Jewelry career at the age of 42

I am new to Orchid, and have enjoyed the dialogue. Like Tracey,
I am also looking for a career in Jewelry - and at age 42, I
hope I am not starting too late. I live in southern California
and would appreciate any where to begin. I am only
aware of GIA which is fairly close. I cannot travel too far for

Mary Anne

My drama teacher once told us that if you want to be an actor,
you had better want it really bad, because someone right behind
you will want the same port more… At age 45, I have been in
the jewelry business for 25 years, and am now getting my Series
3 license and also applying to law school… It’s never too
late !

Mary Anne You could try looking into classes at local colleges in
the area. I think Santa Monica would be good start and some other
colleges in the Huntington beach area. Santa Barbara perhaps …
Start calling local colleges and ask them for other
possibilities. I think that is a good start. Unless of course you
have the finances for the GIA $$$$$$ 42 years old, that is the
best time in your life !!! GO FOR IT … Good Luck RnL

Dear Mary Anne I am starting at age 48 ( actually ) I started
about 2 years ago with metal smithing offered through the local
adult ed. now I’m looking for futher instruction have been
actively looking for aprenticeships but they seem fairly hard to
find…check your local JCs as well as other colleges …and
don’t give up ! I have a hard time after I’ve just melted
something on the last solder joint but thats one way to learn
…good luck and you have one of the best if not the best
sources ever, make use of it and the archives as
well…let us all know how things are going Ron

Hello Mary Ann My husband will be going to school beginning in
January at California Institute of Jewelry in Sacramento. If you
are interested in inquiring further please e-mail: , phone #: (916) 487-1122 and ask for
Dee or Iris.

Another one in California, which we have heard quite a bit about
is the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts. E-mail address: , phone # (415) 391-4179 and ask for Shakti

Hope this helps you and we wish you the best of luck
in your venture. Liz Kenney

One more suggestion to those intrested in a career in jewelry.
Try to obtain directories from trade shows sometimes you can call
organizations like ACC and get a directory from them. Also there
is the NAIA which is on the internet. It is a web site with many
artists some which belong to ACC and such organizations. Also
some of us are members aswell. Contacting fellow artists can be
helpful because if they can’t help, sometimes they can point you
in the right diredtion. Kind of like we’re doing now. I have an
old directory but I recently used this tactic and I have found a
wonderful job and am learning tons while I am at it which is
ideal. if you would like some of these names (some my be out of
date) I would be happy to provide them and you are more than
welcom to contact
me at @tiffany_soo.

Hi Mary Anne, Depending what kind of career you want, designer,
lapidary, faceter, gemologist, sales clerk, appaiser, fabricater,
caster, or bench jeweler; probably the simplest way to get the
info, education you need is a school. However, lots of folks do
it on their own by reading (studying) books in the area of
interest &/or finding a convenient lapidary/mineral club whose
members may be able to help. There are numerous correspondence
schools that offer course work in the listed areas.

If you’re looking for a very good school in CA, try the Revere
School in SF. It’s run by Alan Revere, he’s a word reknown
goldsmith in his own right & an outstanding teacher. His school
also has many other world class teachers. The classes can run
from a day or 2 too several weeks. Price wise, it’s the best
bang for the buck!

I’m not connected with the school or any teachers in anyway.


Another suggestion for schools in the California area is the
California Institute of Jewelry which is located in Sacramento.
You can reach them via e-mail at or you
can phone (916) 487-1122 and ask for Dee or Iris.

In regards to the California Institute of Jewelry Training, I
taught there for a few months and was left unimpressed with the
funding and commitment to the students. Just my two cents.
Personally, I hold the Revere Academy in very high regard, and
would recommend it without hesitation. The CIJT, probably not.

