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Salaries for Jewelry Designers


#1

Hi,

I need some input from everyone. I’d like to know what jewelry
designers make around the country. I am trying out for my first job
in that capacity and want to know what to list under salary
requirements. This is for an entry-level position with a very large
company and will involve travel and working with wholesalers.

I appreciate any feedback everyone might have as I do not have the
JCK guide to refer to.

Thanks,
Jerry Livings


#2

Dear Jerry,

I have the JCK guide and unfortunately they don’t list jewelry
designer in their salary survey.

In the November 2005 JCK salary guide:

Bench workers make between 15 to 95 thousand per year.
Managers between 32 to 225.
Buyers make between 20 to 52.
Gemologists make from 20 to 83.

I would say as the designer you have at least as much training and
skill as a Gemologist. AND the knowledge to save them money in
manufacturing. So place your salary request within that range.

The Jewelry Designers Professional Network (JDPN) maybe of some help
but in my experience no one is willing to talk about how much they
make.

I have found that CAD/CAM capabilities do get respect and will
justify a higher salary. If you have experience with CAD /CAM present
that prominently in your negotiations. Hope this is of some help.

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext.228


#3
I would say as the designer you have at least as much training and
skill as a Gemologist. AND the knowledge to save them money in
manufacturing. So place your salary request within that range. 

Why would a designer have the same amount of training as a
gemologist??

Craig
www.creativecutgems.com


#4
Why would a designer have the same amount of training as a
gemologist?

Hi Craig,

I am seeing from other posts on this list that many fellow
Orchidians do not understand the true nature of a real jewelry
designers job. A true jewelry designer in the jewelry industry must
be able to specify their designs not only in technical drawings (that
any goldsmith could lay a caliper down on, to make the piece exactly
as detailed) But must also specify which manufacturing techniques
should be used at what points during manufacturing to either save
money in the process or to accomplish a higher quality product.
Comfort, fit, gemstone accommodations, metallurgical limitations,
manufacturing procedures, and costs are all considered.

A true jewelry designer must not only be artistically creative and a
skilled metalsmith but must also be a crack engineer versed in
manufacturing techniques and have a mind for the business side. A true
jewelry designer must intuitively see fashion trends 2 years before
they materialize in the public, because you’ll need your design in
wide distribution before that marketing curve is on the downward
slide.

This is my rant, having been a bench jeweler who worked my way UP to
the position of designer. Just because a lot of wanna-bes are claiming
the title of jewelry designer, it does not diminish what the real job
actually requires. It is insulting that those who do not understand
the title continue to denigrate the real, very demanding, job. Just
for the record, in every jewelry manufacturing company I have ever
been associated with a bench jeweler is a position below the jewelry
designer in expectations, skill, pay and artistry. If you don’t have
the skills to be a bench jeweler you should not call yourself a
jewelry designer.

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext.228


#5

Barvo, Nanz!

This is my rant, having been a bench jeweler who worked my way UP
to the position of designer. 

Excellent! I doubt I could have been so succinct, or so candid as
that. I’m saving that post.

David L. Huffman


#6
This is my rant, having been a bench jeweler who worked my way UP
to the position of designer. Just because a lot of wanna-bes are
claiming the title of jewelry designer, it does not diminish what
the real job actually requires. It is insulting that those who do
not understand the title continue to denigrate the real, very
demanding, job. Just for the record, in every jewelry manufacturing
company I have ever been associated with a bench jeweler is a
position below the jewelry designer in expectations, skill, pay and
artistry. If you don't have the skills to be a bench jeweler you
should not call yourself a jewelry designer. 

AMEN TO THAT!!! Being a bench jeweler for the last 16 yrs. & working
for a manufacturer the last 13, I have seen artist and good artist
come in and not last more then a week or two at the bench. And yet the
bence worker has not only to be skilled-but a magician and artist
for some of the interesting repairs and jobs that come in. Not a
complaint ( I LOVE AND HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH WHAT I DO) TO all the
bench jewelers out there and the artist in their soul.

