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Advice on a commission work


#1

-Hi All,

I am a long term user but first time poster on this forum as I have
come across a commission that I would love some advice on!- My client
found this emerald and Diamond antique ring that she would like made
without the emeralds. I am going to use some graduated rounds pave
set in place of the calibrated emeralds but I am struggling with
making the form of the whole head / setting of this design. I have
done similar before but round instead of the ‘Belle Epoque’ style
shape, with the round one, I simply domed the top and bottom, cut out
the finger shape at the bottom, soldered together and set the stones
on the top. Obviously I cannot do the same here and I don’t have a
Hydraulic press or Fly Press.


So my questions are…

Should I cut the first outer edge (with diamonds in the photos) out
of wax and carve the edge to slope up a bit (I don’t think it is from
flat sheet?) and then do a smaller one to layer on top for the inner
pave (currently emeralds)?

Would you carve the bottom part including the cut out wave area from
wax and also cast that then join them together?

Any thoughts of opinions would be great!!

Many Thanks
Lindsay


#2

I, too am a long time lurker and, maybe second time poster.

This design screams fabrication.

I’d make the top section first. Then you’ll be able to judge what
size to make the base.

I can see two ways of making the base shape.

  • Make the base round by making a cylindrical collar. Then dome it
    in a dapping block. Mark off the four points, insert the point of a
    pyramid shape, perhaps, the corner of the dapping block, and hit it
    with a dead blow mallet until it approximates the shape you want.
    You’ll want to do this on a solid steel surface, with the collar over
    a hole, to allow the point to protrude through the collar. perhaps a
    bezel block or a hole punch.

  • Alternatively, you could make the collar square first, then, place
    it over a hole and dome it with a dapping punch.

After you’ve attained the shape, clean it up, attach it to the
shank, and finish it to the desired finger size.

The rest, including the saw pierced strip, is just straight on
fabrication, done with flat strip and flat sheet.

The top appears to be made of two levels of flat sheet, and a bezel.

I’ll be interested to see how others would approach this.

Peace,
Ken Weston


#3

Hi Lindsay,

I think I would fabricate it just like the original. It’s kind of
hard to tell without looking inside, but it looks like the top was
made using stacked pieces cut from sheet and then slightly domed,
with a bezel fitted in the center. The bottom looks like it was built
using a flat, washer-like ring that was domed for the lower gallery,
separated from (joined to?) the outer top piece by somewhat heavy
wire filigree type work. The fact that you only have to pave’ the
middle row instead of having to source and channel set custom
trapezoid cut emeralds makes it a pretty straight-forward fabrication
job.

Regardless, I certainly wouldn’t cast any part of it. You don’t need
a press, just standard wire and sheet working tools like a rolling
mill and dapping block.

Dave Phelps


#4

Lindsay-

Are you altering this ring or making a new one with just diamonds? It
appears from the photos that this ring was hand fabricated. You
really can’t duplicate this look properly with carving and casting.
I would recommend this be jobbed out to someone with the old world
skills to do it with traditional platinum smithing fabrication
techniques.

If you are planning on altering this ring… please don’t.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#5
http://www.ganoksin.com/ftp/a0646e613ea9.png
http://www.ganoksin.com/ftp/2f2819e23fd3.png 

This ring should not be cast. It should be constructed.

Also, you can’t cast the spacers of the gallery if they are made
correctly, they’d be too thin.

You don’t need a press to shape thin tapers such as this, but you
would need the right shape of punch.

Elliot Nesterman
ajoure.net


#6

I do custom work and repairs from home. I have a store that send me
work. I pick up and drop off for free. For example they will send me
10 jobs, 8 are estimates and of those 8, six will be no go’s. How do
others deal with this. I have implemented a charge for estimates.
This has gotten me negative results. I would appreciate any advice
you have Thank you and take care, Paul Le May.


#7

Hi Dave, Elliot, Jo and Ken,

Many thanks for your replies on this job, it seems like everyone is
in agreement that is should be made for formed sheet and wire which
were my initial thoughts. I was concerned that I would not be able to
get the form without a press so it is nice to hear you think
otherwise, I will be attempting this tomorrow on some silver to see
how it goes. I may be back for some more advice as I think this is
going to be a tricky one! either way I will share the results Jo, I
am not altering the ring in the original image. It is one that my
client found but was not sure about certain parts of it or the
quality of the central stone. I am making a new one with a few
alterations to make it how she wants. I do usually work in gold and
not platinum so may well outsource the soldering / assembly as I
don’t fancy making mistakes on this one Fingers crossed!

