Terrified Jeweler

Good Evening Friends,

I’m going to be considered a bit of a crybaby. Recently I was
fortunate enough to secure a position as a goldsmith at a retail
jewelry store. The problem is I am the only goldsmith on the
premises and I am constantly terrified. I have about three solid
years of goldsmithing experience (spread out over the time frame of
about six years part time, on and off) and can do many different
aspects of the job (sizing, setting etc.). At my last position I
focused mainly on stone setting, so I felt reasonably ready for the

Unfortuately, every single day I am petrified. Am I going to break
something expensive? Will I get in over my head and not be able to
repair something? Will I make sonething worse and totally
un-repairable? Will a customer ask me something I can’t answer? What
if someone brings be something that I do not feel I have the ability
to reapair?

My employers have been very kind and understanding, but my pride is
on the line. I don’t want to let them down and I couldn’t stand it
if I let myself down. This is a fantastic opportunity that I am
thrilled to have, but I am having a hard time making the adjustment.
For instance, I had to set a rather large diamond today for a Friday
due date and I was almost beside myself with worry. I actually broke
out in hives. I set the diamond fine, and I feel good about my
craftsmanship, but it was horrible being so afraid.

It would be very helpful to me if anyone out there with a similar
experience could share some good advice. Tell me how you worked
through it and what I can do to help myself. Constructive advice
only please. If all you have to do is tell me to change careers,
please don’t bother replying.

This is very important to me and I really need everyones’ help.

Thank You,
Fraidy Cat

Fraidy, probably most of us have had these self doubts at one time
or another. New job jitters. I could relate a few horror stories but
that would be counterproductive right now. Take your time, plan each
move, think of what not to do then do what you should do. Don’t feel
you have to amaze everyone right off the bat, that’s what next week
is for!

Get comfortable with your new bench. I had to use an unfamiliar
bench for awhile, it was higher and I just could not get my soldering
rhythm right, and I was mortified by my perception of the quality I
was producing. But the bosses seemed OK with it. After analyzing what
was happening the cure was simply to raise the seat. After that I
could see the work at the angle I was accustomed to and things
started popping for me.

Good luck and stay calm.


After 30 years I still have fear factors. Like when the boss wants me
to hammer set a sunstone in a heavy cast bezel… It’s OK to be
scared. It’s not OK to let that fear run your life. So I’m glad you
don’t want to give up the job. Do you know anything about the law of
attraction? What you think about is what you get back. Or it could
be the toyota principle… you asked for it you got it. So many times
I think about something that could go wrong and poof it happens. Try
to keep your positive side up, Have faith in your employers wisdom in
hiring you and faith in your abilities. You have the ability or they
wouldn’t have hired you. And If you truly feel something is over
your head… tell them. They will appreciate and respect you for it.


Hello Fraidy Cat,

You Big Baby! Just Kidding! Great Post! Welcome, Welcome, Welcome!!!I
could not think of a better situation to be in so as to build your
confidence slowly while gaining the expertise necessary. We work in a
field that has people casually pick up a loupe and inspect our work
at 10x this is not for the faint of heart. Take one job at a time and
put it in the bank. This will become your reference for the I can do
this attitude necessary to function in this demanding trade. Your
concern is you want to do a good job and that’s whets necessary to
become a good Jeweler.Hang in there you have a large community of
trade people to bounce things off of and a lot of us will be
available if you need us offline or by phone. You can call for
support anytime! Contact me offline if you need. It’s all Good!

Bowing Deeply

Holy Smokes Belinda!


Hang in there - you took the job - so one part of you knew you could
do this. But most of us have a part of us that is always introducing
doubt into the actions we take in our lives.

I bet you are going to learn so much.

Soon you will be inconquerable.