LEONA IN EAST TN. WHERE SPRING IS IN HER GLORY as are my goats, chx,
horses, donkeys.

http://www.goldcreations.org


#7

Regarding Nanz Aalunds comments on the topic of salaries for jewelry
designers, I can’t agree more.

I’ve seen a few examples of “designers” ideas that cannot be made
easily or profitably by the average bench jeweler. Many times, these
ideas require a bench person of exceptional skills and specialized
equipment to even, half way, pull them off! In the process, too much
time is required to make the job work and if the estimate doesn’t
account for this, someone ends up working for peanuts or the store
loses its profit. Then of course, there is the subject of durability
and ease of maintainance and repair. Since we are almost always
"married" to the pieces we sell and are obligated to work on them in
the future, making a piece that lasts is important.

Being able to put an idea on paper or a computer screen does not
automatically make the idea a good one. The ability to think ahead
on the manufacturing process and customer service is something only
experience can teach you.

Recently a new store owner thought their idea was exactly what the
customer wanted. With the final estimate made and money paid down, I
was given the job to start a wax model. After reviewing the design, I
found that the side accent diamonds were nearly the same size as the
center diamond. In this design, it made the focal point of the ring
confusing and the ring top too wide. The customer had to be contacted
and the design altered with smaller stones. This lowered the sale
price to the store and caused the customer to lose confidence. The
initial problem was a common beginners mistake, the drawing was not
to scale.

After nearly 27 years of making ideas work, I’m still learning to
spot problems and think ahead. Unfortunately, the process doesn’t
seem to end, the projects just get more elaborate.- Charles Vail


#8

Hello Charles;

After nearly 27 years of making ideas work, I'm still learning to
spot problems and think ahead. Unfortunately, the process doesn't
seem to end, the projects just get more elaborate. 

The problem is, by getting better and better at finding the
workarounds to the problems, you are effectively raising the bar on
yourself. After 35 years of making jewelry, from designing price
point production lines for large department store chains to
facilitating the ideas of artists with no bench experience to going
out on the showroom floor with pencils and sketch pad in hand to
custom design for retailers, I’m still meeting with projects that
test the limits of my skill set. It’s not going to go away, so the
best we can do is alter our mindset and stop feeling like we’re
rolling the bolder up the hill and try to be grateful for our
ability, over the years, to continue to learn new tricks. I’m still
working on that too, so best of luck.

David L. Huffman


#9

I admit that my back went up when the person in Wisconsin posted
about the necessary paths to becoming a jewelry designer. I then
watched as several applauded the post; taking comfort in the post’s
validation of their choices in life. It is always amusing to watch
people self-congratulate themselves for the paths they have chosen;
but, nothing is more typical than the subsequent labeling of others
in the process. In fact, it is indicative of society that we feel the
need to delineate ourselves based on methods versus joining together
based on dreams and aspirations. Underlying this behavior is, I
suspect, a fear that we chose the wrong path; have spent what finite
time we have on a route which will not guarantee the brass ring; that
we are truly not exceptional.

Society is riddled with pedantic paths that we are told are
necessary to follow should we wish to pursue certain dreams. Those
paths are littered with people, who spending their lives following
the paths, regurgitate the necessity of the paths to others. Some
will make it to their dream; some won’t. Society is pleased because
the majority are staying between the lines.

Mankind’s greatest achievements have never been made by those who
play it safe.

If you feel some need to label yourselves; so be it. That does not
mean you have the right to judge or label others. In every industry,
there are multiple examples of extremely successful people who
focused on the dream and not the path.

Finally, irrespective of what one thinks of their work, one would be
hard-pressed to find a single soul who does not consider David
Yurman, Elsa Peretti and Jean Schlumberger “designers”. Oh and by the
way, these three had no formal jewelry training and were never bench
jewelers.

Respectfully,
Cameron


#10

Sorry Carolyn, but I think you should heed Nanz Aalunds’ inciteful
wisdom on this one. Of course anyone with a certain amount of
creativity can design anything. A designer without the background
that Nanz describes may make lovely designs, and may get lucky with a
few of them, but for continued, long term, regular success you
absolutely need all of the skills and knowledge that Nanz so
eloquently stated.

