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Goldsmith Training to international standards


#1

Hi,

I’ve really enjoyed the knowledge and direction I’ve gained by
browsing the archives of this forum. I’ve read almost everything
posted about training in the US and abroad. My goal is to eventually
become proficient enough as a goldsmith to be able to hand produce/
cold work jewelry that is technically comparable to international
standards of the very highest end of fine jewelry. That is to aspire
to be a world class goldsmith (a very subjective classification i’m
sure). Not that I’ve necessarily decided on which realm of expression
within jewelry that future artistic and practical considerations will
resolve themselves, but I believe that the more skill I have the more
creative range and choices I will have within my career. In any case,
I’m at the point in my life where I can stilll make the committment
it will take to bring my skills up to this level. Just to be clear
about what I mean by “this level”, I would be referring to the level
of craftsmanship and of, lets say, someone like Zoltan David
www.zoltandavid.com., as just one reference.( However, I know this
type of work is a lifetime of learning and refinement)

I’ve been able to delineate two probable career paths, about neither
which I’m completely sure:

  1. Complete a tchnical school program in the USA such as Revere or
    Paris Texas to get the basics down. Then hope to find a master
    Goldsmith who will have the need, time, money, desire, etc… to take
    someone on and train them.

problems: no guarantee of finding a willing goldsmith as above
described.

  1. Attempt to find and complete a technical program in Europe that
    will be more thorough and incorporate more formal technical training
    than I could otherwise find here. After which I may still need to
    find a Master goldsmith to work under. However, this may prove easier
    with the increased level of previous training.

problems: English is my only language.

Financially, I have about one shot at getting this right. Hence my
long post. Any leads on specific programs that I could attend in
Europe/UK would be extremely helpful. Also, tips/leads on finding
suitable goldsmiths here would be very helpful. Although, not likely,
ones that would take me on directly would be fantastic! In any case,
thanks for all of your consideration in reading this lengthy post.

Sincerely,

Chris R.
Cheltnham, PA
hpsyes at yahoo dot com


#2

There is a college in London that has an excellent jewelry program.
Can any of our UK people tell the name of it?

I know two American jewelers who studied in Italy, and neither of
them speak Italian.

Since your so mobile, why not start out at the community college
program in Paris, Texas? Paris is so dull, you’ll have nothing to
do but study. : ) (My apologies to the Texans on the list; I have
actually been to Paris.)

You don’t state where you are in your current training, so I’ll
assume you’re a beginner. If that’s so, start off in Paris, get a
good base. If you do end up studying in Italy, better to at least
know what things are called in English.

After that, study with people who trained in Europe, if that’s your
preference.

Just train, train, train, and work on the various JA Certification
bench tests. Work on having something to offer the type of
goldsmith for whom you wish to work.

I’m pretty sure it’s possible to get a good education in America.
If you just want to travel, that’s different, but I don’t think it’s
necessary.

But, let’s find you that school in London so you’ll understand what
they’re saying.

Good luck,

Elaine

Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#3

Hi Chris,

I live in France and took basic classes in Switzerland at
www.free-form.ch. This is a nice place to rent bench time and seek
for what you are looking for. They speak English. As an
American I have learned first hand that you just can’t come over
here and expect everyone to speak English and role out the red
carpet. If you do come to Europe it will be important to make an
effort to learn the language of that country. Unemployment is high in
many countries in Europe and just like in the US people prefer to
hire there own first…so I think it is definitely beneficial to get
your foot in the door through a school.

Good Luck
Beth


#4

Mr. Rangow.

Completing a technical school program in the USA such as Revere  or
Paris Texas to get the basics down. Then hope to find a master
Goldsmith who will have the need, time, money, desire, etc... to 
take someone on and train them. 