With profound respect,
Donna Hiebert Design

Dear Belinda

Not so long ago i was in the same postion…I have had on and off
experience in deisgn and manufacture of fashion and fine jewellery of
about 5 years…I have been hried by an french-indian company as
their head jewellery designer and have moved from my home in South
Africa to India…I was and still am in certain instances terrified
of things I have been asked to do…knowing full well that i have the
capability to perform wach task…

The only thing i can suggest is to read a book called “the Zahir” by
Paulo Coelho…it is a fiction book that is filled with advice on
life and mostly what stands outinthis book is the impact fear has on
our lives…Read the book…if you can…ad read it again if u have
to…but read it…There is something in the book that teaches you to
take fear head on…in every little way…when u find yourself say u
cant for small jobs…do it anyway…practice at home if u have
to…if u have to make mock ups at home of just the setting…use
softer stones, do whatever u have to…dont let yourself get sucked
in by the fear of ur potential…I know where you are and I am in
that place myself…but u can choose to not be afraid…with small
steps…feel free to mail me off the thread at @raakhi_rana

All the best…

Raakhi Rana
Jewellery Designer


If you were’nt scared you’d be crazy…We as jewelers have the
weight of the world on us when working on a ring that cost more than
we make in a year…just know that prongs melt, stones break,
scrathes happen…we all learn lessons the hard way…your skills
improve so much after a melt down or crazy job…network with other
jewelers, talk through any hard procedures you are nervous about
doing,and most important do not let people rush you…at this
point you are’nt expected to be fast.

Lighten up and do 'nt be so hard on yourself,tension is the number
one cause of mistakes and mishaps…imop. Several friends and I have
been at this for 20+ yrs and we still call on one another for some
help, advice and bitch sessions.

Good luck
Lisa McConnell

OK, this isn’t so much a jewelry type answer but here goes. There is
a group of products on the market that are based loosely on
homeopathic medicine. They are called Bach flower remedies. You can
find on them at your local health food store, even some
pharmacies carry them. I am not going to get into an argument about
if they are quack medicine or not. However, you should read the
booklet about these products. They have been around for over 50
years, they are British. I know Doctors who use them and
Veterinarians as well. Like I said, read the literature and try
taking the Rescue Remedy and possibly another one as well. Give it 2
weeks, You will notice a difference.

If folks out there want to get into a big conversation about this
please don’t. I am offering an opinion based on my life experience
and that of friends, I don’t need to hear from you about differing
opinions. OK?

We can believe what we want, that’s what free choice is about.


First of all take some deep breaths. Those are severe anxiety
attacks you are having. hugs

You need to set yourself up a support system. If you need them
Orchid is here. Perhaps an experienced smith wouldn;t mind email
consults or phone help if something comes up then you have a way to
deal with it and consult someone. Don;t be so worried about appearing
foolish here or embarrassed. You can use you real first name no one
will point and laugh. I think most jewelers here would prefer to keep
all goldsmiths and people we can in the trade so don;t worry help is

Now Problem 1. realize that even though you are alone your employers
and the customers will respect you more if someone brings in a job
you cannot do immediately. You can learn. You can research it and ask
on orchid and get help to decide the best thing to do. But be honest
and say wow in my experience this will be a difficult thing to deal
with let me get back to you with an estimate of the best way to

3 years is more experience than I have and less than others, but it
is what you do with that experience. Remember the worst thing that
happened to you in the last 3 years? You are still here you are still
a goldsmith and no one I think(may be a tidbit topic) has died yet
from a bad jewelry design or repair. The worst that can happen is
loss of money. Money is replaceable.

Every day is learning. Relax you will do fine and if you make
mistakes you will learn from them.

When you feel the terror approaching there are ways to deal with it
one is to take deep breaths and remember something pleasant distract
your mind from the trauma and think of something serene if you give
your brain a chance it can start functioning positively again and
allow you to function.

If you need to you can email me off list I would be glad to talk to
you about the terror and ways to overcome it’s disabling aftermath.