Basically Nanz said the same thing that so many contributors have
said over the years that I have been an Orchid member, and that is
that there are no shortcuts. You have to have the knowledge to be a
success in this business as any other. This is not snobbery just
because it isn’t what you wanted to hear.

Remember that people address this forum to gain knowledge from the
experts, and the more experienced of our members are willing to share
their knowledge by offering invaluable advice. If you are defensive
you are not open to that advice, and you’re not doing yourself any
favors.

Tess


#11
Finally, irrespective of what one thinks of their work, one would
be hard-pressed to find a single soul who does not consider David
Yurman, Elsa Peretti and Jean Schlumberger "designers". Oh and by
the way, these three had no formal jewelry training and were never
bench jewelers. 

David Yurman started his company by making jewelry from silver
spoons by himself, and selling it at craft fairs in the late 1960s and
early 1970s He has worked with and learned from many master craftsmen
over the years, he has said so himself in interviews. I think that
counts as a form of jewelry training.

Elsa Peretti worked under the top master craftsmen at Tiffany & Co.
for years before she became that company’s designer. True, she was
never a bench jeweler, but if that is not what you consider formal
training, I am at a loss to describe a better route to learn jewelry
design.

A dream is a wonderful thing to have but without direction,
commitment, determination, and hard work it signifies nothing. I had a
dream as a child of being a ballerina but would not call myself one
now, just because I had the aspiration to be one. I would also not
expect any ballet company to consider me seriously as a dancer or
choreographer just because I aspire to be one. I do not blame
"society" nor do I blame those who took the arduous path tha= t led to
their success for my not being a ballerina. At age 15, I traded in my
tutu and ended up with a dozen, prestigious, jewelry-industry, design
awards, including two consecutive DeBeers awards. Playing it safe? Not
so much. Wrong path? Not so much.

Hard work, plenty of it!
Sincerely,

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext.228


#12

Hallelujah, you took the words out of my mouth but expressed it so
much more eloquently. I truly do not understand when people put down
others endeavors A very old and wise person once told me that “when a
man knocks another to the ground it is so he can feel bigger and more
important, because if he stood toe to toe with the other person, he
would not measure up but would be found wanting”. Ones own
accomplishments should be what makes a person feel good about
themselves, they should not have to belittle or downgrade others to
accomplish that. For in doing so, they truly show they do not
measure up to that which they lay claim to.

Carolyn M.


#13
one would be hard-pressed to find a single soul who does not
consider David Yurman, Elsa Peretti and Jean Schlumberger
"designers". 

No, actually you won’t be hard pressed at all to find a single soul
because I’m more than happy to state that David Yurman has about as
much original design talent as a turtle. I’m also not a big fan of
Elsa Peretti. David Yurman stole all of his ideas from a bunch of old
Celtic designs and his greatest talent is the ability to patent
unoriginal ideas and spend huge amounts of money defending those
patents. I’m sorry, but torque necklaces and bracelets were made more
than 1000 years ago and all he did was patent them. Elsa Peretti
tends to be exceedingly simplistic and her designs can be easily
duplicated by any first year jewelry student.

Oh and by the way, these three had no formal jewelry training and
were never bench jewelers. 

And that’s why they have no real design talent in jewelry. They
never spent any time on the bench. 75% of the people on Orchid have
more design talent than either Peretti or Yurman.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
@Daniel_R_Spirer
www.spirerjewelers.com


