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Reasonable in a bench jeweler skills?


#1

Just how widely-skilled is reasonable in a bench jeweler?

I have been looking at bench jeweler job ads on the GIA Job Board.
The qualifications that these companies ask for in a bench jeweler
with two year’s worth of experience, for example, is incredible: Acori
Diamonds & Design is looking for a Bench Jeweler. This is a
full-time position that requires a minimum of two 2 years’ experience
in general jewelry repair, restoration, and custom design experience
in stone setting, sizing, polishing, assembling, changing watch
batteries, and repairing jewelry. Candidate should have CAD-CAM
Matrix, wax carving, and fabrication experience. The candidate must
be proficient with gold, platinum, and silver and able to work with
customers for custom design.

This brought to mind a post I saw here on Orchid back in April from
someone named Justinder Bhatia, a designer looking for a jeweler:

"a highly skilled master jeweler in all aspects of creating,
including:

A. Fabrication B. Setting C. Wax carving (especially natural
organic shapes) D. Laser Welding E. Forging F. Some Casting (most
casting done by Techform and Arttech) G. Solderin H. Karat and
pure Gold, Silver, Palladium and Platinum 7. Traits that will
help with my designs A. Engraving B. Enamel C. Patinas D. Pave
setting E. Hand filigree F. CAD/CAM "

Now, I know I have a lot of work to do before I can call myself an
experienced bench jeweler. I am humble. I’m not complaining about
the task ahead of me; I truly want to learn how to do all of these
things, and do them well. But I just can’t fathom the scope of
technical knowledge that all of this takes… being in one person.

I had an apprenticeship in the Diamond District in New York, with a
model maker who worked exclusively in wax. Just about every day she
sub-contracted out work on her models to other companies in her
building or on the same block: casters, polishers, goldsmiths, stone
setters, engravers. Each person or company produced work that was
consistently excellent. They were experts at one thing. At the time,
I thought this was a nice mirror of the medieval workshop, where one
person, say an enamellist, would do the same thing over and over
again, and a whole line-up of other people would do the work on the
object to get it to the point that the enamellist could enamel it.
And then the enamellist would hand it off to the next person, maybe
the stone setter… What has happened in this industry that one
person is expected to do everything? Are there people even out there
who are like this? And after only two year’s work experience?

Jessica Scofield


#2
What has happened in this industry that one person is expected to
do everything? Are there people even out there who are like this?
And after only two year's work experience? 

Yes, there are such people, and yes, they have way more than 2 years
experience. You’re on the right track, having already gotten
industry experience and wax carving experience, good job!

You maybe need another entry level job in a different aspect of the
field, or you could choose to specialize in something. If I were a
young person starting out in the industry, I would want to make sure
that in addition to the traditional skills that I also had laser
welding skills and CAD/CAM.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com


#3

Jessica,

Just how widely-skilled is reasonable in a bench jeweler? 

These people are insane. Most of the required skills take far longer
the 2 years to master one at a time, well changing batteries is
pretty simple but there are some very expense traps.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#4

Jessica,

As you have noted most job applications for bench jewelers do
include quite a bit of knowledge on various levels.

Rarely would you find anyone that knows how to do everything and do
it professionally. But, the more you know and the more you are
proficient at it, the more your experience and the more your
paycheck. The problem is everyone would like to hire someone for
nothing. I mean if you were a journeyman plumber you could be making
30/40 per hour. Now if you are a master jeweler you would expect to
get paid at least the same…and let’s just say for arguments sake
you qualify at that level. I find most jewelry retailers and
manufacturers won’t touch that kind of pay scale. Why you say?
Because you can train an individual to do just one thing and pass it
on for a lot less. Most of your master’s either own there own
business whether it is just trade work at a shop or manufacturing on
there own. Like I said it would be really rare to find someone that
does mokume, enameling, laser repair, wire braiding, pearl stringing,
all the stone setting techniques…blah blah…and then get paid what
they are worth? Those individuals are sought after in unique settings
and are in a niche market all their own. I use to have a trade shop
where i hired bench jewelers and i would usually give them 5 or 6
different jobs with various levels of difficulty to see two
things…Quality and speed. First off, quality, second are they going
to make me money.

