Bead setting prices


I have a question about how much to charge for bead setting.
Currently, I work for a high end jewelry company in San Diego, CA.
They have trained me to be very good at bead setting. They work with
CAD/CAM so all of the pieces have indications of beads and holes so
my job is to bright cut, drill further and set. Under a microscope, I
bead set rings in gold or platinum with 75-120 stones with each
stone being 1.0-1.8mm.

Because I have no previous knowledge on what I should be getting per
stone, when they told me that $2.00/stone is the most I will get for
these stone sizes, I just said ok. My boss said many people will do
it for $1 so I should feel fortunate.

I just recently found an old business card from David Barzilay (may
he R.I.P.) where I had written on the back $3-25 per stone, which was
before I had even thought about doing stone setting.

And then reading some of the archives, it says $18 (pre-drilled) $32
(no drilling). Are these for much larger stones? Or maybe it is for
bead setting from an uncut, clean piece of metal? Otherwise, how
could someone pay me to set 100 stones at $18 each?

I would appreciate any help on how much I should be getting paid.


Dear Vanessa Mitchell

how much to charge for bead setting

This is only my own estimation on Cut&Bead diamond setting prices.
$1.00 or even $2.00 is a very low price. Who is going to diamond set
now for $1.00? PER STONE. This is ultra low pricing. Please ask your
boss to sit down and do this kind of setting for $1.00 per stone. How
about the tools, burs, and other operating expenses? I, under normal
circumstances, will not touch ANY bead setting under $3.50 per stone.
David Barzilay. was correct with his setting fee, If you need a
different approach on pricing, try working at a rate of minimum of
$35.00 => $50.00 per hour If you are setting Rolex bezels your
pricing structure must be at least $75.00 per hour…

“Gerry, the Cyber-Setter!” and still working at the bench…:>)

Remember that you are effectively wholesaling your work, so you
won’t get what is sometimes quoted in literature as a retail price.
We pay our bead setter (with no prep work on the pieces other than
polishing) between $3.50 and $5 per stone.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140


Your setting price is quite common, but some whole-salers are always
reluctant to fork over any bead work price over $2.00. So they want
to see who will accept the lowest, just to get their work… I just
shy away from them. $3.50 is the “normal” setting fee even up here in
Toronto. I had one fellow who stopped giving me setting, because he
’found’ someone who was.25 cents cheaper then my price. He accepted a
lower quality for his.25 cents difference in pricing, pity the retail


I am paying my stone setter about $7 per stone for most bead
setting. This is for setting where he has to do layout and drilling
in sizes such as you mention. I have heard of setting for as little
as you are being paid but never for as much as $16 or $32.

Hope this helps,
Janet (in the expensive Bay Area)

I remember when I was a kid, my dad worked for an old guy fixing
photo cameras. Mr. Hoyt told him the same thing but with a twist. You
should feel fortunate to even have a job in America since you can
barely speak English. He was being paid $3.35/hr with $2 of it coming
from a state program… At $1.35/hr Mr. Hoyt had a camera rapairman who
was good at what he did. Maybe he should have felt fortunate…

$2/ stone is a minimum…$3 to $4 if your work is really clean and
well laid out. Tell me though how do you like the microscope? I’m
trying to learn bead setting but I have a tough time seeing up close.
I end up using a 10X loupe after pretty much every operation. I
bought binocular glasses (like surgeons use) but the focal length is
to long on them for me to use them comfortably.

-Stanley Bright
A&M Jewelers
Baltimore, MD

Hi Vanessa,

You have to charge what the market will bear. For prepared settings
such as the ones you have described with tiny stones, the work is
fairly rapid. If you base your pay rate on $50.00 per hour, and
divide that by the number of stones you set, then you have an
average per stone.

I often charge, at retail, $10.00 to $15.00 per stone for pave’
where I am preparing the surfaces from scratch. The wholesale work I
sometimes do averages about $8.50 per stone. Where the stones vary
in size, I charge more, because the drilling and seating takes much
longer. Sometimes, these charges are not enough.

Retailers are often reluctant to pay any more for these services,
and will outsource to the lowest bidder. They are usually the ones
who spend an awful lot of time explain to customers that “bead set
stones are lost all the time, don’t worry about it, we’ll replace it
for you at a modest charge.”

I haven’t had to replace any. That’s why my charges are justified.
If your work is superb, it will stand out as being worth more than
that of the setters who simply plug holes with stones and shove the
material around a bit.

Hope this helps.
David Keeling

One distinction I’d like to point out. A setter who does nothing but
setting all day every day would charge less for setting than a
jeweler who does more than just setting. It’s an issue of
productivity and cost of doing business. The difference in the
charges between these two types of jewelers will vary depending on
those two factors.