#14

I wish you would reread what I posted. You totally misinterpreted
it. If you had read my previous posts you would have seen that I
never said you did not need the training to be a bench jeweler. What
I said is that there are many types of jewelry design, some in
forming metal into jewelry, some in bead stringing. All of it starts
out with basic knowledge and as one develops skills and becomes more
educated they become better designers. The problem I had with his
statements was that, according to him, only ones who sits at a bench
working on metal or cutting gems after much formal education can be
called, in his opinion, a “jewelry designer” (I have yet to see that
written in stone anywhere). I feel anyone who trains in any field of
jewelry making and practices it over time until they become skilled
in THEIR FIELD of jewelry making is entitled to be called a jewelry
designer. I am not being defensive, simply disagreeing with his
definition of what a jewelry designer is. Not everyone who disagrees
is defensive. I feel when one has to cut down or denigrate another
persons field of work that is snobbery. While I am not a bead
stringer, I have seen those who are, do such wondrous work that
required tremendous skill not only in color design but in workmanship
that was far more beautiful than things I have seen that were made by
pounding metal or setting stones. I am not saying that those who do
metal or gem work are not skilled just that one does not have to put
the other persons profession down to elevate themselves.

Carolyn M.


#15

Cameron,

I agree with you 110% I have little training, but create jewelry. I
am an artist that works in many mediums, metal, stones, paint, pen
and paper. I am not bogged down by titles and whatevers.

Where I live, they say that I am a crazy artist type, but I am THEIR
crazy artist type. That makes me feel really great, beyond warm and
fuzzy.

Sometime in the next week or two I will be thinning down nickel to
use in jewelry, mokume and other things I want to make, while trying
to figure out where I am going to build my brick forge (1500 bricks,
4’ x 8’ plus chimney), I do tradional blacksmithing. Then on to other
projects.

Over this coming summer we are going to put in two new building and
then start planning my bronze foundry.

The way I learned to do most things is by trial and error,
imagination and reading books. I do talk to a lot of people when I am
at a gathering on how they have done things.

We used to live in a community, where people kept saying that they
have to think outside the box to get things done. So far they haven’t
gotten much done. I keep telling them that I live outside the box.

I gave up a large suburban home, stores 10 minutes away, three really
good customers 20 minutes away with cash, to a smaller home with
land, all to live my dream of my art. I am much happier and more
productive.

Oh Salaries for designers, I don’t know what would be. I haven’t had
a salaried position in over 10 years. But my Dunns shows me at 512K.

Jerry


#16

I have a question for Nanz. If someone designs jewelry that they
then create themselves, are they a designer?

As readers of her magazine are well aware, not all jewelry making
requires being an expert bench jeweler. Art Jewelry seems to be
directed at people with a background in either beadwork or wirework
who are looking to expand their skills into metalsmithing and some
alternative materials/methods. Nanz’s post seems to imply that
people at this skill level can never claim to be designers, no matter
how much jewelry they design and execute - even if they make their
living off their designs/products.

It is clear to me that someone who renders designs that have serious
flaws when it comes to creating the product is a bad designer. What
isn’t clear to me is how designer/makers who never deal with a bench
jeweler or manufacturer fit in. It’s obviously a different kind of
designing; is there a more appropriate title for this type of
jewelry design?

Leah (who does a little fabrication but more wirework)
www.michondesign.com
@Leah2


#17

Hi Cameron;

one would be hard-pressed to find a single soul who does not
consider David Yurman, Elsa Peretti and Jean Schlumberger
"designers". 

I guess I’m gonna take credit for being that solitary soul. Of
course, I don’t expect anyone to side with me. It’s all a matter of
opinion, right? Actually, in my book, the proof is in the pudding.
All these people you mention have accomplished is to become
successful marketers of their products. They’ve not achieved any
pinnacles in terms of their designs. More people listen to Barry
Manilow than to Bethoven, and it means nothing. And I think I could
find a lot of people who’d agree with me on that. Go ahead, call them
designers. Call Louis the bricklayer from Hoboken an architect, if
you please. John-Francois Albert is a designer. Lalique was a
designer. Elsa Peretti is not much better in my opinion than Paloma
Picasso, who is clearly a poseur. Sorry, I’ve just seen way to much
really good jewelry design, and it seldom makes it to the top of the
charts because it’s all about the stroke, you know… the ability to
garner the attention, not that the product necessarily deserves it.
Want to know what’s at the heart of my distain for so many
"designers"? They remind me of the computer gamers who want computer
games to be in the Olympics. Get a few pairs of pliers and a Fire
Mountain Gems catalog and suddenly you think you’re on the same page
as the kind of designer Nanz is talking about? I expect that kind of
naievete from beginners, and that’s ok, as long as they don’t cop an
attitude around me. Pesonally, I would rather have the respect of
those I look up to, and David Yurman ain’t one of them.

