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Charging for finished pieces

Hi lauralee,
A few thoughts on what you said, from another person fairly new to selling. Sometimes it depends on your market. You could really get depressed looking at the jewelry prices on ebay. Most of this comes from countries with low wages, mass produced jewelry. Why should someone pay you more? 1. Because they are afraid to risk buying on ebay. 2. Because they have a low opinion of products from overseas and their fit and finish. 3. Because it takes forever for items to arrive from there. 4. Because you make something unique that isn’t offered by mass producers. There are probably other reasons, too, but you get the idea.

In looking at markets, ebay is probably lowest price, followed by flea markets, then by Etsy, craft shops, then fine jewelry stores. IDK exactly where Instagram and Facebook fit in, but a little googling will tell you. Your job is to find the market where your pieces fit and bring the best price.

Beyond that, a lot of us struggle with the problem of price point in silver vs gold. But there is fairly expensive silver jewelry being sold out there. It may boil down to the craft technique, to exquisite craftsmanship, to more expensive stones, to a great design or even to a few added accents in gold. Navajo jewelry is a case in point. If you are a Native American, your work is collectible and prices reflect that for authentic Navajo style hallmarked by a native American. You might also find that some of these techniques command high prices even when executed by a non-Native American person. Check out heavy silver bracelets. One of the few things on ebay that generally go pretty high.

So basically what I am saying is that you should research markets and find out what is selling and in what market. A simple teardrop pendant in sterling with agate cab might come pretty cheap from Asia, while a clearly forged pendant with a great unique design and some decoration might fetch a much higher price on Etsy. Another example I know of is the Aussie guy who used to post here who made simple Mobius strip rings. He could make five or six in an hour and found that they sold well (~$30+) at the craft flea market where he sold. So there’s an easy $100/hr or so. So you might find something that is simple and easy to make that sells well, or, more likely, something more involved and well done but popular that niche buyers will want in some market.

We all get into this because we love to do craft work and follow our Muse, but somewhere along the line we have to happily discover that someone loves the products of our unfettered imagination or steer our production to something that will sell well. There’s a guy in Jonesborough, TN who hand crafts Winsor chairs. That’s all he does. He’s world famous for his designs (very thin spindles) and workmanship and one chair goes for about $1500+. We should all be so lucky (I assume he likes making these). So up your creativity and craftsmanship, do your market research and try to get quicker at what you do. Hope this helps. I hope those more experienced will let me know if I’m on the wrong track. I’m all ears for tips, too!

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Roy, thanks so much for this thoughtful response. I agree, I don’t know my market. The one difference between myself and other jewelers in my price and skill range is that my style is so varied that even I don’t know what the next piece will be. I create purely on emotion. I don’t do customs and I refuse to because they suck the life out of me and every other jeweler I know, however they do pay the bills. How can I find my market? I know the basics - age and sex - but i’m at a loss as to how to narrow it down to my niche. Any ideas?

Alec…same. :frowning: I’ve gotten faster and I pay more attention to quality and detail but these boys on this thread are way out of my league lol!

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Eileen, do you add labor to that number also?

I think a distinction needs to be made between an actual hourly rate vs. what can be made in overall profit and labor and how that breaks down into an hourly rate. From purely a labor cost, there is pretty much no bench jeweler making anywhere near $125/hour. According to the last JCK labor survey I read (which was a while ago), labor was more like $17-25/hr with some really top notch stuff at about $45-50.

However, as a business owner, you make money off the markup. To use the example above, a guy selling möbius rings at $30/ea isn’t necessarily making $100/hr in pure labor. . .there’s a material cost and markup involved. At the end of the day, he may bring in $100/hr, but that isn’t purely from an hourly labor rate and I think that distinction is important for people to understand when they price their work. When you’re a one person business, this may not matter all that much in terms of how it’s all calculated, but it’s definitely important if you intend to hire employees or if you are creating work very similar to other companies that hire their workers at, say, a $20/hr rate and it is also important to have a proper expectation of what a realistic hourly rate is when discussing pure labor costs.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that if you think you can do a triple keystone mark up and charge $125/hr labor rate, most people are going to go out of business real quick. So, just have a realistic expection and labor costs and how they relate to your overall product and profit. Also, keep in mind that some of this also changes if you do wholesale work vs retail where someone is going to markup your work again.

