Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Summary

jewelers and precious stone and metal workers image
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers typically work at a jeweler’s bench.
Quick Facts: Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers
2014 Median Pay $36,870 per year
$17.73 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 39,800
Job Outlook, 2014-24 -11% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2014-24 -4,500

What Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers Do

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers design, manufacture, and sell jewelry. They also adjust, repair, and appraise gems and jewelry.

Work Environment

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers spend much of their time at a workbench, using tools and chemicals. About 4 in 10 were self-employed in 2014. Many work from home and sell their products at trade and craft shows on weekends. Others are employed in jewelry stores, repair shops, and manufacturing plants.

How to Become a Jeweler or Precious Stone and Metal Worker

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers can enter the occupation on the basis of their education, which is typically earning a high school diploma, or receive on-the-job training, or a combination of the two.

Pay

The median annual wage for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers was $36,870 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is projected to decline 11 percent from 2014 to 2024. Employment of these workers is expected to decline because most jewelry is now manufactured outside of the United States. Some job opportunities should be available to replace those who retire or who leave the occupation for other reasons.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about jewelers and precious stone and metal workers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers Do

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers
Jeweler’s torches are used to resize and repair jewelry.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers design, manufacture, and sell jewelry. They also adjust, repair, and appraise gems and jewelry.

Duties

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers typically do the following:

  • Create jewelry from precious metals and stones
  • Examine and grade diamonds and other gems
  • Clean and polish jewelry using polishing wheels and chemical baths
  • Repair jewelry by replacing broken clasps, altering ring sizes, or resetting stones
  • Smooth joints and rough spots and polish smoothed areas
  • Compute the costs of labor and material for new pieces and repairs
  • Model new pieces with carved wax or computer-aided design, and then cast them in metal
  • Shape metal to hold the gems in pieces of jewelry
  • Solder pieces together and insert stones

Technology is helping to produce high-quality jewelry at a reduced cost and in less time than traditional methods allow. For example, lasers are often used for cutting and improving the quality of stones, for intricate engraving or design work, and for inscribing personal messages on jewelry. Jewelers also use lasers to weld metals together without seams or blemishes, improving the quality and appearance of jewelry.

Some manufacturing firms use computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) to make product design easier and to automate some steps. With CAD, jewelers can create a model of a piece of jewelry on a computer and then view the effect of changing different aspects—for example, the design, the stone, or the setting—before cutting a stone or taking other costly steps. With CAM, they can then create a mold of the piece, which makes producing many copies easy.

Some jewelers also use CAD software to design custom jewelry. They let the customer review the design on a computer and see the effect of changes, so that the customer is satisfied before committing to the expense of a customized piece of jewelry.

The following are examples of types of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers:

Precious metal workers expertly manipulate gold, silver, and other metals. They use pliers and other hand tools to shape and manipulate metal. Some may mix alloy ingredients according to metallurgical properties.

Gemologists analyze, describe, and certify the quality and characteristics of gemstones. After using microscopes, computerized tools, and other grading instruments to examine gemstones or finished pieces of jewelry, they write reports certifying that the items are of a particular quality. Most gemologists have completed the Graduate Gemologist program through the Gemological Institute of America.

Jewelry appraisers carefully examine jewelry to determine its value and then write appraisal documents. They determine value by researching the jewelry market and by using reference books, auction catalogs, price lists, and the Internet. They may work for jewelry stores, appraisal firms, auction houses, pawnbrokers, or insurance companies. Many gemologists also become appraisers.

Bench jewelers usually work for jewelry retailers, doing tasks ranging from simple jewelry cleaning and repair to making molds and pieces from scratch.

Work Environment

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers use various tools and chemicals.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers held about 39,800 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most jewelers and precious stone and metal workers were as follows:

Clothing and clothing accessories stores 27%
Jewelry and silverware manufacturing 16
Merchant wholesalers, durable goods 10

About 4 in 10 were self-employed in 2014. Some work from home and sell their products at trade and craft shows on weekends. Online sales are also a growing source of sales for jewelers.

Most wage and salary workers in this occupation are employed in jewelry stores, repair shops, and manufacturing plants.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers spend much of their time at a workbench, although computers are also becoming an increasingly important tool in the jewelry industry as computer-aided design (CAD) can save workers time and resources. Many tools, such as jeweler’s torches and lasers, must be handled carefully to avoid injury. Polishing processes such as chemical baths also must be performed in a safe manner.

In retail stores, jewelers may talk with customers about repairs, perform custom design work, and sell items to customers. Because many of their materials are valuable, jewelers must follow security procedures, including making use of burglar alarms and, in larger jewelry stores, working in the presence of security guards.

Work Schedules

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers have varied work schedules. Self-employed workers often decide their own hours, and many work weekends, showing and selling their products at trade and craft shows. Retail store workers might also work nonstandard hours because they must be available when customers are not working, such as on holidays and weekends. About 1 in 4 worked part time in 2014.

How to Become a Jeweler or Precious Stone and Metal Worker

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers
Jewelers and precious stone workers examine diamonds and gems.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers can enter the occupation on the basis of their education, which is typically earning a high school diploma, or receive on-the-job training, or a combination of the two.