Best wishes Lindsay is one


#8

Paul- I have never charged for an estimate. That said. Tim and I had
a client that would have us go downtown to their store pick up jobs
and then give an estimate many of which were no gos. We then found
out that they were shopping around with another shop in town. They
happen to be friends with us and we use them for the occasional laser
weld. They too were annoyed by this behavior. We were all having our
time and energy wasted. So we started to call each other when an
estimate came in and give the retailer the act same price as each
other. We also both raised our prices to accommodate all the extra
time wasted.

We no longer do biz with that retailer because sometimes it’s just
not worth it.

So I’d suggest you broaden your client base and find another account
to replace the one that is wasting your precious time.

Have fun and, ale lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#9

I also do custom order work.

I do not work for a store who does the design work. I only work
directly with the customer by appointment in the store. I do a
simple personally profile of the customer then design the jewelry to
fit their personality and lifestyle. It makes it very special for
the customer for the store to bring inthe best designer to do custom
designs for them. Good sells no point…

In the past 47 years I have a success rate of about 95%. Takes me
usually less then 30 minutes with the client to design and close the
sale. In my experience most sales people do not know how to make
jewelry and without that knowledge you can not design things that
will fit or wear or work for the client. You need to have sat on the
bench for years first. Very few think about what will fit the clients
personality but only think about the $ they might make from selling
something. Thus the poor amount of success in sales you are seeing.

Just my experience. and what works for me and my clients.

Vernon Wilson


#10
I have never charged for an estimate. That said. Tim and I had a
client that would have us go downtown to their store pick up jobs
and then give an estimate many of which were no gos. We then found
out that they were shopping around with another shop in town. They
happen to be friends with us and we use them for the occasional
laser weld. They too were annoyed by this behavior. We were all
having our time and energy wasted. So we started to call each other
when an estimate came in and give the retailer the act same price
as each other. We also both raised our prices to accommodate all
the extra time wasted. 
 We no longer do biz with that retailer because sometimes it's
just not worth it. So I'd suggest you broaden your client base and
find another account to replace the one that is wasting your
precious time.

Is this the difference between a tradesman and an artisan, or maybe
a luxury item should not be shopped competitively?

For example, when planning a project we might get prices from
several tradesmen such as plumbers or contractors, and we expect to
receive competitive pricing.

Some of those tradesmen build the cost of providing estimates into
their overhead because providing estimates could increase their
volume of work. Volume might be important in lean times or to keep
paying employees.

Some of these tradesmen might charge the customer to provide an
estimate or they might only accept work on a cost-plus basis.

However, the artisan might not be interested in getting work based
on offering the lowest price.


#11

You need to talk to the store owner. It sounds to me that the staff
is promising silk purses for the price of a sows ear.

I would expect about a 25 to 35% refusal on estimates but no higher
then that. Do you have a basic price list you can share with them? I
would also a couple times a year go to a store meeting and spend
some time educating thestaff.

(Just as a FYI: Growing up a hog farmer I can tell you that a sows
ear is very soft and they LOVE scritches behind them. Make sure you
are behind a fence as they will lean into you with a very happy
face.)

Gerald A. Livings
Livingston Jewelers


#12
Paul- I have never charged for an estimate. That said. Tim and I
had a client that would have us go downtown to their store pick up
jobs and then give an estimate many of which were no gos. 

Free estimates are one thing. Spending time and resources to go pick
up (and take back?) the work is something else entirely.

Al Balmer


#13
I do usually work in gold and not platinum so may well outsource
the soldering / assembly as I don't fancy making mistakes on this
one Fingers crossed! 

Remember when you made the first attempt at gold? If you’re like
most of us, you sweated and sweated ahead of time, fearing the worst,
only to find out that it was actually easier to work with than
silver. Guess what? You’re in for the same kind of revelation with
platinum. If you can comfortably solder and fabricate with white
gold, you’re gonna love platinum. No flux, no fire coat, no
firescale! Plus, your chances of melting something small, like prongs
or filigree while bringing the heavier part up to temperature is all
but non-existent. If you use 1400 or so platinum solder for most of
your soldering, you’ll find it unnecessary to use progressively lower
and lower melt solder for almost all of your fabrication work. Once
it’s soldered, it’s tough to unsolder, even if you’re trying.

You are also going to find that cold working platinum is a pure joy,
especially compared to white gold. The more you work it, the
stronger it gets but it stays relatively easy to form, even when work
hardened.

One tip concerning platinum joinery though, always try to make each
joint at least somewhat mechanical. Notches and grooves, like a log
structure, that kind of thing. Even with the highest melt solder,
unsupported platinum solder joints are not the strongest of unions.
Unless a joint is welded, it must be supported in some way so it
can’t work loose or over time it eventually will. If you have ever
seen a platinum ring shank that has been sized using solder of any
kind, you’ll know what I mean.

I’d wish you luck, but you really don’t need it. When you’re taking
the photos of the finished piece, you’ll probably be wondering what
you were so worried about.