I have been watching the threads on schools and careers with
great interest. What is clear to me is that making jewelry is a
passion that many of us were fortunate to discover early in
life. (42 is still early enough!) From the first time I hammered
out a pendant in silver to this week when I finished replicating
an ancient fine silver mesh chain bracelet with a screw clasp
(30 years) I have never ceased to get a thrill sitting at the
bench. It is a magical feeling, one like nothing else I can
think of. Making jewelry is a complete art. It links us to
craftsmen across 7 millennia! It is both ancient and primordial,
futuristic and high tech. Making jewelry utilizes a combination
of fine motor dexterity, artistry, machining, metallurgy, sales,
chemistry, physics, match making, gift giving, patience,
prosperity, history, and so many other things. But the bottom
line is that there is no other career that offers such
independence and instant saleability, no matter how primitive
and what the cost. Everybody appreciates and wears jewelry. It
is a gift of love, an instant heirloom, a path to immortality
for the maker. There is nothing like the feeling of drying off a
piece for the last time after the rouge is rinsed off. I must
confess that to this day I often put my latest creation within
sight during the day and within reach at night. I only wish I
could spend more time at what I truly love, working at the
jeweler’s bench creating treasures from the Earth’s purest
materials with my own hands.

Alan Revere

I’ve been reading a lot of responses to the jewelry career
issue. I think my experience is one that people in other careers
who are considering jewelry making can relate to. I apologize in
advance for the length.

When I was younger, I was always steered towards academia and
white collar professions. I took the hardcore advanced placement
courses and it wasn’t until I was a senior in high school with
enough extra credits to sink a ship that I took art classes. Then
when it came to college, I wasn’t encouraged to declare fine
arts. I did end up transferring to fine arts and graduated with a
BFA, but I was so spooked about making a living as an artist that
I got a professional diploma in secondary art ed and was a thesis
away from a masters in art ed. Teaching, however, was not the
answer at the time because the Dept. of Education was cutting
back the arts, music, drama and other “nonessential courses” in
the public schools.

Still afraid to attempt making a living doing art, I fell back
on my academia background and got an MBA in marketing from
Northwestern and worked in national packaged goods advertising
for five years. Needless to say, a career marketing the likes of
Era detergent, Hawaiian Punch or Hidden Valley Ranch didn’t
exactly warm my heart. At first, the intellectual challenge and
fierce pace was exciting. After a while, I found little
satisfaction and felt burned out. I finally walked away and took
six months to reflect on what would make me happy. Jewelry, which
I dabbled in during my undergrad years, came to mind. I got some
tools together and designed and produced a line of sterling
silver earrings and pins and consigned them at about a dozen
jewelry galleries. The work sold, but it clearly wouldn’t support
me. My savings were depleting so I figured that I had to stop the
bleeding. I decided that a jewelry job that provided education,
experience and covered basic expenses and health insurance would
suffice until I increased my skills.

I worked for a jewelry manufacturer/retailer doing repairs, wax
work, remounts and minor custom jobs for 1 1/2 years. Then I
worked for a mall jewelry store as the “Fishbowl” jeweler, doing
repairs, remounts and small custom jobs. Simultaneously, I
invested any spare money into books, tools, gems and workshops.
Some of my best times were spent at Alan Revere’s. Michael Good
and Adolfo Mattiello workshops were my favorites. An added bonus,
Adolfo became a good friend and technical advisor. Then my big
breakthrough came when a jeweler friend of mine quit his job to
go to college, ironically, the reverse of me. I auditioned with
his ex-boss over two Saturdays. At the end of the second
Saturday, I was offered the job because I was profoundly
educable, had strong esthetics and good judgment (asked the right
questions at critical junctures). He also said that I better not
quit after one year because then he wouldn’t get any return on
his investment of time. I promised a minimum of three years and
ended up staying for five.

My boss, Walter Kentzler, was a classically trained (Pforzheim
complete with fulltime jewelry school and apprenticeship under a
master from age 14 to 18) German goldsmith. He was simply
inspiring - a fabulous gold and platinumsmith and stone setter.
No glue here, just perfectly cut seats with thorough contact and
no rocking. He was also a terrific complex clasp and mechanism
fabricator. You can’t learn this in any school. Your best bet is
to work for a good jeweler and be grateful that you’re getting
paid to learn instead of racking up student loans and learning a
fraction of what you’ll need to build a career.

