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JA Certification

Hi folks I’m about to take the bench certification tests from JA and
I was wondering if there was anyone on the list that has completed
the certification exams. If so I would really appreciate any advice
you could give me. Thanks.

Ted Curtis

Hello Ted: What level are you going to take the test on? I passed
the Master exam and I found the testing and projects to be
challenging yet not outside of the scope of my ability. I would
suggest a visit to This
site has much data on it that pertains to the Certification. Also I
have a few pictures of the completed 3 projects of the Master level
on my web site at

Michael R. Mathews,Sr. Victoria,Texas USA

Take your time. Don’t let the idea of a test make you rush into
anything. Consider what all of your moves will be.


Congratulations Ted on deciding to enroll in the JA Bench Jeweler
Certification. I am currently working on my Senior level and I have
to say it is challenging, but fun. The best advice I can give you is
to practice the tests before taking them, afterall, they are
practical bench tests and the exams are to test your skills. If you
have a cab to bezel set and solder a bail to, practice soldering
bails and setting cabs in bezels as much as possible prior to the
test. The written exams are fairly easy considering most are open
book, so having as many good, solid reference books such as Jewelry
Concepts and Technology, The Theory and Practice of Goldsmithing
among many others will be awesome references for you for many years
to come, as well as for looking up questions on your tests.

Most important of all, enjoy the tests, they represent the work that
you will be doing as a jeweler. It’s not worth feeling pressured or
stressed out about it, just do your best. People recognize your
acheivement once you pass the exams and become certified, it’s a
nice feeling of accomplishment.

All the best, Sara


I took the Senior and Master level certification from JA. I’m not
sure what level you are going for, but go for it! The tests are
challenging, but nothing good ever comes easily. If you are
unfamiliar with a particular test, practice it before taking the
test. I’ve never had anyone want a silver pill box. Consequently, I
had never made one. So before taking the test I made a practice box
to get the feel of working with silver in that form. Alan Revere has
an excellent video on making the silver box. It helped me
tremendously. He also has a book out called “Professional
Goldsmithing” that helps with making a basket head from scratch.
There are many Orchid people who could ace these tests. I wish more
would get certified. It doesn’t make you a better jeweler, but it
does separate you from the hack down the street. It’s one thing to
tell customers you are good but the certification from JA makes you
stand out as a professional. If anyone is interested in taking the
tests please feel free to e-mail me directly and we can discuss it
and answer questions directly.

James S. Cantrell CMBJ @James_Sonya_Cantrell

I originally sent this email directly to Ted 3/31/04. After reading
other responses, I thought I would forward this to Orchid in case it
may be of interest to others. Donna

Hi Ted,

I can’t tell you about the full spectrum, but I can tell you a
little of my experience.

I already had 10+ years experience so I did not want to pay for all
the various levels. I inquired about how minimize testing and was
told about prerequisite or qualifying tests (different for each
level). I opted for the master bench jeweler prerequisite test. If
I recall correctly, it was a 5 hour practical test. I had to repair
two chains (one broken in two pieces and other needed a jump ring
attached), carve a multi-stone wax ring (CZ fancy cut stone and
accent stones supplied) and channel set a 5-stone wedding band
(casting and CZs provided). One thing to remember, carefully wrap
each repair in crisp tissue paper and bag in clean ziplocks.
Presentation is a big deal though not expressly stated up front.
Points were deducted because I put the cleaned, polished pieces in
new, heavy duty ziplocks with no tissue paper wrapping.

Once I passed the prereq. test, I went on to do the master bench
jeweler test. It was made up of three pieces that had to be
completed in 36 hours. Obviously, you are proctored by a JA
approved proctor, but you can break up the 36 hours into reasonable
chunks. Your proctor just clocks you in and out and takes
possession of the materials during the down time. You are not
allowed any help, but you can look at books, notes, etc. It is
assumed that you have all the necessary tools at your disposal
(rolling mill, drawplates a must. Ingot mold is good just in case.)
It is also assumed that you have all the solders except for the
platinum solder (very little is provided so you may want to have
some of your own handy).

The three practical tests that I took were (1) an 18k yellow gold
pendant with a large emerald cut CZ and bead set round CZ melee in
the bail, (2) a platinum ring with oval CZ center stone and two
straight CZ baguettes/classic three stone ring, and (3) a hinged,
clasped sterling box with a 14k yellow gold “X” appliqued to the top
and bead set with round CZs. How you split up the 36 hours across
the three jobs is up to you. You will have to make up time on your
stronger areas of expertise so you can take more time on areas where
you are not as proficient. I would suggest that you look at all
three projects briefly, clock out, and take time to think and dream
about your approach so you don’t burn valuable time.

Planning is absolutely critical. It is better to take some time out
to think before starting. You are provided with line illustrations
of various views (not all) and raw materials (stones and metal).
The illustrations are not to scale so you might want to quickly
block out measurements in scale (driven by the stones you are
provided with) so you’ll be able to allocate how you want to roll,
draw, etc. your metal. For the pendant and the ring, I was provided
with 2.5mm square rod stock. I had to figure out how much to roll
into flat stock or ring shank and how much to draw into wire. You
are not given much material, just enough to make the project. If
you miscalculate, you’ll have to waste time pouring ingots (hence
the ingot mold) out of the scrap, losing valuable time.

The scoring is very picky. Take great care to polish as you go when
fabricating. Countersink (at minimum) or a jour your bead setting.
Make sure you have no gaps under any prongs or at the girdles. For
the box, which has a domed lid, remove hammer marks. I left even,
decorative peening on the lid interior because I like the hand of
the maker when it is artfully done. I got downgraded for not
removing tool marks and that was frustrating since I put them there!
I had used a wooden dapping block and wood daps. So beware, no
tool marks. Better yet, use a hydraulic press if you have one.

Make sure you polish and clean absolutely. Once again, wrap in
crisp tissue and ziplock or box.

After completing the practical exam. You will have to take two
written exams. These come after you have turned in and passed the
practical tests. One written exam is open book and the other is
closed book. You are timed so you really don’t have time to look up
though you might want a jewelry dictionary, maybe Oppi
Untracht’s book and reference books on gems, metals, etc. and a
calculator handy. The tests assume general knowledge across a
fairly wide number of topics. They assume you know repair,
fabricating, production techniques (molding, wax injecting, casting,
finishing, alloying, setting, gemology, calculating metal weights,
conversions). They assume you have experience with platinum, both
fabricated and cast. It would be beneficial to read the platinum
info put out by Jurgen Maerz. There were a surprising number of
platinum questions.

I don’t know that you could really study for the written tests.
Given the time constraints, you have to have a lot of general
knowledge top of mind. The test is multiple choice and I think you
need a 75% to pass.

I hope this helps you. If you have questions, drop me an email and
I’ll try to help if I can without giving any overt answers. You
might try looking up Michael Matthews’ (I think) website. He used
to have posted pictures of his three master test projects.

Donna Shimazu
Master Bench Jeweler

P.S. Look up Go to the archives and
then to the JA bench certification area. There are topics and
how-to’s that you would be expected to know.

Does anyone know about what jeweler certifications are available in
Canada? Thanks,

Brian Barrett