Jewellery school or apprentice?

I am just wondering how people in the jewellery industry feel about
formal school vs doing an apprenticeship as a means of learning?

I am considering going back to school, but am concerned about the
financial burden. It has come to my attention that doing an
apprenticeship and taking general classes at the local Jewellery
school could be an option. What are the opinions from the
professionals out there?

Thank you,

I am just wondering how people in the jewellery industry feel
about formal school vs doing an apprenticeship as a means of

It all depends on what you want out of your career: technical
expertise or artistic training. I grew up in a jewelry store and
then did a one year stint in a jewelry trade school. Since then
I’ve worked in jewelry stores, had my own custom business or been a
studio jeweler. I can do anything a formally (by this I mean
college) trained jeweler can do except get a job as a university
level professor. At the shows I go to I always get people who ask
me where I studied and I want to say, “The university of hard
knocks.” However, if you go this route be prepared to do a lot of
study on your own in design: take drawing classes, study design, go
to museums, immerse yourself in the history of jewelry design;
because you probably won’t get this working for a jeweler.

The jewelry business has changed over the last 10 years, too. It
won’t be as easy to go to a store and find a lot of good solid work.
People expect repair to be so cheap now that most people who do it
are trade shops that use extremely low wage labor. Even high end
stores job out repair and only do custom design and difficult jobs
in house. There’s less work to cut your teeth on.

Still, it’s worth your time to try to find a good place to gather
skills. You may need to get some degree of training from a jewelry
trade school, just to differentiate yourself from the low wage
masses. If you’re young, why not take a year or so to find a good
job, take a few classes and see how you like it. If it come down to
it, you can always take university level courses later. It all
depends on what you want out of your career and how low on the wage
scale you’re willing to start out.

Larry (offline reponses welcome)
JA Certified Master Bench Jeweler
Spectrum Award Winner
Second Generation Jeweler

Dear Melissa

If you folks wish to hear my own story. I did a 9 year ( nine
years!) apprenticeship with one jewellery company…For the next
decade prospective clients asked me where did I learn?

I always said with absolute pride “at Siffari Jewellery company here
in Toronto”…That name spoke reams of care and quality work, not too
mention training under a very good setter himself. I will never bad
mouth any school, they all have their own right to be there. They
teach very well, I know, for I am a teacher here in this city
too!.:>)…but if anyone wishes my own thoughts, "one-to-one"
training is the best. Its a very hard l-o-o-ong road to traverse, but
its worth the long effort…you have to make the decision yourself,
I just supplied the choices!

Schools have a great part in training, they teach a very detailed
and also a very complete style of setting, but there is a great
financial burden. The other recourse is an apprenticship.

“Gerry, the Cyber-Setter!”…Gem Setting teacher for George Brown
College at the “Casa Loma Campus”. Toronto, Canada

formal school vs doing an apprenticeship as a means of learning? 

That is a double-edged sword. It depends upon what you mean by
“formal school.” Personally, I would prefer someone who took classes
with several jewelers–either at several schools (read workshops, not
degree programs) or at one school with several jewelers. As I see
it, the venerable apprenticeship–which was more of an economic
necessity than an ideal learning situation–tends only to perpetuate
old ideas and techniques. Even today you will find schools where the
jeweler only teaches his or her favorite techniques. Many are not
willing even to discuss some of the new technology available. My
short answer, then: Take classes from as many jewelers as possible.
You will learn more quickly and you will have a variety of techniques
to consider in each new situation. Most important of all–KEEP ON

Aside to Orchid members: This is the greatest community ever.
Thanks to everyone for being here.

Del Pearson at Designs of Eagle Creek in Beautiful South Texas where
the sun shines while it rains.

Hello All,

I just wanted to say thank you to all those who responded to my
question regarding formal school training vs. an apprenticeship.
Many of you reiterated my thoughts - that an apprenticeship could be
quite redundant being that there would be only one teacher. Also the
idea that formal schooling at one facility can be very narrow
training has crossed my mind, and the fact that a few of you
mentioned that this was a negative just confirmed that for me.

I am still not sure exactly what I am going to do, but for now I am
going to continue taking lessons from multiple teachers and
facilities so that I can learn a broad range of techniques and

Thank you Orchid, for creating such a wonderful forum!


I think the question is, “what do you want to do?” This is not easy
to answer early in a career, maybe. If you want technique, the trade
or jewelry schools can teach that in spades. If you want to produce
art then you must attend art schools. Don’t be afraid of the idea of
a single teacher for even a few years as long as you respect them.
Be wary of dogma in any form. Read, talk to people, work, work,
work. Make ugly things, make boring things, get them out of the way
and keep working.

Sam Patania, Tucson