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Experience with new approach school

Hello Orchid Members-

I am writing to inquire about New Approach School for Jewelers
located in Franklin, TN. I am considering a program they offer - a
Graduate Bench Jeweler Program - which is 12 weeks. The students are
prepared to take the JA Level II Bench Jeweler Certification at the
end of the course.

I am after a hands on approach to technical and skills
used in the jewelry industry - not art training (which I already

Has anyone worked with students from this school or taken courses
from Mr. Lewis? If so - I am looking for your opinion on this school!

Thank you very much for your assistance.
Amanda Thon

1 Like

Hi Amanda,

I cannot recommend the New Approach School for Jewelers enough.

My background, I attended college majoring in an art jewelry
program. I realized there was a lot more I wanted to learn that I
couldn’t learn in any college programs I had looked at.

So I looked into trade schools. Blain Lewis is a fantastic teacher.
The Graduate program teaches you to size rings, set all types of
stones in all kinds of settings. We learned ornamental engraving, and
worked in silver building a ring with 3 oval heads from scratch.
(from wire and sheet metal) Then we made a similar but better ring in
platinum and gold.

Blaine teaches the class all day 5 days a week for nearly 3 months.
He’s in the classroom with you for 8 to 9 hours. He gives great
instruction, using a video camera that enlarges what he is teaching
onto a tv screen at 100 power I believe. So the tiny things he is
showing are easy to see.

When I attended the school was still in Virginia and Blaine moved to
Tennessee to train employees at Tiffany’s main manufacture. I think
that says a great deal about his skill as a teacher.

If you have any other questions please email me. I’m happy to chat
with you more. The New Approach School was the best jewelry education
I have ever had.

Good luck!
Valerie Heck Esmont

Hi Amanda

Here’s how we handled Rhodium.

Many folks buy it in a bottle, then pour it into a beaker, use it,
then pour it back into a bottle, maybe thru a funnel.

We found this procedure to trap and collect dirt and contaminate the

What I’m going to explain, we started with a fresh bottle because of
it not plating well. But your decision. You can buy rhodium
replensisher that will refresh it.

  1. We bought a glass jar that you keep sugar or flour in, wide open
    mouth. The kind with a rubber seal and pull down metal strap. Maybe
    4" tall. Washed it first.

  2. When we bought the rhodium we emptied it into the glass jar. It
    was stored here and we dropped the rings into this jar to plate them.
    So we never poured back and forth.

  3. We had a rhodium anode and the hook on the other end was made
    from a piece of platinum wire.

  4. Although we didn’t do this a lot, other jewelers have told me
    they use an “Electro Cleaner” after the ring is polished and cleaned
    to clean the item before plating it. You reverse the + and - to
    reverse and the ring extracts away from itself any dirty surface

  5. We put the bottle of rhodium into the ultrasonic to gently warm
    it up.

  6. After polishing/cleaning/steaming/electro cleaning the ring
    BEFORE you rhodium plate it, imperative to not touch it with your
    finger before immersing it into the rhodium.

  7. Think like a surgeon on handling the jewelry (cleanliness) and
    with new you should do great.

By the way there are strengths of rhodium. a 1 gram bottle has a
gram of rhodium in it and a 2 gram bottle has twice as much and of
course cost twice as much. Many jewelers use a 1 gram bottle on
plating repaired jewelry and a 2 gram bottle on items purchased from
their store.


David Geller

Hi Amanda

Sorry, last post was about rhodium plating. As a jeweler I sniffed
Rhodium too many times. :slight_smile:

Blaine’s class is wonderful. He’s a great teacher but here’s the
difference in his school and some others. many of other schools are
very artsy. Blain will teach you in 90 days how to be a really good
jeweler. For the most part when you graduate you’ll be able to sit
down at a bench and do most ALL work that’s in your box.

You will be an EXCELLENT stone setter and not break them.

It will easily drop 2 years off your learning curve and he teaches
it to be done quickly and efficiently.

David Geller

Has anyone worked with students from this school or taken courses
from Mr. Lewis? If so - I am looking for your opinion on this

Very good move on your part Amanda. Two of my apprentices have taken
several of the one week courses and I am very happy with what they
learned. I took the basic stone setting course myself after being a
jeweler for about 35 years. Should have had that kind of training
much sooner.

The main thing about New Approach is you are learning skill. Art
Schools tend to push creative concepts. Without skills you then have
a tendency to get creative about making things within the range of a
limited technical comfort zone. It isn’t that skills are hard or
easy, they are learn-able. New Approach is a great place to quickly
get very solid with the basics.

Stephen Walker

Get in as fast as you can. I was able to get away for two weeks to
attend last summer for bench and diamond setting. I’d give anything
if I could attend the full twelve weeks. I could not afford to close
my business that long. You will also make contacts in the industry
you will have forever.


Hi Amanda,

I took the Stonesetting Comprehensive class at The New Approach
School in Franklin TN with Blaine Lewis and highly recommend the
classes there. Blaine covered a staggering amount of info with his
thorough, easy to understand delivery backed up by high
magnification came ra presentations to demonstrate each technique.
His presentations were immediately followed with hands-on projects
that illustrated the same concept for completion by students. The
school is really well organized (props to both Blaine and Jill
Lewis). Bonus 1…Blaine is a very funny guy. Bonus 2…The New
Approach School seems to attract some highly motivated, really
talented jewelers. Meeting that many focused and creativemetalsmiths
in a learning environment was truly inspiring. I’ll shortly be taking
a second class there…in a perfect world, it would be the 12 week
course that you’re considering…but I’m happy to return for a second
week of stonesetting.

Best, LoriA

I took 2 courses a few years ago and wish I could go again. Perfect
learning environment, great attention to detail, lots of hands on
practice. Worth every moment invested.

Loved working with Blaine!! He can teach old dogs (like me) new
tricks and refresh your skills on what you have forgotten or teach
someone that knows nothing and just want to learn.

His method and manner are great can not say any thing bad about
working with him!


A friend of mine and I took a stone setting class from Blaine many
years ago when his school was in Virginia. I can’t say enough
positive things about the experience and my friend would agree. Just
yesterday I was using a tiny burnisher that I have used for finishing
bezel settings ever since I took the class.

I have taught in high schools and colleges for the past thirty-five
years and Blaine is one of the best natural teachers I have ever met.
If you can, go to the New Approach School. My envy goes with you. I
just know Blaine has some new tips and tricks to teach along with
sound, solid, focused instruction. You will have such a great and
enjoyable learning experience and leave with incredible skills.

Linda Moughemer Becker

Thanks to everyone who responded to my request for info about New
Approach School!

I appreciate the time you all took to craft a reply and your
willingness to share your opinions!

Best Wishes-