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Opportunities for design and manufacturing Jewellers?

Hello All,

My daughter Kerry is finding it difficult getting an opportunity
within the Jewellery design and manufacturing industry and wondering
if there are any suggestions from professional Jewellers that might
assist Kerry make that break through.

Some background on Kerry…We live in Adelaide in Australia which
is a small city where there are around 35 manufacturing Jewellers.
Most are small family Jewellers. Kerry is 23 YO has just completed
two Diploma courses at The Revere Academy in San Francisco
(Jewellery Technician and Graduate Jeweller Diplomas) from all
account Kerry excelled in both courses. Kerry is also brilliant at
designing Jewellery where she has worked part time with a
manufacturing Jeweller here in Adelaide designing custom Jewellery.
Here is the rub, because she doesn’t have any “experience” as a
Jeweller the very limited opportunities here she gets looked over.
The old chicken and egg scenario.

Until Kerry can gain this experience she in unlikely certainly here
in Adelaide to get that door to open. I would be interested in
gaining an understanding from Professional Jewellers as to any
suggestion that may assist Kerry’s chances of breaking into the
industry without experience as a manufacturing Jeweller?

Kerry has her own workshop set up where she is able to practise her
skills and is very proficient. She has personally dropped her
resumes to all manufacturing Jewellers here now twice, once before
she attained her Diploma’s and then after. Kerry has over the last
year got down to the last two applicants for Apprentice
Manufacturing Jeweller’s positions in both cases she missed out
because of her age…too old at 23!

We are of the belief that in this very tight Jewellery market here
in Adelaide that it is unlikely to find the opportunity to work with
a Master Jeweller and thereby gaining valuable experience. Kerry is
very keen to fulfil her desire to become a manufacturing Jeweller
and designer and realises that she is likely to have to relocate
where the opportunities exist.

I would appreciate any feedback as to where in the world might have
opportunities for Kerry. I suspect there are some locations in the
world that might be hubs for Jewellery design and manufacturing
where Kerry could start to prospect in.

Any suggestions and feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Ian Fleetwood

Hello Ian,

I would say that the first problem for a jeweler when he sees
someone like your daughter coming in his store/workshop is that he’ll
have to pay her… For a low quality fabrication (sorry but this is

So, following my experience I think the best way to get into the
industry would be for her to show that she is just willing to learn
and to get paid only for the well done job… That’s what I did at
the beginning of my career… And it worked out pretty well even if
the economy was not very good back then (just like now actually). Of
course the first three months will be tough, but after a while she
should gather enough money to live correctly.

The reason why I was talking about the jeweler that way is that, I do
take some apprentices some time and I noticed that the simple fact to
have some one in my studio lower my efficiency of 35 percent, if you
add that fact to the bad quality job done, it makes more sense to
what I say… Also think that the jeweler is afraid to see her run
away as soon as she masters the bench work, loosing all his time
investment… Hope this will help her to find what she’s looking
for… (By the way she could maybe give a try to they do great jobs and it must
be a real chance to be apprentice there…)

I wish you the best,


First suggestion: let Kerry speak for herself. She should be making
personal calls in person, by herself. And perhaps somewhere other
than Adelaide.


Hi Ian,

Have a look at the notes below,

My daughter Kerry is finding it difficult getting an opportunity
within the Jewellery design and manufacturing industry and
wondering if there are any suggestions from professional Jewellers
that might assist Kerry make that break through. 

She needs to prove herself to the trade.

This means a number of strategies.

Have a clear, normal sized business card with room on the back to
write notes on. Jewelers put contact info, email, web site, post
office box on a card, never a street address (unless you actually
have a retail store). Security is important.

Ask jewellers for advice on what to do next and on possibilities,
not for a job. This lets them off the hook in terms of pressure, and
uses the old adage “if you want to make a friend ask someone for
advice”. Make sure you are taking up their time on their terms, when
it fits best into their week. Now that it is past the Holidays most
will have more time.

