How did you come to be a jeweler?

This question is so broad that everyone has a story. Have you known
since childhood that you wanted to sift handfuls of sparkling things
through your fingers or were you first captivated by seeing the
power of a lit torch?

Did you have to rebel against your parents wishes or were you
supported? A few artisans that come to mind after reading bio’s
(Nanz, Matthew, Sam) seem to have just chosen their parents well
from the start. And then there’s Lisa who seems to have studied
everything but jewelry before landing at her bench.

Also, seeing how many higher educations are scattered about, it
seems many did have to passify their others expectations before
embarking on a potential personal description of ‘starving artist’.
Was it about the parents, many of whom knew life in the great
depression? Are there even true artists who dream of great success
over and beyond the process of creating art and the hard work (with
low return) it takes to get there?

Did you eventually say, “This is my life and I can’t NOT do it.” I
will go out on a limb and presume that this thought had crossed Dr.
Hanuman’s mind a time or two.

So how did you come to be a jeweler?

Genocide was occuring in the former Yugoslavia, after returning from
Croatia '93 having been a rifleman I reutned to High School to
finish my last year there. I didn’t know what was wrong at the time,
but I was suffering from chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some
doors closed, but I continued in Computer Science, later Computer
Engineering. The insurance company who carry the Canadian Military
policies signed me up for Rehabilitation training, and after awhile
made decisions as to the direction of this pursuit. Having declared
a fine arts minor and taken a Drawing and Metal Art/Jewellery at the
local Community College through an student exchange program they
had, it was decided to this would be my training. I convinced them to
let me finish what I started, simply change over to Applied Arts from
CompEng, and taken the third metal course (as it is not part of the
BAA) and so after 10 years of part time study and two years since
graduating I am building a studio to develop myself and my eye in
the field of high jewellery and metal art.

K. David Woolley
Fredericton, NB
Diversiform Metal Art & Jewellery

Interesting question. Up until a year or so ago, I wouldn’t have been
able to answer that.

My father’s brother is a criminal lawyer in Arizona. One of the few
white men invited to practice on tribal land in Arizona and New
Mexico. He also has one of the largest private collections of Native
American art in the United States and is on the board of most of the
major southwest and Native American museums in the USA. He is a very
major collector.

Because of that, I spent summers and some holidays throughout my
childhood on Indian reservations and pueblos throughout the
southwest, participating in pow wows and cermonies. I was often left
on pueblos, or reservations, staying with Native people and native
artists, exploring and being taught how they do their work
firsthand. I was essentially immersed in Native pottery, painting,
weaving, sculpture, basketry, jewelry and other art. As a result, I
have always made art in one form or another. It was always part and
parcel of my life’s fabric. I just never considered making a living
at it. I always saw art, as… just what everybody does everyday.

As an adult, I became a singer. I did that from 16-29. Lived in
Europe for years and grew tired of that business. On my return, I
took a class, and started making jewelry at about 32 as a lark. My
boyfriend at that time was an art director on a tv show. I made a
few earrings for him, and to my surprise, everyone on that show
wanted some for themselves. Before I knew it, I was in production, he
was on another show, they were buying everything too, and I was off
and running.

It was only in recent years, that I recognized that my time spent
among my native family, was the reason I do what I do. Although I
had obtained degrees in design and in ceramics, (more native
influence), I make jewelry full time. I have finally gotten around to
incorporating some of the weaving, beading, carving, smithing and
other techniques that I was patiently taught and surrounded with as a
child into my work. It took me a while to get the message. In my
early world, art was an everyday part of life. It was natural and
necessary to engage daily in making things. You almost did it in
order to be able to breathe every day. It has been interesting to
retrace my steps and find that breath and life that I thought I had
forgotten about so many years ago.

So…that’s why I make jewelry.