I have attended TIJT Paris TX for the full 4 semesters , and got an
associate degree in Jewelry Technology. I also took and passed my JA
bench test. I then took another semester for my GGS - Graduate
Gemological Science. The British FGA is now being offered in place
of the GGS so this is more enticement to attend. My GGS is
recognized industry wide, the FGA is recognized world wide…

At TIJT, a semester is 8:00 to 4:30 with 1 hr. for lunch , 4 days a
week and with some Saturday classes. I needed all of the time I
could get. You will work. The first 3 semesters work was done in
bronze. The last semester Gold and Platinum were used exclusively

In retrospect I would not have changed anything I did except have
taken another 3 hr class in art metal. I did take all the
practical classes offered otherwise. In total app. 72 credit hrs
which are TRANSFERABLE to other colleges . Texas Rehab. paid for app
1/2 of my tuition . They also paid for part of my tools.

The cost of living is considerably lower in north Texas and the
lower tuition / room and board are also lower . A whole lot of
value for the money.

The only short coming, if it can be called that, is the emphasis on
technical quality. All work is completed to JA quality or better. I
believed, and still do, that a class should have been offered in
design . A one semester class in CAD design and CAM manufacturing
was also offered.

This is an international school , 10 - 15 % of the students come
from overseas. Some have English language challenges. 5 % of the
students have some disabilities of some description. ( I am
included in this group. The aid offered by the staff and instructors
to accommodate students with disabilities was outstanding. All
this at a Public Land Grant College with LOW tuition and room /
board.

I very highly recommend the quality of the staff and instructors.
Also, one, and four semester class in Watch Making are available.
Students have gone to work directly with Rolex in Dallas.

problems: no guarantee of finding a willing goldsmith as above
described.

Nope. no guarantee, though the rate of students finding jobs in the
industry or going to work as independents are pretty good.

Anyone who would like to ask any more questions about Texas
Institute Jewelry Technology, Paris Texas is welcome to email me or
post inquiries on the Orchid Digest. - While you are on line,
Google " Jewelry Boot Camp." or look it up on the Orchid archives.

I am indebted to everyone who encouraged me , or helped me in a
myriad of ways.

ROBB.
Texeclectic(a)vidnet.net
Please use Orchid, or Goldsmith Training in the subject line if You
email me.


#5

Chris,

You’ve got a great attitude. Keep it up.

In my opinion there is no formal training in the US that is up to
the best European standards. This is because there is no cultural
demand, no tradition, no industry mandate, no social importance
placed in our country for domestically produced jewelers.

The strategy in the US is a market oriented one. If there aren’t
enough jewelers industry will have to pay such a dear price for
those that there are that perhaps foriegn jewelers will immigrate
to fill the viod; simple supply and demand.

European schools teach techniques that will create craftspeople who
have the ability to produce culturally appropriate work. America
has no culturally appropriate work. Fortunately for those who go
to Europe to study, the techniques taught are extremely
translatable to the American market. But, there is no demand in
and of itself in the US for Euopean trained goldsmiths. If, after
training in Europe, you have no portfolio to show you have a
marketable skill; if you have never worked in a store and proven
your viability and value in a market context, you’ll have as much
trouble as the next guy getting work.

Go to every jewelry store you can and introduce yourself. Let them
know who you are and what your goals are. Now I say every jewelry
store because you never know where that master jeweler may be or who
might be able to point you in the right direction. Ask if they
have any old jewelry magazines that they’ll donate to you. Read,
study and soak in all you can.

Don’t get discouraged, it will be a good test of your mettle and
prepare you for the type of frustration you’ll find when learning
to saw, solder and engrave. One day, when you are successful,
you’ll meet one of those people who turned you down and get a laugh
out of the way they blew you off! If nothing else you’ll get an
idea of what kind of entry level skills you’ll be required to have
to get work.

Get some basic tools and start practicing now. Even if you can’t
have access to a torch, get tools that will allow you to start
practicing now. Get some sheet, a sawframe, some sawblades, some
files, an apron, paper and a pencil and start sawing out pieces and
glue them together if you have to. See how creative you can be.

Then you can start to research the schools that you get
recommendations for. If you go the trade school route, you’ll find
that they are geared toward filling entry level positions in
industry and that you’ll still have to scrap for every opportunity.
I personally couldn’t get a job when I graduated in '83, and I
grew up in a jewelry store and had much more experiance and ability
than the average grad. The best jeweler in my class, a Vietnamese
immigrant who had years of experience in his home country before
escaping had to take a job shooting up waxes. What a waste!

