5 of the Best Educational Programs for Aspiring Bench Jewelers



The art and craft of jewelry making can be taught—for a fee

Learning the art of jewelry-making used to be a family affair. Children would grow up in the business and acquire the skills—metalsmithing, stone-setting, and casting—needed to be a craftsperson. But times are changing, and educational programs that equip novice bench jewelers or designers with the abilities they need have been a boon to the industry.

“There’s a tremendous need for bench jewelers now because most of the World War II bench jewelers are retiring by the dozen and we’re not seeing a lot of children following in their fathers’ footsteps,” says David Peters, director of education and industry relations for Jewelers of America. “The quickest way to get them trained is to send them to school.”

The nation’s best jewelry schools are located throughout the country and offer programs of varying lengths and costs. We’ve tracked down details on five of the best known:

New Approach School for Jewelers

CAD/CAM students at work at TIJT: Once finished, designs are transmitted to a milling machine that makes a wax replica for casting.

The New Approach School for Jewelers in Franklin, Tenn., offers short intensive courses to learn a particular skill—like five-day workshops ($1,044 each) on such topics as stone-setting, bench repair, and wax carving—on top of two more comprehensive programs, the eight-week Jewelry Technician Program and the 12-week Graduate Bench Jeweler Program.

“The thing that sets us apart is the way in which we teach,” says owner and president Blaine Lewis. Magnification techniques ensure every student in the room sees every detail of what’s being taught.

NASJ’s Jewelry Technician Program costs $7,360.56. (The amount is based on cost of materials and fluctuates from year to year as metal costs change.) The Graduate Bench Jeweler Program costs $11,161.88.

Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts

The Revere Academy in San Francisco offers two different diploma programs and two options for the time frame in which the training is completed. If students take open sessions—one- to five-day versions of the 11 courses they need—they can get their Jewelry Technician diploma in as little as six weeks. Or they can spread out their education over a longer period. “Open session is a shorter time commitment and also has greater flexibility,” says assistant director Christine Dhein.

The alternative is an eight-week “intensive” full-time format. “It’s the same diploma,” Dhein says, “but there are added ­benefits.” Some of the extra time is spent on guest speakers and field trips to other studios and galleries, for example.

Revere’s more advanced Graduate Jeweler diploma program takes between three and five months to cover the 11 classes in the technician program plus 11 additional classes, some more advanced in the same subjects, others on topics such as design, metalsmithing, and rendering. Tuition and fees total $6,548 for the Jewelry Technician program and $8,289 for the intensive course. The cost of the Graduate Jeweler program varies, depending on which of these courses a student chooses.

Dhein says Revere helps place students at jobs all over the country and the school has a Facebook alumni page where employers connect with Revere grads as well.

California Institute of Jewelry Training

Works by California Institute of Jewelry Training instructor David Preston and graduate apprentice jeweler William Gable

The California Institute of Jewelry Training in Carmichael, Calif., once had a six-month module-based program, but executive director Dee Rouse Huth says the school recently redesigned its curriculum to better cater to ­students short on time or money. “We are concentrating more on the gemology and jewelry appraisal courses,” she says.

The institute’s 18-week Certificate in Jewelry Arts is $10,500 for tuition and tools; the 24-week Diploma in Advanced Jewelry Arts costs $14,175 for tuition and tools.

CIJT also offers the MasterValuer Jewelry Appraisal Program. “It was the first jewelry-specific appraisal program, and we have students and schools throughout the U.S. and Canada as well as Korea,” Huth says. “The course is a distance program and a three-day workshop.” Students graduate with the accreditation of Registered MasterValuer Professional.

The Gemological Institute of America

The Gemological Institute of America has campuses in Carlsbad, Calif., and New York City as well as 11 international campuses around the globe. At its flagship campus in Carlsbad, it offers programs in Applied Jewelry Arts, Jewelry Design, and CAD/CAM as well as graduate programs in jewelry, gemology, diamonds, and colored stones.

On-campus tuition is approximately $19,150 for the 26-week Graduate Gemologist program and $15,850 for the 26-week Graduate Jeweler program. GIA also offers a roster of distance-learning courses and programs.

Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology

Courtesy of Bruce Duncan
Iraq war veteran William Gable completed the CIJT jewelry arts and gemology programs with honors.

At the Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology, located at Paris Junior College in Paris, Texas, students can get certificates and associate degrees in jewelry and watch technology. It takes four semesters, or 16 months, to earn a certificate; students are in class from about 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We train our students for the industry,” says Ulla Raus, division chairwoman of the Texas Institute of ­Jewelry Technology. “We have an advisory board that’s made up of a lot of industry people. They advise us as to what we should be teaching,” she says, adding that the focus is on current skills, such as laser welding.

Jewelry certificate tuition and fees cost $13,759, while watch certificate tuition and fees cost $11,064 (both figures are for out-of-state students). The program also offers shorter certificates in gemology, CAD, watch technology, casting, and bench technician skills. Since Paris Junior College is an accredited community college, students may qualify for Pell Grants and housing, and meal plans are available.