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Jeweler's former lives

Hi All: So many Orchidians have mentioned in passing that they had
careers and training in other fields besides jewelry. I, for one, am
really curious about what they did in the their former lives (or are
still doing as the ‘day job’). I wonder if there are any particular
fields of interest that tend to lead to a passion to make jewelry, or
is it distributed over a wide range of seemingly unrelated interests.
If you guys are interested, and want to simply list your
’other’profession–no names or other data necessary, I will
volunteer to tabulate it over the period of, let’s say, one month and
then report back.

To start things off, I’ll be first. I think I did mention somewhere
along the way, that I am a Psychologist (Ph.D).

Elegant Insects Jewelry

My former life had some variations to it, but I still was in the
jewelry business pretty much since I was 16 (1st real job at the
bench, although i started at age 12, where I had a bench setup in my
parents laundry room. But somewhere along the way, I managed a
couple high volume mall jewelry stores for 10 yrs-no bench work, ran
a convenience/gas store, ran a couple paper routes, drove a
refrigerator truck full of frozen sandwiches selling to about 500
stores and bars, sold novelty products to about 300 conven stores,
worked in my brothers auto body shop for about 3 years, worked in a
tv tube factory, worked in a rand Mcnally book bindery making text
books and Thomas Register sets. And this is just what I can
remember. I’m sure theres more that I don’t remember anymore, but all
the while I still was always making some kind of money from the
jewelry world, sometimes it would be stringing 1000’s of strands of
pearls at my kitchen table for chain stores, or doing trade work for
jewelry stores in a spare bedroom. But now my wife and I have ran our
own shop for 20 yrs now.

Ed in Kokomo

I got hear as a hobby. My “real job” was with IBM. I was first a
"customer engineer" Office machine repair. Then transfered to Boca
Raton to the PC Development group. Finished there as a Senior Tech
Lab Specialist. Retired and Managed some apartments for a while and
figured it was a B— S— job so did the full retirement. Playing
and learning more all the time. Metal smithing, specifically jewelry,
started while I was at IBM back in the 70’s but only found time for
it after retirement.Good luck with the project. I think it will be

John (Jack) Sexton


I’m a software engineer still, trying to find the right, well
balanced path forward to full time jeweler (or maybe just passionate
amateur, we’ll see).

M.S. electrical engineering, 15 years in the programming world,
currently working in the medical industry on flow cytometry (cell
identification and sorting) systems.


I seem to run into a lot of jewelers that came from a IT or
engineering background up here in Madison WI.

myself I guess my background is one of no particular career. building
RV seating, Army, retail, picture framer, electrician, warehouse,
factory work building mobile homes, I floated from job to job until
hobby became my career.

by the way, I made my first piece of jewelry at the the recreation
center on Ft. Hood TX.


Computer professional. You name it, programming, building
desktops/servers, network support & design, database administration,
web desgin/programming, server support, COOP & disaster recovery,
consulting, etc, etc…


I “grew up” in the heating business, running miles of copper tubing.
I soldered for 8 hours a day for many years.

I have been a full time jeweler for the past 35 years and am an
excellent solderer. I have no doubt that one led to the other. I can
remember years ago making sure all my piping installations looked
just right, with a sense of design, rather then just set up for

In the beginning years as a struggling jewelry maker, I would often
take on a heating job to supplement the growing jewelry business.
It’s been may years since I have repaired my own heating system.
Fortunately I can now call a ‘heating guy’

Clinical/School Psychologist retired. It is a pleasure to deal with
concrete objects rather than mystic abstractions

Engineer (Electrical & Mechanical)



Great idea.

I received a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1959. The early
part of my engineering career was spent designing cabinets and
hardware for main frame computers. The company I worked for
continually hired more people to do the same work which gave each of
us less work to do.

I have always had creative hobbies. In 1973 I had a 6 day course in
lost wax casting. I started creating Southwest jewelery as a hobby.
I was very successful. Many time I thought about becoming a full time
silversmith but the cost of family insurance was prohibitive so I
continued being an Engineer.

