# Costs of materials

I sat down and figured out materials costs on just one of the
bracelet patterns I use. Keep in mind that these are JUST materials
costs. Take into account limited capital available for materials;
the need for steady cash flow; startup costs involved in buying tools
and stockpiling materials, necessitating plowing profits back into
the business for sometime to come; and the low income level of the
area (not to mention me); then take a look at the following costs:

Sterling = \$12.88
Sterling with 14/20 Gold filled trim = \$15.13
Sterling with 10k Gold trim = \$208
Sterling with 14k Gold trim = \$286
10k Gold = \$307
14k Gold = \$454

And that, my friends, is why I work in silver.

Sojourner

Zen Sojourner:

Look at it this way (this is an extremely simplified
formula–admittedly it may not work for everyone but it will work as
an example):

Time to make bracelet (I have no clue really but let’s use this as
an example):

2 hours

Cost in silver for materials:
\$12.88

Retail price based on a 4 times markup over materials (this is a
simple way):

\$52.00
Hourly wage:

52.00 less 12.88 less say 25% for tools and inventorying material:
\$13.00/hour (\$26.00 divided by 2)

Cost in gold for materials:
\$454.00

Retail price based on a 4 times markup:
\$1800.00

Hourly wage:
\$1800.00 less 454 less 25%: \$450./hour (\$900 divided by 2).

Whoa, that makes a whole lot of sense to me. Let’s say you decide
to run a lower markup on the gold based on the economics of your
area and to turn the pieces more often. You still end up making far
more money. Let’s say that you have to work a whole lot harder to
find the market for the piece. You still end up making far more
money. Let’s say that you sell four of them in gold in the same
time it takes you to sell 12 of them in sterling. You end up making
far more money and you spend a whole lot less of your time making
them–thereby allowing you the opportunity to find better ways of
marketing them.

I’m sorry. I’ve done it in silver. I’ve done it in gold. There is
no comparison to how much more you can make when you do it in gold.
If you simply like the way the metal works then hey, go for it. But
if you really think you’re making more by working in silver you
aren’t.

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

Daniel, what you’ve said makes very good sense. The biggest problem
is coming up with the initial outlay for the gold. I too am on a
very strict, limited budget and can very well understand Sojourner’s
dilemma. When first getting started, and knowing mistakes may very
well happen, it is just so difficult to make that cash outlay. The
piece may turn out just the way it was planned, or it may end up in
the scrap pile. Granted, the scrap can be reclaimed eventually, and
thereby result in a smaller net loss. But still that fear is there.

Question: for those of you who work with gold, how did you first
"give yourself permission" to buy the gold knowing full well that it
just might not work?

Betty

As a primarily silver jeweler I have pondered this question a great
deal. While Daniel is right that you make more money on the markup
of the gold jewelry, one thing stops me from using more gold in my
work.

My observations are that many (not all) gold jewelers stop
innovating with their designs and go with a more standard look.
Because of the cost of their materials they can’t afford to
experiment and have pieces sit around in a show case. They pick
safe, commercially viable designs, that are sure to sell. I often
tour the gold jewelers displays at shows…and I see similar
designs from case to case.

So my contention is that while you make more \$ with gold jewelry it
also stifles creativity with it’s cost. Have others observed this
too?

Carla, pondering gold vs silver

``````I often tour the gold jewelers displays at shows....and I see
similar designs from case to case.
``````

Stifled creativity or meeting the demand of the market place?

Hi Betty,

Granted I don’t use a lot of gold unless it is a custom order, but I
started out using small amounts of gold to embellish my silver
pieces. At the time I read (in Lapidary Journal I think - it was
years ago) about another jewelry artist and she said to just think
of it as another metal and play with it. If you took a class to
learn how - you would probably spend lots of \$\$ - so just decide if
you melt something that you have just spent a few dollars learning
how to solder or whatever (fuse maybe :–)) The skill will come to
you and soon you will be more confident.

Just my 2 cents.

``````  for those of you who work with gold, how did you first "give
yourself permission" to buy the gold knowing full well that it just
might not work?
``````

Well, I had been working with silver for eight or nine years, so I
knew the basics. I had several pieces of jewelry which I never wore,
a high school class ring and a couple of other things. I think the
first project was just a simple band ring. I melted what I had into
a ball, hammered, annealed and soldered until I had the band.My wife
and I lived on a sailboat in a marina in ST.Petersburg FL at the
time and St.Pete is a good town for auctions. I picked up some junk
gold rings for scrap prices at the auctions, made a few pieces and
used the proceeds to buy more gold.I already knew how to steam cast
in silver so it wasn’t much of a jump to start casting gold. Just
went on from there.

