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Wages going rates

anyone who’d be willing to share…especially those of you who are
paying others, like apprentices and trained assistants. the
I am looking for is what is the going rate, hourly wage
for a jeweler with a Revere education, and several years experience
working as assistant to a highly skilled goldsmith, as well as years
experience with your own business? I’d love to hear numbers from as
many of you as I can. why? well, that describes my experience. I’m
off to Revere in a week; and was incredibly discouraged when having
just been offered a job as a result of the education I am about to
pursue, to be told it’s basically worth minimum wage in this area.
which I find very hard to believe, that I could make more in a retail
job, as a waitress. now I know you people will set me straight.
coming fresh from revere, but with years experience previous, what
can I realistically hope/expect to find? (consequently, looking for
a position in the near future…)

ande …fusion studio

Hello Orchidian: Recently there was a post by a Revere enrollee
bemoaning the lowball offer he received for a job. I deleted the
post, but then thought, why not? I’ll take the flack for risking an
opinion. I’ve done a lot of research on this matter. Here’s a

First off, let me state that my number one goal at this time is to
find ways to increase wages for my employees and still pay the
bills. That should be every employer’s priority, in my opinion.
Increases in compensation MUST go hand in hand with business growth,
or you’ll just be training workers for your competition, or worse,
training them to become your competitors.

Fresh apprentices must, of course, be offered minimum wage by law.
I pay mine $8.50/hr. He’s part time, and he costs me more than he
makes for me, but I expect that to change. I’m not paying for a
flunkie, I’m investing in a skilled worker. I have tools that won’t
pay for themselves for a while too. If I could find the money, I’d
feel fine about paying him another couple bucks an hour.

I have an assistant, very knowledgeable about the trade, also part
time, and I give him $10.50/hr. He easily offsets the time I would
have to spend on what he does for me, so I can get back to the bench
and charge $40.00/hr. for what I do best. And he’s already learning
how to do a lot of things like mixing and pouring molds, shooting
waxes, investing. I think he’s worth $12.00 and full time with
benefits, but I haven’t got the cash flow to do that yet. I’m a
wholesale trade jeweler, by the way.

I don’t have benefits for anybody yet, including myself. All I can
offer these guys at this time is any schedule that they want during
normal business hours, complete flexibility so they can get other
work if they need it. And they are completely involved in the
business, their opinions are given a lot of weight. If we find
extra, unexpected sources of income, I hand over 5% to each of them.
I’m busting my hump to be able to give them more as soon as I can,
and I share all my knowledge of this business with them, from
techniques to finances.

An average bench jeweler, able to size rings, set most stones,
repair chains, in my experience, is getting starting wages of around
$35,000/yr. even in the middle of nowhere. In a good market,
that’ll be more like $40-42,000 with benefits.

An advanced craftsperson, able to not only repair and set stones,
but capable of designing and fabricating a piece of jewelry, can
expect $40,000 and benefits to start in most areas, more where it’s
more expensive to live. But after a couple years, that should be up
another $5,000. One of the problems in this industry is that when
you start low, you tend to stay low.

Someone who can also carve waxes, cast, and render designs, in my
opinion, should be getting $45-50,000 and benefits to start, as long
as the product is really tight and they turn around the work quickly
. Throw in some serious talent for design, and the ability for really
produce, you should be seeing $50-60,000 and benefits to start.
However, there aren’t a lot of places that can’t afford that, and in
my opinion, if you fit the bill and can’t get that, then you should
be looking at trying to get your own slice of the pie as an
independent retailer. If they haven’t got enough sense to hire you,
then cut into their market. When they find their cheaper jeweler,
you’ll find him/her driving business right to your door.

Now what I’d like to see is JA dare to publish an analysis of what
jewelers can expect to get according to their JA certification. Let
me suggest a starting place . . .

Certified Master Bench Jeweler equals $60,000 and benefits to start.

And finally, if you are a retailer and you think these wage
suggestions are high, check out what David Geller suggests store
owners should be getting from their businesses.

David L. Huffman

Dear “andescruz” Let me say that I have been to your website and I
found your work provocative.

   " what is the going rate, hourly wage for a jeweler with a
Revere education, and several years experience working as assistant
to a highly skilled goldsmith, as well as years experience with
your own business? 

Let me give the process by which I have decided to ask for my wages.
In short I am JA Certified Bench Technician ( Revere’s offers this
certification ) with a two year Degree in Jewelry Technology , and a
Certified Gemologist with a GGS Graduate Gemological Science , ( one
semester in residence ) At Texas Institute Jewelry Technology TIJT
Paris Texas.

