Below, are questions related to the business of jewelry making: selling, management, teaching, pricing, etc.
How to price the jewelry you make
“I was wondering if you could do a video on how to price the jewelry you make it would be informative to me and other another newbie jewelry makers. Some other questions I have are about the jeweler certificate, hallmarks, and legally stamping sterling jewelry.”
I do have some information on my website about hallmarks and stamping on precious metals. I probably won’t do a video on the subject of pricing your work because it is very subjective and a rather broad topic.
Yours is a great question and one most of us ask. Some, like me, wander blindly into the world of selling and pricing and other’s (unlike me) do their homework. Good for you for being one of the smart ones!
Pricing your Work
Pricing your work is such fun! (Facetious comment!).
One method for pricing jewelry is the “materials multiplier method” (absolutely NOT an official term! I think I made it up). Jewelry designers/creators often charge from 1 1/2 – 10 times (or more) the material costs – it is, afterall, up to them. One drawback to this system is, if you are using inexpensive materials to create complicated, time consuming works of art, you might not earn enough.
Another method to determine the price is by calculating time + materials. The trick is to determine what your time costs.
Take into account disposable supplies, materials, overhead, tools, R&D, what you need to live on etc., when determining your hourly rate. There are many books and other resources available to help you in this area.
Here’s one book of many: Crafts and Craft Shows: How to Make Money.
Never undervalue your work!
You cannot compete with overseas manufacturers. Your work is handmade and you deserve a decent wage for all the training, tools, practice and uniqueness of your work. I cringe when I see handmade jewelry sold for $5.00 or other prices that evidently devalue the time and effort that went into making the piece. If you make a piece and it takes you two hours and you sell it for $10.00, you are making less than $5.00 an hour. That’s $5.00 without deductions like taxes, materials, tools, overhead, advertising, posting costs, etc. Read: “Pricing your handmade jewelry” – Jacqueline and I are standing on the same soapbox! (See Links below).
Consider my favorite line (from my husband): “if it doesn’t sell, raise the price”! What he’s talking about is perceived value. If an object is too cheap, it becomes suspect: why is it so cheap? Shoddy materials, run-of-the-mill, irregular? If it is pricey, then it must be valuable. If it’s valuable it must be well made and worth owning. It becomes an object of desire. Look at how much women are willing to pay for a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes: $500 and way, way up! (Shoes wear out much faster than jewelry too!)
Places to Sell your Work
If you are selling at galleries, the markup is usually either a 50/50 or 60/40 split (you get the 60%). Most galleries, these days, will only take your work on consignment unless you are a proven seller – and many don’t – even if you are. So, you have stock just sitting there and no cash in your pocket until it sells. I usually only work with galleries that do a 60/40 split. Once, I found a gallery that did 70/30 but, those are as rare as hen’s teeth!
Galleries, at least in my experience, want new lines every 3 – 6 months or so. I was putting 28 – 30 pieces in each gallery. I was in 6 galleries. So, I needed to design and make over 300 pieces a year. Now, I did rotate stock but, when I ran out of new and old work, I ran into trouble. I cannot physically produce that much jewelry. So, consider this when/if you decide that you want galleries to represent your work.
Creating multiples – cast items and/or components – and a few new lines a year is a great way to meet demand – especially if you are being represented by many galleries. There is also the option of outsourcing your production. Besides galleries, craft/jewelry shows, trunk shows, internet stores, etc., there are also gift shows. Gift shows can be a source of income and, there’s the possibility that your work could be picked up by a catalog company or a large store chain.
Sometimes, the most profitable way to sell your work, is to sell it yourself, with no middleman but, you have to do all the legwork – marketing, photos, promotion, sales, shipping, design, creation, sizing, repairs, etc. This translate into a large chunk of time used for running your business.
My jewelry professor once said: “If you want to earn money, make it in gold or platinum“. Intellectually, this always made sense but, the initial outlay of dinero has always terrified me. What if it didn’t sell? I would destroy my budget AND I would be sitting on an expensive chunk of inventory. Jumping into the pool of precious metals and precious gems is a scary proposition. But, a jump off the high dive can create a financial wave worth riding. (It is time for this analogy to be drowned.)
Take the comparison with Silver and Gold: Silver is (for finished products like wire and sheet) about $25.00 US an ounce (at the moment: April, 2015). If I use 1/2 ounce for a piece and use the 3X’s materials method, I will earn $37.50 for my trouble. This would make me violently ill, ’cause, I know, I just paid myself less than 23 cents an hour. But, if I used gold, at (about) $1,300.00 an ounce, the $1,950.00 I earned, would send my income sailing (just one more for that travesty of an analogy) over the poverty level wages that I earned using silver. So, it does make sense to use pricier materials but, there is risk involved. Maybe start with a little gold and work your way up.
Warning: Ranting Ahead
That said, I hate that our work’s value is placed on its materials. I hate that, what a piece of jewelry is constructed of, is more important than the “art” of it. Our work’s value should be founded in our ideas, our inspirations, our skills. Fortunately, there are many jewelers, out there in Creative Land, who do make really amazing money for their work, using non-preciuos materials, but, but, but…one has to get to THAT place first.
In the meantime, is it considered selling out to use “precious” materials? Do we plod on – working in copper, plastic and silver, making sub-minimum wages waiting for our name, ideas and concepts to be recognized and valued? Or do we buy the gold and diamonds so that we can make enough money to feed ourselves and perhaps our children?
The problem, for me, lies in the idea that really, really talented people will make 23 cents an hour because they can’t afford to earn more. How do we change peoples perceptions about preciousness? How do we shift the emphasis from materials to the art? Maybe, we teach people about what goes into the creation of our work, place higher values on our labor, accept the preciousness of our creativity.
