The term jeweler is quite broad and includes those that sell jewelry, work with metal and gems, string beads and even use found objects to create items for personal adornment or jewelry. The term bench jeweler sometimes applies to someone that has had formal training and certification to help differentiate these trained individuals from other types of jewelers.
What Does a Jeweler Do?
A jeweler is anyone who sells, designs, makes, or repairs jewelry. There are many different types of jewelry like fashion, handmade and fine jewelry and jewelers themselves vary greatly in their skill sets and the work they do. A jeweler could be someone who designs and creates rings with or without gemstones including diamonds, a small business owner who makes polymer clay earrings, or a hobbyist who strings together glass beads to make bracelets.
Jewelers who don’t work with precious stones and metals may be involved in tasks like: designing jewelry, working with materials like metals, wire, beads, threads, fabric, clay, resin and glass, attaching chains, fasteners, and clasps, using basic metalsmithing techniques, wax casting and cleaning and restoring jewelry or jewelry parts. A skilled jeweler can repair damaged jewelry, craft custom pieces, set stones, size rings, and some are able to cut gems although that is often a separate specialty.
Some jewelers are self-taught, others seek out apprenticeships to hone their skills and others, especially those that need access to specialized equipment and knowledge of precious stones and metals, seek formal training through college degrees or other certified programs though the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Jewelers can choose a variety of different career paths including: jewelry and gemstone appraiser, jewelry designer, gemstone and jewelry buyer or retail sales, bench jeweler, researcher, auction specialist, wholesale and manufacturing.
What is a Bench Jeweler?
Named after the specially equipped bench they use as their workspace, you’ll often find bench jewelers in the backs of small fine jewelry stores cutting and setting stones, resizing rings, or repairing broken jewelry. A modern bench jeweler can perform a wide range of tasks from jewelry design and repair to sales, and usually have some education and experience in gemology (working with precious stones) and metal arts (working with metals like gold and silver).
In the past, aspiring jewelers would find an apprenticeship and learn the craft directly from a master jeweler. Though apprenticeship is still a vital part of the process, there are now post-secondary programs you can complete to learn how to be a jeweler. Novice bench jewelers can make simple repairs, assemble pre-made pieces, set stones, finish cast pieces, size and round rings and fabricate basic elements of jewelry such as clasps and prongs for stone settings.
Master jewelers are expertly skilled in most, if not all, jewelry skills, including design, drawing, engraving, hand building, soldering, wax carving, and setting. They are skilled in working with all precious metals, including platinum, gold, and silver and some are also able to cut gemstones. If you’re looking for a jeweler, just keep in mind that there is a broad range of proficiency from novice to expert.
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