Be flexible and street smart. When I had to compromise to get my
foot in the door I made sure that I learned all that I could, “paid
my dues” and offered the store I was with every opportunity to help
me advance before quitting and moving on to the next challenge.

It already sounds like you’ve got the proper mindset for excelling.
Here are some pitfalls less experienced jewelers fall into.

  1. working with one craftsperson, taking thier designs or
    techniques and starting thier own business without fully exploring
    the full range of skills a jeweler needs. I’ve known and
    personally had workers who did this only to fail after initial
    success because of thier one dimensional ability;

  2. thinking that that a degree, program or certificate was all they
    needed to become a successful jeweler. Two, three and four years
    will not a jeweler make;

  3. not having short, medium and long term goals. Do what you can
    today to be the best. Realistically appraise your problem areas and
    determine to work them out over a period of time. Make a goal that
    you will learn as much as you can and be proficient at one simple
    task in a month, a more difficult task in 6 months and a complex
    task in a year. Determine what you will be doing in a year, two
    years, five years, ten years and work out what you will need to do
    to accomplish those tasks. Talk to your peers to see if you’ve set
    realistic goals. Figure out what you want to be when you have
    acceived these major goals. Find jewelers who are at the level you
    want to be and find out if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

Here are some of the requirements I look for in anyone who wants to
be a great goldsmith:

manual dexterity / eye hand cooridination
good eyesight, especially near vision
mechanically inclined imagination
ability to translate ideas graphically
creative problem solving and stratigizing
sensitivy to materials but no fear of them
artistry
willingness to learn

These are in no particular order and are synergistic.

I have known people who have metals degrees or GIA diplomas who
never made any progress as apprentices. I also can point out total
outsiders who had nothing more than a desire to learn who have
really done well.

My rant is now over.

Larry Seiger
http://www.lshancock.com


#6

http://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/

is the address for the craft council of england, the also publish a
magazine called just Craft you cant find it here except for large
bookstores, Borders etc should have it. there was a point where i
wanted to study in the UK but its difficult to get money, you have
to pay for everthing up front and unless your from the uk or part of
the eu you dont qualify for schollarships. the pound is worth almoth
twice what the us dollar is. If you can do it i say just go you wont
regret it. I would say look into Finland, the best goldsmiths in the
world i think, you will get the best education as goldsmith, but
finish is one of the most difficult languages to learn. I would like
to talk with you more about this privately, i have worked with
several goldsmith from the eu, i had more to tell you in detail if
you want.

ttyl
heather


#7

I have been pondering this same issue for Metalwerx. There is such
a lack of basics in our area, with the exception of Rhode Island
College, that many students are trying to find the balance between
working, family and a desire for classically trained goldsmithing
practices. This is a shift in my thinking, as I was academically art
trained where you didn’t worry how the piece came together.

One of my biggest issues now is how to put this kind of program in
place. We are working towards this goal, and I should have a solid
program in place for fall of 2006. I have two excellent staff
members at Metalwerx. One is Ann Cahoon who has a BFA from Maine
College of Art and from North Bennett Street where she also taught.
The other is Michael Sturlin who will be joining Metalwerx this fall
on a regular basis.

Our ongoing discussions have been focused on student’s needs for our
school and the format that works best. Our focus is on the Studio
Jeweler, who creates one-of-a-kind or limited production. We are
working towards two days a week, in a 9 month session, broken down
into 3 modules.

The first being classical goldsmithing techniques with emphasis on
findings, fittings, pouring ingots and learning how to make wire and
sheet, fusing, chain making, etc.

The second module is about finding your design voice with an
emphasis on art and design. We will introduce some CAD CAM as well.

The third module is the business of doing business, which in my
opinion is an area that everyone needs help. This fall we will touch
on some of these issues and begin to tweak the final program.

Tests will be given all through the program. I’m pretty sure that
college credit can be awarded. Several local jewelers have expressed
their willingness to take on apprentices for one day a week in their
shops and longer in the summer.

