Gem-setting school curriculum

A few months ago I went to a Toronto school to apply to teach. Once
there, the teacher on staff & his department head were present. I
showed them my resume’ (85 rings set with cz’s). I was enlightening
them on what a student should be learning. This teacher (?) who has a
BFA degree told me this “*We don’t teach *Princess-setting,
Channel-Setting or 4-prong setting

I asked why? every setter these days must how to do these types of
setting. "It isn’t in our schools’ curriculum!!" The department
head looked at him with amazement, why not? We’ve been doing it this
way for many years & we find no reason to change
. I said you are
teaching your students who pay your school $15,000.00 in 3 years to
learn what is no longer needed!!! I asked this teach can you set
Fish-Tail? He said “I never heard of it”. I showed him my samples.
After a half/hour I left in total disgust! When I teach my students
they learn what is needing in the present day, not something circa
1970. I propose everyone on Orchid who are wanting to get to a school
find out EXACTLY what you will be learning, even if it’s a short-term
program. If you don’t know, write to me off-line. I will gladly guide
you, diamond setting styles & techniques are changing by the year,
if not, by the month.

One of the main topics every setter must know & practice on is:
Pave or Bright-Cutting a. k.a. Pave setting. This school said it
isn’t necessary, good grief! In 4-5 days I can teach my students this
Advanced Level, so why not that school? After 54 years at my
setting-bench I see that this craft has totally changed. But some
schools have not kept up with the ongoing changes. You, as a student
must know what will waiting for you in the years ahead, at your
bench. This school has no Laser-welder, or teach Wax-Setting & no
CAD!..e Oh yes, they spend ONE YEAR in learning to make Tube & Bezel
settings, that is their setting program.


1 Like

Gerry- As for approaching some established academic and arts schools
to teach viable and useful professional jewelry skills… Sigh.
Don’t get me started.

The scarcity of tenured jobs and the ensuing politics in
Universities leads to some teachers becoming very territorial. Some
who teach do so because they never learned practical money making
skills. Thus they can’t make a living as artists and so they go back
to school and get their MFA.

They then stay in academia and fiercely guard their positions.
Sometimes these folks feel threatened by people like you who can do
things they could never imagine.

There are so many wonderful learning institutions and teachers out
there teaching jewelry making. I like to approach the ones that are
open to new and old ideas.

Sometimes I approach the wrong ones. That’s when I cut the interview
short and walk out mumbling " Heck! I’ve been insulted by MUCH more
important people than you." Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

My soapbox for some time has been the need for students in fine arts
to takecourse work in business. I’m adding learning those real life
skills such as Gerry & Jo describe. If being able to earn a living
at their chosen art is important, then the school must incorporate
business and technical skills in the program.

Off the soap box.

Judy in Kansas, where a blustery wind and overcast sky make it a
good day for chili.

Gerry, you have brought up the very thing that disturbs me. I have
attended several jewelry schools, and to my dismay was never taught
proper stone setting, or how to do correct carving of rings. We never
used caliphers to make sure everying was even and in balance when
making rings, but were taught to eyeball it. When I requested
on how to correct the lopsided rings, I was told, that in
the first place, we were not making “rings,” We were making “finger
structures,” And that the fact that they were “free formed,” was an
asset which distinguished them from commercial rings.

The Lost wax casting class emphasized casting of found objects. We
cast pods, peanut shells, some plastic junk, and that was it. What
carving we did, we did on our own without any instruction.

So there I was, doomed to making lopsided rings and doing only bezel
setting of cabochons. It wasn’t until years later that I was
fortunate, to be able to take a workshop which introduced me to
caliphers and correct measurements, and another which dealt with
bright cutting, and setting of faceted stones. Wow. finally I learned
about gravers, and making seats for stones. What athrill.


