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Charging for finished pieces

Yup. True dat. The first year in a busy trade shop really sucks but oh so worth the education.
Jo Haemer

Morning Royjohn!

I completely agree and apologize if my remark came off as being critical of the situation you presented. That wasn’t my intent. I was merely using the existing example to try to draw attention to the importance of the distinction between a specific hourly labor rate vs. what it is possible to make per hour once markups and such are included. I think a lot of beginners hear something like, “You can/should make $X/hr” and mistakenly try to set their hourly labor rate there without taking into account markups and such on top of it all, then wonder why no one is buying their goods or how others can produce things so much cheaper.

Also, one can never underestimate the total time in a piece. It’s one thing to sit down and make it, sell it, and then figure you made $X/hr based on construction time, but it’s never that simple. You had to take time to buy the materials, sort and catalog inventory raw materials, construct the piece, enter it into your catalog and potentially create a description and detailed info, often photograph the piece, price it out, etc. Then there’s the actual time spent selling the piece, talking to customers/clients, or working with retailers (if you do wholesale), etc. Given, when you do production runs, these details can be broken out across all the pieces significantly reducing their impact, but if you do one-of-a-kind, or limited-edition sort of things, there’s a tremendous amount of additional time beyond merely constructing the piece that most beginners never seem to consider. That’s actually one of the reasons I’ve stepped back from jewelry a bit. I love making it, but since I’m a one-man-show, I have to do everything and it’s just not really worth the work right now.

Hi Erich,
I understood your point and no offense taken. I just wanted to point out that I was thinking about those pesky extras, too.

I, too, am wondering if I should spend so much time trying to become a great jeweler. I read jewelry books like some folks read cookbooks and I love figuring out “how it was done.” I would love to master all the techniques and learn to bead set, etc., but I’m 70 and I don’t think making money selling gold pave’ is in my future. That’s why my current thinking is that I’ll continue learning to work in silver, but will look to make some money in selling gem rough and cut stones, something I’ve been involved with since 1980. I won’t have to worry about how I can make money on a $40 piece of silver if I can deal in tourmalines and sapphires at $300+ a pop. And selecting rough and cutting stones is also fun.

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Hi Royjohn,

Oh, I know what you mean. I love knowing how things are done. One of my favorite shows is “How it’s made”. Years ago when I first got into jewelry, I really wanted to know how to do everything. What I mean by that though is that I wanted to be able to start with a raw chunk of rock out of the ground and some panned gold and wanted to be able to turn it into a finished piece. Consequently, I learned everything I could from gem cutting to alloying to fabrication and polishing and setting. It’s horribly impractical, but with the exception of assaying, refining, and raising, I can pretty much do all that now. What a waste though.

If I could go back and do it all over, I’d have probably gotten a degree in gemology and focused on rough and gem cutting. Honestly, that’s what got me into jewelry in the first place. My dad was a geologist so I grew up surrounded by rocks and minerals. Eventually, I got enough of a collection that I thought it would be neat to cut and polish some of them. At 18, I went down to our local rock shop/jewelry store and boat some basic cutting and polishing equipment as well as some blank silver castings. The guy told me to bring the pieces back in once I had cut stones for them as he’d like to see how I did. Upon returning and seeing my work, he offered me an apprenticeship. Since my previous summer had been spent pruning christmas trees (hands-down the worst job I’ve ever had!), I said sure. He taught me how to size rings and basic chain repair and that started me down this road. Somewhere along the line, I got full-blown into jewelry, but I think it’s just an excuse to play with gems because that’s what I really like. I often think that my dream job would just be to be a buyer for a jewelry house and get to go through rough and finished pieces. It’s just so mesmerizing to see such amazing colors and crystals from nature. I guess, long-story short, I really empathize with you and your thoughts regarding jewelry and the decision to just stick with what you know works and can make a decent living at. If only I could’ve learned that at 20 :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Have a good one!

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This has been a very interesting thread. My thoughts. As a primarily hollowware maker (judaica) pricing is very difficult. I want a fair return on my costs and time as well as the ability to move items. After many years of doing this I have, in my mind a sense of what an item, ex. kiddsuh cup, will bring. If that is in concert with my costs so be it. Samller items have less of a mark up than larger.

Basically I start with a factor of 10 x materials (the one item I can track easily). I then make an adjustment for design, difficulty, etc and look at where the price is at. At that stage I ask myself if I woud pay that amount. If yes, so be it. If no I look as to why and may make adjustments.

Wholesaling is very difficult except for small copper pieces. I established a rule that I would not wholesale anything I couldn’t make in an hour. Anythig over that was too uch time for too litlle return.

In making jewelry I use a similar pricing model but use the 10x factor for metals and 2-3X factor for stones. Again, the bottom line is would I buy it at that price?