Just some thoughts. Hope it helps!

Erich

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Well Laura-Lee, at least we have something to aspire to, right?

Alec

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Hi Laura,
Creating from your emotion or heart, as i would say, is something you cant afford the luxury of,
at this early stage of your career.
What Erich has written is very good, but I took his ideas much further.
To be horribly brutal and basic, you have to ask yourself the following.
What gross income do I need per week, assuming Im independent, and not being supported by working from a family home, or partner, to survive?
Thats your base line., and that then will give you a net amount you need in the hand to continue.
So you have to sell each week enough work to cover this and all your operating costs.
How long in those 7 days EVERY week? do you have to spend making this amount of saleable stock?
So if you can make this stock in say 3 by 8 hr days, then devide your income by 72 will give you your basic hourly rate, tho its really irrelevant.
so logically, to increase your income you have to sell more every week at the same prices, or make more expensive pieces in that 72 hrs.
Now the main key to success is having the right place to sell. Wholesale is a waste of time for a one pr of hands. And selling on line is going for the quickest way to failure. Its not for our kind of work., in comparison to face to face with the customer, there buying your product personally! from you!. Thats a personal win win for you.
For my 1st 19 yrs! I sold retail only, face to face! from a 4ft by8ft display in the street… That produced enough money every week to pay for me and my growing family . Then I got fed up with the driving and went in a different direction, That was to have a big exhibition over a 5 day show 5 times a year here in the UK and throughout wider Europe.
Produced better results P.Annum than the previous 19.
If it doesnt add up its just a hobby.
Finally, did you make a business plan? before starting?
Ted.

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Left out that the selling was done in London, 120 miles EACH way.!

Thank goodness it was 120 miles each way, Ted, or you’d never get home again. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Hi Alec,
Its the language difference ! perhaps I should have said 240 miles the round trip.
Id arrive there around 7.30 am, park up and the 1st thing Id do is get out the brew up kit.
A 2 burner propane one, one for the kettle for a big mug of tea, then the pan to do bacon, toms, eggs and fried bread. A proper cooked English breakfast.
The lovely cooking smell Made all the other traders really annoyed.
On the way back I found by the time id done the 1st 60 miles my eyes gave out. Had to stop , could see no more!
Ted.

Yes, it’s always that “two countries divided by a common language” thing. Imagine the momentary puzzlement on a Knightsbridge shopkeeper’s face when I asked him where could I find Beauchamp Place, pronouncing it /BŌ-shahm/.

Cheers,
Alec

Erich, thank you. I understand…it’s back to the original question of paying $30 for a gemstone and selling it for $30…you don’t do it. It’s difficult to charge per hour anyway…sometimes I’m working on 3 different pieces at a time and I have to do a lot of math to figure out time per piece. Not my forte lol.

Hi Ted,
Well that’s a kick in the balls lol. I absolutely despise production work and customs…it sucks the life and creativity out of me and makes me not want to even go to my bench. I guess my art is a hobby then, because I won’t sacrifice the joy of making jewelry or anything really for a buck. I’ve been selling online exclusively for 3 years - I wouldn’t call it a total failure since I am turning a small profit. I don’t do wholesale or consignment or any other outlet outside of online. I don’t have a business plan, maybe I should, but again, maybe this IS just a happy hobby for me.

It’s all about perceived value. The more you charge the more folks will respect you. " How much?! Oh. You must be really good." Figure out who you want your audience to be and cater to their needs and desires.
How hard do you want to work? I’m too old to make 20 pieces a day for cheap so now I make maybe one a month and charge a lot more.
Never ever discount your work to get a sale thinking that the customer will come back and buy something more expensive. Those customers will always go to the next cheapest person. For them it’s all about the price not the craftsmanship. Don’t race to the bottom of the jewelry food chain and try to compete with mass manufactured goods.
Curate relationships with folks who like beautifully made things. They will be your return customers.
Remember making jewelry is magic to the public. Play that card to the max. If it was easy everyone would do it. When someone looks at your work and says,“Wow that’s really lovely.” Don’t be modest and say “Oh well I’m just a beginner and my work is not perfect etc.” Just smile and say "Thank you. I’m glad you like it. It has taken me many years of hard work to learn to do this. Now how would you like to pay for that? Cash, check or credit?"
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
-Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com

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I love this. Thank you!

