Why would a professional jeweler not agree that a qualification
system is needed in the industry? Is our trade less complicated
than of electricians or plumbers? The must have a certification
to practice their professions and are proud of that title. I
would not let anyone other than a Certified Subaru Mechanic work
on my Outback.
I welcome the opportunity to qualify for one of the
certifications offered by JA. If I can not quality for the top
title, then I do not have the knowledge and skills needed for
that title. I must then accept a title of lesser level of
accomplishment. Then I will work on my skills and speed for the
next attempt for the top.
I interview potential employees who are jewelry school graduates
and do not have the skills nor speed to achieve the income they
expect. They do not have the ability to weld platinum or gold
without the use of solder. When I show them how it’s done, they
are amazed. With a certification system, I can easily know the
skill level of the potential employee without wasting my time or
theirs. Many of the jewelers in our industry, purchased some of
the tools from a vendor, took the suppliers three day seminar
and now they are jewelers. Some are Master Jewelers who never
sat at the bench, their name is over the door of their retail
store and that qualifies them for the title.
I do not have an art degree form a prestigious institution of
higher learning. I received a two year watch repair degree from
Oklahoma State and worked as a watchmaker for two weeks after
graduation. My real enjoyment was working in metal. I used the
secondary jewelry training as my start in the jewelry industry.
I worked five years in a 12 jeweler trade shop. It was in the
trade shop that I was re-trained in jewelry manufacturing and
repair. My instructors had 30 to 40 years at the bench. If I
could call anyone a Master Jeweler, those were the masters.
They were second and third generation bench jewelers. Their
skilled hands callused and worn from the bench work, but their
minds were so full of knowledge. They never worked the retail
counter, their love was the bench work.
We had a jewelry designer on premise, his skill was working on
paper not with metals and he was one of the best jewelry artist
I have known… He had no idea what we were talking about when we
were looking a No. 2 flat bastard. His ideas started the
production of a jewelry item and our work, in the shop, finished
This time was before Stuller and the vast availability of styles
of findings. We fabricated mountings, wire settings, shanks,
broach clasp and box clasp. We made die struck illusion tops and
filigree mountings. I made the steel dies using a pantograph
machine and acetate templates. We worked without the aid of a
computer, using only dividers, protractors and a straight edge.
This was making jewelry, not casting from a wax model or from
some freeform wax object. We did not have a casting machine,
only cuttle bone, a metal cylinder and casting sand.
At present I don’t fabricate my basic mountings, or cut the
stone seats with a graver and burnish the stones using a hand
burnisher. I now cast using a perforated flask casting machine,
three hour burnout, cutting the seats burs and channel set using
a Graver Max. However, I still have the knowledge and skills
necessary to do the work using the old methods.
In present time, the “Jewelry Designer” usually does not have
the skills necessary to produce the article in metal form or set
the stones. Let’s give the bench jeweler the credit that he/she
has worked so hard to attain. If one can meet the requirements,
then they have paid their dues and deserve our congratulations.
I am a professional jeweler with 30 years at the bench and proud
of my accomplishments. I do not call my self a master jeweler,
but hope to be a certified jeweler in the near future.
Those of you who look at the JA Certification as an insane
movement should let industry set the standards for the
professional title. Without the skilled and professional
jewelers, where would the designers be sitting? At the bench?
Lets all work to gain the respect of the public and recognition
of our accomplishments from of our peers.
Roger W. Kitchens
Jewelry Manufacturing, Repair and Restoration