There are some excellent jewelry technician programs out there, but
nobody teaches the basics, combined with art/design and business in a
shortened format for art jewelers.

I attended Craft Boston two weeks ago, and was amazed to find crappy
clasps and poorly functioning pin findings. Art to wear can be edgy
and exilerating, but if it stagnates because of a simple clasp, then
why bother.

Karen Christians
M E T A L W E R X
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph. 781/891-3854 Fax 3857
http://www.metalwerx.com/
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio


#8

Hello Larry,

I enjoyed reading your “rant” and found a remarkable parallel to the
path many actors, and artists follow enroute to achieving their
dreams. Most have day jobs to pay the bills and spend the rest of
their time on working toward the dream.

The best of luck and good wishes to all who strive toward their
passions and dreams. Judy in Kansas, where it promises to be a dream
of a day outside.


#9

Thanks for everyone taking the time to respond. Your viewpoints will
be invaluable in guiding me down the right path. It is a shame that
there is no long term formal training for traditional goldsmithing
skills here in the states. However, as Alan mentioned to me
previously, this seems to be a result of modern mass manufacturing
methods meeting the bulk of the publics demand for jewelry in this
country. This combined with no formal tradition established before
the industrial revolution made it possible to produce acceptable
pieces of jewelry with increased efficiency. This would eliminate the
workforce demand motivation to establish such a formal school just
when the population in the states, and its demand for jewelry, was
exploding(due to the industrial revolution.) Sort of ironic it seems.
Anyway, Heather, you can reach me at the below address if you wish. I
would like to learn of your experiences in Europe…

Thanks again,
Chris
hpsyes at yahoo dot com


#10

Achieving proficiency as a goldsmith requires mastering a diverse
variety of skills which can take years of dedication and devotion to
develop, even for the most talented and adept student.

In addition to the process of observing and assimilating the correct
technique and procedure, there are countless hours of practice
involved in applying those skills until they have been perfected. One
of the most essential factors in learning these skills and acquiring
the efficiency and ability to be productive and profitable at the
bench, as an employee or as a studio jeweler, is having the right
teachers.

It isn’t merely the knowledge and the skill of the teacher that
makes a successful instructor, or a fruitful program. It is the
ability to impart that knowledge succinctly and to instill in the
student the proper confidence, approach, and attitude towards the
work, which ultimately determines the efficacy of the teacher and
the competency of the student.

There are many programs available in North America with widely
differing focus and emphasis. At present there may not be any one
single environment which is able to provide all things to all people.
Some of the most helpful advice I was given as a (much) younger
fellow, and have made use of over the years, is to study with those
people whose work and accomplishments you admire.

Michael David Sturlin
www.michaeldavidsturlin.com


#11

First thank you robert for your kind note, I have been lucky in my
career to have had the oppertunity of working alongside some of the
finest craftsmen in the UK, there is no substitute for learning
skills from another craftsman who is willing to share their
experiences. I have many friends who are good trade teachers at
colleges and with apprentices when possible. When I first started as
an apprentice my wage was a pittance, I was paid less than 25% of
the trades basic wage, and the company where I worked had about
twenty apprentices. Now we have wage laws which mean that it
employers have to pay apprentices a minimum wage of about $360 per
week when they start their first year of the apprenticeship, this
means many workshops can not afford to train craftsmen, so there are
less workshop trained youngsters entering the trade. We to over here
in the UK have many college trained jewellers and silversmiths who
find that they cannot make a living in the trade, so they go back to
colleges as teachers because they have the “qualifications” so in
many cases you have ex students becoming new teachers then teaching
students to become the next generation of teachers. This is how we
will loose some workshop skills. I am glad that the likes of Robert
Whiteside has the guts and time to continue some of the old skills,
and he also should be given more credit for his efforts to pass on
his aquired skills at his jewellery workshop classes. I can tell you
that I would be honoured to work with him if there was not many
thousands of miles between us. I would reccomend anyone entering
this trade of ours to be patient and make the effort to seek out the
expertise of someone who earns a good living from metalsmithing as
there is some truth in the old saying by George Bernard Shaw, I
think, “Those that can, do and those that can’t, teach” . I must get
off my soapbox now as I have some work to do, making a posy of
flowers in gold, enamel and diamonds for a wedding cake decoration.
Regards to all orchidians, and if I can give any advice by e-mail,
its free, give me a try.