In the end I asked someone I knew in the trade who was local and
aware of the prevailing wages . < important > I have found that wages
for Auto mechanics and Bench jewelers are not that different . This
might appear to be insulting but this is a trend which I have noticed
. Auto mechanics seem to have slightly better benefits . People Need
transportation, they do not Need ( in the same sense ) jewelry . " The
demand for jewelry depends largely on the amount of disposable income
people have"

There is a Recession on and I am in a more rural area ( Texarkana
TX. ) I am a recent graduate and my experience level is not as high
as I would like so I priced my asking wages slightly below what I
believed was a fair level . I did this in order to make myself to
appear a " Good Buy " without looking like I am pricing myself as a "
Distress sale " . I do not intend to be a " Shade Tree Jeweler "

I went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and checked ( see
below.) I have also gone to Salary Expert�s Personal Career Report
at and Christiansen Group.

Hope this helps ROBB

Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2002-03 Edition

Significant Points

About 30 percent of all jewelers are self-employed. Jewelers usually
learn their trade in vocational or technical schools, through
correspondence courses, or on the job. Although employment is
expected to experience little or no change, prospects should be
excellent; as more jewelers retire, many employers have difficulty
finding and retaining workers with the right skills.

Jewelers use a variety of common and specialized handtools to design
and manufacture new pieces of jewelry; cut, set, and polish stones;
and repair or adjust rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and other
jewelry. Jewelers usually specialize in one or more of these areas,
and may work for large jewelry manufacturing firms or small retail
jewelry shops, or may open their own business. Regardless of the type
of work done or the work setting, jewelers require a high degree of
skill, precision, and attention to detail.

Some jewelers design or make their own jewelry. Following their own
designs, or those created by designers or customers, they begin by
shaping the metal or by carving wax to make a model for casting the
metal. The individual parts then are soldered together, and the
jeweler may mount a diamond or other gem, or engrave a design into
the metal. Others do finishing work, such as setting stones,
polishing, or engraving. Typical repairwork includes enlarging or
reducing ring sizes, resetting stones, and replacing broken clasps
and mountings. In manufacturing, jewelers usually specialize in a
single operation. Mold and model makers create models or tools for
the jewelry that is to be produced. Assemblers connect by soldering
or fusing the metal and may set stones. Engravers may etch designs
into the metal, and polishers polish the metal and stones to perfect
the piece. In small retail stores or repairshops, jewelers may be
involved in all aspects of the work. Jewelers who own or manage
stores or shops also hire and train employees; order, market, and
sell merchandise; and perform other managerial duties.

Jewelers typically do the handiwork required in producing a piece of
jewelry, while gemologists study the quality, characteristics, and
value of Gemologists usually sell jewelry and provide
appraisal services. A few gemologists are employed by insurance
companies that offer their own appraisal services for those customers
who wish to insure certain pieces of jewelry. Many jewelers also
study gemology in order to become familiar with the physical
properties of the gemstones with which they work, so that they do not
unknowingly damage stones while setting and polishing them.

Although the quality of a piece of jewelry is the direct reflection
of a particular jeweler’s skills, and many procedures have been
performed the same way for hundreds of years, new technology is
helping to produce higher quality pieces of jewelry at a reduced cost
and in a shorter amount of time. A growing number of jewelers use
lasers for cutting and improving the quality of stones, intricate
engraving or design work, and identification (ID) inscription.
Jewelers also use lasers to weld metals together in milliseconds with
no seams or blemishes, improving the quality and appearance of the
jewelry. Some manufacturing firms use computer-aided design and
manufacturing (CAD/CAM) to facilitate product design and automate
some steps in the mold- and model-making process. CAD allows a
jeweler to create a virtual reality model of a piece of jewelry,
modify the design, and find mistakes, all on the computer screen.
Once a jeweler is satisfied with the model, CAM produces the model in
a wax-like material. Once the model is made, it is easier for
manufacturing firms to produce numerous pieces of the jewelry, which
are distributed to different retail establishments across the

Working Conditions

A jeweler’s work involves a great deal of concentration and
attention to detail. Working on precious stones and metals while
trying to satisfy customers’ and employers’ demands for speed and
quality can cause fatigue or stress. However, the use of more
ergonomically correct jewelers’ benches has eliminated the strain and
discomfort formerly caused by spending long periods bending over a
workbench in one position. In larger manufacturing plants and some
smaller repairshops, chemicals, sharp or pointed tools, and jewelers’
torches pose potential safety threats and may cause injury if proper
care is not taken; however, most dangerous chemicals have been
replaced with synthetic, less toxic products to meet safety

In repairshops, jewelers usually work alone with little supervision.
In retail stores, on the other hand, they may talk with customers
about repairs, perform custom design work, and even do some sales
work. Because many of their materials are very valuable, jewelers
must observe strict security procedures. These include locked doors
that are opened only by a buzzer, barred windows, burglar alarms,
and, for large jewelry establishments, the presence of armed guards.


Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers held about 43,000 jobs
in 2000. About one-third of all these workers were self-employed;
many operated their own store or repairshop, and some specialized in
designing and creating custom jewelry.

Over 40 percent of all salaried jewelers worked in retail
establishments, while another 40 percent were employed in
manufacturing plants. Although jewelry stores and repairshops can be
found in every city and in many small towns, most job opportunities
are in larger metropolitan areas. Many jewelers employed in
manufacturing work in Rhode Island, New York, and California.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Jewelers usually learn their trade in vocational or technical
schools, through correspondence courses, or on the job. Colleges and
art and design schools also offer programs that can lead to a
bachelor’s or master’s degree of fine arts in jewelry design. Formal
training in the basic skills of the trade enhances one’s employment
and advancement opportunities. Many employers prefer jewelers with
design, repair, and sales skills.

For those interested in working in a jewelry store or repairshop,
vocational and technical training or courses offered by public and
private colleges and schools are the best sources of training. In
these programs, which can vary in length from 6 months to 1 year,
students learn the use and care of jewelers’ tools and machines and
basic jewelry-making and -repairing skills, such as design, casting,
stone setting, and polishing. Technical school courses also cover
topics including blueprint reading, math, and shop theory. To enter
some technical school and most college programs, a high school
diploma or its equivalent is required. However, some schools
specializing in jewelry training do not require a high school
diploma. Because computer-aided design is used increasingly in the
jewelry field, it is recommended that students�especially those
interested in design and manufacturing�obtain training in CAD.

Various institutions offer courses and programs in gemology and
jewelry manufacturing and design. Programs cover a wide range of
topics, including the identification and grading of diamonds and

Most employers feel that vocational and technical school graduates
need several more years of supervised, on-the-job training, or
apprenticeship, to refine their repair skills and learn more about
the operation of the store or shop. In addition, some employers
encourage workers to improve their skills by enrolling in short-term
technical school courses such as samplemaking, wax carving, or
gemology. Many employers pay all or part of the cost of this
additional training.

In jewelry manufacturing plants, workers traditionally develop their
skills through informal apprenticeships and on-the-job training.
This training lasts 3 to 4 years, depending on the difficulty of the
specialty. Training usually focuses on casting, stonesetting,
modelmaking, or engraving. In recent years, a growing number of
technical schools and colleges have begun to offer training designed
for jewelers working in manufacturing. Like employers in retail
trade, though, those in manufacturing now prefer graduates of these
programs because they are familiar with the production process,
requiring less on-the-job training.

The precise and delicate nature of jewelry work requires finger and
hand dexterity, good hand-eye coordination, patience, and
concentration. Artistic ability and fashion consciousness are major
assets because jewelry must be stylish and attractive. Those who work
in jewelry stores have frequent contact with customers and should be
neat, personable, and knowledgeable about the merchandise. In
addition, employers require workers of good character because
jewelers work with very valuable materials.

Advancement opportunities are limited and depend greatly on an
individual’s skill and initiative. In manufacturing, some jewelers
advance to supervisory jobs, such as master jeweler or head jeweler
but, for most, advancement takes the form of higher pay for doing the
same job. Jewelers who work in jewelry stores or repairshops may
become managers; some open their own businesses.

Those interested in starting their own business should first
establish themselves and build a reputation for their work within the
jewelry trade. Then, they can obtain sufficient credit from jewelry
suppliers and wholesalers to acquire the necessary inventory. Also,
because the jewelry business is highly competitive, jewelers who plan
to open their own store should have experience in selling, as well as
knowledge of marketing and business management. Courses in these
areas often are available from technical schools and community

Job Outlook

Employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is
expected to experience little or no change through 2010. Employment
opportunities, however, should be excellent, because while jewelers
are retiring, jewelry sales are increasing at rates that exceed the
number of new jewelers entering the profession. When master jewelers
retire, they take with them years of experience that require
substantial time and financial resources to replace, in the form of
training new jewelers. As a result, many employers have difficulty
finding and retaining jewelers with the right skills. Those who
devote the time and effort to mastering their trade should have
excellent job prospects. Even though some technological advances have
made jewelry making more efficient, many of the skills require
excellent handiwork and cannot be fully automated.