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry

It would be very helpful to me if anyone out there with a similar
experience could share some good advice. Tell me how you worked
through it and what I can do to help myself. Constructive advice
only please. If all you have to do is tell me to change careers,
please don't bother replying. 

Well gee Belinda, you ask an impossible question. None of us are you.
That being the case, most of us won’t have your particular fears in
your particular way even though we might have experienced something
similar when just starting out. Although it is clear that your fears
are not completely irrational, it is also clear that you are
overreacting to the point of it possibly interfering with your job
performance and your health. The reasons for that lie in you. As I
don’t know you personally and this is a very personal situation, I
doubt whether my experience, or most others will be of too much
help. There really are no magic words.

I can offer all kinds of advice. FInd a job where you are not the
sole goldsmith on the premises seems to be the most obvious. That
wouldn’t be, “changing careers”, that would be changing jobs.
However, I think the best advice I could give you would be to go and
get some therapy. From the sound of the level of your fears, you
might need to do that sooner rather than later. Seriously. Speak to
someone who is actually trained to help you work through your fears.
All most of us are trained to do is make jewelry.

Lisa, (Out on the horse in the mountains most evenings. The shoulder
high grasses have turned golden, and the air has turned crisp and
cool) Topanga, CA USA

Dear Fraidy Cat,

It might help to actually write down on paper, in your own
handwriting (not computer) EXACTLY what you are feeling and then WHY
you are feeling that way. Sometimes, having to put the fear into
words helps to make it manageable. Once you have identified SPECIFIC
situations that cause discomfort, you can work on ways to dispel the
apprehension. The best way to do that, time proven, is to FACE the
fear and walk THROUGH it, then acknowledge what you have done and
praise yourself for it…then do it again…and again…and
again. This works for far more dangerous activities than setting a
stone, even going out the chopper door into a hot LZ (if you don’t
know what that means, don’t ask). You might, for example, buy a bunch
of glass stone imitations and practice setting them until you can do
twenty in a row without the slightest chip. If you can’t do that,
you need more training or experience…which comes from setting
more stones. With familiarity comes confidence, but I can also tell
you that it is sometimes a GOOD idea to seek professional help if
the fears are paralyzing you…that’s not normal and can be
overcome. Phobias can be crippling, but the good news is they can be
cured and set aside, too. Shouldn’t be anything embarrassing about
that at all.

Good luck, you’re gutsy for asking!!!

Wayne Emery

Cool that you would write that, I take on projects, routinely, that
scare the crap outta me. Setting diamonds is a real terrifying
ordeal, I am self employed and have no safety net. The projects
always sound great when I take them in then when it’s just me and
someone else’s diamond I wonder why the hell I took it in. Then I set
the thing and am alright. Last time I just had to trust that I could
do it, that it would turn out alright and I would call on all my
experience and knowledge and I would get teh job done. I was setting
a 3/4 carat in 18k white and they client had brought met the stone,
it was already paid for. I did the work and they loved it, that is
why I I took the job in the first place. Work through the worry, let
the universe take care of you and trust you can do it. There are good
stone setting schools out there, New Approach School I would go to in
a minute if I could. More knowledge can help, more experience, and
then just go for it. You will break stones, no doubt, talk to your
employer about that possibility. Being realistic with them will be to
your benefit, I always tell clients when they bring me a stone that
the stone may not survive but that I will do everything I can to
protect it. They always trust me and I have had some trouble with an
emerald which I had to replace, hell I’m only human.

Sam Patania, Tucson

My best advice to you is to relax, take a deep breath and take your
time. I was the same way when I was in school and they had us
working on lie repairs for faculty and other students. If you think
something is going to be too much talk to other people you know area
around you for help or advice for the specific project. You know you
are a good crafts person and obviously your employers believe that as
well or they would not have trusted you to be there by yourself.

Emily Halberg

Trust in your skills, it sounds like you know what you are doing!

