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Jeweler's former lives - Orchid report


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Here is the report on the “Former Lives of Orchid People” It’s taken
longer than I expected to compile the data, mainly because I was
sidelined by hand surgery on my right hand (that thumb joint surgery
we talked about a few months ago.) Somehow I didn’t realize that I
wouldn’t be able to write or type for awhile. I tried one handed
typing, but it didn’t work. However, it is all coming along very
nicely, and I can actually type with two hands now.

I hope everyone will participate with comments questions, ideas,
conclusions, even statistics for those so minded. It was a really
interesting task, and I hope to glean more interesting information
from the data to share with you at some later date.

Pre-Jewelry Occupations of Orchid Members

We received 154 individual responses to our query about what other
"lives" if any, Orchid people had before they became jewelry

Our original notion that the occupations would be easily
characterized evaporated very quickly. Orchidians have incredibly
diverse experiences. We decided to count each response only once, and
to put it into the category that appeared to be most relevant:
longest lasting, primary intentional field of study.

Next came selecting the categories. We started with The Standard
Occupational Categories (SOC) of the US Dept. of Labor, Bureau of
Labor Statistics. We then modified the list to conform better to our
responses, and to reduce the number of categories (23 for each major
occupation). This resulted in 19 categories and we further combined
those with the fewest numbers, ending with 11 occupational

The table below shows the number of responses in each category, as
well as their percentage of the total number.

Category 1. Jewelry
32 respondents- 21% of the sample.

This category consists of people who have been jewelry artists
all their working lives. They may have taken some detours along
the way, or done other things as well, but always secondary to

Category 2. Computers/ Engineers.
23 respondents- 15% of the sample.

We found it necessary to combine computer professionals with
engineers because there was so much overlapping within and
between the two professions. This category represents civil,
electrical, electronic, software, technical engineers, as well
as a variety of computer professionals.

Category 3. Art and Design.
21 respondents- 14% of the sample.

We included all artists and designers of different kinds in this

They are: Fine art (painting and sculpture)., art teachers and
art administrators in universities, professional cartoonists,
commercial artists, display/
fashion/graphic/interior/textile/and theatre designers,

Category 4. Health Care and Mental Health
20 respondents- 13% of the sample.

This category is comprised of the following professions:
Anesthesiology, Dental professionals, Hospital Administrator,
Optician, RNs, Veterinarians, Mental Health Counselors,
Psychologists and Social Workers.

Category 5. Science
12 respondents -8% of the sample

The scientific community that found its way into making jewelry
was extremely diverse. Our respondents listed agronomy,
bio-medicine, biology, chemistry, entomology, food science, lab
technician, and materials analyst.

Category 6. Independent Entrepreneurs (non Jewelry/Art)
10 respondents - 7% of the sample

Includes automotive, electrical, garment business, heating
business, transport, tools.

Category 7. Business Administration
7 respondents - 4.5% of the sample

Includes management and marketing.

Category 8. Teachers (non-art)
5 respondents - 3% of the sample

Includes teachers of languages, secondary education and
handicapped children.

Category 9. Finance
5 respondents - 3% of the sample

Accounting and finance management.

Category 10. Other

Each occupation represents 1% of the sample. Legal Services, Food
Services, Full time Mom, Graduate Student, US Army, Minister

Category 11. Defied Categorization
7 respondents-4.5% of the sample

Each respondent had multiple and varied vocations, all of which
seem to have led them to being jewelers.


  1. Although Category 1, those who started out as jewelers, had the
    highest number, and therefore the largest percentage of responses of
    the individual categories, they comprise only 21% of the total
    sample. 79% of all the respondents came from other fields of work. I
    wonder whether there would be a larger number of people who are
    ’lifetime’ jewelry makers in countries that have a formal
    apprenticeship program,?

  2. We can’t really assume that this is representative of all Orchid
    members (8000 to date), nor of Jewelry makers in general because our
    sample is too small, and because the people who responded were ‘self
    selected’. Since they chose to be part of the study, they may have
    something in common that others, who chose not to, do not share.

