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Can a Felon Become a Jeweler?

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Job opportunities are difficult to come by after being released from prison. There are resources available though felons may not believe they can find a job.

Often, felons must look at different career path, which may include returning to school for additional education. While serving their sentence some felons might consider a career in jewelry.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can become a jeweler.

  • What is a Jeweler?
  • What is Required to Become a Jeweler?
  • Licensure vs Certification?
  • How Much Does a Jeweler Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is a Jeweler?

A jeweler works in different ways with a variety of decorative pieces of jewelry. He or she works in wholesale or retail sales, and manufacturing. A jeweler might work in a retail chain jewelry store, a small business, or be self-employed.

Among the duties of a jeweler are:

  • Designing and creating jewelry from metals and stones
  • Examining and grading diamonds and gems
  • Cleaning and polishing jewelry
  • Repairing jewelry
  • Shaping metals

There are a number of types of jewelers, including:

  • Bench jewelers
  • Gemologists
  • Appraisers
  • Designers
  • Production jewelers

There are many skills necessary to be successful as a jeweler, including:

  • Artistic ability
  • Fashion sense
  • Fine motor skills
  • Eye for detail
  • Patience
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication

What is Required to Become a Jeweler?

Most jewelers have a high school diploma or a GED. A candidate to become a jeweler often begins by working in a jewelry shop polishing jewelry.

Many jewelers do not have formal training. Often, the path to become a jeweler is accomplished the by learning on the job with a jewelry manufacturer or in a jewelry store. An apprentice program is the best way to learn the skills of a jeweler, including setting stones and engraving metals.

There are trade schools that offer training to become a jeweler. These programs last from six months to one year. A candidate can also complete a bachelor of fine arts in metals and jewelry design.

The requirement for a license depends on the level in which someone enters the trade. In may not be necessary to have a license to sell jewelry, but some employers may want someone to have a license to work in that field.

A certified gemologist is a licensed jeweler who has the training to determine the value of fine jewelry and to identify metals and gemstones. A gemologist may work for a jewelry store or for a jewelry wholesaler. They may also work independently, offering appraisals to individuals and businesses.

The Gemologist Institute of America (GIA) provides jeweler training and certification. The GIA offers a Graduate Gemologist (GG) certificate based on completing certain courses and laboratory experience. It may take six months to complete a gemologist certification.

A jewelry craftsperson typically learns to make jewelry on the job or through a practice program. A craftsperson is trained to work with precious metals in gemstones, manufacturing, modifying, or repairing jewelry. A license is not required to work as a jewelry craftsperson.

A jewelry salesperson is often called a jeweler but may not be a certified gemologist. Typically, only the most experienced salespersons have certification. Someone can enter the jewelry field at an entry level and gain the experience necessary to eventually complete certification.

Professional certification indicates a specialized training and technical knowledge in jewelry, designating a level of competence based on specific standards. Certification tests knowledge and skills rather than simply and educational level.

License vs Certification?

A license is issued by a state agency to practice a profession and is required in order to call oneself a licensed professional. Some states have a single license and some have a level system, and licenses, as well as requirements, vary from state to state, depending on the profession.

Licensing can be viewed as mandatory certification. Under a licensure system, states define the practice of a profession and stipulate that these tasks may be legally performed only by those who are licensed.

Certification is typically a voluntary process, although certification can be mandatory or required to practice in certain states. It’s often provided by a private organization for the purpose of providing protection to the public.

Only individuals that successfully meet all requirements for the credential and demonstrated their ability to perform their profession competently are able to get certified.

How Much Does a Jeweler Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 45,800 licensed jewelers and precious stone workers in 2021. The median annual income for jewelers was $46,640 in 2021. The median income is that at which half of jewelers earned more and half earned less.

Job outlook for jewelers is expected to decline approximately 1% from 2021 to 2031. This is primarily because of decreased local jewelry manufacturing and an increase in jewelry imports.

An Opportunity for Felons?

When applying for schooling or state licensing as a jeweler, each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Regarding a felony conviction the board considers the:

  • Nature and severity of the crime
  • How recently the crime occurred
  • Signs of rehabilitation
  • Other related factors like any prior conviction

The board will make a determination for approval or denial of licensure after evaluating the entire application and supporting evidence.

After passing the board exam, a candidate will complete the final steps for licensure as required by the state. These steps typically include:

  • Undergoing a criminal background check
  • Passing a state-level exam
  • Submitting a list of personal references

A felon can pursue any degree he or she wants. Approximately 60% of colleges consider criminal history in their admissions process, although there is no standard policy regarding a background check. Any felon that wants to get a degree in preparation for becoming a jeweler can find a college that will accept him or her.

It’s important to be honest while filling out an application when applying for jeweler school or licensure. If a felony isn’t disclosed but is found on a background check, this constitutes fraud and is punishable. It’s a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

Having their felony expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming a jeweler. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It’s a big challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to become a jeweler. Having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make the essential difference in a felon succeeding in becoming a jeweler.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We’re not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a jeweler with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

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