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Jewelry Then & Now
A jeweler or a is a person who deals in jewelry in many ways: it's design, make, repair, and in the end, sale. Metal and gemstones were used for body embellishment for centuries. Many tribe members used to wear animal teeth, bones and shells on their neck, which means that people always had a strong need to decorate themselves. Jewelry had a lot of forms and functions, but one was dominant – talisman protection.
Things are just slightly different today. We use hairpins, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches, cufflinks, but most of all – rings (engagement and wedding) and crosses (for those who are Christians). Jewelry started to represent and symbolize (especially golden) social status and recognition.
Due to its high popularity, we are starting to see more and more people getting involved with jewelry design and creation. It became a hobby for many, especially in the last decade. You probably know someone from your closest surroundings that makes earrings and necklaces and sells them on Etsy, Instagram or Pinterest.
Opposite to those who take jewelry as a hobby, professional jewelers make artisan jewelry - they create true art by using precious materials, glass, plastic, wood or gemstones. There are many jewelry schools in US. They represent starting point for all of those who want to learn metal working techniques and jewelry design (we’ll tell you more about schools in Chapter 4). In lines below, we will introduce some of the necessary and most used jewelry tools, followed by CRATEX polishing abrasives for jewelry finishing and cleaning.
Jewelry Making Tools
CRATEX Jewelry Polishing Tools
Interview With the Jeweler - Morgan Asoyuf
Online Jewelry Schools & Programs
How To - Simple Jewelry Projects - SOON
Jewelry Making Tools
Tools are the only thing in common for hobby and professional jewelers. No matter if you design and make (or repair and clean) jewelry that costs $20 or $2000, you'll need quality jewelry making tools you can rely on.
Tools for making jewelry can be divided in many categories, below are the basic ones. These are necessary to get the job done:
- Benches and bench blocks
- Drills, burs and bits
- Soldering equipment
- Pliers and tweezers
- Abrasives for finishing, polishing or cleaning jewelry
- Flex shaft machines & handpieces
- Safety wear
- Measuring tools
- Magnifiers and lamps, etc.
Jewelers with high reputation and years of experience have tools that allow them to work on much more complex projects, like casting and mold making tools, pneumatic engravers, welding machines etc. They can be rather pricey, but luckily aren’t necessary for beginners or hobby jewelers.
A bench with a drawer is an essential part of every jeweler's shop. It can be made as a left or right-hand version. Benches can be made of metal, but most of them are made of solid wood. Every bench has arm rests, pull-out tray with shelves and utility drawers. It can be stationary and portable. Many are hand-crafted and can be customized to look antique and vintage. Addition to workbench can be the top organizer with multiple slots and bins.
Price can depend on the bench size. Price range starts from $200 for hobby workbenches to even $5000 for professional double workbenches made from massive oak. Brand to take into consideration is John Frei.
Gravers & Handles
For hand engraving you'll need steel and carbide gravers with handle. They are perfect for gold, silver, wood and gemstones. There are several shapes you'll need to have if working on gem setting, shading, or stippling – flat, round, oval, square etc. Most of them are suitable for work on flat and convex surfaces. Price per one graver is around $10. You could save a few bucks if buy graver kit with a handle. Handles are shaped as a mushroom, pear and oval. They are made of wood and will cost you around $3.
Soldering is a commonly used technique when making jewelry. Equipment necessary to get the job done is: soldering board, solder, flux, tweezers and torches. Jewelry soldering kits can be found for as low as $140 and they include all the essential tools for basic soldering.
Most used hand tools in jewelry making are pliers. Depending on your work scope, there are different types of pliers that you'll need. Standard pliers can be with chain-nose, curved chain-nose, flat-nose, needle-nose and round nose. Specialty forming pliers are: mandrel pliers, banding pliers, dimple pliers, shape pliers. Specialty task plies come as crimping, cutting, loop-closing, gem setting etc. Check this guide to be familiar with all pliers used for making jewelry.