Larry Seiger

We charge (wholesale) $7.00 per stone to bead set and bright cut
melee, $4.00 per stone to just raise beads. We never have had any
complaints about the charge. I think part of the reason for that is
the well established, long term relationships we have developed with
our clients (retail stores). Its hard in the beginning when your
clients don’t know you well and they just think of you as the hired
help. But after years of you doing consistently good work for them,
they should begin to care about you as a person who needs to make a
living (or you need new clients). I think that more important than
the charge is that your clients understand that the relationship
needs to be a Win-Win. I had a client tell me once ‘What do I care
if you charge me $10.00 or $20.00 to set a 1/2 ct round when I am
making hundreds, you just decide what you need to make and we will
adjust or prices accordingly’. That really stuck with me and taught
me that the goldsmith has more control in the relationship than most
of us believe. If you can do good work and get it out on time then
price is not longer the number one consideration.


Hi Gerald,

I think you are underestimating companies in india who can do work at
amazing prices. For example we can set any size, any quantity of
stones for $ 0.50 per stone. And we give great finish! Just FYI,
ourlabour costs for making entire pendant earing sets (reasonable
size) including plating is $150 to $200. I think you would just set
around 50 stones for that much. Little wonder that all american
companies are outsourcing from us (indians)!!!


Most of the Indian work is very poor quality. However, Rahul is
correct, the past 10 years have proven several countries are
contenders for dominating the worlds jewelry manufacturing and
servicing market. Taking the raw material and cost of labor of the
east and combining it with the technical skill and machinery of the
west, you have an unbeatable business model (if you can circumvent
corruption, ha).

I’m an exporter of soaps, candles, paper, metal, stones and jewelry
product from India. When I ask the business owners if they would
like their same product delivered for 30% of their current cost, the
overwhelming response is, “Yes.” Sorry to digress, but it is a fact
of life in todays market. Look around your home, and see where most
of your appliances, tools, toys, furniture are made.

Anyhow, have a great week,

Ed Cleveland

Ed Cleveland et al !

I went shopping for some clothes some time back and asked the
attendant if he had any Canadian made clothes…To my utter
amazement, he said “NO”, and he hadn’t any home made articles, he
only had items that were made off-sore. This also deals with
jewellery and other precious items, pity. Look how many jobs have
been lost to this new way of marketing or selling. WE must understand
that other countries are now doing what we were doing, so many years
ago, but for less money in manufacturing.

Wake up Western World, it ain’t the same anymore as your parents.
Accept reality.

I was at a Toronto jewellery show last August and saw a company
selling “Canadian Diamonds” with very nice designs. I asked the local
salesman which Canadian company was making them? He replied that
these Canadian Diamonds were set and mount manufactured in a South
Asian country and made cheaper than any company on our shores can
make. The world IS CHANGING ! …Gerry!

Strictly from a business point of view, no one can blame the buyers.

Considering the economy is not great and getting better, if someone
walks into my shop offering the same widget I sell for less than 50%
my current cost, they would gain my interest. As a business man I must
think if I don’t do it, my competitor down the street will. So, if a
friendly price war begins in the neighborhood, I won’t lose.

Ed Cleveland

David Keeling sent me this letter a while back.

Still keep may of my letters to ponder and reply to, so here is MY
reply. Its getting to a point that if someone offers me bead setting
to do. They offer me a price but, I am now telling them this is MY
PRICE, no one should make a deal with me !

Everyone out there on Orchid listen to this, if someone tells YOU
how much you should charge, try walking away from it. Keep your
standards up high. Its because its YOU who are doing the labour, not
them…:>) Some setters are asking for a lower setting fee just to get
the work. If we keep our levels high and raise them selectively
according to the project, they will get more business. The retailers
will know you can do the work, eventually! If that person is from
another country other than Canada, I will for sure charge for
shipping and customs fees on top of my setting fee. If they accept
these extra setting charges, only then will I entertain working with
them, not for them…:>)

If ‘they’ know they can walk over you and try and persuade you to
‘drop’ your labour in manufacturing, it’s your skill that is going to
be jeopardized. They are winning over you. They will still ask the
same retail price, and make more profit, from your expertise.

Gerry Lewy!

Gerry & All,

While I understand your not wanting to lower your prices for setting
I disagree with your reasoning. You may be in a position that
turning down work is not a problem. But a job is a job for many
jewelers and setters and if they want the work they should take it.
Lower your rate within reason and once they see the quality of your
work you will be in a better position to negotiate your price on the
next job.

Some mfgrs will only pay a certain rate. You either meet the rate or
loose the job. With that in mind: All marriages need
compromise…Some marriages are not meant to be.

To turn down work for the good of the industry to keep the rates up
is not the real world. That is why companies outsource!

