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
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
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.
Master Bench Jeweler
P.S. Look up www.professionaljeweler.com. 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.