he doesn’t have
the answer for he sends the student to find the answer and then they
both know. I use this technique also, but I am usually so intrigued
by finding the solution that I am right there involved.

By the way, Charles has the site, but Jennifer’s the artist and

Jennifer Friedman
enamellist, jewelry Artisan, holloware
Ventura, CA