Want to be a mentor to an aspiring bench jeweler or jewelry maker?
Part of our BEaJEWELER initiative is to create a mentor network to attract young men and women to the jewelry-making field. We’re looking for people who have the gift of good hands and motivation to become jewelers.
We need your help in spreading the word and serving as mentors. You may be a jeweler or company that needs (or will soon need) more bench help, or you may simply have the time and desire to introduce the career of jewelry making to a promising young person.
- Master-level jewelry-making skills and knowledge.
- The ability to share information about BEaJEWELER.com, where interested young people can find information on a bench jeweler’s typical job duties, skills needed, and work environment, as well as trade schools students can attend.
- The time to answer questions about being a jeweler or to have a prospective jeweler visit your shop or bench area.
- A desire to sustain a U.S.-based jewelry-making workforce.
- Interested? Complete the contact form on this page for more information on becoming a mentor.
Once You're a Mentor
Once accepted as a BEaJEWELER mentor, here are the next steps you can take:
- Review the few short pages that make up BEaJEWELER.com, so you can see the information we’re sharing with prospective jewelers. These pages will also help you in answering questions and presenting the field to young people.
- Be prepared to receive some emails from local young folks who find BEaJEWELER.com. They may ask if they can set up an informational interview with you, either by phone, email, or in person. Speak from your own experience when answering their questions. Feel free to share with them the qualities you look for when hiring a bench jeweler, or what salaries are like in your region.
- Seek out young people in your community who may have an interest in becoming a bench jeweler. Use BEaJEWELER.com to spread the word on social media or via emails you send customers, or when speaking face-to-face with school guidance offices and local young people, or during presentations at civic events. We’ll also provide you with a hand-out for young people, parents, and teachers.
Mentors can also take the following steps:
- Consider whether you might be able to introduce your shop to an interested young person, to show him or her what a bench jeweler does.
- Consider whether you might have time to teach a young person some basic skills at the bench, while he or she is deciding whether to attend a trade school.
- While teaching basic skills, observe the young person’s finger, hand, and arm control skills, as well as his or her capacity to understand the basic math and mechanical concepts needed to make jewelry.
- If the young person seems to have the talent and skills needed and is ready to commit, you could advise him or her to apply to a trade school. You could also mentor the person yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why should I take the time to mentor a new bench jeweler? Can’t I just hire an experienced one?
It’s not that easy anymore. Jewelers across the country tell us they search for months or years without finding a good candidate. Here’s why:
- The ranks of younger jewelers have dwindled over the past 30 years. Manufacturing moved overseas; many retailers dropped their jewelry-making and repair operations. Demand for hand-skilled workers lessened, and salaries did not stay competitive.
- The trend to push all students toward college hurt professions like jewelry making. High schools also cut shop classes and vocational training—or switched to computer training. Many trade schools closed. Students with good hands went to college or chose other fields.
- The national community of jewelry makers/bench jewelers is aging. Thousands of bench jewelers and jewelry makers who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s are beginning to retire—so demand for the jewelers who remain is fierce.
Q. I’m reluctant to take the time to mentor a local kid to go to school to be a bench jeweler. If I end up hiring that person, she or he will develop more skills on the job. But then another jeweler could just poach that person away. I’ll lose my investment.
Here’s how we address that worry.
- If you find and nurture a young person locally, who is committed to staying in the area, chances are your jeweler will have connections to family and friends—and will be less vulnerable to other job offers.
- Your help as a mentor and guide, while not a guarantee, can also generate loyalty.
- Regardless of whether your bench jeweler stays for the long haul, BEaJEWELER was created so jewelers could work together across the country on a common goal: To prime the pump and create a whole new generation of jewelry makers. Once that happens, losing a bench person won’t feel like such a disaster.
Q. I don’t see "bench jeweler" as a job with a future that will pay well enough to live. Why should I talk a young person into following this path?
- That might have been true for the past 30 years, but since the Great Recession, the landscape has changed.
- Bench jewelers’ salaries are increasing because the demand is so high—while the supply is limited.
- A growing interest among today’s youth is for careers where they get to use their hands and develop craft and maker skills. If this is what they want to do with their lives, we should encourage it.
- Many young people can no longer afford the huge cost or debt involved in a four-year college degree. There’s also no guarantee that a bachelor’s degree will guarantee a job that pays more than being a jeweler.
- For a young person who catches the "bug" to make jewelry, good luck dissuading them. As many jewelers tell us, becoming a jeweler is often a "calling" that’s hard to ignore.
Q. What’s built demand for bench jewelers?
There are several factors:
- Custom-designed jewelry is exploding in popularity among consumers. Though many custom pieces are created/cast using CAD/CAM, there is still the ongoing need for jewelry makers to perform fabrication, stone setting, engraving, finishing, sizing, and repairs.
- The consumer desire for handmade, hand-finished, and artisanal jewelry is growing, too, as affluent customers look for uniquely designed, handcrafted, and Made in USA products.
- Some suppliers who used to manufacture all their jewelry overseas are beginning to bring back some jewelry making jobs to the U.S., due to the higher costs of labor now in many developing countries. They need experienced bench jewelers, too.