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Tabulation of Years of Experience

Hi all,
In a recent posting, a job was offered with the requirement of 5
years of bench experience. Pretty straightforward.

Here’s my question. How does a self taught, working (either on
projects for people/money or for experimentation) jeweler calculate
their years of experience. Since we have no regulatory standards, such as
Europe and anybody with a saw (such as myself) can call themselves a
jeweler, does it rely upon retail employment, years of sales? Education?

I’ll use myself for an example and let the fates decide :slight_smile: Hmm, in
1992 I took my first jewelry class, then shortly after received my
teaching degree and began THAT career. However, I was smitten with the
metal bug and kept it up in my spare time, in earnest for the last two
years or so. I have finally (over the years) scraped enough materials and
stock to have a “bench” ( I built it last month…Cheers!) but basically
do the same things.

Although I may not be working on a selling or gallery piece, much of
the time I will be practicing those skills that count in the finality of a
piece, i.e. piercing, filing, finishing techniques. Does every time I
individually pick up a piece of metal and hone what skills I have as well
as experimenting with new skills ‘count’ towards a general statement of
experience? Do I have 6 years? 2 years? or 0? I know what I think, but I’m
extremely interested in the opinions of those in the industry/field who
have dealt with this question.

Not to exclude a single soul, but I’d be interested in Alan Revere’s
and Charles Lewton-Brain’s opinion, as an established jeweler educators
who deal with students and placing them in the industry. Well, that came
out much longer than I thought it would, but 'tis a question that I needed
to ask. I (as always), thank you for any response and enthusiastically
await any responses and will value all highly.

Yours in tutelage :slight_smile:
Terry Swift
Midwest, U.S. Corydon, where frankly, I’m in the middle of a train wreck
of the Farenheit and Humidity Lines!

Hi Terry,
A very good letter and one that expresses a most common situation for most
jewelers in North America (unless they came from Europe or elsewhere).

There is now a standardized testing system available in North America
developed by the Jewellers of America. Call them at 800-223-0673 (or
212-768-8777) and ask for a copy of their Program Guide for Bench Jeweler
Certification. They have the following levels of practical tests,
Bench Jeweler Technician Level one:, tests #1-#8 cost $585.00US
Certified Bench Jeweler : Level two, tests #1-#7 cost: $ 795 US
Certified Senior Bench Jeweler: Level three, tests #1-#5 cost: $795
Certified Master Bench Jeweler: Level four: tests #1-3 cost: cost $1050

There are also written tests at each level. Alan Revere contributed some
to its development as I understand and he has changed the curriculum of
his private Jewelry/Goldsmithing school to train towards these tests.

This is the first time that there has been any standardized testing
available in the jewlery field in North America (as I understand it one
can, by paying suitable fees in Europe, take the Masters tests in your own
field and get certified as a German Master for instance-perhaps someone
will correct me if I am wrong?). While Alan and I don’t agree with
everything in the tests, they at least provide a standard starting point.
Within six years or so these tests will really mean something in terms of
being hired in North America. There are about 28 Masters by now, and they
are justly proud of their achievement in having passed the test.

I would encourage any young person on the list who wants a goldsmiths
career working for companies to start saving to take these tests (you can
jump in at any level, you don’t have to start at the bottom-I believe you
can take the masters level right off, after a test to check your level…
And you have to hire (or otherwise pursuade) someone to proctor you as

And am I going to take them? Lets just say I think I’d have to practice a
bit first, and have to bone up on some procedures I am not familiar with.


Charles Lewton-Brain/Brain Press
Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada
Tel: 403-263-3955 Fax: 403-283-9053 Email: @Charles_Lewton-Brain

Metals info download web site:
Book and Video descriptions: Gallery page at:

Dear Terence,

            is it too simplistic to suggest that a year's

experience is 12 months? I regard myself as a professional working
jeweller. I also teach both jewellery design and technique. Perhaps it is
unnecessarily scrupulous to try to count how much time one actually spends
at the bench, “bashing, bending and burning”. I’d hate to have to deduct
all the time I spent simply daydreaming or nutting out what to do next as
"non-jewellery" time!

You’ve kept up your interest and work since 1992 - in my book that’s five
years’ experience. When it comes down to the final decision of whether one
is employable as a jeweller or not, it will be determined on whether one
can make what the employer requires - or not.

If anyone asks me how long I’ve been a jeweller, I count the time from
when I began my apprenticeship because I figure that’s when I began being
a jeweller. To be or not to be, that is the question…

Continue to be smitten, like the rest of us
Regards, Rex from Oz

Brad Severtson

-In responce To Terence. My first employer explained to a senior member
of the house that she was to seek my council in his absence because she
had one year of experience seven times and I had five years of experience.
I know that that doesn’t help but it still makes me smile…Years of
experience is just an indicator of skill level. Just as telling is the
amount of compensation being offered for the position. Today I worked a
seven hour day as a bench jeweler, for one of the countries largest
jewelers. My hourly rate of pay for the work I completed comes to a little
over $44.00 per hour. This was a remount event for an account I really
care about otherwise I don’t work saturdays. This was an easy day at the
mall. Skill level required… paltinum work, ring sizing, assembly and
fabrication, diamond setting all types.ability to work with sales people
and customers to reach a pleasing conclusion. Years of employment as bench
jeweler over twenty. Brad

If you has been making a living at doing jewelry at shows and out of
studio and makings ends meet that is a good start but the proof is in the
pudding, as they say, do you have a customer base, do you have people
coming to you (by word of mouth not massive advertising), do your
customers come back and bring a friend or a family member like mom or dad
to have you work your magic and make them something special? These are
things that ether make or brake you. In our industry/Art their are many
many folks that say they are jewelers, ask people on the street what their
idea of a jeweler is. We know that some people just buy and sell and tell
people that they made the items. Some people do commercial casting on
commercial waxes and call them their original pieces of art and say that
they sold the design to a company that is why it is in a catalog. We all
know stories. But the public is you best way of knowing if you are or not.
Just keep working on making, repairing and designing and the chances of
being a professional Artist/Jeweler are very high. It helps to love what
you do. Most jewelers I know love what they do. I sure do. I sure hope
that I have not tramped on casters and wax injectors toes, their is a
demand for commercial art in this world, and a demand for one of a kind.


I count from the first day of my first metals class. I was very active in
the industry from the start – I joined MJSA while in college, for ex.
The more important thing, is, can you do the job they are advertising? If
it’s an industry job and your exp. is more on the artistic and
creative…it might not be a good fit. If you don’t know how to size a
million rings a day, then the # of years is irrelevant. Regarding the
lack of regulation, etc., that’s why GIA, JA, and the Paris Junior College
came up with the bench test certification program.

Chicago, Illinois
Great Lakes