Jerry in Kodiak

``````    My observations are that many (not all) gold jewelers stop
innovating with their designs and go with a more standard look. So
my contention is that while you make more \$ with gold jewelry it
also  stifles creativity with it's cost. Have others observed this
too?
``````

Hi Carla;

I don’t mean to sound insulting, really I don’t, but I’m amazed. I
really must say, it seems like you don’t get out much. Anybody here
want so suggest some reading material here?

David L. Huffman

``````  So my contention is that while you make more \$ with gold jewelry
it also  stifles creativity with it's cost. Have others observed
this too?
``````

I guess you just have to decide whether It’s going tp be a
profession or a hobby. For some it’s both. Those people make their
money with more conventional pieces and also make a few pieces to
satisfy their creative urges. If the “art” (there’s that word again)
pieces sell, fine. If not, they have them just ot admire.

Jerry in Kodiak

``````My observations are that many (not all) gold jewelers stop
innovating ... They pick safe, commercially viable designs, that
are sure to sell.
``````

Hello Carla,

That’s an excellent observation! I’d occasionally wondered why I
always head for the “silver” section when I happen upon a new gallery
but that may be just the reason: it’s more interesting.

It’s always been a bit confusing for me because I love gold. I would
much prefer to wear gold over silver and I love working with it too.
However my designs usually start at about 10 grams and head toward the
100 mark pretty fast so you’d need a lot deeper pockets than I have
to do it in gold. I’ve always found silver much less intimidating and,
based on the thoughts you’ve mentioned, I guess I’m not the only one.

Thanks for sharing that Carla, the path ahead seems a little clearer
for it.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light

When I read all of these posts about the cost of materials, I am
more incline to question the “courage” of the artisan than their lack
of money to invest.

Giving myself permission means to me taking a risk. I take as big of
a risk as I can afford most of the time. Often I go in a lot deeper.
I come to this point because of a situation when I was partners in a
store. We were looking at starting to carry Estate Jewelry. The
initial outlay was very steep for us at the time. What I remember was
the one dealer looking me straight in the eye and telling me the
bottom line is if it isn’t in your case, you can’t sell it. Very
simple. It was a nervous hand that wrote the check that got us
started (15m). This was about 12 years ago when \$s bought a bit more
than now and Platinum wasn’t hot. One piece was a Diamond, Emerald,
and Platinum necklace. My cost …\$2,300. It went in the case for
\$5,500. The one partner was very upset. It will NEVER sell… We
went in TOO deep.One month. Sold! The customer put it in layaway
bringing us a check for \$550 every month until it was paid off. When
she came in every month, she brought her friends and all would take
turns trying the necklace on. Can we say Jewelry Show? The friends
eventually bought several thousand worth of stuff for themselves. If
you don’t make it, you can’t sell it or enjoy the profits.

It is about risk. Balls. Whatever. You can reduce risks and stay
poor and just do what you are comfortable with or you can step out
and up. Yes, gold is supposedly expensive. It is all relative in the
end. If all you can wrangle is one piece a year, start there. But
start! Yes, you might end up with a blob once in a while. I think it
is called nugget jewelry. Set a stone in the corner and raise the
price damn it. If you think poor…you stay poor. Successful people
don’t get there by avoiding risks. My son is going to start looking
for 2.5 million in venture capital next month. Risks? Yes. Rewards,
far greater. Beats flipping burgers. Quit whining, buy a chunk of
gold, whack it a few times, stick on a stone, and you WILL sell it.
It is not the material. It is your vision that they are buying. It
is one …ell of a game. You are either in it or in the stands. For
my part, I would rather be in it even if I can only afford to carry
the water bucket than not at all. Get some gold… start… quit
whining about the costs. The gold will also attract a different level
of buyer. Hey, I have to write IRS a check in a few days. Dang. I
must be succeeding.

What a rant!