There is a great number of cutters as well. They are not expensive and can be found in many online jewelry supply stores. If you have a few extra bucks, you can buy plier and a cutter kit.
Like other metalsmiths, jewelers also use hammers. They are basically one of the cheapest tools in jewelry workshop. You can find a brass head jewelry hammer for $5. Choose a hammer depending on your workpiece and project demands. Different types are: raising hammers, forming hammers, chasing, cross pen, and many other. Jewelry hammers are usually smaller than the hammers you usually find at hardware store. If you are in doubt which mallet or hammer to use, read this article.
Jewelry Polishing Abrasives
If you are involved in polishing or jewelry cleaning, you will need abrasive wheels, points and cones for jewelry finishing. These abrasives are usually mounted on a lathe or flex shaft machine, and can easily remove scratches from used jewelry. Abrasives that are most commonly used are rubber abrasives shaped as small wheels up to 1 inch in diameter, or points for hard-to-reach areas or corners. Different types of grits are available - from coarse to extra fine. Since they are heat resistant, they can be used on a rotary handpiece with high RPM. Brand you should consider is CRATEX.
Drills & Burs
If you are serious about jewelry making you need to invest in a high quality/high speed set of drills and burs in different sizes and shapes. Drills can be used on drilling devices like presses and fixtures or mounted on Dremel or other hand rotary tools. Mostly used burs are: round, wheel, cone, cup, knife-edge bur, inverted cone and other.
Drilling holes in pearls, glass, gem stones or precious material can be a delicate task and requires not only drilling tools, but a steady hand and good skills. Manufacturers you should check out are Gesswein, Tungsten, Fox, Edenta Swiss, Foredom, Ikohe, Grobet etc.
Flex Shaft Machines & Handpieces
Flex shaft machines are used for sending, grinding, polishing, engraving, decorative work and cutting. They are often the most expensive piece in a jewelry tool collection. Price range goes from $199 to even $2000. Operating speed, noise level, power and torque delivery are determining factors when buying a flex shaft and handpiece. Most of them are foot controlled.
If you are looking to buy one, check out models from these manufacturers: Grobet, Foredom, CRATEX and Swiss Hammer.
Measuring Tools, Safety Gear and More
It is obvious why jewelry makers need measuring tools, like ring sizing gauge, stone diamond size gauge, ruler, digital micrometer.
Magnifying tools like eye loupes, bench magnifiers or microscopes are also important and used every day for many purposes. Magnifiers are not expensive (around $30), but a microscope can cost you more than $200, so think about whether you even need one before buying. Brands that you can trust are: Bausch and Lomb, Coddington, GemOro, Hastings and others.
Most used safety wear are glasses and cotton finger guards. Order them online at jewelry supply stores. Price for finger guards is around $10, and glasses can be found for around $20.
CRATEX Jewelry Polishing Tools
There are several different ways to finish jewelry you created and give it a final touch. Polishing is the final step in jewelry finishing before it is sold to the buyer.
Polishing jewelry can be done by hand, using hand tools or with a machine by using a flex shaft tool. Jewelry polishing by hand can be time-consuming and that’s the reason why CRATEX abrasive manufacturing company has developed an extended line of products for jewelry finishing.
Jewelry Polishing Wheels
If you need to grind, fix an uneven surface made of gold and silver (or other metal), polish to a high gloss or just clean old jewelry, use of rubber abrasive wheel is a MUST. They are real time-savers and they give you full movement control. Complete wheels selection is made of premium rubber and impregnated with silicon carbide, so they are heat resistant. They are used dry, so you don’t need a polishing compound.
CRATEX rubber polishing wheels are color coordinated from roughest to the finest:
- Green C - COARSE
- Dark Brown M - MEDIUM
- Reddish Brown F - FINE
- Grey Green XF – EXTRA FINE
Small Polishing Wheels for Flex Shaft Machine
For delicate work on small jewelry parts, use small rubber wheels. They need to be mounted on flex shaft machine (using mandrels) and they allow you to:
- quickly and easily remove metal, tool marks, oxide, soldering remains and patina,
- smooth necklaces edges,
- polish flat surface on rings, necklaces, bracelets and brooches.
