Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers Do[About this section] [To Top]

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

Duties of Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

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 for Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers hold about 39,800 jobs. The industries that employ the most jewelers and precious stone and metal workers are as follows:

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

About 4 in 10 are self-employed. 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.

Jeweler and Precious Stone and Metal Worker 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 work part time.

How to Become a Jeweler or Precious Stone and Metal Worker[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers near you!

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.

Jeweler and Precious Stone and Metal Worker 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.

Jeweler and Precious Stone and Metal Worker 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 for Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

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 for Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

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.

Jeweler and Precious Stone and Metal Worker Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is $37,060. 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 $21,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $67,210.

The median annual wages for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Clothing and clothing accessories stores $38,990
Jewelry and silverware manufacturing 35,710
Merchant wholesalers, durable goods 33,910

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 work part time.

Job Outlook for Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is projected to decline 11 percent over the next ten years. 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.

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 Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers 39,800 35,300 -11 -4,500


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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