Manufacturing jewellers work with metals and other materials to produce accessories like rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and cufflinks. These can range from mass-produced, low-cost fashion items, sometimes called costume jewellery, to individually designed pieces, hand crafted using precious metals and gems.
Retail jewellers work in shops selling jewellery, clocks, watches and silverware directly to customers. They may also offer valuation, repair and alteration services, and must be able to advise customers on their purchases. Some may work for companies that specialise in selling certain gemstones, such as diamonds.
Jewellery making is one of the UK's oldest crafts. However, while many traditional methods and techniques are still used, many tasks are now carried out by machines, with just the finishing touches done by hand.
Some jobs are semi-skilled while others demand high levels of skill. There are many different areas of work within the jewellery trade, and it is possible to specialise in one particular area or learn a variety of techniques. These include:
Mounting - using metal to make the framework of a piece of jewellery, drilling and forming it so that stones will fit securely, and soldering sections together without any visible joints.
Lapidary work - producing a finished gemstone from rough natural material, using a variety of cutting and polishing techniques.
Stone setting - fixing stones securely in a mount.
Polishing - giving the jewellery a high degree of smoothness using rotating brushes, mops and ultrasound baths.
Chain making - rolling and drawing metal into wire, coiling and cutting the wire to make links, and joining the links together to make a chain.
Casting - making forms by casting molten metal in a mould.
Stamping - making jewellery parts using a mechanical or hand press.
Assembly - soldering parts together (this process is increasingly mechanised)
Enamelling - decorating surfaces by applying powdered glass and then firing in a kiln.
Engraving or Carving - creating decorative patterns using hand tools or high speed steel cutters.
Texturing - creating a textured surface on gold or silver using hand or machine tools.
Chasing - using hand punches to push a pattern into the metal.
Often, jewellers work to a brief provided by a designer or sometimes an individual customer. They use a range of hand tools such as pliers, hammers and files, as well as traditional tools for specific jobs.
Some jewellers may set up their own shop or studio, designing and selling their own work.
Jewellery makers usually work 39 or 40 hours a week, from Monday to Friday. Overtime may be required at busy times. There are opportunities for part-time work.
Retail jewellers work between 37 and 40 hours a week. Weekend, bank holiday and evening work may be required. Part-time posts are common.
Jewellery makers work in small factories, workshops or studios. These are usually warm and well lit, but some processes can result in hot, wet, dusty and noisy working conditions.
Retail jewellers work in shops and can spend long periods of the day standing.
Starting salaries may be between £8,000 and £10,000 a year.
There are around 2,000 businesses involved in manufacturing jewellery in the UK, employing an estimated 8,000 people. Most businesses are relatively small, with only a few employees. Opportunities are therefore limited and there is strong competition for posts. London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh are the main centres for jewellery, silver and flat plate manufacture.
In recent years there has been a slight drop in the number of companies manufacturing jewellery due to competition from abroad. However, there has been a significant growth in the number of freelance and self-employed designers.
Retail jewellers are found throughout the UK. They range from small businesses employing one or two people, to chain stores with outlets in many towns and cities.
Vacancies are advertised in specialist publications such as Retail Jeweller Magazine, The Jeweller and The Hockley Flyer (the local paper of Birmingham's jewellery quarter). They may also be advertised in Connexions centres and Jobcentre Plus offices. Jackson Maine is a specialist recruitment company for the jewellery trade, with a website at www.jewelleryjobs.com.
There are no set entry requirements to become a retail jeweller, although some employers may expect GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications.
There are no formal entry requirements to become a manufacturing jeweller. Some qualifications in art, craft or design and technology may be helpful. Experience in woodworking or metalworking may also be useful.
There are two routes into a career as a manufacturing jeweller:
Courses may be taken on a full or part-time basis. A full list of courses is available on the British Jewellers' Association (BJA) website at www.bja.org.uk. The website also lists independent and short courses.
HNC/HND courses usually require one A level/two or three H grades, or equivalent qualifications. For a degree course, candidates usually need at least two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades, or equivalent qualifications.
Several colleges also offer Foundation degrees, either directly covering jewellery or with relevant units.
The Goldsmiths' Company supports apprenticeships for people between 16 and 21 years of age, living in London or south-east England. Candidates who are interested in becoming apprentices may register with the Goldsmiths' Company through their website at www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk.
Manufacturing jewellers are usually trained on the job by an experienced craftsperson. There may also be the opportunity to attend day release or short, external courses.
Retail jewellers can work towards NVQ's/SVQ's in Retail Operations at Level 2 and Level 3.
Goldsmiths' Company apprenticeships focus on the development of craft and technical skills. They involve a three to five-year period of training working under a Freeman of the Goldsmiths' Company.
The National Association of Goldsmiths offers a range of seminars and home study courses aimed at those working in the retail jewellery trade. Seminar topics include valuing, diamonds and diamond grading, customer service, window display, retail law for jewellers and selling techniques. The home study courses can lead to recognised qualifications which include:
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A manufacturing jeweller should:
A retail jeweller should:
With experience and training, manufacturing jewellers may be able to take on more challenging work. As jewellery manufacturing companies tend to be small, it may be necessary to change employers to progress.
A retail jeweller may be promoted from sales assistant to assistant manager or manager. Learning a specialist skill, such as valuation, may improve career prospects.
There are opportunities for self-employment for both manufacturing and retail jewellers.
British Jewellers' Association, Federation House,
10 Vyse Street, Birmingham B18 6LT
Tel: 0121 237 1112
The Goldsmiths' Company, Goldsmiths' Hall,
Foster Lane, London EC2V 6BN
Tel: 020 7606 7010
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.