Step 1: Tools
1.) You need a solid workbench. This is where the magic happens! The vast majority of work is done at the jewelers bench. Every jeweler has their own preferences in regards to how their bench is set up and in the 15 years I've been working as a jeweler I've certainly developed my own sense of what works and what doesn't. That doesn't mean there isn't a different/better way of doing things- this is just my own personal preference. A jeweler's bench should have a thick sturdy top (it'll get hammered on a lot) and it should have a large metal lined pan to catch metal filings/scrap. I keep most of my larger tools like large hammers, files, ring mandrel, sanding sticks and my saw in this pan so I can quickly grab them.
2.) Good lighting is a must. Making jewelry is hard on your eyes so make sure you have lots of light at your work space. I use a magnifying ring light and I've found it to have nice even light. The magnification isn't very strong but it's nice to be able to drop it down in front of you to get a better view of what you're working on.
3.) When doing exacting detail work good magnification is really important. I wore magnifiers for years before getting a bench mounted stereo zoom microscope and I can tell you there is no comparison. The microscope offers much better magnification and field of view as well as a greater working distance, which is necessary when doing detailed engraving and stone setting. The microscope is mounted on a stand that allows it to be positioned wherever I want. When looking for a microscope you want one that is designed for engraving work. The Omano microscopes are a really good buy too. Whatever scope you get be sure to get a LED ring lamp for it and make sure it has a .5X Barlow lens. The Barlow lens will increase the focal distance so you have room to move your hands under the scope while engraving and stone setting.
Meiji scope- http://www.ottofrei.com/Meiji-EMZ-5-Microscope-Kits-Complete-with-GRS-Acrobat-Stands.html
Omano scope- http://www.microscope.com/stereo-microscopes/omano-om2300s-v7-zoom-stereo-boom-microscope.html
4.) Rotary tools. I probably use these more than any other bench tool. Rotary tools are used for drilling, grinding and sanding. I have two Foredom flexshaft motors- one with a quick change handpiece and another with a #30 handpiece. The quick change handpieces are really nice for stone setting since you can change burs really fast. The #30 handpiece is great for using drill bits, large sanding rolls and large rotary burs. The Foredom flex shaft motors last forever- mine are over 15 years old. The #30 handpiece will also last forever. I manage to wear out the quick change handpieces every 1 1/2 to 2 years. I recently started using a NSK Evolution EMax micromotor rotary tool and it's the cat's pajamas. It is simply the finest rotary tool I've ever used and they're known for being extremely robust. The big benefit of micromotor rotary tools is the motor is in the handpiece so you're not fighting the tension of a flex shaft drive cable- it's a pretty big deal when you're doing delicate work and stone setting.
Foredom flex shaft- http://www.ottofrei.com/Foredom-SR-30-Flex-Shaft-Kit.html
Quick change handpieces (I've used just about every model made)- http://www.ottofrei.com/Quick-Change-Adjustable-Jacobs-and-Collet-Style-Handpieces/
NSK micromotor rotary tool- http://www.ottofrei.com/Nakanishi-NSK-EMax-EVOlution-Micromotor-Deluxe-Kit.html
5.) GRS Benchmate with drop plate. This wonderful tool is designed to hold rings by either the inside of the ring (using an expanding mandrel) or by the outside (using a clamp.) There is also a bracket that holds a standard wood bench pin. The drop plate allows it to sit low enough so you can use it with a stereo microscope- this enables you to do very intricate engraving and stone setting work.
GRS Benchmate- http://www.ottofrei.com/GRS-BenchMate-Setters-Package.html
Drop plate- http://www.ottofrei.com/GRS-Mounting-Bracket-That-Lowers-Shelf.html
6.) Gravers. These are cutting tools that are designed to remove metal for engraving and stone setting. They come in all different shapes and sizes. The gravers I used for this ring are a knife edge, onglette and flat gravers. GRS makes a power hone with a dual angle fixture for sharpening gravers- this allows you to set up a specific angle for sharpening the tip of the graver. It's a very easy and quick way to sharpen gravers. Gravers can also be sharpened with a Diamond lap or sharpening stone.
