[thoughts] new jewelry business

The jeweler is one of the lower paid skilled trades, yet it
takes much longer to learn it that many trades, i.e. brick
layer, carpenter, machinist. In the U.S., the industry has used
wave after wave of immigrant labor to keep the labor costs down.
That’s why you see so many groups of nationalities in different
ages of stores. The Irish are one of the oldest. The Jewish
have been there from very early on. Armenians, various middle
eastern, came later. We started to get a lot of Russians coming
into the trade, but I think the next wave will be asian.
Mexican labor is extensive on the west coast, but that’s not
indicative of much more than the large Mexican population there.
In Michigan, we have the largest middle eastern population
outside of the middle east, hence, wages here are lower than
neighboring states. Lot’s of jewelers came through Canada from
Lebanon, once a wealth

The conditions in your photo I would find hard to catagorize as
deplorable no one in the photos looked to be in a state of
starvation.If you want to see the human condition at its lowest
point go to Angola where they have had a civil war going on for
25 years and no one works OR eats.Where slavery still exists as
does true pestulance,genocide and rape.Any time cut large volumes
of stone or shell you will have dust and debris.Better to work
in an open air shop than closed in as they still do in some shops
of the south western United States.I have cut stone in conditions
very similar to what you have shown only closed in.There are
people that are mining coal in the southeastern part of our
country that may eventually die from black lung.The coal they
mine gives many of us electricity.Any one want to unplug in
support of their deplorable working conditions?I think not! Best
J Morley Coyote Ridge Studio

I think the question is, how can we best distinguish our work
from that of third-world sweatshops in the eyes of an uninformed
public. Native Americans in the Southwest were up against the
same problem in the 1930s. The market was flooded with cheesy,
made in Mexico or oversees, imitation southwestern silver. The
Hopi and Navaho artisans could not compete except by producing
low quality in higher volume. In the late 1930s, the Indian Arts
and Crafts Board was formed. The Board would allow it’s stamp
only on pieces which met certain criteria: Native American made,
hand fabricated, hand polished stones. This helped an uneducated
public distinguish between mass-produced tourist shlock and
authentic, hand-made, native-american jewelry, and created a
market that allowed and encouraged Native Americans to produce
fine jewelry.

Perhaps we as jewelers and lapidaries need to take a similar
path, and form a guild which would allow it’s trademark only on
pieces meeting certain criteria such as no sweatshop labor,
crafted by the designer, etc. What do you think?

Lee Einer

Dear David, I’ve been following this dialogue about the plight
of bench people and designers and have noticed that the typical
complaint is that of a person who is DEPENDENT…dependent
on someone else to write out the salary check, dependent on
someone to pay the rent, dependent on someone to pay the taxes,
dependent on someone to generate the business, dependent on
maintaining cash flow during slow business periods, dependent on
dealing with difficult customers. I could go on with this train
of thought ad infinitum, but, here’s the rub ! Running the
business is infinitly more challenging than producing the
product. I do both and I can assure you that working at the
bench is a picnic compared to running the business.As a matter
of fact, I really enjoy my time at the bench compared to the
latter. Keeeping a small business afloat is one of the greatest
challenges a person can face. The reward…INDEPENDENCE!
Ron Mills at Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, CA.

It is my understanding that JCK polls their constituents and
uses those figures to create the figures they use in their salary
and wages reports. If their readers are mostly small retailers
(which is what most of us in this newsgroup are!) then this is a
true reflection of what a jeweler should expect to get paid if he
works for a company similar to the ones responding to the survey.
As the son of a statistician, I can understand fully that
numbers can be manipulated, however I don’t see why JCK has a
vested interest in manipulating them. Are you saying they are
on management’s side and therefore they are trying to force the
employees to accept lower wages? If you are, then I think you
are a little paranoid. I believe that the figures ARE a
representative sampling, and I can back that up by looking at
what I pay and what the other jewelers I know pay and are paid
for their help.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

Thank you for your voice of reason. Theresa I whole heartedly
agree.So you boycott costume jewelry in the Philipines.The head
honcho making it just shifts his attention elswhere it would be
nothing more than an emotional response with no effect except on
those whom you think you are saving from YOUR perception of
evil.Before we jump in and try to rescue humanity we should all
consider the implications the big picture if you will.If we as a
people want to rescue human beings that are being enslaved none
of us should be on the internet or use computers or drive
cars.China a country that has one of the biggest human rights
abuse records in the modern world manufactures not only those
products but everything under the sun.I see something slightly
hypocritical in wanting to boycot costume jewelry and venting
your concerns using a computer that has some part of it
manufactured by “slaves”.While you sit there typing wearing shoes
and clothes made by "slaves and your kids are in the other room
playing with toys made by "slaves."Sorry hypocricy does that to
me. Happy Trails

I noted with interest your conversation concerning jeweler’s
wages in the posting " ( thoughts) new jewelry business."

I wanted to respond as you mentioned our website (
www.CGroup1.com) in your posting and because I believe a number
of your comments have merit.