Bill Churlik
@Bill_Churlik
www.earthspeakarts.com

``````   for those of you who work with gold, how did you first "give
yourself permission" to buy the gold knowing full well that it just
might not work?
``````

I have been doing this for 32 years, started out using brass, then
silver and within a few years, gold. I never considered that “it just
might not work”. I just jumped in and did it. I am self taught. The
beauty of the materials are that they don’t go away after a failure,
they still have most of their value. They can be re-cycled. So go

Joel

Joel Schwalb Studio
@Joel_Schwalb

Hi Betty

``````   Question: for those of you who work with gold, how did you
first "give yourself permission" to buy the gold knowing full well
that it just might not work?
``````

To answer your question… I can tell you that I was luck to
purchase gold, sheet and wire when gold was \$250 an oz. I did so but,
kept it locked up. One day my husband ask what happen to the gold I
purchased ( it was now over \$300). That inspired me to try. What I
did was make a piece just for me. Try a small design, say earrings or
a ring, buy what you need and make the piece for yourself. For me,
that eliminated some of the “fear” of failure. Yes, a number of
those pieces went into the scrap bucket. But it gave me more gold for
a later date!

Go for it!

Barbara Smith McLaughlin - Handcrafted Jewelry
PO Box 793, Stratham, NH 03885
603-772-2633

@Barbara_Smith_McLaug

``````So my contention is that while you make more \$ with gold jewelry
it also  stifles creativity with it's cost. Have others observed
this too?
``````

Such has been my personal experience. I tend to be really tight in
my designs when working with gold because of the cost.

Still, I must admit that this is strictly due to my thinking, and
not any intrinsic quality of gold, as there are folks out there who
do wonderful, creative work in gold. It is therefore not a matter
of gold stifling creativity with its cost, but of my stifling my
creativity with fear/concern/worry over the cost of gold.

A second and related issue is the reasons why jewelry sells. Those
who are seeking bling ( acquiring jewelry for the purpose of
conspicuous consumption) will be looking for the instantly
recognizable, as what is important to them is other people
recognizing the cost of what they wear. So there is cost again. Such
folks will be looking for gold, diamonds, corundums and pearls, as
these are for better or worse synonymous with wealth. This also
informs the creativity of designs, as those who seek bling tend to
perceive the value of jewelry in terms of the intrinsic value of its
components, rather than in terms of the uniqueness of the design or
even the quality of the craftsmanship. They may even avoid unusual
designs in favor of the conventional, as they are seeking to be
visually identifiable as members of a specific (and traditionally
conservative) social class. Creative, unusual designs are thus
financially disincentized.

Of course, not every buyer of gold jewelry is seeking the bling, but
certainly many of them are. Purchasers of silver jewelry are not
normally doing so for purposes of conspicouos consumption, so you
don’t run into the same issues to the same degree when working in
silver.

My 2 cents.
Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry
http://www.dosmanosjewelry.com

Carla,

There are smiths who approach gold simply as a material whose
intrinsic qualities work for them. ( color, weight, workability,
resistance to tarnish and wear, strength,etc.) There are also those
who approach the material fearlessly, or who use the value of gold as
a foil against which they construct their theme.

I think that there are jewelers who see what they make as
explorative art, redefining forms and incorporating vastly different
materials or simply using familiar materials in new ways. There are
those who are driven to investigate the formal nature of objects,
bending the material towards that goal.

But there are other jewelers who approach their work from the
business side, selecting materials for their value and marketability.
I think that, perhaps, this last group may limit their designs
because of their investment, but among those who use gold for
whatever reason, I feel that one of the best edges they can exploit
is to step out and make a distinctive impression with their work.
That is: avoid what is safe and predictable.

There is a certainly a great deal of fear surrounding the initial
use of gold for the first time. I’ve seen it cripple students –
especially in a “Goldsmithing” class I taught several years ago.
Some students simply never got past the fear.

What I tell students now is to write themselves a grant: Take the
money they were going to spend on the next workshop or class and buy
an ounce of gold and the proper solders. Then simply begin to play,
perhaps substituting elements of a piece made in copper or silver
with elements fabricated in gold. Adding more and more golden
elements ramps up your use without committing the whole stash of
gold and eliciting a panic response.

Whatever they do, unless these students drive down the interstate
throwing handfuls of shot, sheet or wire out the car window, they’ll
never lose their whole investment. You can always cut out whatever
gold parts you’ve added to a piece, or grind/file off the solder
from a fabricated gold piece and melt it down for sheet, shot or
wire. (Or turn it in to a refiner.)

Take a look at the work of Ross Coppelman, Lisa Gralnick (from the
80’s), Jackie Ryan and Giovanni Corvaggia. These people are not
limited by their material. They are no different than you.