If you want to grind your own gravers use these- http://www.ottofrei.com/Grobet-High-Speed-Steel-Gravers/
This is a set of gravers already cut and ready to go- http://www.ottofrei.com/Stone-Setters-GRS-022-580-Quick-Change-Graver-Kit-X12.html
I use these quick change graver handles- http://www.ottofrei.com/GRS-Quick-Change-QC-Graduated-Length-Handle-Set.html
GRS Power Hone with sharpening fixture- http://www.ottofrei.com/GRS-Diamond-Power-Hone-Kit-115V-with-Dual-Angle-Sharpening-Fixture.html
7.) Files, inside ring bur and sanding rolls. I use a large coarse flat file for removing casting sprues and flattening sides of rings and a fine half round file for shaping the inside edge of rings. I use a small barrette needle file for shaping prongs after stones are set. I use a large carbide bur for cleaning up the inside of ring castings and sanding rolls for finishing/smoothing the insides of rings.
Flat coarse file- http://www.ottofrei.com/Grobet-Swiss-Vallorbe-Valtitan-Files-Flat-Hand-8.html
Half round fine file- http://www.ottofrei.com/Files-Half-Round-8-Inch.html
Barrette fine needle file- http://www.ottofrei.com/Files-Needle-5-1/2-Inch-Barrette.html
Inside ring bur (part #120.292)- http://www.ottofrei.com/Carbide-Inside-Ring-Bur-with-1-8-Shank.html
Sanding rolls (120 grit)- http://www.ottofrei.com/3M-Cartridge-Roll-1-2-x-1-Pack-of-25.html
8.) Burs, polishing wheels and drill bits. For this ring I used several different shape burs. Straight stone setting burs, 90 degree Hart burs, ball burs and Krause burs are used for stone setting and cleaning up raw castings. Rubber wheels are used for smoothing and polishing. I use a dressing stone for shaping the rubber polishing wheels. Small drills are used for drilling relief holes for stone setting. I use a mandrel that holds small polishing points for polishing small areas. I use beeswax as a lubricant when using burs- it prolongs bur life and allows for a cleaner cut. I also use beeswax for holding Diamonds during stone setting.
Polishing wheels- http://www.ottofrei.com/Shofu-Polishing-Wheels/
Dressing stone- http://www.ottofrei.com/Silicon-Carb-Dressing-Stone.html
Polishing points- http://www.ottofrei.com/Ottotech-Flexacrylic-Rod-Polishing-Kit.html
9.) Sanding wheels and sticks. Sanding wheels are used with a rotary tool to smooth castings and shape metal, especially in small areas. Sanding sticks are used on larger surfaces (like the sides of rings) to smooth and shape metal. I use a split mandrel to hold a strip of sandpaper for final finishing of inside of rings.
7/8" coarse sanding wheels (part #111.911)- http://www.ottofrei.com/Moore-s-Discs-Adalox-Pack-of-50-Discs.html
7/8" fine plastic backed sanding discs (part# 111.976)- http://www.ottofrei.com/Moore-s-Plastic-Discs-Sand-Pack-of-50-Discs.html
Split mandrel- http://www.ottofrei.com/Split-Mandrel-Straight-Type-3-32-Shank.html
Sandpaper (I use the 80 micron and 15 micron)- http://www.riogrande.com/Product/3M-Imperial-Micro-Finishing-Films/337311?Pos=5
10.) Burnishing tool. This is used with a rotary tool to smooth metal where there is microporosity in a casting. Porosity is often found where a sprue is removed- there may be tiny little pits left in the metal (due to how the metal cools during the lost wax casting process) so they need to be burnished down and smoothed in order to get a nice surface for polishing.
I use the 10mm recessed burnisher (part #118.084)- http://www.ottofrei.com/Burnishers.html
11.) Beading and millgrain tools. Beading tools are small round tools that have a cupped end- these are used to form small beads of metal for holding stones in place. Millgrain tools are small round cupped wheels that are used to form beaded decorative edges.
Beading tools- http://www.ottofrei.com/Beading-Tools-Swiss-Set-Of-24-Tools-0-22-Plus-One-and-Handle.html
Millgrain tools- http://www.ottofrei.com/Millgrain-Tool-Set-Of-6-With-Handle-On-Hardwood-Stand-4-6-8-10-12-and-14.html
12.) Pliers. I use flat nose pliers and chain nose nose pliers for stone setting. Gem set pliers are used when setting large prong set stones when smaller pliers cannot reach across the prongs. I've used many different brands of pliers over the years and I've found Lindstrom to be the best there is- they will last a lifetime.