Small wheels have tapered and straight edge. Tapered (knife-edge) wheel (some call them polishing disks) are perfect for wire work and jewelry that has texture. The straight wheel is flat on the sides and it is excellent for polishing flat jewelry. The wheel comes as unmounted disks and need to be put onto mandrel before they are attached to the power tool.
Light pressure on the piece and mid-range speed will give optimal results when polishing. Coarse grit combined with high spinning speed may give you a cutting power, so be careful not to damage jewelry you are making.
To decide which wheel suits your needs best, order this MINI KIT for just $35 (shipping included for the US). It includes 10 small wheels in different grits and 2 screw mandrels.
Large Polishing Wheels for Bench Lathe
Forget about traditional sandpaper and old metal files. For larger flat jewelry surfaces use large rubber polishing wheels mounted on bench lathe or polishing motor. Remove jewelry heavy scratches, nicks, dents and tarnish in a second and restore the original look.
Large abrasive wheels have flat edges and come in different thickness and diameter sizes. Jewelers mostly use a 3-inch abrasive wheel. They come in many thickness variations and standard CRATEX grit sizes (coarse, medium, fine and extra fine).
To achieve best results in jewelry polishing apply light pressure to avoid overheating. For full details and order, visit this page.
Jewelry Polishing Pins
If you need to reach tight areas, recesses and spots, use CRATEX rubber bullet and cylinder point polishers. They also come in different grits and sizes, so you can effortlessly grind and polish every corner of a brooch or inside of a ring.
Pins are coming in three shapes: bullet point, tapered and cylinder. Length of 7/8 to 1 inch and different diameters gives them the ability to reach every corner of a piece of jewelry and provide an even and smooth finish.
Choose grit size from coarse for pre-polish to extra fine for fine polishing and mirror finish depending on jewelry material. They can be used on all kinds of materials – precious or semi-precious materials, ceramics, glass and soft minerals.
Like other CRATEX rubber abrasives use them dry, straight onto your piece. What does this mean? You can see clearly what you are doing and see the finish as you’re working. No messy clean ups like using rouge and Tripoli compounds!
Best way to try them out is to order this MINI KIT that includes 20 polishing points and two mandrels for $35 with included shipping.
IMPORTANT: Any time you use power tools like lathe or flex shaft machine to create jewelry, make sure you have proper eye protection (safety glasses) and a dust mask. Since jewelry will heat up during the polishing process you need to protect your fingers (thumb and first two fingers) as well. Use jewelers finger tape, since it doesn’t stick to tools or workpiece.
CRATEX Rotary Handpiece - Polish, Engrave & More
To operate flex shaft machine you need precision handpiece. It is an essential tool for finishing up jewelry, drilling holes, setting gemstones, cut and carve, clean up casting and much more. By using a diamond drill bit, you can even engrave and carve glass, metal and wood. The most important feature is that it is great for going into small, tiny and hard-to-get areas of a jewelry piece.
CRATEX developed perfect power tool for jewelry finishing. CTX-800 can reach the speed of 25,000 RPM and allows the user to quickly and easily change attached polishing bits or small wheels. It has ergonomic design, low noise level and is made of aluminum and stainless steel.
To see all technical details please visit CTX-800 rotary tool page.
Interview With Jewelry Artist
Morgan Asoyuf (nee. Green) was born March 24, 1984 in Prince Rupert BC, to parents Henry Green and Jean Gardiner. Morgan is Ts'msyen Eagle Clan from Lax Kwallams BC.
Morgans artistic career started with Blanche Macdonald Centres Fashion Design Diploma, and an interest in painting Ts’msyen Designs. She carved cedar and alder while working with Henry Green, learning about the properties of the wood and how to properly care for it.