Dave Phelps


#14

Betty

However, the artisan might not be interested in getting work based
on offering the lowest price. 

That is it in a nutshell. We don’ t want to be the lowest bidder.
Folks that buy from the lowest bidder are never faithful customers.
They always go to the next cheapest person.

Tim and I only make maybe 2-4 pieces per month in our studio. We’re
too old to mass produce. Plus our reputation is at stake. It’s all
about perceived value. “How much?! Oh. You must be really good at
this.” Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#15
Plus our reputation is at stake. It's all about perceived value.

If I understand correctly, the guy Jo described was a member of the
jewelry trade, and most likely asked for estimates from only the
makers he prequalified.

If it was not an open invitation to all jewelers to offer an
estimate, then he believes your work to be among the best.

But you are saying that it would diminish the reputation of your
work by providing the lowest estimate out of all the bids of the most
qualified jewelers.

Therefore, you want to be his first choice for a particular project,
or perhaps second choice if his first choice rejects the job. Price
competition with your peers is not in your business plan.

Does the concept of avoiding whatever might lower the perceived
value of your work include having a sale, offering the customer a
deal or selling in a craft fair?

If so, and if you needed to increase your cash flow, would your main
solution be to seek more wholesale, trade accounts or to raise your
prices?

The concept of perceived value makes sense if your work sells in the
5 or 6 figure range. Does the concept also apply to work selling in
the 3 or 4 figure range where the customer has more choices?


#16
The concept of perceived value makes sense if your work sells in
the 5 or 6 figure range. Does the concept also apply to work
selling in the 3 or 4 figure range where the customer has more
choices?" 

It is ALL about perceived value. Jewelry is not a necessity. It is a
luxury item. When folk are ready to buy jewelry regardless of the
price they have disposable income and want something nice. The more
you value your skills and design work the more folks will pay.
Without naming names there is a ton of really badly executed and
ungainly designed work out there that commands big prices. It’s all
about how you present your work and yourself.

The secret is marketing and presentation. You can make almost
anything very desirable by emphasising scarcity. Remember Beanie
Babies? A worthless item that had folks standing in lines around the
block to get one of the special editions. Diamonds too. There a a
gazzillion of them. It’s just carbon. But DeBeers made them perceived
as scarce and desirable. Then there were Pet Rocks. That was pure
genius.

I cannot express how important it is for jewelry makers to learn
marketing and business skills. Sarah Graham’s work is lovely. I
adore it.

Nobody does black like Sarah. I’d own her work if I hadn’t spent all
of my disposable income on tools. Many of her pieces are a lot of
carbon steel with gold accents. Not very many big important stones.
Mostly just little diamonds. It sells like hot cakes for big bucks.
Carbon steel. Big bucks.

Why? Because of marketing. Sarah has her degree not in jewelry but
in International Business. She learned her very good bench skills
working as a grunt in trade shops.

Really good retail sales folks “romance the sale” wether or not it
sells for $100.00 or $10,000.00.

Presentation is half the battle. A nice velvet counter pad and a
selvyt polishing cloth can be oh so useful. Give me those two things
and I can sell coprolite:-) and my customers would walk away happy.

I love to make beautiful things. If I weren’t doing this for a
living I’d make stuff on the weekends anyway. That said jewelry
making is a LOT more fun if you get paid well to do it.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#17
But you are saying that it would diminish the reputation of your
work by providing the lowest estimate out of all the bids of the
most qualified jewelers.

If that becomes the objective, to win bids by offering the lowest
price and still maintain a reputation for the highest standards of
craftsmanship (like Tim and Jo have), no question about it. Their
reputation for unyielding dedication to outstanding craftsmanship is
going to take a hit.

It’s not really possible to be both the best and the cheapest, and
people instinctively know it. Trying to establish a reputation as
the “Cheapest of the Best” would only muddy the water and would
demonstrate a lack of true commitment to either one.

One of the truths that I have learned in my years in the jewelry
business is that no matter how inexpensive you can manage to be,
someone will always be able to under-price you. They’ll likely also
care a lot less about their reputation and their customer’s
well-being than you do, so they’ll have a real advantage. Trying to
compete on price is kind of like the old saw about wrestling with a
pig - you’ll get dragged down to the pig’s level, you’ll both get
dirty, and the pig likes it.

Does the concept of avoiding whatever might lower the perceived
value of your work include having a sale, offering the customer a
deal or selling in a craft fair? 

