I want to thank those that have responded so far. I've been
doing a lot of thinking after I posted and if I am going to do
this, I'll probably want to take the Revere stone setting classes.
I'm in Sacramento so its a relatively short drive... I have some
money saved up, and we are committed to make it work, we just don't
know if it can be done or what way would be best to do it in. I've
been thinking of taking the 1st and 2nd Stone Setting classes at
Revere and then take their repair classes before going back for
more stone setting classes after I earn a little bit and get more
experience. I figured this would give me a more rounded experience
and allow me to take in repairs also. Would this be enough?
Wow… In a nutshell, it’s a start, but so many hours need to be
spent at the bench… You need to set thousands of stones, develop
your techniques. I think the most important thing here is, where is
the work coming from? My two cents here is, I’d look for a
manufacturer that could contract work to you on a regular basis.
It might help to know something of how setters and bench jewelers
were trained in the past. Back when I apprenticed (71 to 75), there
was a method in union shops (yes there was the International Jewelry
Workers Union then). There were 7 levels of capacity within the
system. Lets see if I can still remember them all. I think it was
assumed that each level had mastery of all levels beneath it, but
this was not a requirement.
Top level - Diamond Setter
2nd level - Model Maker (fabrication - wax carving...)
3rd level - badge maker - engraver (die engraver - press operator)
4th level - repair
5th level - assembly - polishing
6th level - caster - mold maker
7th level - filer (prepares castings for polishing and assembly)
Maybe some other old timers here can correct me if I’ve made a
mistake or two…
Anyway, the point is, the diamond setter was the top level position
and one of the most respected positions in the shop, and one of the
most difficult to master. So you see, you’re considering quite a
challenging path. You can certainly do it, but be prepared to find
teachers where ever you can find them. Many of us learned by sitting
next to workers better than our selves, 8 hours a day, for years…
Even then, it was a challenge. I was very lucky to study under some
extremely fine old setters in S.F., including the original
setter/model-maker/platinum-smith for Granat Bros. (Charles Delong)
who was in his 90’s at the time. He taught me the method of
pre-cutting bright cuts by having me beadset and pave’ rhinestones
into rolled out nickels! Talk about challenging! That man was a
So please, develop some relationships, at least ONE, with shops that
can feed you setting work on a regular basis until you gain enough
mastery to forge ahead on your own. Take ANY kind of setting you can
do to get your foot in the door. I suggest you start with prong
setting. I used to prong set for 25 cents a stone in the very
beginning (earrings mostly), not that you should, but the point is
you need to start out with a shop, and maybe to give a highly cut
rate to get the work in the very beginning to get the work. You’ll be
competing against shops that are hard pressed to get enough work to
keep their employees busy, but there is definitely work to be had.
Bead setting and bright cutting requires a LOT (think in terms of
years) of practice to develop the particular hand and forearm muscles
used, and to learn the techniques of tool shaping and sharpening, and
the all the various techniques required. I remember one setter I used
to sit next to. He had forearms like Popeye! He could either do a
bright cut or raise a bead in one pass. This guy was strong, and an
extremely fast setter. At that time, he had been bead setting
exclusively for about 20 years.
Regarding potential income, I wouldn’t count on it to bring in much
in the beginning. After a few years of setting, and developing
relationships with your customers, you might make a livable income,
but it’s tough!
To find prices, go to all the local stores and talk with anyone who
will talk with you. Also find all the trade shops in your area and
talk with anyone there who will talk with you. Most stores will have
price lists given to them by various trade shops, but will most
probably NOT give you any work until you can show them samples of
your setting mastery. Even then, it may be difficult to get work even
at cut rates. Do meet and talk with everyone in the trade you can.
The work will come from relationships you develop, and will continue
based on the quality of your setting, your pricing, and keeping
promised delivery dates!
I applaud your spirit, and I wish you all the luck in the world.