She took Bronze Casting at The Crucible art compound in Oakland, where industry professionals taught her both investment mold and Sand Casting.
In 2010 Morgan began studying at Vancouver Metal Art School under Gerold Mueller, a goldsmith from Pforzheim Germany. She received diplomas in both Jewelry design and Stone cutting learning special techniques such as hollow construction, custom stone cutting, and advanced soldering.
Morgan has studied design and engraving with Richard Adkins, and completed Gem Setting courses at Revere Academy in San Francisco.
Welcome, Morgan! And thanks for accepting to do this interview with us. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself? What would you like the people to know about you right away?
I create one of a kind jewelry that is completely handmade from start to finish using the German technique of hollow building to produce layers and shadow.
Starting with flat sheet the metal is shaped and soldered.
I am both a purist and an experimenter. I handmake all my tools, melt and pour metal, make my wire and sheet. I use experimental textures and construction to see how far I can bend the ideas of form.
I am involved in every process of creating a piece, doing my own gem setting and stone cutting.
How long have you been working as a jewelry artist?
I have been working as a goldsmith, engraver and gem setter for 7 years. Previous to this I have been a full-time artist for 12 years doing woodcarving, painting, drawing and fashion design.
What kind of jewelry do you design/create?
I create one of a kind silver and gold jewelry using special techniques such as hollow construction, custom stone cutting, and advanced soldering. My practice is based in the northern style of Tsimshian art and culture. While representing the art form I experiment with new mediums and styles, while adhering to law and protocol.
What materials are you using for jewelry making?
I use silver, gold, copper, gems, stone (i.e. marble), ivory, hardwood. I also use nickel silver and brass to make models of difficult designs.
Can you describe a day on the job as a jeweler/goldsmith? Or your typical work week if more suitable?
- I do very different things each day, working on a mix of faster projects and long term high end projects. Cast line - creating gem settings, soldering, sanding, polishing, setting gems…
- higher end work- drawing, making models, cutting out silver/gold, soldering, making handmade chain. engraving, gem setting, cleaning - sanding polishing etc., oxidizing
- usually spend some amount of time every day using sanding and polishing wheels
- generally, have to re-supply fairly often with supply companies (weekly or bi-weekly)
- business stuff- replying to emails, pricing, accounting, speaking to galleries and clients via phone, social media (I attempt to do daily social media)
- toolmaking is more of a monthly thing, with sharpening/refinishing every week of steel tools for engraving, gem setting etc.
What's the last piece that you've created that you are especially proud of?
“Winter eagle pendant”
Materials: Silver, Ivory inlay / Hollow built with handmade chain
How can people purchase your pieces? Do you ship outside Canada?
My work is available directly through my website, social media, or email. I ship anywhere in the world. I am also available though Vancouver galleries Museum Of Anthropology and Bill Reid Gallery. In Victoria BC Alcheringa Gallery. In the US I am available through Steinbrueck Gallery. If you are interested in lower end work such as hoodies and cups I can be found at Salishstyle.com (USA) or Nativenorthwestselect.com (Canada).
What are the most essential tools every jeweler needs to have, especially if just starting out? Can you name at least Top 5?
Foredom (with burrs, polishing, sanding, abrasives wheels), hammers, jewelers saw, files, torch and bricks. The most essential is the knowledge to make your own tools.
How did you learn about CRATEX products? Official website, forum/blog, recommended by other jeweler?
Recommended by industry professionals I was working with as well as mentors.
When did you start using CRATEX abrasives?
I used CRATEX products previously (such as large wheel abrasives) for knife making, as far back as 2006.
In 2012. I lived in Oakland California to learn bronze casting and was again introduced to the product line by industry professionals, for finishing work on small bronze sculptures.
I began using CRATEX products again but for jewelry in 2010 during my formal schooling as a goldsmith. They were recommended by my mentor.