Become competitive to the best of your abilities or you could have
the highest rates in town along with the most spare time. If you want
and need the work figure out a way to make it profitable or pass on


PS I do agree with the attitude of “working with them, not for them”
(It’s a two way street though)


Let me give you one or two examples. One company up here in Toronto
is looking for “Jr. Setters”, they told me they would pay $12.00 hour
for a 40 hour week/weak! Should I accept that? Or how about setting
pave work for $2.50 a stone and trying to increase the setting labour
from there? Once the price is agreed upon, why would they increase
the fare? Would you think that they would increase it to a normal
economical rate of about $4.50+++ per stone, I don’t think so!!..:>(

I like to set Pave, but to extend my skills to those who wish to pay
for only 50% of the going rate. Would you sit and sweat for $20.00
per hour, or less? Don’t think so! And that is not taking into
account the cost of burs, or other incidentals. One bur costs the
labour of setting one single diamond. Where is the profit on setting
precious-stones?..If I said my setting price is lower, maybe they
would think I don’t have a clue how to set properly, and be known
for setting with mediocre techniques…

Gerry Lewy!

Hi All,

I like to set Pave, but to extend my skills to those who wish to
pay for only 50% of the going rate. Would you sit and sweat for
$20.00 per hour, or less? Don't think so! 

The only reason to charge less for silver is you can set more stone
per hour than in white gold and that’s it. I’m happy that local
jewellers in Toronto want to employ young setters at entry level
wages. Of course the results with reflect there experience. Made
cheap = look cheap. You get what you pay for.

A seasoned setter should set an hourly rate and stick to it or
diversify to expand what he offers to increase profit margin. Also
working smarter never hurts the bottom line.

There will always be someone to undercut the seasoned pro. And that
usually last for two jobs and three returns from an unhappy customer.
Then the job comes back to the ro to get it done right.

The industry seems to be shrinking and there are less of the 25 cent
wonder setters. I will say it. what ever happen to that guy who set
for 25 cents a stone? Must be tough setting 2400 diamonds a week to
make 600.00 less taxes. Ouch, anybody got a Band-Aid?

Jim Zimmerman
Alpine Custom Jewellers & Repair

Jim Zimmerman

I have been reading your email, again and again. I went to an artsy
designer and asked for a measly $27.00 hour. He’s still calling me
back, after 3 months. He even showed me some of his very-mediocre
setting he had done. But to try this setter and after showing him my
visual resume ( stones set in s/s.) I guess I was too high for him
pocket book! He wanted some high quality workmanship but at “entry
level”, rock bottom prices. The “transportation charges” would have
cost me at least $2-3.00 an hour just to get there. Not too mention
he didn’t stock any setting tools/burs…duh!

Absolute high quality diamond setting in this area of the Ontario,
Canada, is almost a thing of the past, real pity! So now I’ve decided
to broaden my outlook and look into more important avenues, such as
education and writing books on this topic. No way am I whining, but
the reality is that others who are totally devoted to this field
should now “see the writing on the wall” and broaden their outlook if
things are getting slow. Try not to be a Type 3: What’s a Type Three?
Here is my list, enjoy this read, this is for anyone.

Type ONE; Make it happen!!!
Type TWO; Watch it Happen!!!
Type THREE; Wonder, What happened!!!

Just my many thoughts and observations on this dwindling trade of
ours, up here in Toronto. In the past three weeks four of five
companies went “toes up”, or moved south to Mexico. Creating over
400-500 workers to hit the streets and be Type Three’s.

Basically my dear friends if you see things slow down, it’s the time
to re-asses your future and don’t sit around pondering the Type
Three, there is so much to do out there…:>)…I can’t wait for my
conference in Denver, CO…so much ‘networking’ to do.

Gerry Lewy!

Hi Gerry,

I have been reading your email, again and again. I went to an
artsy designer and asked for a measly $27.00 hour. He's still
calling me back, after 3 months. He even showed me some of his
very-mediocre Just my many thoughts and observations on this
dwindling trade of ours, up here in Toronto. In the past three
weeks four of five companies went "toes up", or moved south to
Mexico. Creating over 400-500 workers to hit the streets and be
Type Three's. 

I would think everyone’s path in this trade is a little different.
Myself living out here in the hinter lands of Ontario is not
standard. What I do as a success strategy is going to be different
from Toronto, New York, or Chicago.

The business model required to serve the public is changing.
Unfortunenately being able to specialize in one aspect of the
industry is getting harder to do all the time. The strictly a
“setters” days are numbered. In custom work, the customer wants to
come to someone that can get all done and in a timely manner. Sort of
a Wal-Mart model for jewellers. We have everything you want, with
great quality, at fair prices for the turn around time. If you can do
the above three you don’t have to be the cheapest guy on the block.

I started as just a bench jeweller. I was a bench jeweller that could
also set Diamonds. I was a setter that could also do jewellery custom
order work. I was an Engraver, that could also set Diamonds and do
jewellery custom work.

I will be an Engraver, that can set, do custom jewellery work, and
produce CAD/CAM models. Plus advertise by taking my own picture and
using my computer produce my own adds.

Since I have no overhead this should scare the heck out of guys that
have bricks and mortar jewellery stores. I can charge less as standard

Jim Zimmerman
Alpine Custom Jewellers & Repair