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Michael Husted
Jewelry Designer
Van Horn Jewelers

Do you like wearing jewelry? Maybe, it's a special ring, a pin, a necklace or bracelet. Even prehistoric people decorated themselves with jewelry. Have you ever looked at a sapphire, ruby, turquoise, or diamond stone? What would it be like to design jewelry? Michael Husted has been doing this as a career for many years.

1. Can you explain to young people just what a jewelry designer is?

I am a jewelry designer and also a bench jeweler. Not all designers are bench jewelers and not all bench jewelers are designers. As a bench jeweler I repair broken jewelry, set diamonds and other gem stones, size rings and build new pieces. I use a gas torch, a variety of hammers, saws, files, gravers, burs, and power tools. Many of the techniques in use today are centuries old. Others are very new and are a result of modern technology. As a designer I think of new ideas for pieces of jewelry and then figure out how to build them. Some times I craft an item directly out of metal. By sawing, filing, hammering and soldering I can fabricate a piece of jewelry in gold, silver, or platinum. Other times I carve the item out of wax. The wax is then invested in a plaster like material. The wax is burned out and the empty space is filled with molten metal. This is called the Lost Wax Casting process. Often one or more gemstones are set into the piece. Finally the item is polished to a bright luster or given an interesting texture.

2. What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is that I am able to use my creative skills every day AND make a living. Art was always my favorite class in school. Being a jewelry maker is like being in art class every day.

3. What would you say is the most difficult aspect of your career choice?

Some times the jewelry I work on has great monetary value. Other times it has a lot of sentimental value to someone. I could be setting a ten thousand dollar emerald or repairing a ring that had not been off a woman's finger since her wedding day fifty years ago. A lot of things can go wrong. Emeralds break. Gold melts. There is a lot of responsibility that goes with the job. It takes a steady hand and steady nerves. Fortunately for me I've been doing this long enough that I've already made most of the mistakes one can make and I've learned how to avoid them.

4.Do you have a memory you'd like to share with young people concerning your job?

Often times I work with people at important landmarks in their life. Engagements, weddings, birth of children, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries. It's almost always a pleasure to help someone design a special piece of jewelry. Important landmarks however are not always joyful. Some times I will work with a customer to build a new piece of jewelry out of the jewelry of a deceased love one. It can be very emotional and yet rewarding to play a small part in their healing process. Most memorable to me was when my own mother had me melt down her engagement ring with her and my late father's wedding rings to make a new ring for her.That was pretty intense.

5. What are the necessary skills/degrees needed to become a master Bench Jeweler?

While it is not necessary to have a degree to be a bench jeweler it can certainly help. Many colleges offer jewelry classes as well as some trade schools. As with many careers it can be difficult to get that first job without any experience.The more educated one is the more likely they are to have a successful career. The most important things needed to be a bench jeweler or jewelry designer are a desire to work with your hands, the ability to concentrate and an aptitude for problem solving. A creative mind is also a must.

6. Any suggestions for young people who might be interested in your career? How can they begin now to get prepared for your career?
If you think you would like to do this kind of work take all the art classes you can. You need to know about design, color, composition, drawing and how to think three dimensionally. Sculpture classes are important. There are many books and magazines dedicated to jewelry so read about jewelry and learn about the different types of gemstones.

7. Where can you work as a jeweler/designer?

You can work for yourself or work for someone else. Many jewelry makers are self employed. They sell their jewelry at craft shows, at galleries and jewelry stores and on the internet. Some jeweler designers work for movies designing the pieces that will be worn in a movie. If you saw the movie Twilight, the antique-looking pieces worn by the Cullen family, were designed by a jewelry designer!

8. Describe a typical day at your job.

Most of my time is spent working on projects that need to done in the next day or two. I meet with customers to discuss their needs. I create sketches for them to look at. I work out price estimates. I order parts. But mostly I sit at my bench and build jewelry.

9. What got you interested in your career choice? Did anything in school or your childhood help spark this interest?

I always wanted to be an artist. I've always loved to draw and paint. I realized early on that I had a particular interest in sculpture. It wasn't until I was in college however that I discovered jewelry. What is jewelry after all but small scale sculpture? I was hooked after the first time I lit a torch and soldered bits of metal together.

Make a button pin:
You will need different shapes, colors and sizes of buttons.
glue gun(glue)
small safety pin
oak tag
optional :beads, fabric, silk flowers

1.Start by creating a shape with the piece of oak tag about 2 inches in size.
2. Cut out a piece of fabric to made the shape of the oak tag. Glue it to the back of your oak tag. Let dry.
3. Take a safety pin and glue it onto the back of the oak tag and let dry.
4. Start to glue your buttons onto the other side of the oak tag, starting from the center and moving outward. Add beads and pieces of silk flowers if desired to your design.

*Idea from