How To Become A Goldsmith
Career Video: Goldsmith
Are you interested in a career in which you can use your hands to create intricate designs and beautiful pieces of jewelry? Do you like to use various techniques to repair, resize, and alter pieces of precious metals? Do you have a patient and steady disposition, prepared to work on microscopic problems? Would you like to work with a variety of precious metals and stones to design, create, and appraise various pieces of metalwork? If you have the physical skills and the mental aptitude to work in these capacities, you may find that a career as a goldsmith to be rewarding and challenging.
Why Become A Goldsmith
Goldsmiths are expert metalworkers, who utilize precious metals, particularly gold, to repair and create jewelry. They are talented in design concepts, making alterations, and manipulating gold to produce customized rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, broaches, and more. Goldsmiths also provide maintenance services, such as polishing, setting, plating, and engraving, and they may also work with other metals and precious stones.
Not only can they design and create customized pieces, but they are experts in manipulating various metals—gold, silver, platinum, copper, etc.—using various hot and cold techniques to hammer, roll, and shape them to repair and create intricate designs. Goldsmiths also have a profound knowledge in regard to flaws and appraisals for insurance, selling, and auctioning of new or antique pieces.
To be a goldsmith, it is important to have a number of skills that are conducive to providing high-quality work:
- Excellent communication skills
- Good manual dexterity
- Business sense
- Aptitude for metalwork
- Keen color vision
- Careful and steady hand maneuvering
Goldsmith Work Environment
Goldsmiths work anywhere that jewelry services are needed. This may include small jewelry stores, large wholesale companies, design studios and offices, and private home offices. Nearly half of all employed goldsmiths work in stores that provide jewelry, luggage, and leather goods services. Goldsmiths typically work independently and can be self-employed, contracted (freelance), or work in coordination with other designers/jewelers, buyers, sellers, and assistants.
The work of a goldsmith is contingent upon their work environment. Most jewelry stores are open during normal business hours, and their employees can work both part- and fulltime. For advanced goldsmiths with desired expertise, fulltime work is most likely typical, as their talents are unique.
The national median annual salary for goldsmiths was $36,870, in 2014. Goldsmiths, jewelers, and precious stone and metal workers who work in clothing, luggage, leather, and jewelry accessory stores can expect to earn an average of $40,220, per year. Wholesale merchants’ average annual salary is a little below this at $33,320. For goldsmiths who provide specialized jewelry and silverware services in design studios and offices, their average annual income is $32,630. Commission pay is common for goldsmiths who work in sales in retail shops.
Jeweler and goldsmith salaries are dependent upon geographical region: Those working in Connecticut will see the highest salary, while those working in Texas and New Mexico will earn the least. The majority of goldsmiths work in California, where the annual salary is on par with that of the national average.
Goldsmith Career Outlook
Since 2004, the career outlook for jewelers and goldsmiths has steadily declined. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an 11-percent decrease in this occupation from 2014 to 2024. A number of reasons exist for this decline: First, the majority of jewelry is manufactured outside the United States; second, the economic downturn has made the sale of newly manufactured and commissioned pieces decrease; and third, the market for jewelry has mostly been driven by purchases at larger department stores, instead of small and local businesses.
On a more positive note, the need for talented goldsmiths is still high, as many seek repair and alteration services. Bench jewelers are in more demand than designers because repairs are more cost effective than replacement. Competition is high for this occupation, and those who graduate from trade and other professional schools will see the best chances for employment.
Goldsmithing is considered a trade; therefore, to become skilled, individuals can seek training through formal education, on-the-job experience, or a combination of both. Trade certificates, diploma programs, and apprenticeship opportunities exist for this occupation.
Find a training program through trade school or apprenticeship.
Obtain formal training. Many paths exist for aspiring goldsmiths. Trade school programs typically take 6 months to 1 year to complete and will include courses in gemology, metals, and resizing, repairing, casting, setting, cutting, and polishing techniques. Students who take courses in computer-aided design (CAD) will have an edge over their competition. Afterward, many new employees will gain experience as assistants of more seasoned goldsmiths and jewelers.
Note: These programs typically require less on-the-job experience and apprenticeship, which may attract more employers.
Obtain on-the-job experience. Apprenticeship programs are offered through places of employment. It is important that individuals find such experiences through reputable programs and employers so their services can be marketed in the future. Most apprenticeship programs take 4 to 5 years to complete and pay approximately half of what fulltime goldsmiths earn. At the end of such programs, the graduated apprentice will typically earn a certificate. To find an apprenticeship program, individuals are encouraged to find information through community colleges and online resources.