I have to agree with the various members of this forum. I’ve been
lucky enough to work with several goldsmiths when I was in the repair
trade, who taught me practical stonesetting skills. Like many
artists, I wentto art school, picking up an BFA and MFA which is
totally worthless unless you teach. I started teaching shortly after
I left the repair trade. I originally wanted to be a professor but
after 11 years as adjunct, I had enough of the BS. I prefer to focus
on practical things, not artsy stuff that will get you all written up
in academia. I never could understand all this artsy BS that is
taught in school. Maybe it was the fact I had a jewelry business
going on before I went to college plus being a practical New

Anyways, when I teach stonesetting, I make everyone get familiar
with calipers, for they must be able to take accurate measurements,
and get used to loupes/Optivisors. I also am fanatical about burs
and will keep pounding the proper use of burs into everyone’s head.
I teach as much practical stonesetting, so that the bezels and
prongs look good and hold the stone well. I’ve spent many years
refining my setting techniques, and if I get stuck, I just ask my
goldsmith friend/boss. There’s a lot ofstonesetting skills that are
not taught and some can only be found in the repair/fine jewelry
trade (which I’m currently working in) so I try to learn as much as
I can.

Doing anything half-ass isn’t going to work. In college, only the
basicbezel was taught, and that was it. I had to go work for a
couple of goldsmiths just so I can learn to set stones, work with
gold and get better. College for the most part can be just a scam
(this is coming from aburned out adjunct faculty). I’ve had to
straighten out quite a few not correctly taught students. It’s not


Joy you could have taken the words out of my mouth. IF you want a
general way of setting you could go to just about any of the trade
schools out there. If you really want to learn from the experts in
the trade you must learn from someone that bangs out day after day
with little or no return on their work. I prepared myself under two
papered masters of the old school back in the 70’s. These two
gentlemen had skills beyond what you see today that these schools are
turning out. Let’s face it folks, this trade is not for everyone. I
remember teaching at a school program and I could tell who had good
hands and eyes after the first 15 minutes of working on a project.

Some just get it and others struggle and others never do get it.
Experience is the key and I learned from my mentors for 5 years
before I set out on my own with another company. Another insight to
working in this trade is the different ways jewelers set stones
safely and securely. How they finish their work and improve every day
is an aspect that is well known and if you stop learning then you
should move on to another trade. Nobody knows it all, not me, not
Gerry, not Blaine, not Alan or anyone else that is teaching. They
teach a way that is successful for them. Everyone can pick up new
tricks to be more professional from everyone else. It is how any
industry works. Case in point, look at Siemens. they educate and
train their own workers to do want they want for their business.
Makes perfect sense to me.

Russ Hyder
The Jewelry CAD Institute
The Jewelers Internet, Inc.

Judy- Thank you for posting this.

My soapbox for some time has been the need for students in fine
arts to take course work in business. 

I so wish art and trade schools would teach this.

When I teach jewelry making I often talk about the business as well
as the craft to my students as they file away.

I am thinking about teaching a weekend work shop on the business of
jewelry. I’d like to cover how to build and launch a line. How to
present your work. Tips on breaking into the trade and how to price
your work. And different career paths in the trade. Do all yall think
that would be useful? If so what subject would you all like to see
covered? Any and all suggestions and crack pot ideas welcome.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

This sounds like the curriculum for the Metalsmithing and Jewelry
program Inever completed. The head of the department was basically
inept, she didn’t even know how to solder, most of what I was taught
was imparted from the grad students who helped teach. When I got a
job at a jewelry reproduction shop in town my boss was delighted I
hadn’t finished the program. At first I was insulted by this here I
was paying ~$4k a semester and this guy is telling me I don’t know
shit? Turns out I prettymuch didn’t. They had taught me soldering,
the basics of centrifuge casting, and some other forming techniques
(speculum, chase and repose, raising, etc.) but I had no real bench
skills, and nothing but bezel setting cabs and tube setting CZs.
Thankfully I was competent enough to learn to shoot wax molds, and
taught myself Rhino3D so I could take over when our CAD designer
left. Luckily I have a lot of experience with tech, otherwise I’d
still be shooting wax and cursing my professors for not giving me
the knowledge I really needed. I’m currently in talks with my boss to
present a useful curriculum to the university, so that hopefully
future students won’t be left in the same boat I was.

Aaron Stafford
Ruidoso Metalworks

Hello Jo,

Please include some REALLY basic business terms and record-keeping.
Don’tforget having the records for reporting taxes. An accountant
can help withthis, but it can be expensive. Also understanding how
to deal with a gallery, insurance, price points, depreciation,
deductible expenses and how to document them. Those are some of the
things I would have benefited from 25 years ago when I ‘set up

Judy in Kansas where the balmy temps in the mid-50s are sinking into
more winter-like conditions.

