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Custom jewelry and design ownership


#1

Hi all,

Here’s an issue I’ve been mulling over for quite some time, which
I’ve finally decided to post.

I sometimes find myself reluctant to add custom-designed pieces to
my production line because I’m concerned about the reaction of the
customers who commissioned them. In one case, the customer requested
a jewelry suite based on a certain species of beetle endemic to
Patagonia. I know the design would be very popular with the other
entomologists that form much of my customer base, but I’ve been
hesitant to display it at meetings I know that this customer will
attend, in case he might resent the idea that “his” beetle is being
reproduced. This guy is one of the primary researchers of this
species, and entomologists tend to take a proprietary view of the
insects they work with!

In another situation, a customer requested a spider to decorate a
fantasy knife that forms part of his own line. I would like to add
the spider to my line as a pendant/earring/pin etc., but I’m worried
that this might represent a conflict with the knifemaker’s work.

Legally speaking, I’m pretty sure that these designs are my property.
(Those who know more about this sort of thing, please chime in!) I’m
more concerned about the less tangible sticky wickets of potential
hurt feelings, customer loyalty, and loyalty to my customers. Am I
right to be concerned about this, or am I just needlessly consumed by
guilt? (And I’m not even Catholic!)

Thanks for your advice and shared experiences,

Jessee Smith
www.silverspotstudio.com
Cincinnati, Ohio


#2

Hello Jessee:

This is how I handle custom work. I first tell the customer that
everything I make will be in my “style” and I show them all of my
work- for example if its a spider it will have one of my textures I
always favor and it will be a little more stylistic then realistic. I
straight out then tell the customer that all designs are owned by
DEDEMETAL (me) and I make them sign a contract that states my
payment policy, that I own all designs and that their deposit is non
refundable. Once I get their deposit I start working on paper with
sketches- once that is approved I get the second installment and
start working on the wax. Once that is approved I get the third
installment and cast the item. You have to be really honest up
front with your customers so they know what to expect and if they are
going to be difficult down the road the moment you ask them to sign
your custom agreement and they refuse then its a blessing in
disguise. They were bound to make the process miserable down the
road.

Good Luck!
DeDe
DEDEMETAL


#3

Jessee,

Seems to me you might want to discuss your problems with the
customer that commissions you to do a special design for him. It
would be unwise to reproduce a design a customer thinks is his
exclusively. The customer will probably think he owns an exclusive
unless you talk to him about the possibility of reproducing it. If
he wants you to keep the design exclusive for him you need to charge
more for your work. If he wants more that one piece he should pay for
the mold.

If he is willing to allow you to reproduce the design for your use
you can recover some of the original costs by selling reproductions.
He should not pay for the mold in this case.

When I do exclusive custom work with reproduction for a customer I
offer to destroy the mold when his order is filled.

Lee Epperson


#4

My main focus is the watch industry, but that said if you want a case
of your design never to be used again, they will make it with a
"molding" charge. (since they can never sell it again) The mold is
given to the customer encase He wants to reproduce it. If you want to
be exclusive, you must pay for it.

Tim…


#5

I always have believed that, with the exception of when some large
company with already existing copyrights on a design is your customer
(like if McDonalds came to you and said they wanted you to make a pin
of Ronald McDonald), that all designs are owned by you the maker.
Since it is always your interpretation of any design you produce, you
own it. That being said, I offer a two tiered approach in which there
is one price for a custom design that I retain the mold on and a much
higher price if someone wants to buy the mold. (In reality there is
kind of a three tiered approach as I tend to charge more for a design
I know no one else would ever buy and that wouldn’t do me any good in
the future, but it’s not as much as if they want to buy the mold.)
We do make the customers sign an agreement that states the policy
quite clearly and we are very up front about it (which is the
critical thing here). But here’s the interesting fact. In all of
the years I have retailed I have never had anyone pay the price to
buy a mold. Never.

In terms of the original poster’s question, I think that you should
go back to your customers (since you had nothing in writing when you
agreed to do the jobs) and ask them if they would mind your reusing
them first. It might make them feel even better about your designs.
If they say no you can then decide how important they will be to
your future and whether irritating them is going to cost you more
than it’s worth.

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


#6
    I offer a two tiered approach in which there is one price for
a custom design that I retain the mold on and much higher price if
someone wants to buy the mold. (In reality there is kind of a
three tiered approach as I tend to charge more for design I know no
one else would ever buy and that wouldn't do me any gooin the
future, but it's not as much as if they want to buy the mold.) We
do make the customers sign an agreement that states the policy
quite clearly and we are very up front about it (which is the
critical thing here).  But here's the interesting fact.  In all of
the years I have retailed I have never had anyone pay the price to
buy a mold.  Never. 

Daniel, I think that your approach is very reasonable. Could you
please share how you set the price of the mold? Is it a flat fee for
anything, and, if so, what is it? Or, is it a percentage?

Thanks!
Cindy
Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#7

Cindy,

I charge $750 for any new design. That’s the base price (base price
meaning it won’t be less than that but can be more depending on the
work involved and the final weight of the piece) to create a new
piece, either hand built or cast. The base price doesn’t include any
stones; those are additional. Frankly in 18k white gold and platinum
that isn’t anywhere near enough so in those metals I always quote
higher. (Platinum usually starts in the $1300 range.) If someone
wants to buy the mold (assuming one is made) I charge an additional
$1500 beyond whatever the final price of the piece is to give them
the mold, so if the initial piece ran $1000 and they wanted to buy
the mold they would have to pay me $2500. But remember no one has
ever actually taken me up on buying the mold. And then there is
always some leeway on the pricing. If I get a regular customer in
who says make me up something you like to make I can often move the
price downward (usually no more than 15%) as I know I can make up
something I’m happy with and can use again. As always full
disclosure is the critical factor here. Customers have to sign a
sheet that clearly states the designs belong to me and may be
reproduced at any time unless they buy the mold.

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


#8

Daniel,

You things are wonderful and I am most inspired by the comet pin. I
have designed some picture frames and brooches based on comets after
having seen yours. When I complete the drawings I will send you one.
Right on about the charges, I have just gotten down to 1000 for the
simplest ring and it goes way up from there(hopefully) my large eggs
start at 10,000. I did 5 gold eggs, medium size last christmas they
averaged 25000 each. They had diamonds rubies emeralds sapphires and
a lot of hand work. They are featured on my front page if you care to
look.

Robert