I certainly agree that wages are on the rise- it’s a simple
matter of supply and demand. The unemployment rate is at a 28
year low and many of our client companies are coming to the
realization ( albeit grudgingly) that to be competitive in the
marketplace they must be willing to compensate their employees
at a fair market value or face losing them to their competitors
up the street. I should add that we have turned down a number of
recruiting assignments from companies who aren’t realistic to
the realities of the marketplace.

In fairness to our clients, many of them do offer benefit
programs ( health, dental,etc.), profit sharing and/or
retirement programs which really can amount to a substantial
amount of money.

We would be happy to answer any questions you might have in this
area to include a salary survey based on actual salaries paid to
individuals we’ve placed. If this would be a benefit to the
group please let us know.

Vic Davis, our Jewelry Division Director, or myself would be
willing to make ourselves available to you to answer any
questions as it relates to the field of employment, wage/salary,
resume building,etc.

Best Regards,

Scott R. Christiansen
The Christiansen Group, Inc.
888-658-2400-toll free

David hello! Your right! I was recently told a master jeweler
being a master in just about any other trade would be paid,
without question in the area of $70,000.00 and up. There are a
lot of reasons for our wage plateau. Not the least of which is
ourselves. I went to the last jewelers union meeting in Seattle
in the seventies. We are not represented by a strong union, nor
do we collectively or individually agree on what our wages
should be. I was really hoping the JA bench tests were going to
help define our skill levels and help with wages.Patience is a
virtue. When is JA going to start the training program for
salespeople? Anybody know? I can go to many trades and services
and find salespeople for the most part, adequate knowledge and
I just wish there was a higher level of knowledge
at the retail counter. Don’t miss understand me; there are
plenty of competent and phenomenal sales professionals. My point
is the standard is low when compared to other trades and service
sales people. Unfortunately the “know your product” philosophy
is quite vast when understanding our business from the sales
floor. Much the same as being a jeweler. There is a lot to both

I do know there would be a lot more work, and a lot fewer
clarifications on job tasks if there were some training
involved. I think piling this on the trade shop owners etc. is
inadequate. Several of the guys I know won’t do it anymore; they
let the salespeople go right about when they are knowledgeable!
Sure, they move on with thae knowledge to another store. One
man’s opinion.

For those who might be less familiar w/the marketplace dynamics
for JCK-I’d like to echo and amplify David Huffman’s comments.
I used to believe the magazines’ wage surveys were straight up
(if somewhat over-symplified)for many years. However, when I
was in New York for several years I began buying the MJSA Wage
and Benefits White Paper (which they will sell non-members for
"only" 75 BUCKS…). The JCK writers use this source for their
annual wage articles, and in each of the last 2 years it has
been very obvious that they are slanting and “summmarizing” the
to downplay and conceal building pressure for higher
compensation for benchpersons. Bear in mind-THEY’RE ONLY HERE
general they are a fine magazine that has led the way in raising
the visibility of jewelry design and innovation, and I believe
they honestly try to convince their readers to offer more
benefits to their employees-but their paying customers AREN’T
US. One thing that keeps tickling the back of my mind is that
with the creation of this forum, the development of skill
certification structures, and the internet, the forces in the
the marketplace may finally be coming together to make a union
for benchworkers in the U.S. a possible reality. With top wages
for benckworkers as low as they are; and entry level wages as
big a DISincentive as they are qualified benchpersons with good
educations and creativity are getting scarcer and scarcer on the
ground every day. The industry has gone just about as far as it
can to import less well educated foreign workers or find other
stopgap solutions to bench staffing problems. Rhode Island has
reportedly lost 30% of its trained bench force to other
industries in the last few years. MAYBE ITS TIME FOR US TO GO

One additional thing should be done, and that is to publicize
the conditions under which third-world, sweatshop jewelry is
made, and the identities of those distributors and "designers"
who sell sweatshop jewelry. The root problem here is that the
industry accepts outsourcing to third-world sweatshops as a
legitimate practice, and the public is largely unaware and
unconcerned. If the public is made aware of the unsafe
conditions, starvation wages, child labor, etc associated with
sweatshop jewelry, that jewelry won’t look so pretty. Consumers
will begin looking elsewhere to buy, and industry practices will
have to change.

Next question is, how to educate the public on this issue. Any

Lee Einer

Right On Richard!!

Interesting experiment.

Not sure the scene is ready yet, but a discussion of rights,
obligations and the human condition as workers is always welcome!

I do however have a sneaky suspicion that is has been the same
for thousands of years, in all cultures, different mixtures thats
all. The Romans and ancient Vietnamese had the same


Charles Lewton-Brain
Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada

Ricardo: I don’t want to burst your bubble but there are alot of
artists in the jewelry business and have you ever tried to
organize artists? I’m a graphic designer by trade and jewlery art
is my passion. Graphic artists have tried and tried to organize
and the only real result is the graphic artists guild which is
headquartered in New York. About all they do is publish a pricing
guide and have some clubs in the largest cities, but overall the
effort hasn’t done much for graphic artists in over 20 years.
Artists aren’t joiners and they don’t like organization.
Jewelers aren’t just mechanics they are craftsmen and women and I
would think are generally right brained creative types which
means you have a gigantic task ahead of you, good luck…Dave