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State-of-the-art renovation for PJC’s Texas jewelry institute

Published or Revised January 11, 2017

jewelry renovation photos

State-of-the-art renovation brought new equipment to PJC’s Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology. TIJT students gladly embraced the new technology in their work during the fall 2015 semester; shown at top, from left, are Jonathan Newton and Olivia Sharp of Austin and Casey Farrell of Homer, Alaska. Middle: TIJT jewelry instructor Serina Omori explains a technique to a group of students including, from left standing, Rachel Watson of Tolland, Conn., Wesley Rodgers and Christopher Wagner of Paris, Tala Fleenor of Dallas and seated, from left, Kirsten Saffel of Doyline, La., and Eric Erger of Boulder, Co. At bottom, students are enjoying a closer look at their work.

Long known for highly sought-after graduates, the Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology at Paris Junior College recently underwent a major renovation to keep students at the forefront of developing technologies. PJC is located in Paris, Texas, in the northeast corner of the state about two hours from Dallas.

“Since it began in 1942, TIJT has earned an international reputation for decades of providing graduates with all the skills needed to go to work immediately,” said PJC President Dr. Pamela Anglin. “We are committed to continuing that tradition by staying current with the latest industry technology.”

The fourth semester classroom makeover brought the latest technology to students completing their fourth and final semester at TIJT, and they were excited about the difference it made to their work.

Special white floor tiles, new paint and new ceiling tiles created a brilliantly lit setting for the new benches and equipment, purchased from Stuller, Inc. of Lafayette, La. Fourth-semester students now wear white lab coats in keeping with the clean room environment.

The classroom has 20 new work benches with Leica microscopes on flexible stands that can be moved to any position, micro motor units for stone setting and polishing and GRS GraverSmiths for stone setting and hand engraving. Each bench also has a GRS Benchmate system that includes a third-hand soldering station to make it easier for students to hold and work on their creations.

“Our new bench tools have been a great asset in class,” said student Casey Farrell of Homer, Alaska. “My microscope has allowed me to see crystal clear on my projects such as my nine-stone and twenty-five stone pavé rings, plus my LED lamp provided great light. I got a chance to use a bench mate and a micro graver ball which made it easier for me to hold my rings when chasing and stone setting. The GraverSmith made chasing go a lot smoother, especially on baguette stones. Not to mention our own quick change hand piece which for me made the process so much faster. I felt like a professional bench jeweler!”

“We started with a wish list of what would be included in the ideal workbench,” said PJC jewelry instructor Serina Omori, explaining that fourth-semester students work with gold and practice stone setting. “I’ve noticed a definite improvement in their work this semester.”

TIJT has an industry advisory board that works with the college to ensure graduates continue to have up-to-date skills sought by employers. PJC Memorial Foundation funds dedicated to the jewelry program helped acquire the state of the art equipment, in addition to Paris Junior College funds.

Three members of the advisory board were on hand for the equipment installation as well: Darrell Warren, Vice President of Tools, Packaging and Finished Metals for Stuller Inc.; Terry W. Chandler, President/CEO of the Diamond Council of America in Nashville, Tenn.; and Clay Minton of Clay Minton Watch Services in Paris.

“I plan to move to Dallas and apprentice under somebody who’s very experienced,” said Deborah Smith, who came to Paris from Denver, Co. “I feel very fortunate that they updated everything just before my fourth semester and I was able to gain the experience and use of this awesome equipment. I love the micro-moter, the GraverSmith and the microscope - I’ve used that a lot. I don’t really want to work without them now.”

A second classroom also received the clean room treatment, including 10 new outfitted bench stations, and casting, polishing, and cleaning areas as well as a camera and lightbox allowing students to create digital portfolios of their work. The school recently upgraded to a 3D printer in the CAD classroom, as well.

“After I graduate I plan to work in Austin,” said Hannah Piñon of McAllen, Texas. “I am looking for a CAD position in a custom jewelry store. Eventually I hope to gain enough experience to have my own jewelry line; I already have a signature picked out. I feel prepared from this program and this last semester working with gold and learning how to set fancy stones of really great quality. I enjoyed using the microscope because it’s more attention to detail; it’s more than the loup can do or our Optivisors. It’s great for pavé, also.”

The Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology was begun in 1942 in the basement of the PJC Administrative Building. By 1946 the program was training returning World War II veterans under the GI Bill. PJC instructors have travelled to other countries to assist in setting up training programs. Nearing its 75th anniversary, the program has continually reinvented itself to stay on the cutting edge.

The TIJT Industry Advisory Board is made up of Darrell Warren, (now retired) Vice President, Tools, Packaging and Finished Metals at Stuller Inc., Lafayette, La.; Elizabeth Brehmer, Vice President of Product Development at LeachGarner, Attleboro, Mass.; David Gardner of David Gardner Jewelers in College Station, Texas; Gina Dill, Kinne’s Jewelry, Gainesville, Texas; Tom Weishaar of Underwood’s Fine Jewelers in Fayetteville, Ark.; Jurgen Maerz, Jewelry Industry Consulting LLC, Hawkins, Texas; Margaret Gronberg, GG, M. Gronberg Appraisal Services, Dallas, Texas; Terry W. Chandler, President/CEO, Diamond Council of America, Nashville, Tenn.; Adam Graham, CEO, Erica Courtney, Inc., Los Angeles, Calif.; Clay Minton, Clay Minton Watch Services, Blossom, Texas; and Jill Goodson, Director of Education, Gemvision Corp., Davenport, Iowa.

PJC’s associate of arts degree in jewelry technology requires 60 credit hours to complete. TIJT also offers certificates in jewelry technology (45 credit hours), computer aided jewelry design (36 credit hours), and repair technician (33 credit hours). For more information about the program, call 903-782-0318 or 800-232-5804 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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