I feel too many people misunderstand, or carry a distorted view of what it is that our craft as jewellers is made up of.
The Jewellers work is divided into several trades. These include watchmaker, engraver, gem setter, gemologist, lapidarist, goldsmith, and silversmith . That is not a complete list by the way , there are many parts to the complex job of producing or fixing precious adornment. Restringing, plating, hand engraving, polishing, forming, casting, forging, carving, refining, estimation, and recently CAD design.
With in each of those trades are skills that your average jeweller might have a talent, interest or training in and processes that overlap each other, But the core services offered are greatly dependent on experience, training and tooling of each individual.
The trades are different as much as a plumber and electrician or in respect to a watchmaker and fabrication jeweller as a fitter turner and a welder respectively.
An experienced watchmaker probably will be able to get some of the results a gemsetter would, but would find it unproductive to try or buy tooling for both jobs. The scarcity of our trade members is a problem as well, for example with the advent of cell phones, watches have become less of a necessity and more of a status symbol. Hence the decline in watchmakers worldwide. This is worse for hand engravers since the rotary machines and cnc based engravers do the bulk of the work. The biggest tragedy with this is the loss of this amazing craft, people simply aren’t learning it or teaching it anymore.
When you go to engage a jeweller to purchase something or repair/refurbish an item you own, consider the process. Usually they will be able to show you an item you may be interested in or arrange to have something changed to suit or ideally made to your specifications. This will also depend on wether they have the facility in store or in the case of retailers the tradespeople available to do the work for you.
Generally a retailer will send work to a known trusted specialist or a proven tradesperson. Your most ideal result is a local that can manage your needs in-house but it is a rare outlet that covers all of the necessary tooling and skill base.
The processes involved in making jewellery in 90% of its forms has remained unchanged for the last few thousand years. I still use the same basic skills and tools the Egyptians used in the years of the pharaohs.
But for the first time in a lot of years there are new exceptions. Machinery has changed to effect the speed we can work at, welders and complex casting machines make new possibilities and better results easier for the average manufacturer.
There is a game changer in the form of the 3D printer. CAD systems and fast prototyping systems are allowing a new freedom and a complete upheaval in all aspects of modern processing. The capabilities of these systems are allowing new ways to develop that will change they way we’ve always done things. I’m looking forward to that.