One of the worst pieces of advice I got when I opened my retail
jewelry store was to never discount anything, it sends the wrong
message for your store’s brand. I won’t go into the reasons here,
it’s just too complex, but unless you are Tiffany and Co. or Rolex
and have a century or more of business reputation under your belt,
discounting is almost a necessity if you want to run a profitable
business that includes the selling of inventory. You can discount
your goods and still keep your reputation for the highest ethical
standards and the highest standards of craftsmanship. It can actually
help in that you also establish a reputation for pragmatism,
reasonableness and fairness. That said, it’s important to understand
that there are right ways and wrong ways to discount. But that’s
another subject that’s too deep to get into here.

The above really only applies to sales of finished goods, not
repairs and custom work. When a lower price is needed for these two
general catagories, I usually try to offer lower priced options
rather than to discount the price. “How about if we use SI clarity,
H/I diamonds instead of VS, E/F"or"14K instead of 18K?” for instance.
I also generally don’t discount my labor, but I will offer ways of
reducing the amount required.

The concept of perceived value makes sense if your work sells in
the 5 or 6 figure range. Does the concept also apply to work
selling in the 3 or 4 figure range where the customer has more
choices? 

Absolutely! Maybe even more so because of the many choices. People
have a connection with their jewelry that is different from just
about any other physical object you can name. For instance, a $100,
10K gold ring received as a gift from a loved one becomes priceless
when that loved one passes on. The owner of that ring is not likely
to seek out the lowest priced place in town to size it for them,
instead they will ask people they know and do some research to find
someone they can trust.

Price is not nearly as important as a reputation for trustworthiness
and fine craftsmanship when it comes to creating and repairing the
personal possessions that people value the most.

On the other hand, someone looking for the absolute lowest price
they can possibly find for a pair of diamond studs is almost
guaranteed to seek the lowest possible price later when they are
looking for a gold chain, as opposed to returning to the place that
sold them the studs. You can treat them like they are the most
important person in the world with that stud sale, but when it comes
to their next purchase or need of service, all of your over-the-top
loving care of them and the extra attention to detail you paid to the
actual setting work will most likely be totally forgotten and
rendered irrelevant in the fervent new search to save $50.

Another truth I’ve learned along the way about pricing my work is to
never super-impose my value structure on others. It’s all relative.
$1000 may be a small fortune to you and me but it might be pocket
change for someone else. Never assume that you’re pricing something
beyond what someone else is willing to pay, just because it’s beyond
what you’d pay. I can’t afford to be one of my better customers and I
know a lot of other people in the trade that are in exactly the same
boat.

Sorry this is going so far off topic Lindsay, but that is often
where the real substantive discussions take place on Orchid. Hope you
don’t mind ~

Dave Phelps


#18

In 45 years of making people happy, I’ve learned that selling custom work is very much akin to fishing. I just reeled in a fish, today.
I had begun to work with this client back in March of this year. We had gotten to the place where the deisign was approved and I had provided an estimate.
There was a delay of six weeks, during which there was no communication. I figured I had lost him. In the interim though, and unbeknownst to me, he had moved cross country to attend school.
Lo and behold, he restarted communication and told me that after moving, he had submitted the design to another goldsmith who had come in with a lower price. However, there was no mention of the total carat weight of diamonds within the competing estimate. I kept at him to get that information for me so that we would be comparing “apples to apples”. In each email, I made sure to supply a piece of valuable additional information, such as advising him to avoid palladium and explaining the HIP process that Tech-form uses to make their castings a better product than is possible with in-house casting, etc. This kept him going back to the competition to ask if they were going to do “this and that” as well.
Finally, I just yanked on the line. After twenty six emails, I told him that in the end, I felt that he would be much happier with his purchase if he simply chose the craftsman he felt most comfortable with, supplied a working budget that he’d be comfortable investing in the project… that I would adjust the count and amount of little diamonds to fit the budget… that the mounting design would remain true to the original regardless.
Within 24 hours I had a deposit at my originally estimated price.
The point is that if you can maintain good communication, give freely of valuable information, stay one step ahead of the competition, never lose your cool and tell a prospect to get lost, you reinforce the perception of your value.
In the custom jewelry arena, how we present ourselves will frequently be the deciding factor in making the sale happen.
It doesn’t always work with people who are simply shopping the best price. If they don’t value your craftsmanship, ethics, and above all, your self worth, you’ll win a few, lose a few.


#19

Hi,

Ah!, here is the post I was thinking of when I commented on Seth’s post!

Seth posted a very detailed photo montage of a ring very similar to the one the original poster has shown.

click on the below link to view Seth’s informative post:

I had actually mentioned this original post on Seth’s post!
(I thought the original poster might be excited to see Seths workflow!)

Julie


#20

Ken- Congratulations on closing a great sale. That said…
This is why we never ever allow our renderings out of our shop. Tim and I
both learned early on that if you give a customer a copy of the drawings it
will be shopped around.
We will on occasion give a nice rendering to the customer after they have
paid us and taken possession of their jewelry.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
-Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com.