  3. Categories 2,3 and 4 were very close in numbers, and the
    differences are probably not statistically significant. As a group
    they represent 42% of the sample. What characteristics are there
    about the computer professionals, engineers, artists, designers and
    mental health people in our group that is similar to the lifetime
    Jewelry makers? Our study doesn’t answer that question, but would
    anyone care to speculate?

  4. The smaller categories represented many different groups, Many of
    our people were exposed to various forms of art and craft as
    children, and had good feelings and memories. Some went for
    ’practical’ fields, only to discover that they were unhappy and were
    willing to risk their livelihood to take on a new challenge that
    beckoned them.

  5. The table and categories do not begin to reflect the
    extraordinarily complex lives and interests of everyone who
    responded. As I read the e-mails, I was really fascinated by the
    kinds of jobs people had along the way to their final career. I am
    hoping to take a good look at that and compile a
    separate report.

  6. Last but not least, I was really impressed by their sense of
    humor, their ability to laugh at themselves and keep their lives in
    perspective. And we all know how kind and willing to help one
    another they (we) all are.


Hi Sandra, Can you add " Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician" to
your list of backgrounds. And of course there is “The rest of the
story” of asked. Thank you, I really like the Ganoksin/Orchid
E-Mails. Thanks,

Stephen Wyrick, Jeweller


Hello Sandra,

What intrigued me was the number of people who first expossed to
jewelery making in High School. Do you have a break down of that

Best regards,
Chris Gravenor

What intrigued me was the number of people who first expossed to
jewelery making in High School. Do you have a break down of that

I’d be interested in this as well. I’m currently a high school
student (been working with metal/jewelry for about four years – now
in the college search). I would be curious to see how many jewelers
out there in the field started as young as I did.

P.S. Hi all! This is my first post. I’ve been lurking for a little
while, but just now decided to chime into a conversation. I greatly
enjoy learning from everyone through the posts here. Thanks for
being so willing to share all your knowledge with the rest of us!

in the college search). I would be curious to see how many jewelers
out there in the field started as young as I did. 

There are plenty of folks on the list who started in their teens,
though most, I think, had family in the trade. I started as a
freshman in college and started my business at 19.

So, you said you’re looking at colleges. Which ones are you looking
at? Don’t cha wanna know what we think? Go ahead, ask.



There are several topics I’d like to look at–reports on starting in
High School will be among them. (I wish I had had that start in HS!)




You are so right!! I went to a HS in central west PA (just north of
Pittsburgh) that was heavy into the trades. Had shop math,
aeronautics, wood shop, metal shop, drafting, typing, home economics,
complete auto repair, etc, etc.

One of my earliest shop courses was jewelry where we learned to
silver solder brass/copper and even some silver. It didn’t go beyond
that cause we quickly went into casting (made model airplane
engines), lathes, milling, etc. It was another 20 years after that
that I got back into the jewelry part but those earlier experiences
were better than my college courses by far and I still draw on info I
learned from them.

Nothing like an early start!!

Cheers from Don in SOFL


I started in high school in a Design in Metals class. I went as far
as I could go there and then became the TA so I could continue to be
in the class. That was back in 1973-1975, whew that was some time
ago! It was easily my favorite class though out high school. I
continued to tinker around making jewelry however I didn’t get
serious about it until the birth of my daughter (I was doing wood
sculpture and couldn’t hear the baby cry above my chainsaw! ;:slight_smile: ) so
I decided to get back into making jewelry full time in 1988. Here I
am, still at it and loving it.

Lisa Hawthorne


I, too, started in high school. My senior year was the first time a
jewelry class was offered. It conflicted with a choir class for
which I’d auditioned. Let me say I’d been a regular student in the
art department, which is probably the only reason the teacher allowed
me to “take” the jewelry class as independent study while he was
teaching a sculpture class. An amazing opportunity. I had full run of
the equipment without other students getting in the way, and often
stayed after school to put in more time.

When I got to college and took another class, it was OK, but not
nearly as much fun or as stimulating as that high school experience.
The next wonderful experience was a sort of apprenticeship with a
jeweler who had a workshop in his home and did repairs for several
jewelry stores in town. He was incredible. So much knowledge, so
willingly shared. Thanks James Cook.

Judy in Kansas