Remember that things still happen, even to the best of us, and your
employer knows that (Might not be happy about it, but they know
it!). Relax and enjoy the job! You are doing something that VERY few
people can do, and even fewer can do well!

Jim Turner
Turner Jewelers
Pittsburgh PA

First - relax, they would not have hired you if you were not
qualified. Second, If it is a retailler with a large enough sales and
voluminous repair business tell the management or better yet, the
owner that you need an assistant with less experience to do less
complex tasks with less valuable materials ( like soldering catches
onto chains for example) and the benefits that would offer to the
customers and to the store’s profile.

It is hard to be the only bench jeweler in a place as you are
excluded from much of the daily "vibe’ of the business as you are
usually in the back somewhere, alone…so create your own reality in
that space…arrange it in a way that works for you and your body
mechanics, and speeds or otherwise increases your productivity by
placing equipment where you need it to be…however, don’t offer to
come in on your own time and do a project like this, you should be
paid for any improvements you make to their operation(s).

Saying, “be more confident in your abilities” is a pat, and trite
expression- but, perhaps if you have a line of your own that is
‘designer caliber’ and offers something more thatn stuller, or SE
Findings type pre-fabricated mountings, etc. you may approach the
store owner/management about incorporating your own high end work
into their offerings- this may be the kind of security producing,
affirmation recieving pat-on-the-back you seem to need at this
point. There should not be a question you can’t answer…you are much
more of an expert than the sales staff…at least that’s my
logic…even though they may make a higher sales commission than you,
you are the one that knows the materials and processes…and should
recieve a very fair salary based on the volume of business, the price
tier of the goods, and any special services out of the normal repairs
that you do for their customers…bench jewelers, particularly those
starting out, seem to take anything on, when in fact some things are
not standard repair for which you are being paid.

Regarding stone breakage:

A) you should know when to use heat shield fixtures, what stones need
to be removed before heating a setting

B) you should perhaps be dealing with the customers directly
regarding repairs on valuable, or percieved to be valuable
pieces.Before accepting a stone-set piece you should personally
inspect it with a loupe and cite any flaws, which should be
documented before the fact, and written clearly on the job envelope,
or container…also, if you don’t own a darkfield loupe, you should
suggest the firm purchase one. Then you know, certainly, what
material you are dealing with…the customer may think they have
moissanite, when in fact it is cz…and with people buying things on
ebay in the quantity they do, you can be assured that not all stones
are what they are billed as, or that someone has not read the fine
print before bidding on a too–good-to-be-true deal

C) more importantly, the store should have insurance to cover
accidental stone breakage. Some companies, like moissanite, and
retailers ( bailey, banks, and biddle for one) will replace stones
that break during normal usage.so it is good for you to discuss the
piece with the customer before hand to find out if the chipped stone
they are wanting reset, can be replaced before you even sit down at
your bench…in which case, you can arrange for the replacement stone
( in some cases) to be sent directly to you, rather than to the store
the customer purchased the piece from…you construct the setting and
then set the new stone…much easier than worrying about breaking
something already compromised.

D) establish a clear policy on repairs and ensure that all sasles
ataff are informed of any changes you need to have enacted on
exisitng policies.You are the Jeweler…they sell jewelry…you should
have the authority to accept or reject a repair piece or any custom
work that comes into the store.

I would also advise that you not let your employers know your level
of “worry” and stress…it’s not a professional personna to present.
If they think you can’t hack it, they’ll find a replacement… hope
this gives you more confidence.If you need or want more advice, etc.
email me off ganoksin and i’ll be happy to help.