I would tell you to “know” your repair, setting and finishing areas
extremely well. The other things will come with time if you want to
pursue them. Leave the specialty areas to the people that do only the
one thing…enameling, lapidary, casting, cad modeling, etc…

Best to you,
Russ Hyder
The Jewelry CAD Institute


#5

Jessica said…What has happened in this industry that one person is
expected to do everything? Are there people even out there who are
like this? Andafter only two year’s work experience?

Yes there are lots of people who can do it all, but you are right.
People with 2 years of experience are typically good ring sizers,
good at routine repairs and are able to set some round stones,
possibly they are getting the hang for setting fancies in more
routine settings. Most shops bring people along somewhat slowly,
making sure they get the hang of each technique and skill before they
more to the next step. Often each step builds on the next. For
instance with sizing, you are learning basic sawing, soldering,
filing, shaping, tightening and finishing skills. That leads you into
basic repairs that include some to the same skills but are a little
trickier than sizing.

Occasionally the person responsible for training will unwisely have
the newbie doing everything from basic work to custom work. That does
a disservice to the trainee and the customer. That bench person may
feel like they know how to do everything, but they can’t know how to
do much of it well.

Some shops have the benchies specialize, one only sets stones, never
solders in heads or does any gold work, one only sizes…and so on.
I’d recommend that you avoid this situation at all costs. What
happens if you do that is that you are then trapped in that job,
unless you can find another specialist job else where. It really
limits your range of skills and is a bad way to build a career.
Better to learn to do it all, but that can’t be done in two years.

Ideally, you should try to find a job where you are assisting a
mentor or mentors. They will give you the parts of their work that
you can handle, then check your work, as you progress they will allow
you to do more of each job. After a time you will have your own box
of work and you’ll work more independently, while asking lots of
questions as they arrise and still having all of your work checked
(for years). All I can think about the people who posted the want-ads
you saw is that they didn’t word what they wanted well. What they
want is a very experienced and skilled bench person. Maybe they
included to comment about two years of experience only to keep the
people with no experience at all from applying?

Mark


#6

Yes, and what is hilarious, is that most of these Jewelry companies
looking for these “highly experienced” jewelers only want to pay
them $20-$25 per hour, while they make a 2.5 mark up profit on what
we “highly experienced bench jewelers and designers” make for their
clients! Plus, supply their own equipment! Funny!!! I understand all
of the nonsense feedback I will get back from this posting, but,
come on! My 24 years experience is definitely worth more than that! I
guarantee it!

Steve Cowan Arista Designs LLC


#7

Hi Jessica,

You have nothing to lose by sending a resume and a portfolio of your
work.

If you send out bulk applications, with an application letter
individually tailored for the company you are sending your
application to. Also follow up the application letter with a phone
call “to confirm” that they have your application, this will give you
the opportunity to talk about the position and any potential other
positions that may become available.

Don’t be daunted the list of skills is a “really-like-to-have” list,
but show them what skills you do have. That position may not be
yours, but they may have another opening.

Regards Charles A.


#8
I have been looking at bench jeweler job ads on the GIA Job Board.
The qualifications that these companies ask for in a bench jeweler
with two year's worth of experience, 

Wait till you find out what they want to pay…for that highly
skilled person.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.


#9

Hi Jessica;

I have 40 years experience and can do most of those thngs. My
enameling and engraving skills are somewhat limited and those are
pretty specialized skills anyway. Someone with two years experience,
in my opinion, should be expected to have basic fabrication skills,
some stone setting skills like prong and bezel, maybe a little wax
carving too. Two years goes by fast. Things like half-shanks,
installing heads, sizing, setting center stones, they should be
pretty good at in order to make enough for their employer to pay
their way. CAD skills are an issue with me. I see way too many folks
turning out crap with CAD that has no originality and little
understanding of manufacturing. I don’t think you should be doing
CAD until you have a comprehensive understanding of jewelry
manufacturing. Casting, well, sometimes it’s pretty basic, but there
are fine points that become an issue pretty quick. Advanced stone
setting like bright cut and pave will take a few more years unless
that’s all you’ve been doing for a couple years. Same with wax
carving. Simple stuff, OK, but about five years in before you can do
much, again, unless that’s all you’ve been doing.