Check out my gallery first to see what I can do:
http://www.ganoksin.com/orchid/jmdesign.htm

Peace and Good wishes to you all
James


#12

The best way I know to sumerize the education and training at Paris
Texas, TIJT is to explain that students start with stock, casting
grain and some commericaly available fitings. Students are trained to
complete this work to the exacting standards of Jewelers of
Americia. All this in precious metals.

Two of the classes are 1 semester each and are designed to have
students take and pass the exacting standards for Jewelers of
Americia Bench Technician and the other is for Watchmakers 1 semester
certification classes.

There is a lot to choose from.

This is a " sanitized " letter which I have and recieved and answered.

          Thanks for taking the time to write me about Paris, TX.
      In any case, its within my price range. I would just like to
      ask a few questions: 
          1) In terms of months, how long does it take to complete
      the 4 semester program? 
  The time to complete a 4 semester program is 4 college
  semesters Figure 2 years, less summers. Just like going full
  time to any other college. 

  NOTE - Check the class schedules at Paris Jr College website..
  There are other classes offered within the same subject
  matter. You can get additional certification in industral
  casting by taking 2 more classes . There was a business
  oriented class in laws, regulations and ethics in the jewelry
  trade. 

  The Gemology program may be diffirent . TIJT was in the
  process of changing to the British FGA certification . The
  origional GGS program was the closest certification offered in
  the USA to the British method and direction. The FGA
  Certification program was added after I left 2 yrs ago.
      2) What was your opinion of the stone setting instruction? 

VERY GOOD

  1 st. semester - metal working covered extensively. 

  2 nd. semester - Casting and finishing all the work needed for
  3 rd semester 

  3rd semester - stone setting ( CZ ) using the finished work
  from the semester before . The book Diamond Setting by Wooding
  is used extensively, but the instructors notes are copious and
  detailed as they are for all projects. 1st through 3rd semester
  a bronze metal working like gold is used. 

  4 th semester Only 14 K yellow and White gold is used as well
  as platinum. 

  How about a 31 stone ( CZ ) set in a 14 K yellow ring for a
  project. You will shoot the wax, cast, clean up and set this in
  4th semester. You will also resize it. Design wise, Texans love
  it. All work is finished to Jewelers of Americia Standards. 
      3) How much is platinum covered? 
  In 4th semester we set a 9 stone Platinum top 14 K yellow
  bottom ring. The  raw materials were supplied only casting
  grain and stock. Another Platinum ring was formed from stock,
  and was fused togather. 

  it was also resized several times and re fused or soldered. 
      4) Are any specialist techniques covered?( Granulation,
      engraving, millgrain, filigree, enameling etc..) 
  Millgraining is covered as a part of stone setting. Other
  techniques were covered in the class on Art Metal offered in
  the evening. 
      5) Is there any instruction on Die forming or machining? 
  Machining as in CAD CAM was offered as a 1 semester 15 or 16
  hr. program. read all day - all week for 1 semester... 

ROBB


#13

I take back all I said about the USA colleges having free minds as
to teaching qualifications, as I am being told by many of you that
you also need qualifications to teach our trade in the USA, it seems
a shame that good teachers may not be passing on their skills
because of the lack of “qualifications”. I am in contact with a
youngster who has just started what is called a pre apprenticeship
course at one of our UK colleges and he invited me along to one of
the colleges open days so that I could see the workshop set up. The
workshop is superbly equipped and his tutor is an enthusiastic
person but the methods he teaches are not that of a normal workshop
as I know it, the tutor told me that he had only three months
workshop experience before he started teaching, nearly all of his
experience was from a college environment.

