About 23,470 people are employed in the U.S. silverware manufacturing industry. Of the plants that manufacture flatware and hollowware in the United States, most are located in New England, particularly in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The major companies in the industry include Gorham (Lenox Corporation), Oneida, Towle (Lifetime Sterling), Wallace, and Reed and Barton, with a few of the biggest firms accounting for over half of the U.S. market.
Many smaller companies are located in Rhode Island, Maryland, and other parts of the country. Among them are Regent Sheffield, Lifetime Brands, and Tableware International. Foreign manufacturers in Japan, Brazil, and various European countries specialize in the production and design of silverware as well.
In addition to production workers, manufacturing companies employ both staff and freelance flatware designers. These creative professionals also work at independent companies that provide flatware designs to manufacturers, or for upscale retailers such as New York's Tiffany & Co.
You can apply directly, either in person or in writing, to manufacturing firms that may be hiring new workers. Leads to specific jobs can sometimes be found through state employment service offices or help wanted ads in trade publications and local newspapers. If you graduate from a technical training program, you may be able to learn about openings through your school's placement office.
Many newly hired manufacturing workers begin as buffers, trimmers, edgers, or assemblers. Others learn skilled crafts through apprenticeship programs. If you're interested in entering the field as a tool and die maker, keep in mind that these specialists frequently move up from other related jobs, such as machine operators or machinists. (Tool and die makers are frequently considered advanced machinists.)
If you are considering the design side of the silverware industry, check out Innovation, the newsletter of the Industrial Designers Society of America (https://www.idsa.org/innovation) for ads placed by companies seeking design professionals. In addition, available positions are frequently posted at the Web sites of industry-related associations, as well as on job bulletin boards at colleges and universities and through school placement offices.
You will find better job opportunities if you obtain some experience in the industry before applying for positions. A part-time or summer job at a flatware company or another related firm can provide such experience. In addition, you should assemble a portfolio of artwork and designs to show potential employers during interviews.
Silverware workers who can produce high-quality pieces quickly and consistently have the best chances for advancement. Unskilled workers can apply to become apprentices, learning such specialized skills as soft soldering, engraving, spinning, and toolmaking. Skilled workers may be promoted to supervisory positions.
Production workers with many years of on-the-job experience sometimes move up to positions as silversmiths or designers. Experienced die makers, in particular, may move into supervisory and managerial jobs. Others become tool designers or tool programmers in related industries.
In the design area, highly skilled professionals may advance to become lead designers or directors of design departments. At companies where the design department is very small, advancement opportunities are often limited. Instead of promotions, designers at these firms are frequently given more job responsibilities and higher salaries. Well-known, highly experienced designers with strong financial backing can start their own consulting firms or concentrate solely on freelance work.
Production workers and design professionals alike can also advance to other fields that require their skills, such as glass manufacturing, ceramics, and ornamental metalwork.
For job listings, visit:
Land a part-time job at a silverware manufacturing plant to hone your skills and make industry contacts.
Talk with silverware artisans and workers about their careers. Ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.