Flat nose and chain nose pliers (Model #s 7940 and 7893)- http://www.ottofrei.com/Lindstrom--Supreme-Line-Pliers.html
Gem set pliers- http://www.ottofrei.com/Wes-Gem-Brand-Gem-Set-Pliers.html
13.) Dust blower and engraving tool. I use the dust blower for blowing out debris when using cutting burs. The engraving tool is something I made from an old bur (I shaped/sharpened the end with a Diamond lap but any sharpening stone will work just as well)- I use it for engraving markings on the inside of rings.
Dust blower- http://www.ofrei.com/page242.html
Diamond lap- http://eze-lap.com/products/diamond-hone-stone/
14.) Wire wheels, brushes and polishing compound. The wire wheels and brushes are used with a rotary tool- the wire wheel is used for deburring and the brushes are used with a polishing compound for polishing hard to reach areas. For polishing Platinum I use three grades of Japanese Platinum polishing compound.
Wire wheels- http://www.ottofrei.com/Steel-Brush-3-4-.003-Crimped-Wire-Unmounted-3-32-Hole.html
Bristle brushes- http://www.ottofrei.com/Mounted-Natural-Bristle-Brushes/
Polishing compounds (800, 1500 and 8000)- http://www.ottofrei.com/Japanese-NW-Platinum-Polishing-Compounds.html
15.) Polishing motor/dust collector. Jewelers do a lot of polishing and this polishing station allows all of the dust generated during the polishing process to be collected in a filtration system. There are a lot of dust collection systems out there with a huge price range. The important thing is that you have some kind of collection system so you're not breathing in particles from polishing.
The polishing system at my work is pretty similar to this model except ours is a single hood setup- http://www.ottofrei.com/Handler-75-Dust-Collector-System-With-Baldor-380WCT-Quick-Change-Polishing-Motor.html
16.) Ultrasonic cleaner and steamer. An ultrasonic cleaner is the best way to remove polishing compound. A steamer is used to quickly dry jewelry after it has been rinsed with water after the ultrasonic bath. Again a huge price range for this kind of equipment. A quick note about ultrasonic cleaners: certain fragile stones like Tanzanite, Emerald, Opal and Pearl should never be placed in an ultrasonic cleaner as they can be damaged by the ultrasonic.
We use a Crest ultrasonic cleaner that is pretty similar to this model- http://www.ottofrei.com/Best-Built-3-4-Gallon-Pro-Ultrasonic-Kit.html
17.) Jeweler's saw. I use this for cutting out detail areas. I primarily use 4/0 and 8/0 saw blades. The 8/0 saw blades are great for cutting in very small areas while the 4/0 blades are used for cutting rings for sizing and for cutting thicker sheet material.
Jeweler's saw- http://www.ottofrei.com/Classic-Jewelers-Adjustable-Sawframes-2-3/4-Inch-to-6-Inch.html
Saw blades- http://www.ottofrei.com/Antilope-Sawblades-By-The-Dozen-12-Pieces.html
18.) Ring mandrel. This is used for making sure the ring is round and that it is the proper size. 90% of the time I use a smooth taper ungrooved mandrel. Grooved mandrels are used when you have a stone that sticks through the bottom inside of the ring.
19.) Brass pusher. This is used to help position small Diamonds and push them into place while setting. The brass is soft enough not to damage the Diamonds. The tool is made by inserting a small length of 1/8" diameter brass rod into a wood graver handle. I like the graver handles that have a flat on them so they don't roll around on your bench.
20.) Rawhide mallet. A rawhide mallet is used to shape metal without marring it- great for hammering rings round.
So that's a lot of tools and many of them are pretty darn expensive! One thing I tell people that are starting to get into jewelry work is check Craigslist ads for used tools or jewelry stores or schools that are selling off equipment. Most of the big ticket items like benches, ultrasonic cleaners, steamers, polishing motors, dust collectors, microscopes and flex shaft motors can be found second hand and most of these tools are really well built tools that were meant for production environments so as long as they are in decent working condition more than likely they will last you a long time.