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Contacting buyers

To sell my jewelry (retail under $150), I’d like to contact local
galleries and store owners by telephone to get them to look at my
work. Frankly, I don’t knw what to say. I don’t want to sound like
a rehearsed telemark. I don’t have much money to spend for
photography and mass mailers. What is the best way to approach a
buyer? I’m still new to this sort of thing, and I’d appreciate any
help for those more experienced in this. Thanks.

Colleen Lewis

Hi Colleen - I just began approaching galleries this year. I was very
nervous about it.

A jeweler friend gave me gallery & contact names, addresses and
numbers and encouraged me to just go for it. So, I called, introduced
myself, said that I’m a jeweler, and wanted to know if they would be
interested in seeing my work. They were all very nice and all made
appointments. Four out of the five placed orders with me.

In my opinion, the best thing to do is just be yourself. I think most
gallery owners are as eager to see new work as we are to show it.
Good luck! Sarah

Colleen, you might be better off visiting the stores in person,
rather than trying to get to speak to the owner via telephone. These
people are very busy with customers, but by being there in person
can just stand aside until it’s clear they are free to speak with you.
You should definitely have some kind of leave-behind to give them, at
least a postcard, if not a small catalog. If you develop a website,
you could just give that address for them to see a few more examples
of your work.

You can also send promotional postcards to the galleries. A company
called Modern Postcard gives you 500 for $99. They would reproduce
your photograph on one side and leave the other side blank. I don’t
have a phone number for them handy, but you could call directory
assistance for 800#'s and get one, or perhaps they have a website. –

Beth Pierson
Serbin Communications
1-800-876-6425 X228

Hi Colleen, If they’re local galleries/shops, I’d suggest dropping by
in person, and start out with an inquiry about who the manager is, or
who does the buying. This simple ice-breaker question then allows
to easily flow into why you’re there. If you really want to establish
contact via phone, I’d use the same strategy, and be totally
professional (business-like) in your approach.

Going in person easily avoids the telemarketing appearance, and
a personal touch. It says something that you targeted them
specifically enough to actually take the time to go there in person.
You’ll be surprised how easy it is once you build up enough courage
actually do it. I know, it takes a lot of “gumption” (whatever that
means) to take the initiative, but I think you’ll be pleasantly
surprised how receptive they will be. You can even take along a few
samples of your work so they can see, touch and feel.

I may be lucky, but I have yet to have a negative experience cold
calling on a gallery to “peddle my wares” on consignment. They need
something to sell as much as you need them to sell your work. I don’t
work through conventional galleries at this time, but enjoyed the
relationships I did have. Galleries really like artists! You’re
something special to them!

The things you have to overcome (fear, uncertainty, doubt) to
actually set things in motion are far more daunting than what you will
experience once you actually do it.

All the best,

Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Hi Colleen, This is something I have done for many years and have sold
my finished items as well as other peoples items from small stores to
Bloomingdales and Saks including their Christmas catalogues… I used
to sell finished goods however I now must do the same sort of thing to
sell loose gemstones to the jewelers. Even now when I have to make a
sales call I still get little butterflies.

There are several ways to go about this and the one important thing
to remember is to keep making the calls or knocking on the doors even
if you get 10 no’s in a row because eventually you will get a yes.

It is best to start locally in your area. Take some samples and go
into the gallery or store and ask to see the owner. Introduce
yourself and tell them you handmake jewelry and ask if they have time
would they like to see a sample or is it possible to make an
appointment to show them your line. Always take 1 or 2 samples with
you into the store or gallery (not to many pieces) so you can show but
not overwhelm them if they are busy. Also wear a piece of your

One point you can make is that your pieces are new and fresh and have
not been seen all over the place. Many places like new and different
where not every store has the item. You can also mention the price
range of your items .

The other route to go is to pick up the phone and ask for the
owner(try very hard but nicely to speak with the owner or buyer)
Introduce yourself and tell them you have a line of handmade jewerly
and explain it briefly in a positive up manner and ask if they would
like to see it. Even if they are not in the market to buy ask if they
just would like to see a few pieces for future reference.