Ask around for the shops who have the best reputation for design and
hand construction, for hand work, (and/or computer aided design use),
see if there are any that won awards (as it means they pay attention
to design and building their brand). If a shop has a laser it implies
they keep up with technology and have funds to invest in tools and
production. Look for 2-8 employees so the shop needs you to do
multiple kinds of jobs.

Call back, follow up, kindly and gently. I know a guy who created
his career basically by sending 40-50 postcards out a month to pretty
much everyone he met in his art field, steady, for two years. This
resulted in very effective network.

Create a nicely presented sample kit of pieces and examples showing
what she can do in terms of skill. Speed is an essential issue, so if
there is any way to practice at home with simple ring sizings and
increase speed this is good. If there is a repair shop to the trade
in town then working piece-work there for a while can be a great way
to increase skills and speed. Piece work means that pay is low until
the speed increases, but can be good later. This point is not to stay
there, but six months would introduce many real life experiences and
increase skills and speed.

This is the most important step: Offer to work at the higher
design/manufacturing level of shop for two weeks for free. This is a
standard approach, proven and tested. This gives you a chance to
prove yourself, (and also to see if you want to work there). Even if
they don’t have a job available it may lead to other opportunities.

Work real hard, try real hard, have no ego during this test time,
and do an excellent job, particularly at cleaning up and paying
attention to details. European goldsmiths say “put your ego in the
drawer when you are learning: you can always take it out again when
you need it”.

Use standard strategies of taking notes, keeping a log, bringing
coffee and treats for people now and then is good. Not every shop is
where you want to work, so if it doesn’t feel right after two weeks
feel free to thank them and go on. As a principle do a lot of written
thank you notes, they are worth more in these email days, and thank
you’s for time offered or shared are truly appreciated.

Don’t make enemies, word of mouth is everything in the jewellery
world, and it is a very small world. Make sure your reputation is
good. Honesty and professional behavior is essential.

Make the rounds of the diamond and gem dealers as well (asking for
advice, job suggestions etc) and work to set up accounts with them
(you may need to do the next step first).

Create an account at the local tool supplier, and use it, paying it
off within a week with every purchase to build trade references. Then
you have a reference within the trade to tell others (like gem
dealers) about. You will need to have a good relationship with a
diamond dealer, to permit you to have stones ‘on memo’ to show to

Network like mad, going to every special opening the important
jewellery trade shops have.

If she can’t get a job with these ideas, then offer to do ‘home
work’, that is repairs they don’t want to handle etc, again to prove
herself. Any job will pay poorly for a while, but the idea is that it
is about another 4-6 years education in the field by working, and
eventually to own a shop or something similar.

Make sure there is a home workbench available, (even the simplest),
to practice sawing, filing, soldering and finishing/polishing. Use
Alan Revere’s videos or Professional Goldsmithing book and do
everything 3-5 times (using a timer) to build the sample kit and
skill set. Check out his repair and repair/setting book as well.

Enter jewellery design competitions, as many as possible in as many
places as possible to build the resume, have a deadline and maintain
professional pressure on oneself. In the same vein make sure that
ones designs and pieces get published, in the national and (easier)
other country’s jewellery and related magazines. She has a ‘hook’ to
get published locally because she went away to study at Revere’s.
Build that track record as a designer. You want the shops to have
heard of you from others (the media, gem dealers, others in the

Persistence counts. More than almost anything else.

She might ask several jewelers if she can take them out for a coffee
once a month and ask for their advice, creating her own advisory
board. If she can spot someone who is doing what she thinks she wants
to do later in life ask if they are willing to be her mentor, that is
to meet with her every couple of weeks to advise/critique, with a six
month term so they don’t think they are stuck forever.

Document everything, both the work she is doing as well as shots of
her working in the workshop.

