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Gold is one of those commodities that will always be worth a fortune. People have been searching high and low for gold since the days of the gold rushes. Nowadays, gold still holds a great deal of value, but it is used more in jewelry than for practical purposes. Goldsmiths are specialized jewellers who design, make, alter and repair items such as rings, bracelets and necklaces.

A goldsmith will also set, polish, plate, carve, engrave and cast gold and other precious stones and metals. Goldsmiths might make sketches of the piece (such as a necklace or ring) and then construct a mock-up for the customer. Since they are working with such an expensive item, there is no room for mistakes. This way, they show the customer what their piece will look like before making it and wasting any further time or money.

Goldsmiths buy precious metals such as gold, silver, platinum and other metals like copper to make alloys. They use a number techniques including hot and cold processes, rolling, hammering, and annealing to form the metals into the shape they want. They may also perform intricate inlay work with different metals and design highly complex chains.

Goldsmiths repair both new and antique pieces and they may also appraise the worth of pieces, sometimes for insurance purposes. They are knowledgeable about cutting and polishing techniques, and can find specific conditions or flaws affecting the value of the gold. Special equipment and tools are required for these tasks such as loupes, microscopes, polariscopes, dichroscopes and polarizing filters.

Goldsmiths must pay close attention to trends in fashion and design - popular culture often influences which styles of gold will be the most popular in the retail market. For example, sometimes it's hoop earrings while other times, it is anklets.
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a goldsmith? Successful goldsmiths need good manual dexterity, color vision, steady hands and must be patient, careful, and confident. Goldsmiths must be able to work with clear guidelines in an organized manner and have excellent communication skills with all customers. Finally, they also need a business sense, especially if they own their own shop.

They must be dedicated workers and really interested in precious metals. They have to have good spatial artistic ability and must be able to visualize three-dimensional objects, often from two-dimensional designs.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Grade gold for carat value and purity
  • Identify golds and differentiate between antiques and copies
  • Examine optical, surface and internal characteristics using a loupe, microscope, polariscope, dichroscope or polarizing filter
  • Measure gravity by hydrostatic or heavy liquid immersion techniques
  • Calculate precise dimensions using tools to discover weight and gravity
  • May estimate worth of gold
  • May manage jewelry staff
  • May design and make gold jewelry
  • May look after administrative duties
  • The typical day for a goldsmith involves working closely with a variety of precious and semi-precious metals. They meet with people selling raw gold, clients looking for gold to purchase, or people who want their work appraised. Goldsmiths may travel around the world to appraise or purchase gold, conduct seminars, and to learn about new techniques.
  • Goldsmiths spend hours in the same sitting position, thus eyestrain and sore shoulders and necks are potential hazards for goldsmiths. Their work tends to be solitary, especially for the self-employed and those who work in small shops.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Goldsmiths often work alone, or alongside jewelry storeowners, jewelry designers, and assistants. They can be found in home offices, large jewelry companies, 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. Goldsmiths who are self-employed will have flexibility in their schedules and work more regular hours.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for goldsmiths? Those with experience can become gemologists, appraisers, designers, and salespeople. They can learn international jewelry arts, and apply this knowledge to their own work. Goldsmiths can also branch out into other crafts, like silversmithing, weaving, and stained glass, write books and articles on jewelry appraisal.

  Educational Paths  
Goldsmiths generally require a combination of formal instruction and on-the-job training/experience. Employers generally prefer to hire goldsmiths who have a diploma in goldsmithing or gemology. There are full-time courses, seminars, as well as correspondence courses available. Other courses to consider are in computer science, jewelry arts, geology, chemistry and physics. Another good idea is to consider taking some courses in merchandising, business administration, and marketing, especially if you plan on going into business on your own.

Goldsmiths can also receive their training either through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a goldsmith, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position however, wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the goldsmith a certificate of completion.

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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