New Bench Jewelry Program Adds Style to Arts Offerings, and Job Opportunities

February 3, 2016 -- Starting next week, CNM will unveil its new Bench Jewelry certificate program for people who like to create jewelry from high-end materials like gold and silver.
March 02, 2016

In four terms, students will learn how to do jewelry repairs, work with precious metals, solder, set stones and polish. When they complete the program, they will be ready to take on a professional jewelry making job or go into business for themselves.

“I’ve been working on the development of this program for seven years, and it’s finally coming together,” said instructor Harley McDaniel, who has his Masters in Fine Arts Degree in Jewelry and Metalsmithing. When he first joined CNM eight years ago, he proposed the program. He wrote the curriculum and got it approved by the College Curriculum Committee. The program is designed for students to obtain a Bench Jewelry Certificate of Completion. They can also embed the courses into a two-year Associate Degree of Fine Arts, which can be transferred to a four-year university.

Of the 12 slots open, six are filled with jewelry makers from Relios, an Albuquerque jewelry manufacturing company known for its sterling silver Carolyn Polleck designs. McDaniel anticipates the remaining openings will be filled by Monday.

The primary bench jewelry class is being held in Ted Chavez Hall on Main Campus. In another classroom in TC, a temporary makerspace is set up where community members can come together, learn and make their own jewelry.

Each person in the program will have a bench to use as they learn how to create the jewelry, starting with metals like copper and brass, eventually moving on to precious metals. Benches are set up with tools for soldering, engraving, polishing and casting.

An important part of jewelry making, McDaniel said, is being creative, and that is encouraged in the new CNM program, as well.

“Right now is a good time to become a bench jeweler,” McDaniel said. “A lot of people are retiring after 30 to 35 years of doing it, and there are jobs available.”