Create an Ganoksin/Orchid gallery page that outlines her work, what
her designs and skills are. Make a account and post images
of work, and of her working. Link to this from the facebook account.

Join any local jewellers groups and organizations and go to meetings.
It is about the network. Cheerful and postive attitudes help. A
friend of mine said once to me that his steady employment as a
painter could only be attributed to “I clean up really well and I’m
happy in the morning”. Consider joining the board of the local
jewellers group as a volunteer. Most groups want younger people
involved and the network is excellent.

Join JMGA, go to the conferences and
participate. While I understand the tensions and mutual snobbery
between trade and the arts in Australia it is quite possible to
operate in both worlds and it increases her circle of network and

Have a web page of some type, for your resume, your skill set (what
you can do), images of work etc, to refer people to.

Donate a piece to highly visible benefit auctions, particularly ones
where the jewellers are likely to see it or be involved. (the
symphony benefit concert, anything at the golf club, etc). If the
local jewellers group has a favorite charity find a way to be visible
in relationship to it.

Create a nice business card that specializes/hints at wedding ring
expertise. Dress nice and visit bridal shops to set up a relationship
to design wedding rings/engagement rings one on one with clients they
get a good percentage of the sale (30% or more). Wedding rings and
engagement rings pay very well indeed, and the one on one
relationship is increasingly important, so this can be an excellent
path. Jewellers often forget about alternate ways to market, high end
hair salons, bridal shops, gold clubs.


I am in Lightning Ridge and my suggestion for your daughter is to
specialise in setting opal, there are not too many jewellers out
there that are comfortable in setting it especially free form or
undulating carved pieces, many people buy an opal because they love
the piece and race off to their jewellers to get it set and more
often than not they are told that their local jeweller isn’t
comfortable or won’t work with opal.

Make a niche for herself and do it well and her customer base will
grow. I use my local jeweller here in the Ridge and he is very good
and very experienced and can set anything and do it superbly and to
be quite honest he is worth every cent he charges. He is a German
trained goldsmith which means there is very little he can’t do.

I wish her well in her future endeavours.

Christine Roussel in the Ridge where it is a hot and humid day today.

Hi Ced,

Thanks for the valuable comments. It is good to get the perspective
from a professional jeweller.

Kerry would have no problem working for no wage for the experience,
we have not formal approached any jeweller however we had discussed
this as an option. We will approach a few and go from there. Kerry is
fortunate in that we can support her if she can get an opportunity.
Whoever that gives Kerry an opportunity I know will be rewarded in

Not sure what the legal situation is about such an arrangement in
this day and age, I would hope if two parties agree then is should be
OK. I do not see anyone exploited is such an arrangement rather
hopefully a win win situation for all concerned.

Thank you for the suggestion of Fairfax and Roberts they are a high
end Jeweller located in Sydney, we will try some local Adelaide
Jewellers who are a bit closer to home.

Appreciate you taking the time to provide valuable feedback.

Kind regards,

This may be why so many jewelers are self employed. Tough to find
entry level so they create their own ‘job’. Employers want workers,
not students. There are probably no jobs for entry level designers. I
may get some cabbages tossed at me here but, design is not something
you start out with, its something you build towards.

There is always a need for repairs. It may not be glamorous but it
just may be the foot in the door to employment. Show a prospective
employer that he’ll make money with you and he might hire you. Tell
him you want to be ‘a jewelery designer’ and he’ll probably pass.
Lofty goals may sound great to your life coach but I think they may
be a quick turnoff to a business owner.

Your daughter should build a porfolio of profit oriented items. Not
theoretical exercises in avant garde design concepts. If she wants a
real job she should keep it real. Make the kinds of things that the
employer can SELL. Present him with a well executed example of
something he’s familar with. If he doesn’t sell flamjams, do not pull
out your Prize Winning Royal Flamjam no matter how great it is, it’ll
fall on deaf ears. After she’s got 5 or 10 or 20 years experience she
can go in whatever direction she wants, but for now she’ll have to do
someone else’s bidding or go off on her own too.

