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Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Jewelers of America offers four credentials, ranging from Certified Bench Jeweler Technician to Certified Master Bench Jeweler, for bench jewelers who pass a written and practical exam. Certification is not required to work as a bench jeweler, but it may help jewelers to show expertise and to advance.

Advancement opportunities are limited and depend greatly on an individual's skill and initiative. 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; some open their own businesses.

Those interested in starting their own business should first establish themselves and build a reputation for their work within the jewelry trade. Once they obtain sufficient credit from jewelry suppliers and wholesalers, they can acquire the necessary inventory. Also, because the jewelry business is highly competitive, jewelers who plan to open their own store should have sales experience and knowledge of marketing and business management. Courses in these subjects often are available from technical schools and community colleges.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers held about 52,100 jobs in 2008. About 54 percent of these workers were self-employed; many operated their own store or repair shop, and some specialized in designing and creating custom jewelry.

About 21 percent of salaried jobs for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers were in retail trade, primarily in jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores. Another 15 percent of jobs were in jewelry and silverware manufacturing. A small number of jobs were with merchant wholesalers of miscellaneous durable goods and in repair shops providing repair and maintenance of personal and household goods. Although jewelry stores and repair shops were found in every city and in many small towns, most jobs were in larger metropolitan areas.

Job Outlook
Employment is expected to grow more slowly than average. Prospects for bench jewelers and other skilled jewelers should be favorable; keen competition is expected for lower skilled manufacturing jobs, such as assemblers and polishers.

Job Growth
Employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is expected to grow by 5 percent between 2008 and 2018, more slowly than the average for all occupations. Most jewelry is currently imported, and continued growth in imports will limit demand, particularly for lower-skilled workers. However, demand for bench jewelers or other skilled jewelers will grow as consumers seek more customized jewelry.

Additionally, the consolidation and increased online presence of many jewelry outlets will constrain employment growth in the near future. Although nontraditional jewelry marketers, such as Internet retailers and discount stores, have expanded in recent years, many traditional retailers have countered with their own successful online presence. Since nontraditional retailers require fewer sales staff, which limits employment opportunities for jewelers, any slowdown in their expansion at the expense of jewelry shops is a positive sign for employment growth.

Traditional jewelers may continue to lose some of their market share to nontraditional outlets, but they will maintain a large customer base. Many buyers prefer to see and try on jewelry before purchasing it, or to enjoy the experience of shopping in a store. Jewelry stores also have the advantage of being able to offer personalized service and build client relationships. Additionally, new jewelry sold by nontraditional retailers will create demand for skilled jewelers for sizing, cleaning, and repair work.

Despite limited employment growth, opportunities should be favorable for bench jewelers and other skilled jewelers. New jewelers will be needed to replace those who retire or who leave the occupation for other reasons. When master jewelers retire, they take with them years of experience that require substantial time and financial resources to replace. Many employers have difficulty finding and retaining jewelers with the right skills and the necessary knowledge. Opportunities in jewelry stores and repair shops will be best for graduates from training programs for jewelers or gemologists and for those workers with training in CAD/CAM.

Keen competition is expected for lower skilled manufacturing jobs that are amenable to automation, such as assemblers and polishers. Jewelry designers who wish to create their own jewelry lines should expect intense competition. Although demand for customized and boutique jewelry is strong, it is difficult for independent designers to establish themselves.

The jewelry industry can be cyclical. During economic downturns, demand for jewelry products and for jewelers tends to decrease. However, demand for repair workers should remain strong even during economic slowdowns because maintaining and repairing jewelry is an ongoing process. In fact, demand for jewelry repair may increase during recessions, as people repair or restore existing pieces rather than purchase new ones.

Median annual wages for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers were $32,940 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $24,370 and $43,440. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $19,000, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $55,130.

Most jewelers start out with a base salary, but once they become more proficient, they may begin charging by the number of pieces completed. Jewelers who work in retail stores may earn a commission for each piece of jewelry sold. Many jewelers also enjoy a variety of benefits, including reimbursement from their employers for work-related courses and discounts on jewelry purchases.

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