Finally I do some restoration work. I charge a flat fee of $50/hr plus 2X materials. I know the labor is low. I only bid jobs after seeing the piece and talking to the owner. I usually provide a NTE price. Gives some certainty to the owner.


I have followed the pricing thread quite a while and feel I have to add my two cents.

The pricing of our work is always an area of discussion in this forum and it comes up frequently. Usually by folks that are relatively new to the business and those of us who have been around awhile answer the questions. Consequently we have a large archive of already covered information and it would take immense time and patience to wade through all the postings.

One area we don’t discuss often is what is our position in the market place. I am a crafter. My business cards say “Hand Made Gold and Silver Jewelry in The American Craft Tradition.” I don’t make jewelry in the manner of Jo or Gerry or Jim. My market is elsewhere. To say that some of us are Masters level jewelers and some are Journeymen and some are Apprentice level workers is probably accurate and at the same time maybe a little unfair when we consider the greater jewelry market. Not everyone wants or can afford sapphires set in platinum. I know apprentice level crafters who are forming bezels and setting cabs with incredible skill. I can’t do it as well as they and I don’t even try very often. I know a woman who set diamonds in a shop in Syracuse. That was her only job. She couldn’t size a ring or solder on a prong but she could set stones dependably and that was reason enough for her employment.

Jo mentions reducing her markup slightly if a stone costs more than $10,000.00. I am presuming and probably wrongly that she is talking about an end price of $30,000.00 on a piece of jewelry. That one stone she mentions was about equal to my gross business last year.

There is more to pricing our work than just simple multipliers. We have to know our target market as well. We do not discuss regionality or market area regards to pricing. And if we do we don’t consider it often enough. I do pretty well in Central New York State. Could I take the same shop and the same skill to Louisville or New York City and do the same business? I recently made and sold three gold bracelets that were gifts for a wedding in the California Wine Country. A little far afield for me but the customer had a central NY connection with my fathers jewelry. I made the bracelets and sold them for what I viewed to be a fair price where the customer was happy and I made a nice profit. The same customer bought a dozen other sterling bracelets which I was happy to give her at what she felt was a reduced price for volume of purchase. Again I did very well on the profit end of things. She told me she simply could not get the same product of the same quality for a similar price in her part of the country.

Another area we neglect is the need of the maker. How much do I have to get back as return on every dollar of a transaction. Only I can make that determination. My shop, up until now, has been a Five by Seven part of the mudroom. I have good to excellent tools but I don’t pay for a sidewalk Kiosk in a resort town or make payments on machinery and bricks and mortar. My break even point right now is pretty well covered by my Social Security and a few wise investments in the 401 K market place. The income I enjoy form the jewelry business is the ability to have the extras everyone desires. Better tools, decent files, and a really good guitar.

The only time an hourly rate is figured into my work is when someone is sitting in the shop while I do the rare repair. $48.00 an hour plus materials, charged in 15 minute increments with a ½ hour minimum charge. If that sounds low it probably is. More often than not I give the time away and charge for materials if the customer grabs the coffee from the kitchen while I am working.

For my local business I use a variation of the pricing used by The Dominie Craft Shops. The “Three Times” method mentioned in an earlier post. It has had to be changed a bit to accommodate the current cost of metals and inflation but it works for me. My brother Rob has a posted a brilliant method he uses. My Dad and I discussed this topic many times and he had a different method then either Rob’s or mine. One thing he did say to me was “The customer has to pay something for the art.” Interestingly the end results were all with in sight of each other.

And in my view the name of the maker is a crucial marketing tool. I have customers come to me at shows and say I need one of your bracelets because I have two of your Dad’s, two of your brother’s and only one of yours. Then they show me the Hallmarks on the jewelry. Name recognition is powerful when it comes to marketing. Tiffany made some very nice stuff but so did many others. Whose name does better at auctions?
I have seen some bent brass jewelry made by Marc Chagall. His name makes it priceless. Remove the name and the perceived value is very questionable. Always do a piece of work your name deserves to be associated with.

I believe there is no one single way to price our work. I don’t believe that determining the pricing of a singular piece of jewelry is at all simple. It all depends on the needs of the craftsman at the time they are working and what they are planning for a future in their business. I don’t believe that my charging what I charge is training the customer to expect a similar price when they stop in some other’s shops or visit their websites.

Don Meixner


I am not aware of any program or system in the U.S. that is set up to train and qualify goldsmiths to achieve a title of Master, Journeymen, or Apprentice, as there is in Europe.
People are bestowing titles upon themselves, without any established guideline or qualification.

I agree Richard, I don’t believe there is either. I was looking for a way to compare the work of the very experienced to the just starting. Clumsy of me I suppose.