Education

Although most jewelers and precious stone and metal workers have a high school diploma, many trade schools offer courses for workers who seek additional education. Course topics can include introduction to gems and metals, resizing, repair, and computer-aided design (CAD). Programs vary from 6 months to 1 year, and many teach students how to design, cast, set, and polish jewelry and gems, as well as how to use and care for a jeweler’s tools and equipment. Graduates of these programs may be more attractive to employers because they require less on-the-job training. Many gemologists graduate from the Gemological Institute of America. Trade programs usually require applicants to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training

Some jewelers learn on the job. For example, in jewelry manufacturing plants, workers develop their skills through on-the-job training. The length of training required to become proficient depends on the difficulty of the specialty. Training usually focuses on casting, setting stones, making models, or engraving.

Other Experience

Some workers gain their skills through related work experience. This may include working alongside a bench jeweler or gemologist while performing the duties of a sales person in a retail jewelry store. Time spent in a store with a bench jeweler or gemologist can provide valuable experience.

Advancement

In manufacturing, some jewelers advance to supervisory jobs, such as master jeweler or head jeweler. Jewelers who work in jewelry stores or repair shops may become managers.

Important Qualities

Artistic ability. Jewelers must have the ability to create designs that are unique and beautiful.

Detail oriented. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers must pay attention to large and small details on the pieces they make.

Dexterity. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers must precisely move their fingers and tools in order to grasp, manipulate, and assemble very small objects.

Fashion sense. Jewelry designers must know what is stylish and attractive and presently in demand by consumers.

Interpersonal skills. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers interact with customers, whether they sell products in stores or at craft shows.

Near vision. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers need the ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).

Visualization skills. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers must imagine how something might look after its shape is altered or when its parts are rearranged.

Pay

Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Median annual wages, May 2014

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers

$36,870

Total, all occupations

$35,540

Production occupations

$31,720

 

The median annual wage for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers was $36,870 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,130, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,720.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Clothing and clothing accessories stores $40,220
Merchant wholesalers, durable goods 33,320
Jewelry and silverware manufacturing 32,630

Jewelers who work in retail stores may earn commissions for jewelry sold.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers have varied work schedules. Self-employed workers often decide their own hours, and many work weekends, showing and selling their products at trade and craft shows. Retail store workers might also work nonstandard hours because they must be available when customers are not working, such as on holidays and weekends. About 1 in 4 worked part time in 2014.

Job Outlook

Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Production occupations

-3%

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers

-11%

 

Employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is projected to decline 11 percent from 2014 to 2024. Employment of these workers is expected to decline because most jewelry is now manufactured outside of the United States. Additionally, traditional jewelry stores may continue to lose some of their customers to nontraditional sellers, such as department stores, and this shift is also likely to result in declined employment levels for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities should be available for bench jewelers who are skilled at design or repair. Some jewelers will be needed to replace those who retire or who leave the occupation for other reasons. As jewelers retire, shops lose expertise and knowledge that is difficult and costly to replace.

Job opportunities in jewelry stores and repair shops should be best for those who have graduated from a trade school or training program and have related work experience.

Strong competition is expected for mass manufacturing jobs and for jewelry designers who wish to create their own jewelry lines. Although demand for customized and boutique jewelry is strong, it is often difficult for independent designers to establish themselves in the market. Experience with computer-aided design (CAD) makes creating custom pieces of jewelry easier.

During economic downturns, demand for jewelry products and jewelers usually decreases. However, demand for repair workers should remain strong even during economic slowdowns because maintaining and repairing jewelry is cheaper than buying new jewelry.

Employment projections data for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers

51-9071 39,800 35,300 -11 -4,500 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Craft and fine artists

Craft and Fine Artists

Craft and fine artists use a variety of materials and techniques to create art for sale and exhibition. Craft artists create handmade objects, such as pottery, glassware, textiles, and other objects that are designed to be functional. Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create original works of art for their aesthetic value, rather than for a functional one.

See How to Become One $44,400
Fashion designers

Fashion Designers

Fashion designers create original clothing, accessories, and footwear. They sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, and give instructions on how to make the products they designed.

Bachelor's degree $64,030
Industrial designers

Industrial Designers

Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make products that people use every day. Industrial designers consider the function, aesthetics, production costs, and the usability of products when developing new product concepts.

Bachelor's degree $64,620
Retail sales workers

Retail Sales Workers

Retail sales workers include both those who sell retail merchandise, such as clothing, furniture, and automobiles, (called retail salespersons) and those who sell spare and replacement parts and equipment, especially car parts (called parts salespersons). Both types of retail sales workers help customers find the products they want and process customers’ payments.

No formal educational credential $21,670
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers

Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers use hand-held or remotely controlled equipment to join or cut metal parts. They also fill holes, indentations, or seams of metal products.

High school diploma or equivalent $37,420
Woodworkers

Woodworkers

Woodworkers manufacture a variety of products such as cabinets and furniture, using wood, veneers, and laminates. They often combine and incorporate different materials into wood.

High school diploma or equivalent $28,900
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/jewelers-and-precious-stone-and-metal-workers.htm (visited February 14, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015