David L. Huffman


#18
Finally, irrespective of what one thinks of their work, one would
be hard-pressed to find a single soul who does not consider David
Yurman, Elsa Peretti and Jean Schlumberger "designers". Oh and by
the way, these three had no formal jewelry training and were never
bench jewelers. 

David Yurman was a struggling jeweler before a trip to Ireland and
his re-interpretation of ancient Celtic jewelry slowly brought him to
fame. Personally, I think someone like Paula Crevoshay is a better
example of a talented jewelry designer who is creative, not a bench
person, and successful both as a industry spokesperson, and as an
artist. Some of the best “designers” re-interpret classic work.
Within the industry there has always been the pressure to stay within
safe boundaries and produce derivative work. I was in the industry
during the Mood Ring frenzy. Peretti’s bean was popular then, too.

While Yurman, Peretti, and Schlumberger may be famous jewelry
designers, that really doesn’t mean that they are at the top of the
field in innovation, just because they were successful at marketing,
or have name recognition through industry backing… They are not
among my personal favorites.

Rick Hamilton


#19

Thank you Cameron, for expressing a different opinion.

I got a bit intimidated by all the posts stressing the importance of
the bench experience before getting to the designer level. I
understand the importance of education and wish that I did have the
opportunity to have formal jewelry training. However, being a refugee
from Russia, it was decided by my family that I go into a 'secure’
field of Computer Science. After getting MA with awards and honors
from Boston University and working in the field for 6 years I slowly
started to switch to designing and making jewelry. Most of what I
learned in the process was from the books and from your posts, dear
Orchidians. I took a 4 month Silversmithing evening class from a
local college, which made me realize that all the book knowledge can
never match the hands-on experience. Theoretically, I knew
everything that was taught in class and much more. But those simple
tricks that I was shown - made all the difference in how well and how
fast I could accomplish a task.

I do feel the lack of bench experience, especially when I have to
rely on my caster to produce some of the components that I designed
or when trying to work around some idea when I know that I lack the
technical skills and/or the speed to make it. If I had time and money
I would go back to school to study jewelry design and manufacturing.

Time is especially an issue for me. After going through a couple of
life shaking experiences last year I came to the real understanding
that life doesn’t go on forever. I’m trying to live it as if it might
end in a couple of years. I might have another 50 years or only 2
left (of course a brick could fall on my head tomorrow, but I find
that giving myself that little time is dysfunctional :slight_smile: ). If it’s
only two years I have left, I want to make as many of my own jewelry
pieces as I can and build a successful business. I regret the fact
that I don’t have the luxury of spending the time to acquire another
degree. With all my professional limitations, for the past 6 years I
have been passionately pursuing my dream full-time, designing and
making jewelry. May be I wouldn’t be able to get a job as a jewelry
designer working for a big company, but I wouldn’t want to work for
any company (jewelry or other) anyway. If I am ever pressed for the
benefits provided by a 9 to 5 company job, I would get something in
IT field.

Right now, I consider myself very lucky to do what I love and earn
money from it. I am not a senior software engineer, Computational
Linguist or Web Developer even though I have qualifications and
experience to be one. I am a jewelry designer, because of what I do
and not because of my potential ability or the lack of it to get a
job with that title. Whether I am a good or a bad designer is a
different issue.

Regards to all,
Ruslana


#20
consider David Yurman, Elsa Peretti and Jean Schlumberger
"designers". Oh and by the way, these three had no formal jewelry
training and were never bench jewelers. 

Yes but they hire designers who know the business, which validates
your point that if you truly follow you dream there’s always a way.

Respectfully,
Tess