So, what I think is happening is you’ve got managers or HR people or
owners who don’t know much about jewelry either, so they list
everything they can think of hoping they’ll get better applicants.
What they’ll get are people with the above skill set who are,
likewise, thinking they’ll get luck too. The folks with the serious
experience and skill sets are going to know that they are either
going to be overqualified (they aren’t going to get an offer that’s
realistic) or they are looking at an ad cooked up by a moron they
don’t want to work for. I look at it this way. A two year veteran
should be enough for most retail, they can cover repairs and some
limited custom work, and in a few more years, maybe with some
classes, they’ll be profitable. A five year veteran should give a
retailer a serious competitive edge. A ten year veteran is a
powerful tool, but expensive, so a smart retailer is going to do
great. A twenty year veteran should be a the top of their game and a
retailer better be able to listen to them, that guy can help you
really box in the competition. When you’re as old as I am, you’re
slower, but you make very few mistakes. You should be running your
own store or maybe, just maybe, managing a shop full of other
jewelers. I say maybe, because you’re not going to be working with
your hands any more, you’re going to be a psychologist. You may be
too old to learn that.

David L. Huffman


#10
Just how widely-skilled is reasonable in a bench jeweler? 

We have to know everything and usually how to cook and do laundry
too.


#11

Interesting topic, I remember reading how Japanese swords, which I
think are the ultimate display of craftsmanship, are made in the
manner you are speaking of. One person makes the scabbard, one makes
the blade, one makes the handle pieces, one guy polishes. And these
are different independent artists that send the sword to each others
shops.


#12

To follow up on this great topic, if I were in your shoes today I
would spend some time learning Cad designing.

Elaine Luther hit the hammer on the head… Get some practice also on
laser soldering, but emphasize Cad and all of its design properties.

I know of one fellow in Toronto who is an extremely busy and has no
bench skills to speak of, but his Cad designing is keeping him
ultra-busy. If you have this ‘gift’ of designing, look into Cad.
Trust me, this is the new facet of our trade.

The recent issue of “MJSA Journal” has two fantastic articles just
on Cad, this is a ‘must-read’ for you!

Moral of this essay: Learn what is happening TODAY in our trade, let
others do the bench work. Cad and Laser is a resume booster for you!

Gerry!


#13

There have been ad’s in the local job sites for hiring such
"magicians" as I call them.If you can proficiently perform all of
the tasks that shops require from you, then you are surely
self-employed.Is this the jack of all trades and the master of none
syndrome?I took a temp position last year at a local repair shop and
immediately clearly stated that I would not and could not do
micro-pave or bead setting.What did the owner put into my hands
after three weeks? Yep, the things I said I could not do. Bench
jewelers are expected to do many things perfectly. Let’s PAY them
what they are worth after decades of experience.With much respect to
Sarah, T, Scott, Jeff, Michael, David, and many others.

M.Mersky


#14
One person makes the scabbard, one makes the blade, one makes the
handle pieces, one guy polishes. And these are different
independent artists that send the sword to each others shops. 

That process still happens today.

Regards Charles A.


#15
When you're as old as I am, you're slower, but you make very few
mistakes 

I think that is a key point. When people say someone is "fast"
they’re not saying that the person moves quickly as much as they are
saying that they make no mistakes (very few anyway).

Mark


#16
What has happened in this industry that one person is expected to
do everything? Are there people even out there who are like this?
And after only two year's work experience? 

My thoughts on the “help wanted” ad you mentioned Jessica, is that
they are casting the widest net they can. As I read it, they want
someone with at least two years experience (i.e. not just out of
school) and preferably with the following skills… It IS possible to
accrue most of those skills (at least a hands-on exposure and working
knowledge of how it’s done) and only have two years experience. I
have known several individuals that were graduates from the Texas
Institute of Jewelry Technology in Paris, TX that could carve wax,
cast, do most setting styles, fabrication, etc, and didn’t yet have
two years of full time bench experience. I’m sure that there are
other schools that can prepare the individual in as many areas,
possibly Revere Academy and GIA. Does that mean they were expert in
all facets of each of those skills? No, more of a “jack of all
trades, but master of none” kind of skill level. They were also not
quite ready for prime time in a busy small custom shop right out of
school and without an experienced guiding hand, but after a couple of
years in the trenches very possibly. Hence the two year requirement.