The more calls you make the more comfortable you will feel and the
easier it will become to promote your own goods.

Most of the gallery owners and store owners will be receptive to see
your pieces. Always remember to dress appropriately if going into a
store. If they ask you what trade shows you do you can simply say
that you plan to do them in the future however at this time you are
selling your pieces yourself. (You could also ask in conversation if
they know of any sales reps)

It takes practice, and once you pick up the phone or walk into
galleries a few times you will feel more comfortable. Just keep going
even if the first few times do not turn out how you want.

These are just a few thoughts that came to mind when seeing your
post. Please feel free to call me or email me if you want more info or
want to practice on me. I have been doing this type of sales for
approximately 19 years.


Colleen, I’m a retailer, here’s some tips on showing your stuff.

  1. DO NOT CALL, unless the store is far away. Most of us are buried
    with vendor calls and our lines need to be open for OUR customers.
    Yes, we get irritated. Usually, it’s easy to dismiss someone over the
    phone. (You can’t show your stuff over the phone.)

  2. Come in person. Expect to be turned away, most of us have our
    hands full all day long as managers and are not prepared to “fit
    someone in”. Ask if an appointment is possible. Persistence pays off.
    If you keep coming back, someone will recognize your persisitence.
    It’s admirable. I often turn vendors away because their sudden
    appearnce in the store is just an interruption. But I take their
    card, and if they call back, I’ll see them.

One young man came by with a line of rings, I said I had plenty and
we make them anyway. He said his were different, but I assured him we
needed no more semi-mounts. Unknown to me, he waited across the
street for two hours until the store was empty of customers, came
back, and said “PLEASE…just give me five minutes, take a quick
look”. Of course, I did, and we purchased over $10,000 of his work.
Expect to get a lot of “NO’s!” Don’t give up… Now, why don’t you
email us some pix of your work and I’ll take a look…

Wayne Emery
Jewelry Design Studio
3djeweler@home com

Hi Diane, Your response to Colleen’s questions was great and very
timely for me. Thanks to you Colleen, as well, for starting this
subject. I am in much the same situation as Colleen, trying to decide
how to generate more sales. I have decided to go the gallery route,
as well as some local advertising on selected pieces. I have a few
more questions regarding the approach to the galleries.

  1. Obviously you want to try to sell…what if they are not
    interested, but are willing to do consignment? Do you do it or walk
    away? Is there point that you say, “well, consignment is better than
    sitting on my shelf in the studio!”? Does consignment go the same
    50/50 route with respect to what I should expect for the item?

  2. What about terms? Do these galleries typically expect net 30, or
    is it a COD situation? I deal in 14k items, more toward the mid to
    higher end price range.

  3. You mentioned to bring in a few samples. Is 10 to 12 pieces too

I’m sure I have more questions, but that’s all for now. Again thanks
for the info.

Best regards,
Jim Papuga
Spirit of New England
Warner, NH

  1. Obviously you want to try to sell…what if they are not
    interested, but are willing to do consignment? Do you do it or walk
    away? Is there point that you say, “well, consignment is better than
    sitting on my shelf in the studio!”? Does consignment go the same
    50/50 route with respect to what I should expect for the item?

I have the same concern. I can’t see making any real money on

Anyone have an idea for a good response?

Colleen Lewis

Hi Jim, In this area (Charlotte, NC) galleries seem to be consistent
with a 40/60 split on consignment (60% to artist), based on a retail
price set by the artist. They don’t seem as compelled to actively sell
consignment work as they would be if they had invested cash, but it
may be the easiest way to get representation as an “emerging artist.”

As someone else pointed out, don’t be surprised if your first “cold
call” results in an appointment as opposed to an immediate meeting. No
matter, the end result is the same, just somewhat delayed.

Each situation is different, but my initial reaction is that 10-12
pieces may be a little much for a cold call, but not for a set
appointment. Maybe walk in with 5 pieces or less, but have more in
reserve if you find the gallery to be immediately receptive. You’d
have to play this by ear and read the signs as best you can.

