Starting my career in jewlery

Happy New Year!

I am a newbie, both to the List and the Industry, and I have a
seemingly simple question to pose. How do I into this industry?

I have taken what I see as he logical first step and enrolled in the
GG, GJ program at GIA, in residence. Here I am, a year later, with
my GG diploma in hand with my GJ soon to follow, and some experience
on the sales floor. I have moved across the country, invested a good
deal of both time and money in this endeavor, and now it’s about
time to find the job to payoff my incurred debt.

My love affair with metals started in a poorly equipped High School
art room, with teachers that knew the minimum to get you started.
While their knowledge of the art may not have been the greatest,
their desire to nurture me through my explorations of the media was
tremendous! But I never felt that I had the talent to become a

Several years into my long winded collegiate ordeal, I decided to
take an intro level Jewelry class. I picked up right where I left
off, loving every minute of my time spent there. That professor felt
I had the talent and offered to set me up with a local jeweler as an
apprentice, but I failed to see in myself what he saw in me. I was
mistaking talent with knowledge, and decided that I would always
have metals as a hobby.

As time progressed, I ended up taking a part time sales position in
a mall based store in the mid-west. I figured that my passion for
the products would make up for my lack of general knowledge of
stones and jewelry. I was sorely wrong. As it turns out, it is VERY
difficult to sell something to the luxury market if you have no idea
what you are talking about. But the fire had been re-ignited. At 28
years old, I finally figured out that I had known all along what I
wanted to be when I grew up, a Jeweler.

One thing lead to another, and I ended up at GIA within six months
of learning of it’s existence. One of my fellow students turned me
on to this list (Thanks Chris!) and I have been avidly reading
since. As I’ve seen the names over and over again, and tried some
of the tricks and tips, I have come to trust the members of this
list. And that is why I torture you with this long winded query.

I guess the better phrasing of the question would be, If in my
shoes, how would you proceed? What tips, ideas, or warnings do you
have for me?

Thanks in Advance!
Jim Turner

Hello Jim: Building a career is a process. You start out small or at
a low level job and work yourself up the ladder. Every step you take
is a chance to learn and get better at your craft. There are many
different directions you can go from where you are now. I think
working for another designer is the best education you can get. You
can learn the business of design and production while earning a

Good luck!
DeDe Sullivan
dedemetal jewelry
PR 101 for Jewelry Designers

Dear Jim, if you can tell me what you want to do as a jeweler I
perhaps can help. If you are in the Tucson area, come to the Orchid
dinner. Sam Patania, Tucson @Patania_s

There are so many ways to make money in this business, it would seem
that first you should find one part of the business that you really
love. Do you want to be a bench jeweler for someone else? Or to
sell fine jewelry? Or design fine jewelry? Or make art jewelry of
the caliber of the ACC shows? Or teach in a public or private
school? Or cut stones, or be a stone dealer? Or manage a jewelry
store? Or create CAD systems for jewelers? Or run a casting shop? Or
a job shop? Or appraise jewelry? Or do the art fair circuit? Or sell
in galleries? Or run a gallery? And that just touches the surface.

Your GG from GIA gives you the tools to identify and value
and with the GJ, you have the capability to create and
repair fine jewelry. That’s a pretty small part of the picture. ( I
have my GG too and appreciate the education.)

I got into this business from a love of beautiful one of a kind hand
made jewelry. In the corporate world, for twenty some years, I
spent massive amounts on fabulous jewelry from a goldsmith in
California. I wanted to know more about the stones she used, and
she told me to go to GIA. I signed up to learn. I got laid off, and
decided I didn’t want to do corporate America any more.

My connection with GIA got me into a local gemological organization.
While I loved the stones, I knew I wanted to wear them so I first
took a basic adult education class in jewelry making, then found a
really good professor in a local community college. The class had
some long time students that sold jewelry twice a year in a two day
event at the college. Some of them also sold at a local art and
craft fair. I wheedled my way into their booth a couple of times,
and met more people selling the art fair circuit. I stuck my neck
out, bought a Sams club tent, bought some leftover tables from a
closing business, put some skirts on the tables, and became a
carney. Over the years, I’ve acquired a soulmate in design and we do
most everything together. (I only regret that my husband has
absolutely no interest in stones, jewelry, or anything related - it
would be really nice to do all of this with him.)

Today I make a comfortable living in the business. I make jewelry,
sell jewelry, wrote a book on tumble finishing, teach a senior
citizens class in metalsmithing, show in a bunch of galleries, do
about a dozen art fairs each year, take care of a small but growing
clientele for one of a kind jewelry and teach classes in the
business of art, and in marketing and pricing. I also sell stones
to local college students and import stones and rocks from
Scandinavia. And I love every minute.

Which is the long way of saying - find some folks doing what you
like, and hang out with them. Listen, offer to help. Go to stores,
galleries, craft and art fairs, ACC and Rosen shows. Listen to
people, get involved in everything you can find that even touches
the business. Buy a hammer, and a torch and make something. Make
another something. If you want to be a jeweler, make jewelry.
Figure out where you fit, try it all. You can’t miss, this is a
truly wonderful world.

Judy Hoch, G.G. @Judy_Hoch (Site needs work)