You might want to throw in some basics of business and intellectual
property law. At least enough so that they have a grasp of their
rights and obligations, and when they might need to hire a lawyer.

Porter in Virginia

Went two routes, both the traditional University setting with
semester long classes, and then a dedicated school for jewelry. At
the University we did critiques of our assigned projects. The one
thing that got me was one crib where the students dumped on my
pieces. They called them, “Too commercial oriented” I had spent time
finishing and making them look good, fit, and be something I would
actually wear. Their pieces were bits and pieces thrown together,
that then they had to spend 10 minutes in the crib telling us their
greater meaning and why each bit was intentional. It was all stuff
that you looked at, but would never be caught dead wearing any of it.
My professor after their comment about my work said, “And what is
wrong with that?”

Now I didn’t have to be taught how to sell. I grew up with a father
that excelled at it, and it is in my genes. Yet not once except for
one afternoon in the jewelry dedicated setting did business end of
the industry ever touch on the subject. That was a start. But how do
you keep up with the accounting and all the governmental forms? What
do you do about maintenance? What about marketing? All of this is
lacking. You can go to different departments in the University, but
you would have to be told what you needed before you go to that
department. Specific to our industry is needed. Not just a afternoon,
or a convention type setting with short little talks. A real sit down
and study for a semester or more. If you want more than a hobby, you
need to know how to make it a business!

Aggie in Florida where it is supposed to hit in the mid 80’s again


As you said it, some people get it in the trade and some don’t. I
have students who want to be in the repair trade, or work as a
benchworker, and to be honest, they will never make it for they just
don’t have the mindset, the drive, understanding how the metals,
stones, tools, etc behaves. I had one student who washed out of the
North Bennet Street School, and even after spending 9 months there,
she’s still so nervous about soldering, what’s the next step? I’m
pretty much done with her - I can’t teach her anything more unless
she wises up, and find the inner fire. Another misguided student
wants to take antique pins and convert them into wearable jewelry.
Only problem is that it requires really skilledgoldsmiths to do
that, and I’ve done the convertions for her. She just doesn’t get

The goldsmith I work for, he’s self-taught for the most part, but
workedfor his goldsmith father (who I also worked for) and Jamie is
one hellof a stonesetter. He really thinks each step, analyzing each
step, forthe best finish and setting. I’m learning stuff that is
never, ever mentioned in any school, book, online, so forth. Between
the two of us, we have over a half century worth of experience.

I’m for the most part frustrated, disgusted and weary of how little
realis out there for proper gem setting, and how much
mispeople pick up. I do my best in teaching, but unless
those students get it, they will do what they are capable of.

Always keep striving, always keep improving.

Hi Joy,

I always, without fail, do not ever tell a student they are doing
something wrong. What I do is compliment them on something they did
that is ok but pose the the thing that is wrong in a question.

Like what do you think about this area or the level of the stone,
etc? Have them answer what they see is wrong that way you are not
chastising them for what is wrong. Hence, no negativism allowed but
work it from a positive answer. I have been in this trade for 45
years from master jeweler to instructor to manager. all facets of
it. The next step for your student that is afraid of soldering is
work it in reverse. Have her intentionally melt each metal to know
when it will melt. Do it over and over until she can stop just before
it melts. do all the metals. silver, gold of different karats, etc.
Then work with soldering starting from the hard, medium, easy. The
reason is the parent metal she knows now when it will melt. so start
with the hard solder and move down. she should be able to stop as the
solder melts just before the parent metal. Hopefully, she has the
ability to move the torch flame back in and out until the solder
melts. conduction soldering.

Just remember, being a jeweler is not for everyone. My dad was a
master machinist for the national bureau of standards and used to
make telescoping parts for satellites for the government. This
required them to be within 1 millionth of an inch in tolerance. less
than a human hair. You see you can’t use oil in space like we do on
earth. The reason I say that story is I would liken myself to him on
a bench. You have to have the drive and willingness to learn
different ways from different people and that just takes experience
over a period of time.