- What are precious metals?
- Which jobs are available in the precious metals industry?
- How many jobs are available in precious metals?
- Top precious metal companies in the world
- Things to know before starting a career in the precious metals industry
- 1. There are many career options
- 2. You may need to work long hours
- 3. The average salaries are relatively high
- 4. There are many international opportunities
- 5. There's a possibility to become an entrepreneur
- 6. Many jobs allow for creativity
- 7. Some jobs can be risky
- 8. You need skills and training for most jobs
Precious metal mining is the heart of the economy in many countries, especially third-world or developing countries.
In countries like South Africa, which is the top precious metal ore exporter in the world, the industry employs a significant part of the population.
Things look a little different for the precious metal industries of developed or first-world countries. It is important for their economies, but it's not the be-all and end-all.
The industry in the US, for example, is worth billions. They exported a total of $69.8 billion worth of precious metals in 2021 and it still remained the 9th most exported product that year.
Despite the size of the industry, the truth is that it doesn't employ many workers.
This is a very small number, compared to the 458,954 workers employed in South Africa's mining industry.
What are precious metals?
Precious metals are natural elements that are extracted from the surface of the earth. They are extremely rare and hard to find, which contributes to their high economic value.
The process of extraction happens in the basic industries sector, with the help of mining equipment, like diggers, trucks, and loaders.
Three of the most popular precious metals that you may have heard of include gold, silver, and platinum. Together with palladium, these four metals are considered the primary precious metals.
The metals are used in jewelry and industrial processes, or they get sold to investors. The worth and legitimacy of the metals are determined using three identifying factors, namely:
- Karat: This grading system indicates the purity of gold. If the gold is 24 karat, it is pure. One karat of gold would only be around 4.16% pure, etc.
- Troy ounce: This measuring system determines the weight of the metal. One troy ounce is equal to 1.097 ounces.
- Fineness: The number that you see on a bar of gold indicates the fineness. This is the amount of real/pure gold in the alloy. The ratio used is 1:1000, which means that 999 would mean 99.9%.
Which jobs are available in the precious metals industry?
1. Jewelry sales associate: $48,636 per year
As a jewelry sales associate, you'll be working in a jewelry store. Your job will be helping the customers that come in to find what they are looking for. They'll describe what they want and you need to find options that they would be willing to purchase.
You need a high school diploma to become a jewelry associate. It's a great entry-level position because you can walk into a job straight after finishing school.
You don't need any prior experience or training, and you'll learn everything you need to know in the on-the-job training that is provided.
The average annual salary for this job is $48,636. This is a very good salary for a job that is typically used as a stepping stone toward better positions.
Unfortunately, there is a projected decrease of 2% from 2018 to 2028 for this job.
2. Jewelry appraiser: $51,884 per year
As a jewelry appraiser, you need to know how to determine the value of a piece of jewelry. To do this, you need to know the factors that are used and what the market value is at all times.
You will need to write appraisal documents that outline the true worth of a piece. This is usually for clients who want to sell their jewelry or add it to their insurance.
To become a jewelry appraiser, you need a high school diploma. Some knowledge about the industry, which can be obtained in many short courses, is also beneficial.
With proper training, you could be looking at an average salary of $51,884 per year. The job outlook is the same as the outlook for the precious metal industry as a whole, with an expected growth of 1% from 2021 to 2031.
3. Jewelry consultant: $58,846 per year
As a jewelry consultant, you will be selling pieces of jewelry to customers and clients. You will be required to show them different pieces that they may be interested in and add appealing information that will lead to a sale.
You need a high school diploma to become a jewelry consultant. Obtaining a degree in a sales or business-related field could increase your chances of getting hired.
Jewelry consultants in the US earn an average of $58,846 per year, but your salary will depend on your qualifications and experience. Some employers may also decide to add a commission to your wages.
The outlook for this job is negative, with an expected decrease of 2% from 2018 to 2028.
4. Jewelry maker: $49,538 per year
As a jewelry maker, your duties will include mounting, casting, setting, and polishing pieces of metal and precious ores to make jewelry.
To become a jewelry maker, you need to complete a course in jewelry making, and for that, you will need a high school diploma. These courses will teach you the entire process of jewelry making, from design to polishing.
Once you have completed the necessary courses to learn the basic skills, you could earn an average of $49,538 per year. However, you need to try and enter the job market as soon as possible, because the outlook for this job is negative. There is an expected job decrease of 6.6% from 2016 to 2026.
5. Gemologist: $50,897 per year
As a gemologist, you will be responsible for examining gemstones and ores and writing reports about them. In these reports, you need to outline the characteristics and quality of the gemstones.
To become a gemologist, you need to take classes and courses that will teach you everything about gemology. These courses can be completed at The International Gem Society or The Gemological Institute of America.
6. Goldsmith: $48,886 per year
As a goldsmith, your main area of expertise would be gold and the stones that can be used with them to make jewelry. You will design, file, hammer, turn, cut, and spin pieces of gold.
Additionally, some clients may ask you to do engravings in their gold jewelry. All of these tasks can be done in jewelry shops.
To become a goldsmith, you need a high school diploma. It's also essential to take a course or apprenticeship to gain the necessary knowledge and prepare for the job. This type of apprenticeship could take up to 4 years to complete.
7. Refinery operator: $60,900 per year
As a refinery operator, your job will be to control and operate the heavy equipment that is used in the process of refining raw materials. Refined raw materials get used in the production of other products.