Take care,
Andy Cooperman

Boy howdy to that!

I have thousand of dollars worth of custom one of a kind designs in
gold, sometimes the complexity makes them expensive, sometimes it’s
the materials! What I Have found in 30 years in the biz that silver
accented with gold sells the best. It makes the piece affordable,
has both looks, yellow and white, or with multi colors. As far as I
see It the diamond market is blown out of the water and sales have
been poor, People seem to be attracted to unusuall and unique rather
than status quo! While gold sales bring in the big buck, silver has
been the mainstay and it is a heck of a lot easier to liberate a
hundred dollars than a thousand!

Ringman

`````` Let's say that you sell four of them in gold in the same time it
takes you to sell 12 of them in sterling.  You end up making far
more money and you spend a whole lot less of your time making
them--thereby allowing you the opportunity to find better ways of
marketing them.
``````

Daniel, you once again totally overlook the fact that there is
little or no market in my area for costly items made in gold. I
cannot sell 4 such expensive bracelets; I can sell three or four
dozen of the same item in SS. No one in my area works in gold at
all.

I reiterate, with time and the development of a (hopefully good)
reputation, maybe I will be able to sell four \$800 bracelets a year.

In the meantime, I can afford to make mistakes in silver; I can’t
afford to make mistakes in gold.

Eventually I hope to make less jewelry and more items of a
sculptural nature, and I won’t be doing those in gold, either. It’ll
be silver, brass, copper… mixed media… someday.

Zen Sojourner
Ottist Itineratus

``````     So my contention is that while you make more \$ with gold
jewelry it also  stifles creativity with it's cost. Have others
observed this too?
``````

I think if you look at it a little more closely you will find that
there are several reasons for what you are observing. It is not just
related to gold but any of the expensive materials whether it is
platinum or diamonds or fine gems of any kind. One is that the gold
customer tends to be more conservative, you don’t get wealthy by
being loose with your money. Two as a maker you cannot afford to
stockpile lots of work in gold and fine gems that are not selling
fairly quickly. It is way too easy to end up with tens of thousands
of dollars in stock that you had to pay for the materials but now
you can’t sell it and get paid for it rapidly enough. Henry Dunay
told a group of us at Kraftwerks a few years ago that he gives new
designs 6 months after that he takes them apart and recycles the
materials. Someone exclaimed that they were way too beautiful to
destroy, his reply was he is not running a museum, he had 16 people
that expected to get paid every week and there was no way he could
afford to keep everything he made if it did not sell. So I think
you are not looking at the whole picture. If you are doing this as a
business you must make what sells or you will be out of business
quickly.

Jim

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160

@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau

I’m a wire twizzler and I started working with gold very slowly.
Rio sells gold wire by the inch. I made prototypes, to figure out
exactly what I could make out of x inches, so there wouldn’t be any
waste, and bought enough to make three pairs of earrings. Then I
measured twice, cut once, and twizzled slowly. I know, it’s really
different if you might melt it, but I’ve had to toss enough silver
pieces that I work-hardened too quickly not to be really careful
anyway.

Before my unintentional sabbatical, this was working really well for
me. Three pairs of gold earrings, on their own “sculptural” display,
changed the attitude of my customers and the “perceived value” of the
rest of my work. I had a sign saying that all my jewelry could be
special-ordered in 14-22k. I never got one of those orders, but I did
get a little awe. I replaced the earrings as they sold, and, when
they did sell, yes, indeed, the profit margin was in a whole other
ballpark. And I was probably underpricing them.

On top of which, I sold them to people who liked my work, but for
whom “real jewelry” means gold. So, they wouldn’t have bought
otherwise.

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments
Fort Bragg (where I spent most of the day “doing the windows” at the North
Coast Artists gallery. Assemblage is so much fun!)

``````        My observations are that many (not all) gold jewelers stop
innovating with their designs and go with a more standard look. So
my contention is that while you make more \$ with gold jewelry it
also  stifles creativity with it's cost. Have others observed this
too?
``````
``````I don't mean to sound insulting, really I don't, but I'm amazed. I
really must say, it seems like you don't get out much. Anybody here
want so suggest some reading material here?
``````

I’ll make a reading suggestion. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
This book addresses how many people stifle their own creativity by
resisting that creativity. The statement that gold jewelry stifles
creativity with its’ cost is a prime example of this “resistance.”

You’ll never overcome creative blocks by resisting them with that
kind of rationalization.

James in SoFl