This is a tough racket, sometimes you just have to tough it out. She
should keep plugging away at it til things work out.


Thanks for that insight and honest appraisal of where you think
Kerry is at. As time is going by your assesment is appears to be spot
on. This will be a long road to how however I know Kerry will get
there as she is committed.

Current thinking is to see if she might gain the experience by
offering her services with no wage, fortunately we can support her
through this phase as long it doesn’t take 10 years! (-:

Appreciate your frank and honest comments.

Hi Charles,


Thank you for the efforts you have gone to give Kerry what has to be
all possible options moving forward. What your response shows and
proves is the way forward is not going to be easy and being proactive
is the way forward and to be persistent.

Again thanks,

Hi Christine,

Thanks for your suggestion another one that can be discussed and
explored, which is what this quest is about for Kerry.

Appreciate your time and valuable input.

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your input.

Indeed Kerry is doing the direct contact to the local Jeweller’s. I
am scoping out where there might be other opportunities for her to

Yes we are looking outside Adelaide hence the post on Ganoksin to
see if there are Jeweller opportunities in other parts of the world.


Kerry would have no problem working for no wage for the
experience, we have not formal approached any jeweller however we
had discussed this as an option. We will approach a few and go from
there. Kerry is fortunate in that we can support her if she can get
an opportunity. Whoever that gives Kerry an opportunity I know will
be rewarded in kind. 

What country are you in ? In USA it is not an option. It is illegal
to have someone working for you without paying them, even it person
wants to work for free. There used to be a work-around. An apprentice
would come in as a contractor, but IRS killed that option as well.
There are specific tests to qualify as a contractor from IRS

You best bet is to approach large jewellery houses. They have
resources to train bright beginners. They would rather have someone
who was not corrupted yet by mass-production techniques.

Leonid Surpin

Leonid Surpin, I am pretty sure if you call an internship, you can
work for no wages in close relation to being a student. They are not
illegal and a means of getting work experience. Some do pay a stipend
or living expenses, but many are no pay positions.

Melissa Stenstrom

If I were wearing a hat I would have to tip it for Charles’ advice
to Ian because it’s some of the best I’ve heard about breaking into
the field. I wish I would have heard it when I was just starting at
the bench out of school.

Happy New Year to Everyone!
Rene’ Howard

Ian, getting that first job is a bit like stalking the elusive, wild
speckled trout. It seems like it just won’t happen until of course
it finally does. At that point you’re so excited that the long wait
is forgotten.

Your daughter has an advantage many of us did not in the early days.

I am pretty sure if you call an internship, you can work for no
wages in close relation to being a student. 

“internship”? Few year ago I had to deal with this issue pretty
close, and I was told by the lawyers “absolutely not”. This was in
state of New York. I also remember reading myself “Minimum Wage” law
and do not remember any exceptions for “internship”. I know there
are charity groups who subsidize minimum wage. Business may pay some
part of the wage and organization pays the rest, but anybody’s
working must get paid, and government must get it’s payroll tax, and
do not forget insurance, and etc… If this “internship” would be
true, then it would so easy to avoid payroll taxes and benefit
expenses. Is anybody have direct experience in this matter and would
like to share it ?