The Second Thought
Now, I used to be a painter. So, don’t get all crazy on me. I know how much it costs to set up a studio, go to college, practice, live in a garret. My question is: why can a painter get $5,000.00 (and a “not-that-well-known” one, at that) for a painting that he/she spent 5-30 hours on, while I, the jeweler, who has spent THOUSANDS on tools, materials and education receive $250.00 for the same amount of labor? Why? My work is one-of-a-kind. I can’t even make prints of it to sell for $200.00.
The really weird part (at least to me) is that you are able to wear my art. You can show it to everyone you encounter. That painting? The family sees it, a few friends, the real estate agent, etc. If you want to show off your good taste, what better way to do it, than to proclaim it on your wrist, fingers, ears or neck. (Heads and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes…) So, can anyone provide me an answer to this question because, I am downright confused?
I’m done now. Just wanted to put a “precious” thought in your diamond studded ear!
See: The Essential Guide to the U.S. Trade in Gold and Silver – Gold and Silver Jewelry for info on hallmarking (see pg. 4 for the law on whether or not to use a quality stamp. Also, this article from Rings and Things.
Links: Some Sites to Visit to Learn More on Pricing and Selling your Jewelry
- Van Den, Jess. 10 Things You Must Do to Have a Successful Online Crafts Business. (n.a.). Create and Thrive.
- Adam, Timothy. 10 Real Tips for Successfully Selling on Etsy. (2011). Handmadeology.
- Klingenberg, Rana. Jewelry Consignment Percentage. (n.a.) The Jewelry Making Journal.
- ?, Patricia. Selling Handmade Jewelry to Stores. (n.a.) JMW – The Jewelry Making Website.
- Jacqueline Jewelry. Pricing Your Handmade Jewelry. (2011). Handmadeology.
- Klingenberg, Rena. “Jewelry Pricing Formula“. (n.a.) The Jewelry Making Journal.
- Jones, Tammy. “Pricing Your Handmade Jewelry: Tips from Etsy Experts“. (November 29, 2011). Interweave: Jewelry Making Daily Blog.
- Many, many other pages out there!
Here’s some info on the Jeweler’s Certificate. They are important if you are wanting to work for someone else. They are also for people who wish to advance their skills but, you can also do that independently. If you just want to make jewelry, it’s not imperative to get a certificate. There are plenty of classes available for upgrading skills. It all depends on what you want/need. Many people enjoy the intensive training that a certification program entails. Others – not so much.
Below are a few links to places that offer certification:
- Jewelers of America
- JCK – listing of 5 top educational facilities
- Info on the certification programs at the American Gem Society
- Revere Academy
Hope this information helps. Good luck and I hope I haven’t discouraged you! There are many people out there making their living at this craft. There are also many methods, ideas, guides and strategies available that will help you on your way.
Should We Just Sell Our Jewelry On Etsy?
We’re starting a small, family jewelry business and we want to sell our jewelry on Etsy. Once we get the hang of it, we want to branch our and sell on our own.. or stick with Etsy, I don’t know. What do you think?
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone had told me: All of us, who do creative work, get into it because we have good taste. BUT THERE IS A GAP. For the first couple of years you make stuff. It’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good. It has potential, but it’s not. But, your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. Your taste is why your work disappoints you!A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most of the people that I know, who do interesting, creative work, went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this “special thing” that we want it to have. WE ALL GO THROUGH THIS! If you are starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you do is: DO A LOT OF WORK. Put yourself on a deadline so, that every week, you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap. your work will be as good as your ambitions. I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone! It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take a while. YOU’VE JUST GOTTA FIGHT YOUR WAY THROUGH.”
I’m just starting a jewelry business online. How many designs should I have and how many to make in advance?
“I want to sell bracelets and become a proper merchant. I’ve looked online for videos and articles but, I can’t quite get a clear answer, as to what I feel has kept me from moving forward. I’m hoping that you can help me with an answer.
I have about 14 bracelet designs, each will have their own necklace designs as well. Should I:
1) Have more designs than just 14?
2) Once the online store is open (I know they won’t be selling like hotcakes right away) should I have 5 on stock already made to ship? Ten?
3) Start making them at the moment an order arrives?
I’m still trying to figure out the pricing based on the materials used. I need my sales permit and then I’ll be ready to launch. I would appreciate any guidance and time you can spare me.”
I think 14 bracelet designs is sufficient. What most do is to add new work every 1/4 or 1/2 year – it depends. You should be able to tell by looking at your stats. If you sell a bunch and then things slow down, add new.
When you sell, get people’s email addresses (legally) and send them out teaser announcements about the new line. Also, be everywhere you can on social media and announce your new work/old work on those sites. Get your name out there!
I would make, maybe 2-3 or each. Then wait and see what sells. Maybe one will be more popular than the other. Can you make the bracelets fast enough to fill a larger order?
To speed things up: Can you prep the components and then just assemble as needed? Can some of the components work for other designs? If some components are interchangeable, you’ll have more, almost finished, material on hand when the need arises.
See the question above on pricing.
- Personal Branding for Artists by Cory Huff
- Jewelry Making Journal: How to Create a Brand that Differentiates You from Other Jewelry Artists –Interview with Pamela Wilson by Rena Klingenberg.
- Handmadeology: Creative Business Branding
- 29 Places to Sell Your Handmade Creations
- Perks Consulting: Pricing Strategy: Perceived-Value Price (or even ‘No-Price’ at all!)