The demand for jewelry depends largely on the amount of disposable
income people have. Therefore, the increasing numbers of affluent
individuals, working women, double-income households, and
fashion-conscious men are expected to keep jewelry sales strong. The
population aged 45 and older, which accounts for a major portion of
jewelry sales, also is on the rise.

Recently, nontraditional jewelry marketers, such as discount stores,
mail-order catalogue companies, television shopping networks, and
Internet retailers have limited the growth of sales by traditional
jewelers. Because these establishments require fewer sales and
marketing staff, employment opportunities for jewelers and precious
stone and metal workers who work mainly in sales will be limited. As
these marketers enjoy increases in sales, however, they will need
highly skilled jewelers to make the jewelry.

Opportunities in jewelry stores and repairshops will be best for
graduates from a jeweler or gemologist training program. Despite an
increase in sales by nontraditional jewelry marketers, traditional
jewelers should not be greatly affected. Traditional jewelers have
the advantage of being able to build client relationships based on
trust. Many clients prefer to work directly with a jeweler to ensure
that the product is of the highest quality and meets their
specifications. Many traditional jewelers expand their business as
clients recommend their services to friends and relatives.

The jewelry industry can be cyclical. During economic downturns,
demand for jewelry products, and jewelers, tends to decrease.
However, demand for repair workers should remain strong, even during
economic slowdowns, because maintaining and repairing jewelry is an
ongoing process. In fact, demand for jewelry repair may increase
during recessions, as people repair or restore existing pieces rather
than purchase new ones. Also, many nontraditional vendors typically
do not offer repair services.

Within manufacturing, increasing automation will adversely affect
employment of low-skilled occupations, such as assembler and
polisher. Automation will have a lesser impact on more creative,
highly skilled positions, such as mold- and modelmaker. Furthermore,
small manufacturers, which typify the industry, will have an
increasingly difficult time competing with the larger manufacturers
when it comes to supplying large retailers. Because of recent
international trade agreements, exports are increasing modestly as
manufacturers become more competitive in foreign markets. However,
imports from foreign manufacturers are increasing more rapidly than
exports due to these same agreements.


Median annual earnings for jewelers and precious stone and metal
workers were $26,330 in 2000. The middle 50 percent earned between
$19,140 and $35,150. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $14,550,
and the highest 10 percent earned more than $44,120. In 2000, median
annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of
jewelers and precious stone and metal workers weRe:

Miscellaneous shopping goods stores $32,290 Jewelry, silverware, and
plated ware 22,920

Most jewelers start out with a base salary but, once they become
more proficient, they might begin charging by the number of pieces
completed. Jewelers who work in retail stores may earn a commission
for each piece of jewelry sold, in addition to their base salary.
Many jewelers also enjoy a variety of benefits, including
reimbursement from their employers for work-related courses and
discounts on jewelry purchases.

Related Occupations

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers do precision handwork.
Other skilled workers who do similar jobs include precision
instrument and equipment repairers; welding, soldering, and brazing
workers; and woodworkers. Some jewelers and precious stone and metal
workers create their own jewelry designs. Other visually artistic
occupations include artists and related workers, and designers. And,
some jewelers and precious stone and metal workers are involved in
the buying and selling of stones and metals or of the finished piece
of jewelry. Similar occupations include retail salespersons and sales
representatives in wholesale trade.

Information on job opportunities and training programs for jewelers
is available from:

Gemological Institute of America, 5345 Armada Dr., Carlsbad, CA
92008. Internet: General career is
available from:

Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America, 45 Royal Little
Dr., Providence, RI 02904. Internet: To
receive a list of technical schools which have programs in jewelry
design, accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools
and Colleges of Technology, contact:

Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology,
2101 Wilson Blvd., Suite 302, Arlington, VA 22201. Internet: Selected industries employing jewelers and
precious stone and metal workers that appear in the 2002-03 Career
Guide to Industries:

Department, clothing, and accessory stores Wholesale trade

Suggested citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of
Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2002-03 Edition, Jewelers and
Precious Stone and Metal Workers, on the Internet at (visited June 05, 2003).
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics