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Jewelers work with precious stones and metals to design and create new jewelry or make adjustments and repairs. Some jewelers are employed by manufacturing firms or smaller retail shops, but the majority of jewelers tend to be self-employed business owners. To become a jeweler, one may complete specialized training programs that focus on gems and precious metals, attend training programs at art or vocational schools and obtain four-year degrees from art or design schools.
In addition to designing and creating jewelry, jewelers also may polish and cut gem stones, make adjustments and repairs to various types of jewelry and appraise gems or precious metals. Typically, jewelers will specialize in one of these areas, but a general knowledge of all the various aspects of jeweling can be useful to those wanting to work in the industry. Those employed by jewelry retailers are typically referred to as bench jewelers, while those who examine and appraise gems or metals are called jewelry appraisers. Jewelers that design and assemble their own jewelry are known as jewelry makers.
Bench jewelers working in retail stores tend to need a broad range of knowledge, as they usually perform a wide range of tasks. These jewelers usually polish and clean jewelry, make repairs, set stones and engrave designs onto pieces of jewelry. To become a jeweler employed by a shop or company, many learn from training on the job over the course of several months. Some may begin working in a retail or manufacturing setting before starting their own business or selling their own jewelry.
Jewelry appraisers may also work for retail shops, or they may own a business that offers appraisals. They may also work for action houses, insurance companies or appraisal firms. To become a jeweler with appraisal skills, it is necessary to develop knowledge of gem and precious metal value. Many appraisers take courses in gemology to learn how to use grading instruments and certify gem quality. These courses may be taken at various vocational or arts schools, or they may be included as part of an extensive training program.
Creating and developing jewelry is a technical art that requires artistic talent, as well as the ability to create pieces that are well crafted and functional. Some jewelry makers obtain four-year degrees from art or design schools. A four-year degree typically provides a broader range of knowledge and may include history and business courses in addition to specified training. Vocational and arts schools may also offer one or two year programs that cover a broad range of skills relevant to jeweling. Courses taken may include topics such as setting stones, appraising, gemology or design and repair.