Why We Love This Business

Fear not, however. The article—while its facts may be accurate—is misleading, because its criteria for “better” and “worse” jobs are tied directly to the growth opportunity in that industry, not the actual working conditions of each position. In the case of the jewelry industry, it cites the influx of mass-produced jewelry imports from overseas as the reason why American jewelry factory jobs are declining—not breaking news—but it also points out that highly skilled goldsmiths working in the custom and luxury sectors are in great demand and should remain so well into the 21st century.

It lists the median salary for “jewelers and precious-stone workers” at $28,000.

According to JCK’s Annual Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey—which this year for the first time ever includes data on supplier firms as well as retail firms—this isn’t breaking news either, although the Forbes figure is a bit lower than our survey revealed. When asked “What was your total compensation for 2006,” the highest percentage of supplier respondents answering that question checked the range “between $30,001 and $50,000.” The second-highest percentage checked the range “between $101,000 and $150,000.”

The disparity is not surprising. While there is a cadre of highly paid individuals in the retail and manufacturing sectors of this industry, salaries for rank-and-file workers—especially in the retail sector—are typically low when compared with other fields. This page has many times addressed the need for better pay at the retail level.

The good news from JCK‘s survey—the first to evaluate job satisfaction as well as remuneration—is that 91 percent of respondents are satisfied with their current job and only 9 percent are dissatisfied. Seventy-five percent of respondents say they’re happy working where they are, while 25 percent—typically female and/or relatively inexperienced—are actively looking for a better opportunity. The 16-point spread between job satisfaction overall versus specific employer, however, does imply that some staff are not averse to hearing out a competitor’s offer.

The results of this and previous years’ salary surveys also make the case that this is a business people love or leave. It’s a business that gets not only under your skin but also into your blood. It’s a strange phenomenon, hard for people outside the business to understand (even when they’re married to people in it).

There’s this peculiar thing that jewelry people share. Call it passion, call it craziness, call it an addiction to this business, but it’s just who we are. We go on vacation and spend half our time in jewelry stores chatting with the owners, and we think that’s perfectly normal behavior. (This is usually when the nonjewelry person suggests either the moon—or separate vacations—for next year.) No matter where on earth we go, we either have industry friends whom we’re visiting, we’re making new friends we’ll go back to visit later, or the reason we’re there in the first place is that industry pals recommended it.

Does this conversation sound familiar: Spouse says, “Don’t you people ever stop?” Jewelry person replies, “And your point is what?” Yes, we are a different breed, and we’re proud of it!

Right now, times are unsettled in the jewelry industry. Metals prices are through the roof, but the dollar is in the basement. Competition from the Internet and other luxury goods is stronger than ever, the customer base is changing but many retailers aren’t, and jewelers are being required to take responsibility for what happens three degrees up the supply chain and half a world away. JCK‘s annual “State of the Industry” reports in September and October brought to light many of these troubling issues, and in 2008 we will address these concerns individually, offering strategies and solutions to help you thrive in the face of sweeping change.

Why? Because we love this business. And we want to hear why you do, too! Please send an e-mail (hschupak@reedbusiness.com) and tell us why you love this crazy business as much as we do.

Next month’s issue will be combined with our annual Jewelers’ Directory, so this page and all your favorite columns and features will resume in January. From our house to yours, best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous holiday season!