It is true that mastery of all of these skills is the pursuit of a
lifetime and couldn’t be accomplished in two years by most of us mere
mortals. But getting a working knowledge and hands-on experience in a
wide range of skills from a technical school environment before
entering the work force is very doable.

Specialization doesn’t work well in the small retail store shop
mainly because the owners want one-stop shopping; the less work they
have to farm out the better. Big shops don’t need all skills in one
person, they want the best wax carver (or whatever) they can get. For
someone that likes to carve wax and doesn’t really give a hoot about
stone setting, working in a large shop (or near 47th St) could be the
best thing ever. For the person that might get bored silly doing the
same thing every day, but has above average mechanical aptitude,
self-discipline and problem solving abilities, a one or two person
shop might be ideal.

I know the owners of Acori and I’ve discussed this very issue with
them. They have been looking for the right person for quite some time
now. I can assure you Jessica, if you send them a resume, they will
get back to you. The two year thing is probably more of a deterrent
to people that think “hey I’ve never been a bench jeweler before, but
I bet I’d be pretty good at it” or the “just graduated from two weeks
of stone setting school” from applying than anything else. If you
have the right attitude and at least have the basics down, they might
very well give you a chance, even if you don’t yet possess all of
those skills. I also know that they know what the going rates are for
what they are asking for, and I don’t think they’re at all unwilling
or afraid to pay for it. A good, reliable, well rounded goldsmith
that can get along with others is worth their weight in gold to a
savvy retailer.

Someone that can do all of the things listed well is worth about $35

  • $40 an hour ($70 K a year or more, depending on the market area)
    right now, plus benefits. The problem that those who have been on the
    search for such a person face is that most of them are in a place
    where their worth is known and appreciated, so these days with old
    businesses going belly up as fast as new ones, they are quite content
    to stay where they’re at - a bird in the hand so to speak. The other
    ones have given up entirely on working for other people that don’t
    appreciate what they can do, so they start their own thing. That was
    my path. In either case, they are off the job market.

One of the best things about being a goldsmith, especially if you
have a good portfolio and a wide array of skills (and a reputation
for honesty and integrity - this is a very small industry), is that
you can get a job in just about any city in the USA inside of a week
The biggest downside imho is that $70 to $100K is about all there is
and it takes twenty years or so to get there. There’s no coasting at
that level either, it’s pedal to the metal every waking moment,
assuming of course that one wants to stay at that level You can only
work so many hours and charge so much an hour, no matter how fast or
good you are. $100K might sound like a lot to some, but once you get
there you realize it’s not all that much. Especially if you have some
little ones to feed.

I believe that the more varied your skills and the more extensive
your experience, the more potential you have to command a high
salary and the more opportunities you will have open to you. If you
wish to be this kind of goldsmith, be up front and honest about your
skill level and take a job in a one or two person shop. Be brave,
volunteer to take on jobs you have no idea how to do and then sit
down and figure them out. You have all of Orchid to help you out. One
day, you’ll be poking through your portfolio looking for this or that
photo and it’ll dawn on you, “Damn Jessica! You’re pretty good!”

Dave Phelps


#17
 I think that is a key point. When people say someone is "fast"
 they're not saying that the person moves quickly as much as they are
 saying that they make no mistakes (very few anyway).

An old blacksmith saying “Fast, Cheap, Good… pick two”… CIA


#18

Thank you, all who responded to my post. I am going to have to be
brave and start applying for some of these jobs. It’s a hard
balancing act, being humble and overwhelmed half the time, while
being proud of what I know how to do already, and beieving that I
have something really good to offer these companies, the other part
of the time.

Jessica Scofield


#19

Jessica let me suggest a CD portfolio of your work that you can
leave with the prospective employer. It can contain all of your
photos as well as a resume. Cheap and easy to produce and easy to
manage for your prospective employer also can be mailed out of town
at low cost. Worked well for me when I was job hunting. Also try your
local head hunter they may be able to help in your job search as
well.

Frank Goss