Thien Chí Nguyễn JM ’24

June 24, 2024
Meredith Fidrocki

“Take that chance and show my skills”

Jewelry Making & Repair ’24
Age 25

Braintree, MA

After moving to the U.S. from Vietnam four years ago, Thien Chí (Cody) studied accounting before deciding he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps as a jewelry maker. When the father and son makers noticed Americans have a different style of making jewelry, Cody decided to enroll at North Bennet to add to his skill set.

What did you do before coming to train at NBSS?

I moved to Braintree, Massachusetts, four years ago from Vietnam. When I first moved here, I studied accounting at Bunker Hill Community College. Then COVID happened, and I was studying at home and decided I wanted to do something different.

When/how did you discover your discipline/field?

Cody and his dad
Cody and his dad

My father learned to be a jeweler when we lived in Vietnam. He can do everything from setting stones to repairs and fabrication. When we came here, he continued working in jewelry. I started to study the basics with him. Day by day and week by week, I was learning a lot about making jewelry. 

When we moved to the U.S., we realized Americans have a different style of making jewelry. So my father needed me to go to school to learn about the American style of making jewelry.

When we lived in Vietnam, jewelers mostly cut round stones and used a lot of 24K gold. If you got engaged in Vietnam, you often received a pair of earrings, not necessarily an engagement ring. In the U.S., we noticed jewelers cut stones of all shapes—radiant, emerald, oval, round, etc.—and they preferred 14K and 18K gold, as well as diamond engagement rings. Also, jewelers in the U.S. use a lot of machines. Because my country is developing, jewelers don’t invest as much in machines. That’s why each jeweler in Vietnam has their own way of making jewelry by hand.

Why did you choose to invest in training for a new career?

I invested in training at North Bennet to build my network, earn my diploma, and learn how to make jewelry in the American style. I knew I needed good teachers and a strong network, and to learn alongside other students working on the same skills. I also wanted to learn during the day and then go back home at night to learn even more from my father, who works in the Jewelers Building in downtown Boston. 

I Googled jewelry schools and found the North Bennet Jewelry Making & Repair program. My dad came with me to look at the School and was very interested in the program for me. While studying at North Bennet, I went home every night and showed my father the new skills I was learning. He enjoyed learning these new skills from me, and he is excited for me to now have my North Bennet diploma.

What are some ways you have felt supported during your time at School?

Cody setting stones in a diamond ring
Cody setting stones in a diamond ring

I want to say thank you to everyone at North Bennet. The School supported me a lot. I now have so much knowledge of the jewelry industry because of what I learned from my instructors. 

The School also met with me to offer financial aid support, and the North Bennet employer network helped me find my job after school. The networking has been great. 

My instructor [Department Head] Tracey Jenkins Darji JM ’05 introduced me to Arman Movsesian, a Master Jeweler working in the Jewelers Building, to study advanced setting stones under him. That has been a great experience for me. I’m very interested in setting stones, and now I’m confident about setting every stone shape. My favorite cut to work with is emerald. 

The School helped me reach the next step in my career.

How do you feel at the end of a full day in the shop?

Some days I have failures, but at the end of each day, if I learned a new thing, that’s what matters. If I failed to set a stone right, I now know how to fix it. That makes me feel accomplished. When I finish soldering, I am happy. But I’m also never satisfied with myself. If I know something was not done well, I want to make the next one perfect. 

What’s next for you?

After interviewing and doing a bench test, I received a full-time job offer to be a bench jeweler at Jared: The Galleria of Jewelry. I will be setting stones and doing repairs, which are the two skills I want to master. So I was excited to accept their offer.

And I’m going to continue to study with Arman every weekend. He can set every stone and repair everything, so I’m going to keep learning from him about setting stones and fabrication. I also want to build my personal brand, which I describe as a very classic style.

I don’t want to take a break. I want to keep going and keep my skills strong.

What is one of your favorite places for lunch near NBSS?

Kala Thai Cookery. I love Asian food, especially Thai food.

What is one of your favorite places at NBSS?

Cody standing by his bench
Cody standing by his bench

My bench. I will miss my bench.

What’s one of your favorite places in or around Boston?

I haven’t gone out a lot because I have been so busy. But my favorite place is the Jewelers Building in Boston. I go there a lot to buy stones, study, and to help my father after work.

What’s your favorite, tool, machine, or material?

I love every tool because every tool has a good purpose for something. For machines, right now I like the Engraver Max. It’s expensive, but I will invest in buying that after school so I can continue to grow my skills using it.

What is one of your favorite experiences at NBSS?

I have a lot of good memories from North Bennet. But the first one that comes to mind is from Open House. English is my second language, so I am sometimes shy to speak in public. But at the Open House, I volunteered to show people my skills at the teacher’s bench. There were a lot of people in the room, and I was nervous. But I showed them how to do the star setting. I knew I had to take that chance to show my skills. I loved that moment.

This story is from our Summer 2024 issue of Benchmarks magazine. View more issues.