Which CRATEX products do you use?
I use all of them. The large wheels, sticks, mandrels and blocks for knifemaking (shaping and sharpening steel), and all the smaller wheels and cones for jewelry - mostly polishing, and especially getting into harder to reach places where I want to maintain the texture (i.e. in engraved/gouged areas).
Why did you choose CRATEX products instead of some other manufacturer?
The quality - they last a long time and I find the polish to be superior to other brands.
Would you recommend CRATEX to other jewelers, and if yes, how would the recommendation sound?
CRATEX provides a high-quality product that lasts longer and provides premium results.
Jewelry Online Schools
Learn Jewelry Making From Home
If you like jewelry and you want to learn how to make it, but don’t have the time for conventional education, like studying at a university, consider applying for jewelry making online courses. This way you’ll have the opportunity to turn your love for jewelry into a bright career.
Online courses are very convenient if you want to learn basic and advanced techniques in jewelry making, work on repairs and design from the comfort of your own home, and learn at your own pace. And not just that – successful jeweler needs to know everything about packaging, tools and supplies, jewelry pricing, running a business successfully, marketing, etc.
As you know, there are a ton of jewelry schools on the Internet. Before you choose one for yourself, there are some things that you need to be aware of.
What to Learn Before Choosing Online Jewelry School
How Does It Work?
- What is a course focused on engraving, gem setting, metal casting, stone cutting, advanced soldering, jewelry design and construction, fabrication and forging, or a course that includes elements from all of the above?
- What is the time to complete the course?
- How much will you pay for it?
- Do you have access to all course material right away?
- Are you going to have a personal advisor? Email or phone support?
- Do you need to provide jewelry tool kit by yourself or is it included in the price?
- What if you don’t like the videos and instructors, and you want to quit the course. Can you quit and request a refund?
- What degree or certificate can you complete online?
- What knowledge will you get after completing and graduating?
What Will You Learn?
Top Online Jewelry Programs & Certificates
Below are schools that offer verified online jewelry courses and accredited diplomas and certificates.
Academy of Art University - Online Jewelry & Metal Arts Degree Programs
Founded in San Francisco in 1929, the Academy of Art represents one of the oldest educational institutions when it comes to jewelry. The academy offers online courses since 2002.
You can watch an online class demo on the official website to help you decide. Online education allows you to create your own schedule. The academy has its own custom Learning Management System (LMC) where students can submit their work, get feedback from instructors and grade information. LMC platform also provides discussions with other class members. To attend online classes, you'll just need an Internet connection and a basic PC or MAC configuration computer.
Courses for Spring 2018 Semester
If you decide to give Academy of Art University of San Francisco a chance, you can attend 13 online courses starting spring 2018.
Add them to your schedule planner and you are going to learn: the history of jeweling, how to create basic and advanced fabrications, everything about jewelry tools, stone settings, metal forging, die forming, enameling, forging and forming, wax model making and casting, basic and advanced jewelry design and fabrication, modern and temporary design and techniques, project development and digital design like laser cutting and milling.
Below are the degrees you can complete online:
- Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Degree,
- Master of Arts (MA) Degree,
- Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree,
- Associate of Arts (AA) Degree.
- To learn about tuition rates, fees, and available financial aid, visit this link.
New York Institute of Art and Design
The New York Institute of Art and Design was founded in 1985, under the name of Sheffield School of Interior Design. In the fall of 2012, the school underwent a massive shift from the traditional correspondence model to an online learning model, with the rollout of its online learning center. All courses were put online, and enrollments in mailed programs ceased by 2013.
Online Jewelry Design Course is divided into 6 units and covers everything from jewelry making and designing to even selling your work online:
- Unit 1 – Getting started in jewelry design. Starting unit will introduce jewelry tools and supplies and refer you to place where you can buy them; you will learn jewelry history and cover Eye of the Jewelry Designer, Tree Guidelines for Jewelry Design™.
