While I don’t want to dash your wish to live in Hawaii, I think you
should know that the cost of living here is extremely high. Today’s
newspaper had an article saying that the average one-bedroom
apartment on Oahu is going for $1400 (if you can find one). This is
causing a housing crisis for university students coming in for the
fall semester. So unless you have family and/or friends to stay
with, you will find it nearly impossible to exist on an entry-level
salary. The cost of living on the outer islands is high in the sense
that there are fewer opportunities, lower pay and scarcer resources.
Gas is even more expensive there ($2.50/gal or more for regular
Many of the jewelry businesses in Hawaii are very small operations
that would not be very likely to take on apprentices. The larger
manufacturing companies that might consider hiring entry-level people
might offer a few dollars over minimum wage, but they wouldn’t cover
your relocation expenses. You’d have to cover those yourself,
possibly taking advantage of tax writeoffs and you would be competing
with the local population as well as the Asian immigrant population
for the few available positions. Also, the problem with taking a job
in a manufacturing company is that you are often pigeonholed in a
specific task area such as waxing, prefinishing, polishing, stone
setting, soldering, engraving, etc. Cross training doesn’t
necessarily happen or happen at the pace someone seeking a
comprehensive skill set might want. You could literally spend years
in a specific task area or an entire career doing something like
polishing. You would have to decide if you wanted to be a
well-rounded goldsmith or a skilled technician in a specific
discipline. If you want the former, manufacturing is not the way to
go unless you intend it to be for the short term.
Your best bet of making a living in Hawaii would be to hone your
skills on the mainland. You should develop a good portfolio with
proven strengths in designing, modelmaking/moldmaking and stone
setting. Actually, if you were able to become a highly skilled and
fast stone setter (especially channel, pave, flush setting), you
might be able to do trade work for some of the smaller businesses.
It would still be a big challenge to make a living because you don’t
have a concentrated pool of prospective trade employers that you’d
find in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York or Chicago.
There is a saying here in Hawaii that lower financial reward is the
price for “living in paradise”. Many of us leave lucrative mainland
jobs only to return because Hawaii calls us back.
You can contact me off-line if you have questions you think I could
help you with.