How Do I Become a Jewelry Designer?

Research what it takes to become a jewelry designer. Learn about training requirements, skills required, median wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Art degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Jewelry Designer?

A jewelry designer works with jewels, precious stones and metals. It is beneficial to decide early on whether you want to specialize in designing jewelry as an engraver, polisher, mold-maker or assembler; take an eclectic approach; or start your own company. As a jewelry designer, you will select the jewels or stones for a particular piece, and often set them in a type of metal. You may design necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings and more. Jewelry designers may also be skilled in repairing jewelry or even appraising the value of various gems they may use in their work. Some jewelry designers may use computer programs to help them design original jewelry. Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career as a jewelry designer is right for you.

Training Required Trade school, on-the-job training
Key Skills Artistic ability, finger dexterity, fashion sense, and visualization skills
Job Growth (2014-2024) 11% decline for all jewelers and precious stone and metal workers*
Median Salary (2015) $37,060 for all jewelers and precious stone and metal workers*

Source: *U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.

How Do I Get Started?

Fewer jewelers are being employed with no higher education. Though on-the-job training is more common when manufacturing jewels for a larger company, the more specialized and independent you want to become, the more schooling you will need. It is beneficial to decide early on whether you want to specialize in designing jewelry as an engraver, polisher, mold-maker or assembler; take an eclectic approach; or start your own company. You can enroll in a vocational school, technical school or degree program that focuses on your interests accordingly.

Numerous associate's degrees in jewelry design are offered through accredited universities and art institutes throughout the country. Most programs emphasize working on-campus, since you will be physically cutting and shaping individual gems and pieces of metal.

If you choose to make your way into the higher echelons of designing, further education will be desirable. You might pursue a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts or Masters of Fine Arts in Metalwork and Jewelry Design. These degrees will keep you a cut above the rest in the oftentimes cutthroat business of jewelry design. In addition, the advanced credentials and experience can place you on your way to a shining career as your own boss.

What Techniques Will I Need to Know?

Designers often start out adjusting, re-shaping and re-sizing old jewels. They then progress towards cutting and setting stones. Mold-making, metalworking and engraving are all skills you should hone early on in your school of choice. Newer methods of jewel design, especially for mass market appeal, include laser cutting technologies and computer aided design software. Personal style and expertise in areas of shape, texture and color will determine what other skills you decide to master.

While these techniques can give you the means to making designs into show floor pieces, they cannot supply you with the high amount of creative ideas necessary to be a competitive and successful jewel designer. You'll need to have a knack for arranging gems and metalwork in eye-catching and stylish designs.

Furthermore, designers with a more entrepreneurial spirit will want a working knowledge of basic business principles and gemology. Lasting abilities to analyze market trends and values, determine costs and benefits of potential new products, assess gem prices and stay out of the red will all help your business shine through.

How Will I Shape My Work Week?

If you, like most jewel designers, start your own business, you will most likely find yourself molding together time spent with customers and time spent with stones. You will have to weigh the benefits of building clientele-specific pieces against creating your own designs. You may find yourself pitching a portfolio to a lucrative company, helping customers pick out engagement rings or carefully shaping gems for long hours, potentially causing your eyes and hands to tense up. Also, as jewel sales often rise and fall with economic booms and busts, you may find more work in selling and cutting during periods of growth and more time for designing and making repairs in economic recessions.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A retail sales worker is a related position that does not require formal education. These workers interact with customer and try to sell them various kinds of products. A few other related careers are woodworkers, welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers. These professions require a high school diploma or the equivalent. Woodworkers create an array of different products made, at least in part, of various types of wood. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers work with metal products. They can piece metal together, fill holes and more.

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