- Unit 2 – Basic skills and techniques. In the second part of the course, you will learn about the design and colors, stringing techniques, wire working techniques and techniques for budgeting and logging costs.
- Unit 3 – Advanced design skills. In this part of the online course you will continue to develop wire and stringing techniques; additionally, you will learn to develop signature look and learn about copyrighting law.
- Unit 4 – Developing your style. In lessons within this unit, students learn how to create unique findings with wire, latest color trends, jewelry photography and very important how to build their own brands.
- Unit 5 - Creating a unique brand. This chapter is more about business. Students learn how to create jewelry line, start their own business and find new inspiration.
- Unit 6 – Designing as professional. This is the final unit of jewelry course that teaches students how to create jewelry photography and display their work so it grabs attention of potential clients, how to maintain creativity and sell their pieces online, like on the Etsy store.
Upon graduation, a student receives a NYIAD Certificate in Jewelry Design.
The New York Institute of Art and Design has a transparent Jewelry Design Course Tuition with two available payment options.
The first option is paying in Full. A student pays $699 for the complete course and gains access to all materials right away. The second option is Monthly Billing. Potential candidate pays $59. If you choose this option, the course will cost $1049.
Risk free - If a candidate is not satisfied with the course, it can get cancel after 14 days and the candidate would get a full refund.
Ashworth College is founded in 1987, as a family-owned school, and it was the first accredited online school in Georgia to receive a Delta Epsilon Tau National Honor Society charter. In 2000, Ashworth College introduced online associate degree programs, followed by master's degree programs in 2004 and bachelor's degree programs in 2007. The college is praised for online programs that are affordable, convenient and practical.
Jewelry Classes Online at Ashworth College teach students about the design, but the main focus is on the jewelry repair. The students also learn about molding, casting, engraving, embossing, plating techniques and enameling. The program can be completed in 4 months. The students are provided with: a tool kit, textbook, and study guides.
The curriculum is divided into 17 lessons, among them are: tools & equipment, fundamentals of design and theory, time management, stone setting, anatomy of gem, casting, fabrication and forging, model making, cold connections and soldering, general repair, ring sizing and repair, link and chain repair, designing with wire and watches repairs. Students also learn about job searching, interviewing and how to polish the techniques of selling jewelry they had made.
Upon the graduation, the students receive Jewelry Design and Repair diploma.
Ashworth College offers three options when it comes to tuition:
1. Pay in full $699
2. Monthly auto plan $809 – automatic monthly credit card payments (this is the most popular option among students), and
3. Monthly bill pay plan $899 – pay by email, phone or online
Penn Foster Career School
Founded in 1890, Penn Foster was one of the first pioneers of distance learning with more than 30,000 graduates. Penn Foster online programs give students the flexibility to learn around their own schedules, with 24/7 access to a supportive online community of students and faculty.
Penn Foster Career School's Online Jewelry Design and Repair program can be completed in just three months. Focus is on jewelry modification, repair and jewelry finishing like stone setting, polishing and sizing. The school provides basic tools and equipment students need for jewelry making: safety goggles, gloves, rotary tool with brushes, wires and solders.
The curriculum is detailed and consists of 7 units (every unit has 4-5 lessons) and covers the following topics:
- Tools, design and repairs
- Metals, casting and soldering
- Repair evaluations on watches, pearls, bead stringing, engraving and other gemstones
- Jewelry retailing and home-based businesses
After the program completion, the students receive Jewelry Design and Repair Career Diploma.
Penn Foster Career School also offers three tuition payment plans:
1. Full Pay $639,
2. Monthly Auto Payment $699, and
3. Monthly Mail Pay $719.
The school also offers Career Cruising. This service helps students create their portfolios, create a solid CV, access local job posting databases. All this combined, will increase the chance of starting a successful career alongside an established jeweler, or starting your own business.
If you are creative, detail oriented, innovative and persistent, this is the right jewelry course for you.