Lisa, (Dog needed stitches today as a result of a disagreement with
the other dog. The Red Cross just called and wants me to go back to
Louisiana or Florida in the next three days, in anticipation of this
next coming storm. I have had to listen to Katrina news for the last
week, and probably for the next, so that the media can make money
off of it. Its been a long week, and its only Monday. I now
officially need a glass of wine.), Topanga, CA USA

My story started in 1971 when I graduated from Texas A&M university
with a degree in Marketing. When I went for job interviews I had
little to no success. Just not the corporate type. After 6 months of
no employment I took a job at a local department store installing
decorations for Christmas. I liked the work and stayed on doing
display and fixtures for about 2 years. I then moved on to the local
Museum of Natural History where I spent another 2 years in the
exhibits department learning all kinds of great stuff about molds
and models and putting together dinosaurs etc. During this 2 years I
came across my one and only mentor who owned a jewelry school in
Houston. I sold my car and used the money for a six week course in
jewelry making and the beginning tool set. When the six week course
was over they asked me to be a lab assistant and then I began doing
production work at the school. This lasted about 6 months and the
place folded. I was on my own and have been every since. Three
decades plus later and I am still making jewelry and still learning.
Never gets boring and never have lost interest. That is my story in a
nut shell. I have worked for Zales, Gordons’s and other corporations.
Diamonds dealers, pawn shops, independent jewelry stores, galleries
and my own private clients. I have done most of it and do most
everything in the shop. I am a one man shop and like it that way.
That is my story and I am sticking to it. Good luck on your travels
down this very winding and interesting road.

Frank Goss

Everybody DOES have a story, including me, about how they came to get
a job, or career. Mine’s just as boring as anyone’s, so I won’t go
there. I’ll talk about the background, though. I didn’t grow up
wanting to “sift glittering objects…”, but I do remember the first
time I saw a really fabulous necklace and thought, “Wow, somebody
actually made that - to be able to do that!!!” I spent my childhood
doing one of two things - making things, or taking things apart. I
talked with a machinist once, and I said, “I’ve taken apart
everything there is (not precisely everything, of course)”, and he
just nodded his head like, Yeah, I know the feeling. Clocks, locks,
washing machines, xerox machines, calculators, typewriters. You name
it, I’ve been inside of one, seeing what makes them tick. And I also
made all sorts of things - models, tree houses, woodwork, lapidary,
clay, metalwork of various kinds. All of this background led up to
the day when I very nervously applied for my first jewelry job, and
they said, “You’re hired!!”.

Jaye. I actually forgot to say how I became a jeweler…My husband
almost died 2 years ago. I needed something to do at the hospital
and home because I had to be in the house with him. I could not
bring my feathers and furs inside and I had long wanted to work with
wireworking (how I started). I had been also careful up to then not
to step on my husbands toes because it was he who had been preparing
to do his jewelry on the side. But once I got my hands going I can’t
stop. I have to make myself go out and do the bread and butter part
of Indian art and keep only the nights for jewelry. Even so I catch
green looks from him as I venture deeper and deeper into the jewelry
canyons. But my attitude. We all have 24hrs a day, it is how we
chose to use them. I am in seventh heaven…Terri----

This is an interesting question with so many answers. I was in art
school and signed up for a lithography course. I was the only one to
sign up, the course was cancelled and the only class open was jewelry
design. I fell in love with working with silver. I have been working
with enamels since I was 10 and self taught as well as having taken
other courses over the years.

So, yes I eventually said working in metal (silver and gold) is my
"Passion" and I can’t NOT do it.

So, here I am working it.

Jennifer Friedman
Ventura, CA

By act of God really. I was a internet web security guru and a
consultant to auctioneers teaching them how to use the new tools of
the internet to make money. In 30 seconds everything changed. I hit 3
other cars at 35 mph all safety in the new gmc safari (1999) van
failed save the seat belt. I hit my head my neurologist believes a
minimum of 4 times. I lost part of my lower left jaw and all my teeth
on that side and my ability to walk talk read write and just plain
comprehend for the first year.

