Artists sometimes hope to earn money making jewelry but are unsure if their efforts will make enough to pay the bills. Salaries for beginning jewelry designers depend on many factors, such as materials used, the market for their designs, the quality of the finished piece and where they live and work. Those who make expensive, custom-made pieces typically earn more than those who mass-produce costume jewelry, although the market for the latter may be bigger.
The median national salary for jewelry makers in 2010 was $35,170 per year, or $16.91 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Beginners would typically be among the lowest 10 percent of salary earners, with mean annual wages less than $19,460 -- $15,710 less than most jewelers who've been in the field for two or three years and $14,380 lower than the median salary for all other careers surveyed by the BLS in 2010.
Beginners should know about regional differences in salary. Jewelry makers on the East Coast in states such as New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut made an average of $2,687 more annually than those in West Coast states, including Washington, Oregon and California. West Coast jewelry makers made an average of $6,248 more than those in southern states, including Texas and Oklahoma -- comparable with those in northern states, including North and South Dakota.
How much you make when you begin your career depends on your training, skill, people skills and business savvy. You can take a course at a trade school to teach yourself the basic craft of jewelry making that will save you materials and trial and error as well as making you a more attractive applicant to prospective employers. Focus your studies on gems and metals education as well as learning issues such as resizing, repair, computer-aided design, casting, setting and polishing jewelry. Previous experience, including sales, is valuable, as is completing an apprenticeship, but ultimately skill and initiative will bring you success, according to the BLS.
Jewelry making is a competitive field, with job prospects expected by the BLS to decline by 5 percent through 2020, compared to the 14-percent rise anticipated in all other surveyed occupations. While nontraditional sellers, like department stores, will likely edge into the market, traditional jewelry stores will remain the main employer of new jewelers. The best job prospects are for those with college educations and who are skilled in jewelry design and repair.
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