I wrote up my own consignment agreement that I had the galleries
sign, rather than the other way around. That way, I was sure the
points I wanted covered were in writing. The gallery’s agreement will
conveniently leave out things like what happens if a piece just
disappears or is damaged. In my experience, galleries pay once a
month, on a regular cycle. Only once did I have to visit a gallery
manager and ask, “Where’s my money?!?” I believe I ended up, in the
long run, getting paid twice for that piece.

I guess the bottom line is that there are no hard-and-fast rules, and
you are equally entitled to make up the rules as they are. Each
situation is as different as the individuals involved, and you have
the right to be assertive and negotiate. If there is a disagreement or
you can’t reach an equitable compromise, each party is free to walk
away. If you know what you want and handle yourself in a professional
manner, you are more likely to have a successful relationship. They
prefer artists who are professional and business-like, as opposed to
"flaky" artists.

Hope this helps,

Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Hi Jim, In regards to your questions I will do my best to answer them.

  1. A no does not necessarily mean a no. I agree with Wayne in being
    persistent. Keep trying until you can catch the owner at a relaxed
    moment. I remember once when I tried to sell something unusual to a
    small department store. The manager said no to me at 3 different
    times however I knew the product was perfect for the store and it was
    around the 4th time I approached her she said yes and I did a great
    business with them for a few years.

  2. I would only bring in to be visable 3 to 5 samples which is easy
    to look at, however you should have more with you if they want to see
    more. You can bring in a briefcase or backpack that is not bulky
    since leaving 14kt in the car may be to risky.

  3. Terms, every gallery is different. Sometimes they will buy cod
    the first time and maybe the second time and then will want terms.
    however you can set your own terms and each store would be a case by
    case basis. If it is the first time you are dealing with them for a
    net 30 then get 3 references and you might want jewelry
    references.(you might even want the references after a cod order)

  4. Consignments- If you are going to do consignment be very
    specific about what you expect and find out what they will do and what
    their policies are. Consignments can work if you know who you are
    dealing with. There are some stores that only do consignment, however
    let them make the suggestion. Have everything in writing. I would
    not walk away from consignment however you must be careful. You might
    want to try just a few things in a store you feel very comfortable
    with. You can tell the stores exactly what you want for each piece and
    put it in writing with your code numbers and descriptions of the item.
    If you have a digital camera I would suggest taking pictures of every
    item with their code number.You could even print out the pictures on
    the computer so the store has a copy and there is no confusion. In
    addition you must talk about when you expect payment after a piece is
    sold. They might have a 30 day return policy after the piece is sold. I
    am sure that the jewelers on this forum could give you more info on
    their consignment experiences with galleries.

  5. Going in person is a good way to go but there are those that do
    want phone calls and there are some places that have set days where
    vendors can go in to show their goods. (In New York City some of the
    higher end galleries have special days) I do agree with Wayne that
    if you are close enough then it is good to drop by the gallery.

I hope this answers your questions.


 I have the same concern.  I can't see making any real money on
consignment.  Anyone have an idea for a good response? 

If you price your jewelry (see previous threads on pricing) at
keystone (twice wholesale) � and you must do so in order to make money
� then you can earn the same with consignment as with wholesale.

In other words, set a wholesale price (which includes all expenses
plus a profit margin) � e.g., $150 � and then double it for keystone
(basic retail price) � e.g., $300. Once you’ve done this, whether you
sell the piece to a gallery at wholesale or consign it to that
gallery, you will still receive $150. But, if you also exhibit at
retail craft shows, you will sell that piece at $300. In this
situation you must mark your piece at $300 so as not to undercut your
galleries (they really hate it when you do and you could lose a good
account). However, since you have so much latitude, you can afford
to offer a discount to the customer (discreetly) if you wish.

Don’t look at it as getting only 50% when you consign. Instead,
think of it as getting 100% when you consign or sell wholesale and
200% when you sell retail. That’s the way it’s done.