I always thought the X3 was somewhat inexpensive…depends on the materials
I guess, but labor is a part of that X3…

Hi Laura,
you and I are at the opposite ends of the same piece of string!, I too love making ,lets call it jewellery, but it can be anything, including making all the tooling for a production run of say 50 off buckles, the current workshop task. there are some 20 odd individual pieces of metal in each so that comes to 1000 parts to be made. The 50 are a limited production all numbered for my major show in June next year, and will be priced a £475.00 each. They will be the finest buckles made anywhere, from minted sterling and bronze. Real collectors pieces of applied art.
Theres a real satisfaction in anything well done, even if its just doing the dishes and staking them artistically in the draining basket. Also ive several tasks on the go, just finished the holding tool for the round decorative nut that holds the 2 parts of a hinge together with the belt leather in between. A real step up from the normal bent over snapped together way. Has to be!.
Also again I dont have a bench in the way most have on this forum, its all proper production workshops. with some lovely big machine tools that take away the drudgery you speak of. It takes just a few minuites to make something beautiful this way, that would otherwise take days.
Depends where you are, youd be welcome to come and see how it all works so well, you might just have a conversion on the road to Dorset. ( St Paul on his road to Damascus)
Then I also have done special one offs, my home, I was blessed with the chance to build it all myself in 1972, and in it still. non stop for 9 months. Finished up making all the furniture as well!.
Life is great.
ted.

lauraleepodmore , I also fabricate everything. None of my pieces are ever the same. I welcome custom work as my clients and I, TOGETHER, design their piece. Then it is fun for me to make. Yes, always a challenge. I go to scary places a lot. I am now up to charging $50/hour and 3.25 times materials. Client base is growing (slowly). My speed is picking up. As it gets faster, I raise my hourly rate. I hope this helps. Have a great 2018: healthy and filled with joy.

Hi Erich and Lauralee and all,
Erich, I completely agree with what you said. However, if you’ll read my post carefully and do the math, you’ll see that I said he made five or six an hour and made $100/hr. If he made 5 per hour, that would be $150, so the 33% difference between $150 and $100 is the deduction for other costs.

Lauralee, it’s interesting where this thread is going. As I said, you either have to find a market where folks will buy what it is your heart’s desire to make or you have to make, to some degree, what people want to buy. Hopefully you can find something you like to make which people want to buy, but where on the continuum you fall from high principled artist to outright panderer is something only you can decide.

Working in exotic metals or using gold accents might boost your price per piece, as would using higher end stones. As to markets, that’s a study in itself and I think in terms of where (ebay, Etsy, jewelry store, craft fair, website) rather than a particular demographic, altho’ two career urban millennials might be a group you’d want to target and there are probably others. In my area, there are a couple of craft guilds (Highland Craft Guild, Foothills Craft Guild) which jury their members before admission and which each hold a summer and a holiday (winter) show. The shows are well attended and you can find jewelry from nice handmade silver that goes for $20 a pair of earrings to goldsmiths whose price point is more like $300-$500.

There is some stone selling going on in Facebook groups and on Instagram which you might to investigate if you are looking for custom cut, unusual and high end stones. Or you might establish a relationship with a cutter (say me, for example!!!) who would cut to order for you, Most custom cutters will discount to the trade and if you bought more than one stone, you might get some good deals. As a rough dealer, I have lots of mid level stones and need an excuse to see a parcel of stones for commercial cutting.

So there are some ideas. I think that for markets, you have to look for what might work for you, just brainstorm and make a list and then investigate and talk to whoever you can about this. Hope this helps, royjohn

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A great way to build your skills over a few years is to take a bench jeweler job in a busy shop doing work for retail jewelers. Whether your ultimate goal is to sell your own work, have your own shop doing work for jewelers or work as a bench jeweler as your career, it’s a good training ground.

Most shops are so busy that you become very skilled (and fast) at all the required tasks involved in jewelry making. Those bench skills and speed, combined with your growing understanding and observation of how to operate a profitable business (or maybe what NOT to do) will serve you well in your future endeavors.
Mark