I have been doing jewelry for almost 13 years and currently work
for a mid-sized manufacturer doing designing, one-of-a-kinds,
modelmaking, training and R&D projects. And thanks to my MBA and
problem-solving background, I also write equipment user manuals
and “how to” papers for the company. On the side, I do freelance
work and private commissions. The high cost of living in Hawaii,
my mortgage and an aversion to 75+ hour weeks (been there, done
that) keeps me from quitting my day job.

Bottom line, even though I wasn’t ready to take the plunge into
jewelry making after college, I eventually came around. Being
cautious, it just took me a longer time. I had to experience
first hand that doing a job that provided money, status and
benefits, but no spiritual and emotional rewards was deadly. I
had to realize that earning 2/3s less money and taking a demotion
in social status was okay with me. So what if friends from my
other life think I’m “slumming” and not living up to my
"potential". So if you’re ready to take the plunge now, go for
it. But if you need to check out other avenues or deal with risk
aversion, jewelry making will always be there for you. You just
can’t expect to turn the world on its ear first time out. It’ll
take time, good fortune and the exposure to the likes of Walter
Kentzler, Michael Good, Alan Revere and Adolfo Mattiello.

Again, apologies for verbosity. Donna

I am 42 years old. And if I had to chose a career for the next
20 years, working with metals would be my first choice. It is
never too late to begin a career in jewelry or any type of
metalsmithing. All you need is to be crazy in love with the
METAL. I know I am. Have a Happy Holiday season! Valentin

Mary Anne, This thread is of special interest to me, being the
same age as the original questioner. 42 is not too late. I’ve
been moving in this direction fortwo years, and have found it
highly worthwhile. My “day job” had become an emotional
dead-end, and I needed something else in my life.I have done
well thus far in growing into a second career in Jewelry, albeit
with a financial safety net of a “real” job. This cuts both
ways, as I’m in SE Minnesota, with seemingly no educational
options that fit my schedule (can’t reliably get to the teaching
available in Minneapolis), and I can’t afford to walk away from
my day job (yet, soon maybe?!). This is notan surmountable
obstacle, as it turns out. I am largely “self-taught”, but I
consider that statement to be somewhat a lie, as I’ve had the
luxury of one of the worlds great teachers coming into my house
on my schedule. I am referring to the superb set of teaching
videos available from Alan Revere through either his school
( or from Rio Grande (
I think these tapes are spectacular.I’ve watched them several
times, and they are filled with several thousand years of
collected metalsmithing tradition by a highly skilled
practitioner and teacher. When I first met Alan in Tucson at
the Rio Show last Feb, I was able to say to him "although we’ve
never met, you have taught me everything I know about
Goldsmithing." At that time, I was already achieving some
modest financial success in jewelry sales. I’ve now attended a
week of class at his school, during which I learned more than I
would have though possible to learn in a year. Sales have
dramatically improved, and I have plans to go back as often as I
can afford to. With the increased productivity I achieved from
one week on-site, I’m not sure I can afford NOT to spend more
time there! You are lucky, in that you live close enough to SF
that you can drive. Travel is my greatest expense, as tuition
is reasonable and modest priced housing is available literally
across the street from the school. I enjoyed Alan’s comments in
this thread. No wonder I admire him, ashe represents a much
more technically adept (and far more patient) mirror image of
me!His comment summarized exactly why I got, and stay, hooked.
Good luck! Keith Berge

I feel compelled to add a little here. After 25 years as a fiber
artist, I began studying metals and jewelry 5 years ago - and I
was past 42 at the time. I thought I loved what I did before,
but have never felt as passionate as I do about jewelry! I could
regret not finding this sooner, but I believe things happen when
they are supposed to. Due to some personal problems, I know that
I would have been a basket case these past few years if not for
the joy I feel while working. It has been my salvation and came
to me at exactly the right time. And there is the excitment of
learning - I will be busy for the rest of my life learning new
things about this wonderful art form. If you feel anything like
the passion and joy that I, and many others, have expressed here,
how could you NOT persue this dream? I
hope you will, and wish you much happiness! Gini