What do Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers Do

Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers use a variety of common and specialized equipment to design and manufacture new pieces of jewelry; cut, set, and polish gem stones; repair or adjust rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and other jewelry; and appraise jewelry, precious metals, and gems. Jewelers usually specialize in one or more of these areas and may work for large jewelry manufacturing firms, for small retail jewelry shops, or as owners of their own businesses. Regardless of the type of work done or the work setting, jewelers need a high degree of skill, precision, and attention to detail.

Some jewelers design or make their own jewelry. Following their own designs or those created by designers or customers, they begin by shaping the metal or by carving wax to make a model for casting the metal. Individual parts then are soldered together, and the jeweler may mount a diamond or other gem or may engrave a design into the metal. Other jewelers do finishing work, such as setting stones, polishing, or engraving, or make repairs. Typical repair work includes enlarging or reducing ring sizes, resetting stones, and replacing broken clasps and mountings.

Bench jewelers usually work in jewelry retailers. They perform a wide range of tasks, from simple jewelry cleaning and repair to moldmaking and fabricating pieces from scratch. In larger manufacturing businesses, jewelers usually specialize in a single operation. Mold and model makers create models or tools for the jewelry that is to be produced. Assemblers solder or fuse jewelry and their parts; they also may set stones. Engravers etch designs into metal with specialized tools, and polishers bring a finished luster to the final product.

Jewelers typically do the handiwork required to produce a piece of jewelry, while gemologists and laboratory graders analyze, describe, and certify the quality and characteristics of gem stones. Gemologists may work in gemological laboratories or as quality control experts for retailers, importers, or manufacturers. After using microscopes, computerized tools, and other grading instruments to examine gem stones or finished pieces of jewelry, they write reports certifying that the items are of a particular quality. Many jewelers also study gemology to become familiar with the physical properties of the gem stones with which they work.

Jewelry appraisers carefully examine jewelry to determine its value, after which they write appraisal documents. They determine the value of a piece 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.

In small retail stores or repair shops, jewelers and appraisers may be involved in all aspects of the work. Those who own or manage stores or shops also hire and train employees; order, market, and sell merchandise; and perform other managerial duties.

New technology is helping to produce jewelry of high quality at a reduced cost and in a shorter amount of time. For example, lasers are often used for cutting and improving the quality of stones, for applying intricate engraving or design work, and for inscribing personal messages or identification on jewelry. Jewelers also use lasers to weld metals together in milliseconds with no seams or blemishes, improving the quality and appearance of jewelry.

Some manufacturing firms use computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) to facilitate product design and automate some steps in the moldmaking and modelmaking process. CAD allows jewelers to create a virtual-reality model of a piece of jewelry. Using CAD, jewelers can modify the design, change the stone, or try a different setting and see the contemplated changes on a computer screen before cutting a stone or performing other costly steps. Once they are satisfied with the model, they use CAM to produce a mold. After the mold is made, it is easier for manufacturing firms to produce numerous copies of a given piece of jewelry, which can be distributed to retail establishments across the country. Similar techniques may be used in the retail setting, allowing customers to review their jewelry designs with the jeweler and make modifications before committing themselves to the expense of a customized piece of jewelry.

Work Environment

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers held about 32,400 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers were as follows:

  • Self-employed workers - 43%
  • Clothing and clothing accessories stores - 23%
  • Jewelry and silverware manufacturing - 16%

Some jewelers and precious stone and metal workers work from home and sell their products at trade and craft shows. Online sales are also a growing source of sales for jewelers.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers spend much of their time sitting at a workbench or standing at a polishing station. Computer-aided design (CAD) is also an important tool in the jewelry industry.

There is exposure to machines, fumes, and toxic or caustic chemicals, and risk of radiation. 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.

Self-employed workers usually work at home in their workshop or studio. 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

Most jewelers and precious stone and metal workers work full time.

Many self-employed workers show and sell their products at trade and craft shows during weekends. Retail store workers might also work nonstandard hours because they must be available when customers are not working, such as on holidays and weekends.

Education & Training Required

Jewelers have traditionally learned their trade through several months of on-the-job training; while this method is still common, particularly in manufacturing plants, many are also learning their skills in vocational or technical schools or through distance-learning centers. Computer-aided design is becoming increasingly important to retail jewelers and students may wish to obtain training in it. This skill can usually be obtained through technical school; however, some employers may provide training in it, as well.

In jewelry manufacturing plants, workers traditionally develop their skills through informal apprenticeships and on-the-job training. The apprenticeship or training period lasts up to 1 year, depending on the difficulty of the specialty. Training usually focuses on casting, setting stones, making models, or engraving.

There are also many technical schools offering training designed for jewelers. Some manufacturers prefer graduates because they require less on-the-job training. Course topics can include blueprint reading, math, and shop theory.

For jewelers who work in retail stores or repair shops, vocational training or college courses offer the best job preparation. These programs may vary in length from 6 months to a year and teach jewelry making and repairing skills, such as designing, casting, setting and polishing stones, as well as the use and care of jeweler’s tools and equipment.

There are various institutes that offer courses and programs in gemology. These programs cover a wide range of topics, including the identification and grading of diamonds and gem stones.

While it is not required, some students may wish to obtain a higher level degree. For them, art and design schools offer programs leading to the degree of bachelor of fine arts or master of fine arts in jewelry design.

Other Skills Required

The precise and delicate nature of jewelry work requires finger and hand dexterity, good hand-eye coordination, patience, and concentration. Artistic ability and fashion consciousness are major assets, particularly in jewelry design and jewelry shops, because jewelry must be stylish and attractive. Those who work in jewelry stores have frequent contact with customers and should be neat, personable, and knowledgeable about the merchandise. In addition, employers require workers of good character because jewelers work with valuable materials.

How to Advance

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.

Job Outlook

Employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is projected to show little or no change from 2020 to 2030.

Despite limited employment growth, about 3,800 openings for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


Limited employment in jewelry and silverware manufacturing is expected due to increasing imports of jewelry and rising productivity. Additionally, traditional jewelry stores may continue to lose some of their customers to nontraditional sellers, such as department stores and online retailers. This shift is also likely to limit employment for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers.


The median annual wage for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers was $46,640 in May 2021. 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 $27,030, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $68,960.

In May 2021, 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 - $47,970
  • Jewelry and silverware manufacturing - $38,370

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

Most jewelers and precious stone and metal workers work full time.

Many self-employed workers show and sell their products at trade and craft shows during weekends. Retail store workers might also work nonstandard hours because they must be available when customers are not working, such as on holidays and weekends.