The Internet is changing the world of jewelry design opportunities: People who were once limited to selling their designs in certain shops or locales can now reach the world through online arts websites or their own private sites. Jewelry design programs provide a way to turn a passion into a career and gain skills manufacturing, polishing, producing or repairing jewelry.
The most popular jewelry design degrees
Jewelers typically learn their trade in a vocational or technical school, on the job, or through distance learning, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Students working in jewelry manufacturing plants can gain skills through an informal apprenticeship or on-the-job training. Usually, apprenticeships last up to one year and students learn about casting, engraving, making models and setting stones, according to the BLS.
Some technical schools also provide an education in jewelry design. This type of training could be beneficial as some jewelry manufacturers prefer these graduates because they need less on-the-job training, according to the BLS. These types of programs typically last from six months to a year and teach students about casting, designing, setting and polishing stone, repairing and using jewelry tools and equipment. This type of training could benefit those who want to work in a repair shop or a retail store.
Students can also look for an institute that provides training in gemology, which covers topics such as the grading of diamonds and identification of gemstones.
Additionally, students could pursue an online design degree in fine arts that allows them to receive a well-rounded education and focus specifically on jewelry design. Some master's of fine art degree programs are also available in fields such as metal and jewelry arts or enameling, jewelry and metals. At any level, training could also include computer-aided design--this can help with product design and some of the mold-making steps.
Benefits of online degrees in jewelry design
Online jewelry design programs vary, but many lead to a certificate or diploma. Online coursework can include the education basics--just like at a traditional school--and offer training in colored stone essentials, gem identification, jewelry essentials, jewelry retailing and more. Some programs may lend students gems when they enroll in a gem identification course or offer other necessary tools for students to practice with.
What it takes to succeed in jewelry design
Jewelers should have skills in customer service, quality control and sales, but their real skill comes in the detailed work they need to perform every day on the job. Near vision, finger dexterity and arm-hand steadiness are all basic skills a jeweler should have. Patience and concentration are also important. Creative thinking and pattern recognition can also help these specialized designers create and restore professional pieces. It could also help to have some business skills, especially for students thinking about working on their own--this is how more than 50 percent of workers in the field make a go of a career.
What to expect from a career in jewelry design
More than 21,000 jewelers, precious stone and metal workers were employed in the U.S. as of 2010, according to the BLS. They earned mean annual wages of $38,520. Many jewelers start at a base salary and may begin charging by piece as they become more skilled.
While the BLS predicts that competition will be keen for lower-skilled jobs in manufacturing related to assembling or polishing, opportunities could be favorable for those who complete training in a program and have knowledge in computer-aided design. These types of trained graduates are often top choices when it comes to replacing master workers retiring from jewelry stores and repair shops, the BLS indicates.
Jewelry design at a glance
- Associations to join: the American Jewelry Design Council, the Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America
- Economic trend: It is thought that demand for jewelry repair increases during economic recessions because more people are fixing jewelry rather than buying new pieces
- Percentage of workers who are self-employed: 54 percent
- Popular employers: large retailers, self-employed, small jewelry shops