Job Talk

As we prepare to celebrate our 25th anniversary, we find ourselves reminiscing on the early days of our business. Come along with us on a walk down memory lane and take a look at what the newspapers were saying about us in the early 2000s!

Gemologist, Royal Diadem Jewelers

The following post is transcribed from an interview column that appeared in the News & Record on January 6, 2008.
By Nicholas Brown,
Special Sections Editor

NAME/AGE: Sterling VanDerwerker, 54
TITLE/OCCUPATION: Certified gemologist, graduate gemologist, certified bench jeweler technician/jeweler
EMPLOYER: Owner, Royal Diadem Jewelers, Greensboro
SALARY RANGE: $35,000 to $90,000

What does your job entail?

"I do everything from determining a customer's needs to identifying gemstones and fine metals to producing and delivering them."

How did you become involved in this line of work?

"I started in art education and received a bachelor of science degree in ceramics and photography from Buffalo State College in Buffalo, N.Y. I also took a creative jewelry making course. "My design degree qualified me to work with my hands and create custom jewelry designs. From that point, it put me in a position to combine my design elements for a foundation to produce nice, durable pieces of jewelry." VanDerwerker applied for a management position with an area jeweler. He worked and trained in retail operations and served as a store manager and later as an executive in store operations. When the division he supervised was sold, he obtained a bank loan and opened his own jewelry store in 1999.

Sterling VanDerwerker is a certified gemologist and owner of Royal Diadem Jewelers in Greensboro. He took a creative jewelry making course in college and started in the business as an apprentice. He now helps determine customer needs and creates custom jewelry designs.

What training or education is required?

"There are two available sources. The first is training through the Gemological Institute of America (, which teaches gemological sciences and jewelry fabrication and design at its facilities in New York and in Carlsbad, Calif. You take a series of classes, equivalent to 60 hours of normal college work, akin to an associate degree. The second avenue is bench training. This involved hands on jewelry work and correspondence courses. You start as a journeyman or apprentice working for an experienced jeweler." VanDerwerker took that route.

What does it take to do our job successfully? 

''You have to have a good scientific or technical background to understand production and you need good hand-eye coordination, which relates to benchwork. You also need good people skills and selling skills. We serve one person at a time, and give him/her everything we possibly can."

What is most challenging about your job?

"We have a high degree of risk. I have to set diamonds regularly to keep up my skills. If I don't maintain my skills with diamond setting I can destroy a $30,000 diamond setting in a split second. Also, it's a challenge to listen carefully to the customers and find the right gemstone, metals and design to meet their needs."

What is most rewarding?

''When I present a finished piece of jewelry to a customer and see their reaction. The sentimental value customers can have to a piece of jewelry, the memory tied to such a high-value item, it's immeasurable and priceless. It's an emotional time for many customers, and I enjoy the excitement and the reward of being involved in the process.''

Any advice for someone interested?

"Start investigating this in your early teens. Find a jeweler you can work for, doing whatever is needed - polishing, gift wrapping, sweeping the floors. You'll get exposure to our business.'' Interns can learn jewelry making, including handling, shaping, soldering and polishing metals. Or they might become involved with computer-aided design, producing two or three-dimensional designs. VanDerwerker's store has two teenage interns.

Editor's Note: Every other week in TriadCareers, our Job Talk feature focuses on a different job. We interview an individual in the Triad who has that job to help job seekers learn more about local careers. TriadCareers is always looking for Job Talk candidates. If you know a person who works in an occupation that would be of interest to job seekers, please contact Nicholas Brown 

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