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Metal Sculpting and Jewelry Art

Metal sculptors and jewelers, like those who work with copper, gold, silver and precious gems, design, craft and sell accessories and personal ornaments. Read on to learn more about the education and training options for jewelers, as well as what to expect in terms of employment prospects and earnings potential.

Is Metal Sculpting and Jewelry Art for Me?

Career Overview

Jewelry designers use their talents and skills to create decorative necklaces, earrings, bangles and other types of accessories from metals and gemstones. If you decide to enter the field, some of your activities might include creating computer-generated or wax designs and molds or casting and soldering parts and pieces. You may also engrave messages and motifs, cut stones and polish the finished products. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately a third of all jewelers and precious stone and metal workers were self-employed in 2012; however, you may also be able to find a salaried position with a retail jeweler or leather goods store, manufacturer or wholesaler (www.bls.gov).

Areas of Specialization

If you decide to pursue a career as a jewelry artist, you may decide to work exclusively with precious metals, such as gold and silver. As a bench or jewelry repair technician, you'll rely upon your attention to detail and sense of precision to replace clasps and other small parts, reset stones or resize rings. If you are fascinated by bright, shiny objects or enjoy research, you might also consider pursuing a career as a gemologist or jewelry engraver.

Employment and Salary Outlook

According to the BLS, employment of precious stone and metal workers, as well as jewelers, was expected to decrease by 10% from 2012 to 2022. Overall, offshore manufacturing is largely responsible for the decline in opportunities. Professional trained jewelers and graduates of trade schools may have the edge in the job market; competition is expected to be stiff for lower-level manufacturing positions. In May 2013, precious stone and metal workers, as well as jewelers, earned a mean annual salary of $35,520, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov).

How Do I Work in Metal Sculpting and Jewelry Art?

Trade School Programs

Short-term training in jewelry making, metalsmithing and precious stone work are available at some trade schools and take 6-12 months to complete. Training topics may be similar to those found in a formal degree program and include jewelry design, production and repair. Programs specific to gemology can be found through the Gemological Institute of America (www.gia.edu).

Undergraduate Programs

Some university art departments offer Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts programs that include concentrations or courses in jewelry design or metal work. As an aspiring artisan, you can learn how to shape, bend and form metals, create molds, design one-of-a-kind pieces and set stones.

Graduate Programs

Advanced-level instruction in jewelry and metal work can typically be found through Master of Fine Arts degree programs. Specialized courses of study may focus on fine jewelry or large metal sculptures. Individual programs may culminate in a master's thesis, portfolio and graduate exhibition.

On-the-Job Training

Completion of a formal degree or trade school program can lessen the amount of time you'll train on-the-job, especially with manufacturers. Training periods usually vary in length and may take place under the guidance of a head or master jeweler. As a retail sales associate in a jewelry store, you might also have the opportunity to study with a bench jeweler or gemologist.