How to Become a Jewelry Buyer
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Over the centuries, the lust for fine jewelry has inspired romance, greed, murder and also professionalism. A jewelry buyer is a professional who purchases gems and gold for a jewelry store to resell, whether the shiny comes from financially distressed owners or wholesale jewelry distributors. Becoming a buyer is one of many jewelry careers in the industry. If you can learn to judge value and negotiate price, jewelry buyer could be the right career path for you.
What a Jewelry Buyer Does
A jewelry buyer has several possible roles in the industry. Working for a jewelry store, you can specialize in buying pre-owned "estate" jewelry or wholesale jewelry from a distributor. You can do the same work for yourself, buying jewelry and selling it online.
Buying professionally is different from buying it for your personal collection. No matter how beautiful a gem, ring or necklace, it's not worth buying, unless you can resell it at a profit. There are many ways to fake the quality of gems and precious metals; you need the skill to know which are real and which are fool's gold. If you don't know the standards jewelers use to evaluate gems, such as color, size, quality and clarity, you'll have to learn them.
It's not enough to buy based on quality, though. Jewelry is fashion, and fashion changes constantly. A successful jewelry buyer knows what's hot and trendy in the jewelry business. If you're not up on the latest trends, you won't know which pieces you can move. If you're working for a jewelry store, you also need to know which niche the store caters to: elegant and upscale, old-fashioned, funky or cutting-edge cool.
A jewelry buyer also needs good bargaining skills to negotiate the base price, based on what he believes the item will resell for. If you're working for a jewelry store, you'll need the people skills to develop relationships with sellers and wholesalers, to encourage them to send their best pieces to the store. You also need to manage money well, as you won't have an unlimited budget.
A jewelry buyer isn't a jewelry appraiser, although the skills of these jewelry careers overlap. An appraiser also learns to judge the value of jewelry and distinguish cultured pearls from natural, costume jewelry from authentic antiques. However an appraiser's sole focus is to determine value in the current market. The appraiser doesn't concern himself with resale price or with negotiating deals, - only with knowing the worth. Appraisers are paid for an accurate opinion. If you're dealing with extremely valuable items, it may be worthwhile to hire an appraiser for a professional judgement.
Learning the Trade
Traditionally, newbies learned their jewelry careers in the workplace: Find a job with a jewelry store, gain experience and work your way up to a higher position. Along with experience, the industry is interested in the same things as are most employers: A good work ethic, organizational skills, the ability to use computers and the desire to learn.
There are also a variety of college, certification and training programs available, many of them online. The Gemological Institute of America, for example, offers a variety of jeweler school training. The Graduate Gemologist Program, for instance, teaches a number of skills useful for a jewelry buyer:
- Provides hands-on experience with diamond grading.
- Teaches about colored stones such as rubies, emeralds and sapphires.
- Teaches gemstone identification. Learning the ways that sellers can treat gems to enhance them and recognizing when you need advanced testing.
- Helps you understand the market factors that affect gem value.
Gems Into Money
Jewelry buyer salaries range from $36,917 - $77,011 with an average salary of $52,702. If you're in business for yourself, your income may be more flexible, as it depends on the profit when you resell the pieces you buy.
- Another path is working as a buyer in another industry for several years, but educating yourself about gems and the jewelry business in your spare time. Apply for entry-level jewelry buyer or buyer's assistant positions when you have sufficient experience and industry knowledge.
Over the course of his career, Fraser Sherman has reported on local governments, written about how to start a business and profiled professionals in a variety of career fields.. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com