For example one of the students was making a spoon with a pierced
bowl and the tutor had the student hold the spoon in a bench vice by
the handle, while the student attempted to pierce the scrolling
pattern in the static spoon, the student also had to wear protective
goggles. When I asked the tutor why he was teaching piercing in this
method, I was told that he was told to teach piercing this way by
the “college safety officer” who was afraid of students hurting
themselves with broken sawblades, apparently these rules applied to
all tutors teaching manual skills. How would a student transfer
easily to a workshop with these ideas in their head. In our trade
being stabbed by the occasional sawblade is an occupational
certainty if you piece correctly.

Perhaps the future of the jewellery trade will be a total machine
made trade, where the only use for fingers is to push buttons on a
keyboard. But hope not, I have had some experience with a company
who uses computer operated routing machines and I found that the
time it takes to set up one of these machines to perform the task of
engraving, piercing or cutting one individual pattern in an odd
shaped article is un economical task and only profitable if the
article is to be duplicated many times, thus taking away the
articles uniqueness.

I hope there will be a continuing market and willing customers who
will pay for the unique item or individual piece of jewellery so
that there will be a target for aspiring students to aim for and to
perhaps arrive at. After 44 years at the bench I could not have
chosen a better or more satisfying way to earn a living, and in my
time I have made many unique things, from a simple wedding rings to
Faberge type Easter Eggs.

And I will continue as long as my health allows. Peace and good
health to you all,

James


#14

James:

I have many time sought to teach my ability to the up and coming.
First just acheiving the qualification shingle is costly and often
times the effort needed to produce what ‘‘they’’ want and what you
actually do are two different styles thus eliminating you from the
get! Then you have insurance costs that go thru the roof, and how is
an up and coming student going to be able to pay for the
environment, let alone the skills needed? I have even tried my own
niche, but peopleare often more talk than action and I have yet to
meet one person as devoted to learning the profession as I was! Yes
I may have experiance as my teacher and trial and error my guide,
but try to teach somebody how to fish! So far I have only seen
people wanting something for nothing and little motivation… it’s
a shame my skills may only benifit those who have recieved my work!
I am trying to compose a video tape showing technique and the more
unusuall situations i have accomplished.

Ringman


#15

CIJT’s collaboration with Indian Institute of Jewelry has been a
huge success.=A0read on -

We have had a wonderfully successfully launch of our Jewelry Arts
Program Modules I - IV, in Mumbai, India.=A0

After one year in operation they recently held their first
graduation, major industry leaders attended the graduation and 3 day
exhibition of the jewelry graduates module IV projects. Awards and
praises were given by name companies=A0Hammer Plus, Uni gem, Intergold=
,
World Gold Council, Diamond Promotion Service, Phorem Jewels Pvt.
Ltd. and many more 6 Trophies and 2 Traveling awards were presented
to the top finalist.=A0All 18 students were shortlisted( offered
employment) and several had several options to from which to
choose.=A0Please check it out on their
website=A0www.indianinstituteofjewellery.com.=A0Graduation Keynote
speaker was Pra

All=A0postings are not complete with new photos of the designs and the
industry comments, but I could not wait to tell you all about
it.=A0There were many press releases and international television medi=
a
coverage including CNN.=A0So put the site in your favorites and keep i=
n
touch with this latest in technology institutes.=A0

IIJ is now expanding it’s operation to include Gemology, Diamond
Grading, GemVision, Digital Goldsmith and have started short courses
as well in enameling and mokumagame.

I attended the graduation and really, folks, talk about dedication to
their studies, full time 8 months plus and jazzed.=A0And the best part=
,
the industry is just as jazzed and we all know how hard they are
sometimes to please.=A0And I call that interational standards,=A0for
sure.=A0

The bottom line is, go to a professional trade school to learn the
trade, bypass all the nonsence in your program and do that later when
you are a skilled professional.=A0

For more write to me off line at @Dee_Rouse_Huth

Regards all,=A0Dee
Dee Rouse Huth, Director
California Institute of Jewelry Training since 1979
5805 Windmill Way, Carmichael, CA 95608
www.jewelrytraining.com
www.mastervaluer.com