In 1975 I was asked by my Computer Company to organize another arts
and crafts show for family day. It was the second show I set up for
the company. I was pulled from all my engineering responsibility
while I set up the show. About that time the company had a major lay
off and guess what. I was gone but hey the show went off very well.

I went to work for a company as a control system engineer designing
control systems for process plants. Great job. I then went to work at
the Palo Verde Nuclear plant while it was under construction. I
transferred to the company responsible for running the plant. In 1982
I was asked to investigate the ability of several safety valves to
operate under an accident condition. I found they probably would not
operate as required under an accident condition. The operating
company didn’t want to hear my concern, and the NRC was breathing
down my neck. I decided I did not want to get ulcers so I quit. Best
day of my life.

I had been creating Southwest art as a hobby while I worked as an
engineer. After I left Palo Verde it was easy to become a full time
Southwest jewelry and silver pottery artist. My wife works and has
insurance to cover both of us.

I am now 71 and my business has returned to being a hobby.

Lee Epperson

I’ve led three “lives” as an adult. In my first, I was a student:
B.A., M.A. and A.B.D. (“all but dissertation”) in English
Literature/Literary Criticism. Life #2 was all about rock 'n roll: I
was a disc jockey for two years on weekends (and a Sherwin-Williams
paint store employee weekdays); and then spent 18 years in the music
business promoting rock to radio stations. Jewelry-making is the
third. (And in case you couldn’t tell, I just made a very, very long
story as short as possible :-).)


Hi Sandra,

Funny thing, I’m a Ph.D. Psychologist too (Clinical). But I was
passionate about jewelry-making before I ever thought of being a
psychologist. I became a psychologist because I wanted to help
people; I pursued a Ph.D. because I’m a bit brainy; and it’s made for
a good solid day job, when I never felt confident-enough that I would
make it as a jeweler.

I’ll be interested in what patterns you find among us Orchid folk.


Hi there

What a great idea, I’m always referring to my ‘previous’ life I
worked with computers, mostly Management Information Systems ending
that life as a project manager.


Hi Sandra,

I am a metals conservator at the Australian War Memorial (Canberra,
Australia). I have been working as a conservator since 1994 and only
recently (2006) finished my degree in silversmithing from the
Australian National University.


IT techie was my previous incarnation. Followed by a short stint as
a freelance writer.

Claire Clara
Florence Jewellery

I have been making jewelry part time for over 30 years. I had to
take 15 years out of that for health reasons. But to get back to
what I did to “support my jewelry habit”, I was an accountant. 3
years ago I decided that my passion for metal was going to win. Now,
I form hollow ware and design and create jewelry as well as enamel.

Jennifer Friedman
Ventura, CA

Graphic Designer/fine artist.

I think what got me interested in creating jewelry was that I became
desperate to use my hands for something besides being on the
computer all day long.

While I do love design, I craved making something WITHOUT the
computer. Although I do admit to using the computer to help with

My paintings were stalled. It seemed I had painted every
landscape/piece of fruit/flowers I could get my hands on. My biggest
problem now is that all my paintings are in my jewelry studio and
whenever I drop something…well, of course it disappears
between the paintings.

I do feel that I will most likely just be doing this as a hobby. But
it is very Zen and I do enjoy that. Especially the sanding…very
Zen. It is like meditating.


Oh, how interesting! I have met a lot of former nurses and folks from
other healthcare departments. I don’t know if this is a passion for
jewelry related to healthcare or burn out.

I graduated with a Communications degree, knowing that I was going
into jewelry, but not wanting to waste time by transferring colleges
(again) to get an art degree. While in college I did GIA and
International Society of Appraisers Training.

I have worked for art jewelers, in the industry, as an appraiser,
and done art shows. And I’ve also done mind numbing temp work.


Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


Electrical Engineer, specialize in Telephone switches, Radio Trunking
systems and earth grounding issues for the Air Force.


Theatrical Makeup & Wig Designer, Wig Maker, Supervisor