You need a high school diploma and training to become a refinery operator. Some experience in a related job will increase your chances of getting hired.
8. Goldminer: $90,470 per year
As a miner, your daily duties will include a wide range of tasks. These include drilling into the earth's surface and operating bulldozers underground.
This is a very risky job, so you will need to follow a long list of safety precautions before you go underground. To land a miner job in the first place, you need to complete apprenticeships and acquire special licenses.
Regular drug tests and medical clearances are also a norm when working as a miner. Don't worry, you could be receiving an average of $90,470 for everything that goes with this job.
Mining machine operator, which is a type of job in the mining field, is expecting a job decline of 3.3% from 2016 to 2026.
How many jobs are available in precious metals?
To answer your question, there are 45,800 jewelers and precious stone and metal workers in the United States. The number of jobs is expected to grow by 1% from 2021 to 2031.
This means that there will be 600 jobs opening over the decade, resulting in 46,400 jobs by 2031.
Don't give up now, because it isn't only 600 positions that will be opening. There will be an additional 6,100 jobs opening each year over the same decade.
This is due to the workers that will be leaving the workforce, due to retirements, promotions, and other circumstances.
Top precious metal companies in the world
According to Value Today, the top 5 metal companies in the world all have annual revenue of more than $40,000 million. Plus, they each employ more than 20,000 workers.
It's important to note that the number of employees isn't an indication of how many jobs are available in precious metals. These workers could work in any field, from senior management to cleaning services.
If you'd like to know more, here's some more info from Value.Today about the top 5 companies:
1. BHP Group
BHP Group, headquartered in Australia, is a multinational company that specializes in mining, metals, and petroleum. They employ a total of 80,000 workers in multiple job fields.
2. Rio Tinto
Rio Tinto, headquartered in the UK, is a multinational company. They produce copper, aluminum, diamonds, iron, gold, uranium, and industrial minerals. They were founded in 1837, and today they employ 49,000 workers in 35 countries.
3. Vale SA
Vale SA is headquartered in Brazil but they employ 74,316 workers in 30 countries. Their main area of expertise is iron ore and nickel, of which they are one of the world's largest producers.
4. Freeport McMoRan
This company, headquartered in the US, employs 24,700 workers. They operate the Grasberg Mine. The mine is situated in Indonesia and is considered one of the largest gold mines in the world.
5. Anglo American
This multinational mining company is headquartered in the UK. They employ 90,000 workers and De Beers is one of their subsidiaries. They are the leader in platinum production worldwide but they also specialize in iron ore, diamonds, nickel, and copper.
Things to know before starting a career in the precious metals industry
If you happen to be one of the lucky few that land a job in the precious metals industry, there are a few things that you need to know.
1. There are many career options
The types of jobs in precious metals aren't limited to jewelry making and mining. There are many jobs that you can choose from, and the best part is that the industry is relatively stable.
Once you land a job, you can be assured that you'll be working in the industry for a long time.
2. You may need to work long hours
Like with many other jobs, the hours are quite long. You could be asked to work overtime or your contract may state that you need to work longer days.
Working in the mining industry could also require you to work night shifts. However, these long hours add up at the end of the month and you'll be rewarded for your work.
3. The average salaries are relatively high
In comparison with entry-level jobs in other industries, the salaries are higher than expected. Most jobs pay more than $40,000 per year.
These jobs can also be used as stepping stones to better jobs with better salaries. Plus, the better your qualifications and experience, the higher your salary will be.
4. There are many international opportunities
Most precious metal companies are multinational, which means that their work crosses many borders. If you like to travel and explore new places, you can choose to stay in your country and travel for work, or you may even ask to be relocated to another country.
The longer you work for a company and the better you are at your job, the better the chances that they'll send you abroad.
5. There's a possibility to become an entrepreneur
The more you learn about jewelry making, the better your chances of making it when you decide to open your own store. Not only will you know how the industry works, but your clients will also have more trust in you knowing that you have done the job before.
You can also become an entrepreneur in many of the remaining jobs in precious metals. For example, you could open your own goldsmith or gemology store.
6. Many jobs allow for creativity
Jewelry-making and other precious metal jobs aren't just black and white. Your job description will never be limited to a particular piece of jewelry, and you'll have the chance to design and create new and interesting pieces.
You could be granted the opportunity to unleash your creativity in your work, especially if a client doesn't have a specific request.
7. Some jobs can be risky
Becoming a miner can be a risky career move. There are a lot of ways to get injured and many fatal incidents that can occur underground. That's why they have strict policies and procedures in place.
Fortunately, these jobs pay fairly high salaries which will make up for the risk that you take.
8. You need skills and training for most jobs
Very few employers in the precious mining industry will accept a high school diploma. You will need to complete courses, apprenticeships, and training to gain the necessary knowledge and skills to land a job.
These skills can be transferred from job to job in the industry so if you decide to change careers, you won't need to do the same training over again.
Now that you know how many jobs are available in precious metals, are you willing to complete apprenticeships and take a chance with the industry?
We say, despite the limited job opportunities and minimal growth expected in the next few years, there may still be a position that is perfect for you.
Remember that higher levels of education and more practical working experience will not only increase your chances of landing a job, but it will also increase your starting salary.
If you struggle to land your dream job at first, we recommend starting in an entry-level job to gain as much experience as possible.
Employers prefer that prospective workers gain their skills and knowledge at previous jobs because it means that they'll be better at the job.
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