Gem Cutter

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Gem Cutter


Gems and jewels hold a fascination for everyone. From the time they were young most people played pirates and found treasures of gold and jewels, or they pretended to be queens dripping with jewels. The jewels worn by ancient kings such as Tutankhamen and even the jewelry of Princess Diana have been on display for the public to see. Their has been a fascination with gems since the first ones were discovered.

Jewelry has played an important part in human cultures for thousands and thousands of years, but it is rarely the chains or clasps that have enthralled us for centuries -it's the glittering, polished precious and semi-precious gems in the jewelry that take our breath away.

Perfectly symmetrical stones do not grow on trees. Gem cutters take the mishappen lumps of rock and cut, smooth, and polish a whole variety of gems. Diamonds, rubies, even pearls are cleverly formed by the deft fingers of a well-trained gem cutter. Gem cutters also repair damaged jewelry, re-polishing the luster back into each peice.

Gem cutters can apply their knowledge in a number of ways. They may choose to work as designers, salespeople, as appraisers, or with a mining company. No matter how they choose to work, theirs is a specialized art and talent that will survive in the glittering splendor of engagement rings, pendants, and Oscar necklaces for years to come.
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  Average Earnings  
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Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Successful gem cutters require good manual dexterity, good color vision and steady hands. They must be patient, meticulous, honest and detail-oriented. Solid analytical skills and the ability to work with clear guidelines in an organized manner are important. Some business sense is valuable, especially for those going into business on their own. Knowledge of jewelry styles, designs, and geometry is beneficial.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Purchase gemstones
  • Work with other people's personal stones
  • Study the gemstone
  • May discuss with the client how the gemstone could be cut
  • Mark out the cutting guidelines
  • Saw or split the gemstone to the rough shape
  • Shape, cut and smooth the stone
  • Check that the stone is cut accurately
  • Polish the cut stone
  • Repair damaged or older jewelry
  • May determine the value of gemstones by its color, cut, clarity and carat (weight)
  • May estimate worth of gems
  • May manage jewelry staff
  • May design and make jewelry
  • May look after administrative duties
  • The typical day for a gem cutter involves working closely with a variety of precious and semi-precious stones. They meet with people selling raw stones, clients looking for a gem to purchase, or people who want their own stones cut to fit. Gem cutters may travel around the world to appraise or purchase gems, conduct seminars, and to learn about new techniques.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Gem cutters often work alone, or alongside jewelry store owners, jewelry designers, and assistants. They can be found in home offices, large jewelry companies, factories, in studios and design offices belonging to their employer, or with wholesale companies. Some work full-time, some part-time, and some on a freelance basis. They may have to travel. When working for themselves, gem cutters can set their own hours, but those with a company can have more regular hours.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Gem cutters may train to work as gemologists, analyzing and appraising stones and semi-precious stones. Others may choose to work as jewelry desingers, and salespeople. They can learn international jewelry arts, and apply this knowledge to their own work. They can also branch out into other crafts, like gold and silversmithing, weaving, and stained glass, write books and articles on jewelry.

  Educational Paths  
Gem cutters generally require a combination of formal instruction and on-the-job experience. Some prefer to find a skilled cutter and learn the tricks of the trade under their tutelage, while others pursue a diploma in gemology. There are full-time courses, seminars, as well as correspondence courses available. Other courses to consider are in jewelry arts, geology, chemistry and physics. Those planning on going into business on their own may want to consider taking some courses in merchandising, business administration, and marketing.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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