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Jeweller and Gem Cutter

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2019: 5,001 to 10,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: $1051 to $1300 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2015
Brief You've just had a beautifully cut and crafted one carat solitaire diamond ring slipped on your finger. Spare a thought for the gem cutter/polisher, who cut and polished the gemstone and the jeweller, who designed and manufactured the ring.

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TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Jeweller and Gem Cutter

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Introduction

In a highly technical age that is characterised by digital appliances, the traditional crafts of the jeweller and the gem cutter continue to be highly valued. A gem cutter/polisher cuts and polishes the gemstone that a jeweller uses in the precious pieces that he or she designs and manufactures.

Gem cutters cut and polish most synthetic (man made) and natural gems to enhance their colour or brilliance. Flat gems like sapphires and rubies are cut using a faceted machine, whilst round stones like opals and pearls are cut using a cabochon. Faceted stones require more time, as there is greater detail involved and the stone has to be cut on the exact angle.

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Education Requirements

TAFE SA offers the Certificate IV Program in Jewellery.

Still unsure? Then try a short course also offered through TAFE SA such as Introduction to Jewellery Making or Make Resin Jewellery. Check the website for the full list of short courses.

SA Apprenticeships are available in this occupation for further information go to the Traineeship & Apprenticeship Services Website at http://www.skills.sa.gov.au/apprenticeships-traineeships or phone the Freecall number 1800 673 097.

Career Path

According to an industry source, more people are buying custom designed jewellery, enhancing employment opportunities for local jewellers. The growth in the State's tourism industry have also increased jewellery sales opportunities. However, most jewellery stores order pre cut stones from South East Asia and this is reflected in the low numbers of local gem cutters.

Industries

Manufacturing,  Retail Trade

Interview

I became interested in jewellery when I was young…young enough to still be watching ‘Play School’! You know how they say: ‘Today we’ll look through the round window’, well, one day they showed a man making a wedding ring and I thought ‘That looks like a lot of fun’.

I come from a trade oriented family… a long line of fitter and turners, which is kind of connected to jewellery in a way, it was just something that was natural for me to do. In Year 10 and Year 11, I organised work experience through my counsellor at school who was friends with the jeweller. Half way through Year 12 he offered me an apprenticeship and I was over the moon. Jewellery Apprenticeships are extremely hard to come by and it was exactly what I wanted… I had a week off after my last exam and started straight away.

I did my three years of apprentice studies at the Stanley Street TAFE campus in North Adelaide before they moved to the Roma Mitchell Arts Education Centre in Light Square.

My apprenticeship employer was quite supportive…letting me experiment with ways of making things and always challenging me, however trade school was definitely a good way for me to learn different skills. It gave me more of an opportunity to make things that I couldn’t make at work, especially in third year where we were given latitude to make things that we wanted to do within the confines of the curriculum.

The apprenticeship had much more of a technical focus compared to the Visual Arts jewellery programme which is more artistically oriented. As an apprentice you are working and honing your skills every single day… 8:30 to 5:30… constantly developing hand skills, for four years.

The pay isn’t too good especially as an apprentice - if you are starting as an older person then it might difficult. You can set up at home and do contract and private work, as I used to, but it gets complex managing taxation and superannuation. Now I prefer being an employee.

I worked with my original employer for about 7 years and then a co-worker decided to start out on his own and I joined him almost 4 years ago.

The work is always changing each day. We make handmade items: rings, earrings bangles, bracelets, necklets. The beauty of working in this, as in my first job, is that everything is handmade. Unfortunately the jewellery industry is headed towards mass production and there are not too many workshops left that are focussed on ‘making to order’ and hand-crafting every piece.

It used to be a traditionally male oriented area and it’s only been in the last 15 years that more women have been entering the trade. There are still some things that I find physically hard… drawing down some metal work needs a bit of muscle, but it’s not a factor that come up much. It’s more of a mental drain during the day.

It’s a long day concentrating on something just this far in front of you…concentrating on something small, up close, all day. Here I’m fortunate that I’m not working at the bench all the time. I also deal with customers and do designing work. I also balance it by doing ballet and moving!

I’m studying as well at the moment, the Bachelor of Adult and Vocational Education part-time. I’m in my forth year and I’d like to do a bit of both teaching and being here in the workshop. However working at the bench is my first passion.

You do have to have the right attitude and the right temperament to be a jeweller. You have to have a great deal of patience…you can’t throw something against the wall if you are frustrated with it. You have to be able to just sit there, on your own, for all that time during the day and be productive.

It can get very busy around Christmas time and Valentines Day, especially at Christmas. Sometimes you can be working 10-12 hours a day for at least a week or two. If you love what you do it makes it a whole lot easier. It’s rewarding being able to make jewellery by hand and I thoroughly enjoy my work.

Nature of the Job

After a customer has spoken to a designer and a drawing of the jewellery is finalised, the jeweller begins manufacturing, using hand and power tools. Using different processes, including filing, cutting, hammering, bending and casting, jewellers mould the materials they are working with into shape. Jewellers can also engrave, re-thicken or remodel jewellery. In retail outlets, jewellers also offer advice, replace batteries in watches and are involved in sales.

Creating a diamond consists of a series of stages. A clasp (or setting), which holds the diamond in place is soldered to the band which is usually made of gold or silver. Files or emery paper are used to smooth the band. The diamond is then set and secured into the clasp and the ring is polished with a buffing machine. A heavy piece of jewellery that has a large number of diamonds or pearls may take up to two weeks to complete. Some pieces are often created by request of a customer to their specific specifications. Its very creative work the idea of making jewellery, especially when its going to be worn and cherished for years is something special. Precious pieces are passed on to children and grandchildren, jewellers have the opportunity to create the heirlooms of the future.

Typical Physical Working Environment

Foremost, they must enjoy artistic and creative work and have good design ability. Craftsmanship is also essential in this occupation and as such, they must have good eyesight, good hand-eye coordination and have the ability to work carefully and accurately. They also need to show patience and perseverance and enjoy designing and making things.

Typical Occupational Example

Jewellers may choose to work in jewellery stores where mass produced jewellery is made and sold, or in specialist stores where pieces are made to order. They may work on the shop floor selling directly to the public, or in a workshop where jewellery is manufactured. In South Australia, gem cutters are either self employed or find work with large gem cutting organisations. To succeed as a jeweller, you should have creative design ability and enjoy working with your hands. You'll also need problem solving skills so that you're able to turn peoples' design ideas into a 3-D object. As you'll often be dealing with the public, good communication and sales skills are essential. Gem cutters should have good manual dexterity and be able to work with close range objects.

For further information, contact:

Jewellers Association of Australia
Phone: 1800 657 762
Email: info@jaa.com.au
Website: www.jaa.com.au

Earning Potential

The starting salary for jewellers is about $30,000 per year and this may go up to or higher than $50,000 for highly specialised or self employed jewellers. The salary for gem cutters may vary depending on the organisation that employs them however, the average annual salary is around $30,000.

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online