It is an interesting question.
I’ve been a jeweler since 1976, although I really only started making
a full time living 20 years ago. I work alone. My wife helps me with
email and packaging. I sell entirely on the internet. I fabricate
everything. I don’t cast. I will buy bezel and other settings, jump
rings, and sheet and wire but most of my gold is rolled out. I have
had about 30 or more assistants over the years, the longest for 2
years. At that time I was selling wholesale, and casting.
Selling retail and fabricating is quite different. I would like an
apprentice but I’ve not had much luck with assistants. Jewelry is so
very much harder than most people fantasize it to be.
I have two reasons for wanting an assistant: first, of course,
because many of the tasks involved (setting up for soldering, closing
jump rings, laying out) are time consuming and don’t really require an
advanced level of expertise, but secondly, and perhaps more
importantly, it just seems a shame that all the knowledge I’ve
developed will die with me.
I am a specialist jeweler. I tend to stick to sacred or symbolic
jewelry. I do a great deal of custom work, especially wedding and
commitment rings and this, like art jewelry, requires a certain
sensitivity. Unlike art jewelry, sacred jewelry isn’t, to my
knowledge. taught anywhere, which makes the likelihood of my finding a
long term apprentice/assistant/eventual partner even less likely.
I don’t really mind working alone. I’ve made jewelry for long enough
to know that I’ll just get better at it as I keep discovering more
about it, learn new techniques, create new doorways into
consciousness. I’m also not greatly concerned about money. I always
have enough and my satisfaction comes from the art itself rather than
what the work will buy me.
In my experience assistants take a long time to train, and
practically never go on to becoming jewelers. I’d like to know how to
find one who would but, as you can gather, I’ve not really had a
great deal of success.
I’m open to suggestions!
I was in New Orleans for some time and something Thom Mann said to me
always stuck with me. One day I was complaining to him about how,
with 6 assistants I seemed to be working for them. He said there were
two ways to make it as a jeweler, with just one other person,
preferably your life partner, or with at least 10 employees. In his
experience he knew of very few jewelers who made a reasonable living
unless they were solitary (or a couple) or a microbusiness with 10 or