As the brain pressure lifted and the fog cleared I was left with “if
you have not regained your technical memory after 2 years you will
most likely not” In Jan 2001 I sat and thought the only skills memory
I have is from the 70’s college years Fine Arts & Archaeology
Palentology. I was a sculpture major. I decided I couldn’t do large
things not allowed ot lift them so I miniaturized and started with
Colorado Pink Alabaster and an xacto knife and carved cameos &
Egyptian amulets.

I began carving shell cameos not too long after when my vision was
still doubled but I didn;t care I just wanted to get comfortable with
the tools. I had bought 3 antique gravers from ebay and carved all I

From this came the knowledge that on carving cameos is
not readily available. Settings as well were not available. I began
the search and got on a waiting list for silversmithing classes.

SInce that time I have learned as much as possible and am now
fabricating my own jewelry from raw materials and having a blast. I
am a jeweler because I love it…I am working as hard as possible and
hope that evetnually this will be enough to buy food and the
necessities doing something I am in love with…silversmithing is

Anyway, sorry for the long response but I have come a long way in 6
years to find myself a profession I love.

P.S. Never Give up!

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry

As a little kid i started pounding copper wire against the concrete
with a mallet to flatten it and make jewelery from that "textured"
stock, and the thousands of glass beads we would catch at Mardi Gras
every year…later on I got a chemistry set for my birthday and i
could do flame tests and bend glass tubing and melt metal with the
alcohol lamp included with the set.I made a blowpipe / blowtorch
from an experiment in the set, and learned/taught myself how to
eutecticly join metals ( though i had no idea that ‘eutectic’ was a
word, or process back then…it just worked).Soon i began to melt
every metal i could find,(or rock that i though had metallic
something in it-error) combine them and pour them out on and into
various receptacles…trial and error was known to me as scientific
method by nine!..mostly error…Then an uncle gave me a subscription
to rock and gem magazine- I insisted our next family vacation be to
Taxco Mexico,by way of southwestern native american reservations so i
could see silversmiths in action.the parents were compliant, and we
set out in the family’s station wagon across texas, which i didn’t
count on…it was hotter there than in New Orleans-error and
experience at the same time! After returning home I got ‘serious’
about setting up my laboratory cum jewelery making studio ( after the
infamous pine-sol and pool chlorine experiment in my room- again,
error! with sound…so I was discovered).and quickly religated to
setting up in the garage…but it was hot as hell in New Orleans and
the garage was not my ideal locale…so i gave up jewelery
making,chemistry, and metallurgy until the holidays that year…I got
a nice wooden barn type outbuilding from sears for my big
present…and my first official studio was born… Then the sixties
happened…let’s just say it was a time of experience and
inspiration- enough to last a lifetime artistically speaking. About
thirty years ago my interest in jewelery making and metallurgy was
rekindled by the advent of New Orleans’ Jazz and Heritage
Festival…hundreds of artists and metalsmiths in one place at one
time -( It’s always on the last week in April and first weekend in
May …the hottest time of year…a date i’ve never understood the
reasoning behind in all these years). While i love fire, i detest
feeling hot…in making jewelry i can control the flame and the
thermostat at the same time…

My passion in life is creating metals, and then turning that
substance into objects’d’art…There are not enough hours in the day
for me to work on pieces and read every bit of literature on the
related subjects i can find…and there is never enough money to
satisfy my penchant for tools, and raw materials. At one time i was
not sleeping at all. A friend and metalsmith said that moving my
bench out of my bedroom would remedy the all too common situation…I
am a jeweler because i can safely play with fire in any room i
choose - but greater thatn that, i’m driven to create and learn and
teach what i’ve learned and absorb all i can from other
metalsmiths…it’s a safe addiction with tangible results.

Old fashion way

I’m a 14th generation jeweler. My father had a manufacturing
business, 15 jewelers at the bench, 6 salesman on the road (j his hey
day). I started at age 10 in my fathers place. Left home, age 20
worked for Neiman Marcus as their jewelers, started my company as a
trade shop in 1974, 3-5 years later dropped the trade and went full
retail. Sold the store to an employee in 2000 and now just consult.

Last year I owned the store (1999) we did 1.8 million, 3/4 came from
the shop, did over 8800 jobs that year.

Didn’t have a silver spoon in my mouth, but did have 2/0 emery
paper. :slight_smile:

David Geller
510 Sutters Point
Sandy Springs, GA. 30328
(404) 255-9565

I started with an interest in jewelry in 1968, when I stayed at my
aunt & uncle’s house for a week, when I was 12 yrs old. I was there
to help my sickly aunt do her spring housecleaning, but when the
chores were completed, I ended up at my uncle’s very small watch &
jewelry repair shop.It was less than 300 sq ft, including the
bathroom, a single display case for the sales area, and 2 benches.
Unc showed me how to size an old scrap gold ring, so I sat there and
sized that baby up and down several times the rest of that day. I
suddenly knew that I was ‘in love’. At the end of the week, Unc
packed up a box of his old wore out tools, sent ‘em home with me, and
said ‘see what ya’ can do with those’. I probably had to be about the
only 12 yr old kid anywhere that asked for a Prestolite torch for his
birthday. Mom allowed me to set up an old bench in her laundry room,
and I began accumulating anything that had to do with jewelry. I
bought pieces of brass and copper hardware and plumbing from the
hardware store to practice on, cutting and soldering. While most
kids of my age were playing around, I was ‘holed up’ in the
laundryroom, cutting, filing, soldering, sanding on just about
anything that I could put a shine on. When I turned 16, I was hired
by a local small jeweler for about a year… Thru high school years, I
studied GIA diamond and colored stones courses. At 21, I left a tv
factory job, to take a minimum wage clerks job at a mall store, for
Goodman Jewelers of Indiana. In 2 years, I had a managers position
within the small 9 store chain, where I stayed for nearly ten yrs.
The money was great, especially for a 25 year old with no college,
but I simply wasn’t happy cramming, and teaching others how to cram
jewelry down people’s throats, and rinse it down with a credit
application. I left a really nice salary, and bonus behind, and 1
week later I was making just a tadd over minimum wage again, this
time as a convenience store asst manager, besides taking on 2 paper
routes to support my now family of 4. In the meantime, my wife had my
aunt show her how to string pearls, and over the course of about 4-5
yrs, we developed about 200 trade accounts for pearl and bead
stringing. In August-Oct we would hold pearl stringing ‘bees’ in our
mobile home living room, with 1/2 a dz cackling ladies, all getting
piece rate, as we strung up literally several hundreds or even
thousands of strands of cultured saltwater pearls, that were being
imported in hanks by a large regional chain of stores. When the pearl
craze of that era, played itself out, things cooled of considerably,
and about then, my aunt and uncle asked if I was interested in taking
over their small retail shop. Six months later I was up to my elbows
in watch and jewelry repairs, with a readymade clientel, and just a
single display case with watchbands and half a dz asstd ring and
pendant mountings. My uncle had spent 2 weeks before he retired
showing me very basic watch repair, like battery changes, crystal and
movement replacements, and the rest was up to me. I quickly signed up
for a correspondence quartz watch repair course from American
Watchmaker’s Institute. Now, 20 yrs later, in a newer, larger
location. I’m still sitting there hammering out just about anything
that sparkles or ticks, doing plenty of custom work, and more watch
and jewelry repair than I even want most of the time. Most all the
dept stores and mall jewelers in my city send dzs of watch repair
customers to my store weekly. And, I just bought a Roland MDX-15 wax
milling machine about 2 weeks ago, and am currently learning to
operate it and the software. Business has been good this year, and I
just added a newbie bench jeweler to the store, with high hopes for
the next 20 yrs.

Ed in Kokomo

I love this topic, as i feel very lucky to be a jeweler…

My grandmother was an enamelist her whole life. She never made
jewelery, she never was a emtalsmoth, but she oredered
pre-fabricated copper pieces and enameled lots of bowls and

When i was 18, she felt she was too shaky to enamel anymore and gave
me all her supplies. Two kilns, years of collected enamels, copper,
trivets, everything. This sat around fro awhile as i was in college
busy doing other things. Then The spring of my 19th year, my
grandfather passed away leaving me $2000. I bought a mountian bike
for $600 and spent the rest on a 2 week jewelry and enameling class
at The Penland School of Crafts.

My teacher was Sidney Scherr, daughter of Mary Ann Scherr. Sidney is
afantastic enamelist and teacher with a greta sense of humor and a
lifetime of knowledge. I loved her. I loved making jewelry. Time
making jewelry flew, i knew i had found my true passion.

I returned to my liberal arts college and set up a studio in the
basement of the English building, with permisson. I continued to
make jewelry throughout my undergraduate years, selling to various
professors and friends. often i would skip the socializing as i had
more important things to do in the studio. and it was not for
credit, it was for fun!

I quickly realized that my job opportunities with an undergrad
degree in Religion, Philosophy, and English were few. After
graduating with my BA, I enrolled at the Fashion Institute of
Technology in NYC for their 2 year Jewelry Program. At the time, it
was the cheapest one i could find and it was in NYC! what fun! and
it was. i learned so much, had a wonderful time in school…had some
excellent teachers.

I returned home to start my own jewelry business when i was 25. I
spent a year driving a catering van until i got accepted into my 1st
Gallery and my 1st Local Craft Guild which had selling
opportunities. I told my parents i was quitting my job to start my
business and my mother asked "how are you going to make a living?"
and i told her “by making jewelry” and she said “but how are you
going to make money?” and i said “by making jewelry”.

almost 10 years later, my parents and grandma are very proud of me
and i am more happy than i thought possible in my day to day life.

I was an art history major in college and also studied painting,
drawing, and printmaking, as well as photography. I remembered that
a girl-friend from my college days (who was unfortunately murdered in
Tampa, FL at the age of 22) had plans to drop out of college and
sign up for a jewelry-making program in Chicago. I decided I would
try doing what Ellen had always wanted to do, and I was hooked from
the start. So here I am. After 22 years in the software development
field, it was time to get back to my artistic roots, and
jewelry-making fills the bill. Jewelry sells a lot faster than
paintings or photographs, to boot. It’s a commodity with a market,
whether it’s “art jewelry” or run-of-the-mill items.

Brian Corll
Brian Corll, Inc.
1002 East Simpson Street
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

Growing up I was always making things. Sculptures, beads, crafts. If
I could make it I did. Went through middle and high school figuring
I would end up in art school. Once I got there I hated it. I went for
metalsmithing and jewelry design. While in college I worked for
Zales. I tried to convince our jeweler to take me on as an apprentice
but he said go to GIA. I left art school after 2 years and signed up
for the GIA, GJ program. It was an amazing experience. I wouldnt call
myself a jeweler as yet, but I make jewelry so I guess that counts
for something.

What a great question, it’s so interesting to hear about people’s
choices! I always had an interest in jewelry, when I was younger, I
used to do alot of bead jewelry, and always wanted to do more in
metal, but never really found the outlet. I even originally wanted
to be a jeweler, but didn’t think I’d get anywhere with it, and,
well, I guess I’m too practical sometimes. Anyway, time passes, and I
move to another country, and my friend wants to take a pottery
course, which I thought I’d take with her. I look around, and find a
silver jewelry course at a local artists studio with a fantastic fine
jeweler instead. That was a year ago, and I’m wondering why I didn’t
do it 20 years ago! I am obsessed and spend practically every spare
minute I can (there aren’t that many) working on something. That, and
pouring over catalogues to decide what bit of kit I’ll get next!!!


Robin Cassady-Cain
Cambridge, UK

I was living in England at the time, and had 2 months to go till I
finished school.

Then one day I was called to the Headmasters office and introduced
to a gentleman from a Jewellery company. I was told to sign some
papers that.At that time did not really know what I was signing. I
later found out I had agreed to do a 5 year apprenticeship as a

I had always been an A student in metalwork that is why I had been
picked. I have since moved to B.C Canada and have two workshops where
we make and repair jewellery for a large American chain, and five
Canadian stores. I also have a small private school teaching

I just love it, each day is fun, because it is always a new

John Derek
John Derek Designs
Kelowna. B.C

hm…how does accidentally sound?

I was always into rocks and gems it seems…my mom used to say I’d
bring home more rocks than books from school! When I was in college,
I was into New Age stuff, but couldn’t afford the crystal jewelry. I
did, however, know that I could get pretty Arkansas quartz points at
the Smithsonian Nat. History Museum for 50 cents a piece and other
things at the local craft store. So I started making for myself, and
someone said…“hey! make me a pair of earrings?” and that started
it. I earned enough to buy a student ticket to Norway to visit my
then fiancee…who had taken a course in basic norwegian filigree 15
years earlier and still had equipment and silver in storage. So he
showed me the real basics…I came back from that trip, bought
equipment and just started playing and experimenting. I had a natural
talent for it and it’s developed over the years through my own work
and through job related learning such as engraving, repairs,
polishing etc. It’s taken me 18 years, of which over 14 were spent in
Norway, but I’m finally focusing on this as a full time career, and
my newly published book just came in the door today!


PS. my original education was in Mathematics Secondary Education and
Psychology…guess I fell a bit far from that tree!!

Hello here’s my story,

I wanted to become a jeweler 25 years ago but never followed up on
it…about 4 years ago I met a guy that had been a jeweler for 40
years and we became good friends.He told me if I wanted he would
take me on as an apprentice and teach me to be a jeweler.I had just
signed on at a computer school and told him I had to go to computer
school since I had already made the commitment but if it did not work
out I would take him up on his offer.I was taking my A+ and then was
going on to get my M.C.S.E. in computers and I found out that I hated
it and.soon became a jewelers apprentice under a master jeweler.I
went to his shop 5 hours a day 5 or 6 days a week for over one year
learning as much as I could and really worked hard and practiced
every day. now have my own jewelry shop.I have been in business for
over two years and can do any kind of jewelry repair.I still go see
him and ask his advice on really difficult or jobs that I am not
sure about so I guess I am still in school. I learn more all the time
and even my teacher said I will never learn it all.But I plan to try.


I was an art history major in college and also studied painting,
drawing, and printmaking, and theatrical scene and costume design as
well as photography. I remembered that a girl-friend from my college
days (who was unfortunately murdered in Tampa, FL at the age of 22)
had plans to drop out of college and sign up for a jewelry-making
program in Chicago. I decided I would try doing what Ellen had always
wanted to do, and I was hooked from the start. So here I am. After 22
years in the software development field, it was time to get back to
my artistic roots, and jewelry-making fills the bill. Jewelry sells a
lot faster than paintings or photographs, to boot. It’s a commodity
with a market, whether it’s “art jewelry” or run-of-the-mill items.

Brian Corll
Brian Corll, Inc.
1002 East Simpson Street
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

I bought an enamel wall piece at a craft fair when I was living in
Colombia and liked it so much my husband bought me a trinket kiln
and enamels. I went from there to bigger kilns and more enamel. I
always wanted to do jewelry but it was impossible to find classes in
South America. When I moved to Canada I started taking classes,
worked at it a few years in Spain, moved back to the US and went
back to school for a degree in art and lots of metals classes and
workshops. In my current life, I teach college level Spanish and do
craft shows.

Donna in VA