Forget about money. Forget about value. Gold is yellow putty.
Platinum is white putty. Diamonds are white clear things of a certain
size and shape. That’s all they are. It’s not something you can just
wake up one day and do, but you need to get money/value out of your
mind, for peace of mind. It’s not the craftsmanship that’s got you,
it’s the money. “I have to work on this $50,000 thing, and smash it
with a hammer, and take a torch to it?!?!?” But it’s not a $50,000
thing to you, it’s white putty with clear things stuck into it, or
you’ll get the shakes, which I’ve seen many times. It will come over
time, but the only difference to me between a $100,000 item and a
repair job is what needs to be done to them, and the standards are
generally higher for high-value items. Otherwise, they are the same.
Ask a bank teller what they think about money - cash. They’ll tell
it’s these green sheets of paper that need to be counted all the
time. It very quickly ceases to be “money” and just becomes a chore.
It’s the same with goldsmithing - after awhile it’s just yellow putty
to be manipulated - the value has no meaning because it doesn’t, to
you at the bench. Lastly, I would suggest that if you get a job that
is truly beyond your skills, not just challenging but beyond, then
so. It’s way better to pass on it than to destroy it (and lose your


It is much worse to turn down a wonderful opportunity because of
fear, than to take the job and make a few errors. The former you will
regret all your life and the latter you will learn from and become a
better jeweler.

Will E.

First of all I think being a little scared is a good thing, after 25
years of this I still get a little knot in the stomach when I set a
large stone especially an emerald or tanzanite. Being a little
scared makes you slow down and be a little more careful. When you get
the big job just do it don’t sleep on it because it will just get
bigger and scarier in the middle of the night. Even if you do chip a
large diamond it is not usually very bad and can be fixed for very
little. It is not like you are going to waste a $25,000.00 diamond.
When the next one comes along just remember that you just set one
like it the other day, that might make it easier. On the questions
you can’t know everything just keep reading and learning, if you
don’t know something look it up for them, they will respect that. You
also have the owner of the store to back you up. If the store is up
to buying new equipment get a stone setting scope, you can find them
on the internet for about $650.00. I absolutely love mine and use it
all the time. I always thought I could see good with my visor, was I
wrong. The odds are against you as a jeweler you are going to break
something one day it happens to us all. Just deal with it and go on
and fix it.

Good luck
Bill Wismar

Unfortuately, every single day I am petrified. Am I going to break
something expensive? Will I get in over my head and not be able to
repair something? Will I make sonething worse and totally
un-repairable? Will a customer ask me something I can't answer?
What if someone brings be something that I do not feel I have the
ability to reapair? 

First, I would say, be honest with yourself and others-- if you
really don’t feel up to a job, fess up and don’t do it. If you
aren’t sure and think you probably can do it, go ahead. Deep
breathng may help your nerves, and you will probably calm down over
time as your record of success adds up.

If there is someone-- a mentor-- you can call for advice or moral
support, that will help as well. If there is time, of course, you
can post here for advice.

Last, if your heart races, you might consider asking your doctor for
a beta blocker. These help prevent over-rapid heart rate, and are
commonly used by people who get stage fright when they have to speak
in public. After a while, I’m sure you will not need them.

And by the way, the answer to all the above questions is “yes”. Your
mistake is in thinking that the answer should be “no”. Everybody
screws up sometimes. As you learn how to fix your screw-ups, you
become truly capable. But you are not a fraud, even if you can’t do
everything. You are human. It is very liberating to realize that you
can admit that occasionally and the world will not end.


FEAR = Fanaticized Experiences Appearing Real !!!

Have any of your fears happened? If one did (break a stone, chip a
stone, melt a prong, etc) what would the outcome be? Is your life on
the line? Are you going to die? etc.

You are capable of doing the work and if something comes along that
you are not sure about, get on the list and ask for some input.

If you really want do work on this, see if you can find a limbicist
(a person who can work on your Limbic System {primitive brain area})
in the phone book and get what ever is causing you this “fear” out
of your system. This is what I/we would do if we were reacting to
something like this. Sounds weird if you are not familiar with Limbic
work, but from personal experiences and experiences of other in my
family and friends. It does work for seemingly odd problems such as
you are experiencing.

John Dach

No affiliation with this area of body/mind health work, just one who
has been helped by it over the years.