Leonid Surpin

most people who want to become jewelry designers follow thier heart
and not logic ! let us look at the facts unless you inherit the
business from a parent or relative you have to create your vocation
from nothing !

now you have a vocation that produces a product with PERCIEVED value
which means you have somthing that only people with discretionary
income will buy ( bored rich people ? ) how many people can afford
this sort of thing most usually make one jewelry purchase an
engagement ring for half thier life how many of those rings can i
make ? i can make alot of them ! lots of jewelers few customer s how
do you think experienced metalsmiths are going to act of course they
are going to protect thier livlihood. i know from experience my
father was little more than a sharecropper now i have a small jewelry
outfit not much but its what i have and i am happy that i dont have
to be walkin the farm furrows like my first few jobs. so if some one
offers you an unpaid working ( learning ) situation take it and keep
your mouth shut and pucker up lots of peoples lips are caloused from
kissing the south end of north bound folk that is just the way it is
and you cannot change the world in a short amount of one lifetime -

Whereas my life making jewelry has been an expression and
celebration of the creativity, uniqueness and diversity of the human
spirit, a recognition of the abundance available and the
acknowledgment of the truth of who I am as an unique and creative
individual, expressing from the mind of “GOD”.

Life is full of infinite possibility, perception creates the
limitations, we attract those of like mind to support our perception
of “reality”. Does “GOOD” exist and what limits how much good we
experience or is it limited, scarce, and in short supply?

I started a jewelry store 17 years ago with no inventory, no income,
and no savings. Third year till today, six figure gross and I am not
that smart, however, I have been available for more and more good.

Richard Hart G.G.
Jewelers Gallery
Denver, Co.

If this "internship" would be true, then it would so easy to avoid
payroll taxes and benefit expenses. Is anybody have direct
experience in this matter and would like to share it ? 

Just don’t tell anybody, doh…

Sitting in a motel room in Flagstaff, Arizona - been to New Mexico
for Christmas, and heading back to California.–Jo-Ann’s first visit
to the Grand Canyon yesterday, meteor crater the day before… Fun
Stuff!! Been reading but not posting so much…

It is difficult but possible to get jobs on another level in the
industry. People like Tiffany, David Yurman and the like have
jewelry designers on staff that are not the sort of hands-on bench
people that most of us are. You could call it “corporate” work.
Those jobs are not so many, but there are other avenues into jewelry
besides picking up a file…

There are many, many paid and unpaid internships available. I don’t
know the legalities and cannot speak directly about possible jewelry
internships but its common for college students and post-grads to
work unpaid for a limited period of time. Perhaps it’s the time
limitation that is key. Our son worked for a national magazine for 3
months for no pay. The magazine provided a transit pass, nothing
else. Other young people I know started as unpaid interns and were
awarded a paid position after they proved themselves. It’s worth
investigating further if the intern can handle the period of no pay.

Sandy Boothe
Exotica Jewelry


Since the question is about design and manufacturing not bench
jeweler per se then I would think that a younger person would
expected to be well versed in computer design and modeling to enter
the field today. Things have changed. While there is no substitute
for experience at the bench and one would hope that designers had
bench experience, that is not always the case.

Also many of us have spent a lot of time and money on
education,sometimes at great hardship,and then also enter at an
apprentice level, even though we’re bringing something to the table
(hopefully!). To expect an employer to both educate and pay someone
is a lot and I hope people who have been lucky enough to have been
paid apprentices with little or no previous experience realize how
fortunate they are.


In regards to internships, colleges regularly set up internships for
their students with various places. My freshman daughter is currently
researching summer internships, and while most are paid (barely!),
some are NOT. So it IS being done. Now the hows of it I don’t know;
just that as money is an issue with us, she can’t use the ones that
don’t pay; or the ones that will only pay enough to cover living

You can Google “internships” find tons of them in a wide range of

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio

Hi Celeste,

It is in fact benchwork experience ideally with a manufacturing
Jeweller that Kerry is looking for. Perhaps I didn’t explained myself
properly in the initial email. Sure getting experience in Design is
desirable however it is the experience in fabrication of custom
designs that will assist her to understand what design can be
fabricated and what can’t.

In agree there is no substitute for experience at the bench and can
only be gained at the bench.

Kerry has extremely good design qualities, indeed exceptional. To
design something that is possible to fabricate and watch and do from
an experienced Jeweller ideally is what Kerry needs…hope that
better explains her situation.

Thanks for your input.