I sell my work directly to some galleries at wholesale, I also
consign it at wholesale to other galleries and, in addition, I do
retail craft shows. Whether I wholesale or consign, I make the same
thing. If I sell at a craft show, I make a whole lot more. Why do it
this way? Well, since I don’t want to live on the road, I only do
about 6 retail shows a year and that’s not sufficient to make a
living. So I also wholesale/consign to galleries, mostly consignment.
One advantage to this arrangement is that, when I’m short on
inventory for a retail show, I can recall my consigned work. I do
this no more than twice a year, so as not to inconvenience my
galleries more than necessary; but, if they dislike the arrangement,
they’re certainly free to purchase my work outright!

Do I have trouble getting paid by consignment accounts? On occasion,
but probably no more than getting paid in a net/30 or net/60 wholesale
situation. You’re always, to some extent, at the mercy of your
accounts, whether wholesale or consignment. Overall, my own
experience has been very good. In ten years, I have had two
consignment accounts go bankrupt while owing me money, which can also
happen if you have a wholesale account outstanding at the time of a
bankruptcy. No difference, really. As long as you’re extending
credit to an account (and that’s, in a sense, what consignment is),
how you’re treated will depend on the honor of the people you do
business with.


    1.  Obviously you want to try to sell.....what if they are not
interested, but are willing to do consignment?  Do you do it or walk
away?  Is there point that you say, "well, consignment is better
than sitting on my shelf in the studio!"?   Does consignment go the
same 50/50 route with respect to what I should expect for the item?
I have the same concern.  I can't see making any real money on
consignment. Anyone have an idea for a good response? 

Hello Colleen, I do both, though of course I’d prefer not to consign.
The one thing I’ve learned is that some consignment is not worth
keeping. I’ll almost always take a chance with consignment if I feel
strongly that the store/gallery is appropriate for the work and vice
versa. I always ask for a written contract and will amend it, with
the gallery’s permission and consent, if it doesn’t cover some things
I feel it should (like insurance/compensation for fire damage or
theft). I keep tabs on sales and allow for the fact that certain
times of the year aren’t going to be as conducive to selling as other
times (Christmas versus the middle of March).

You must set up some written system to track what sells. The store
should send a receipt with every check listing what exactly sold. The
ones that don’t I’ve found don’t have good record keeping habits in
general and sales can slip by them that will just increase confusion
for you later. The best accounts give you a year-end inventory list
that is invaluable in tracking work.

Consignment rates will differ from place to place, many stores seem
to offer 50/50 now, which isn’t much of a deal considering your
wholesale prices should be at that half retail mark, at the very
least. Most places will ask you to set the retail price; I’ve noticed
museum stores may set their own retail price but will still only pay
your wholesale price (still termed 50/50 consignment) so make sure
your prices are where you want them to be. If you can get 60/40, even

Overall, yes, I personally think consignment is better than work
sitting on your shelf. It can often be used as an opportunity to
showcase new work or sell out discontinued work in your line or to
try a new design that you may not be sure of. But don’t be afraid to
pull work out after a certain amount of time if you see things aren’t
selling. Make sure that the store understands your right to get your
work back when you ask for it (some places set their own time limits
or ask that you give them a certain amount of notice).

If you approach consignment as an opportunity for exposure and cover
your interests in writing with the gallery and don’t take sales or
non-sales personally it can be a very good situation. Some of my best
accounts are consignment and I’ve developed good relationships with
the galleries. Good luck.


Beth and all-- I agree with what you say about consignment, but would
like to offer a slightly different take on the “percentage” you earn
in each situation.

I find it useful to think of pricing this way: the wholesale price is
the amount you need to get to make it worthwhile to make the piece.
The other half of the retail price is compensation for selling the
piece, which is also work. At a gallery, whether it buys wholesale or
takes work on consignment, they do that work, they get that pay. When
you sell at a fair, you do the work, you get the pay. After all, your
time is very valuable. To sell at wholesale at a fair is to put no
value on the time and effort you invest in the show–if you spent
that time in the studio, it would produce income. It must do so at a
show as well, to be worthwhile. Hope this way of looking at it is
helpful for someone else. --Noel