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Custom work, pricing and sales

Thanks to those who sent words of advice and encouragement about
my first juried show, and yes, this is the first show of any kind I’ve ever
applied to. In fact, this will be the first time I’ve ever tried to sell
my work at all. My debut.

I’m at real new at this, been making jewelry for only about 2 years.
Anyway, my questions is…What might take me say 6-8 hours to make,
might easily take a more accomplished person 4-5 or less. Do I base my
labor charge on my hours and lower the hourly rate or what? I am so
confused! One of my first pieces took my probably 40 or more hours
(redoing mistakes. using new techniques etc) Today, the same piece would
take me 12-15. In fact, it was such a labor of love that I almost hate to
part with it. Also, I’m working with sterling. Seems like people just
don’t expect to pay lots for sterling. I do however have some wonderful
stones incorporated in several pieces, but alas, did not always pay
wholesale for them. (all of my work is handcrafted one-of-a-kind)

I was once told that I needed to master 4 things to be successful in
this field… design, technique, sales and marketing. The former two hold
much more appeal to me than do the latter. And all have room for

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.
Western North Carolina USA


I don’t sell jewelry or anything else but would humbly offer this advice.

Do not feel upset if potential buyers cryout over your pricing. I just
came from the auto shop today and was outraged. A 15 minute oil change,
lube and headlight replacement cost me $88.90 and this was after a
supposed 15% discount! The service manager did not bat an eye at my
displeasure. The labor part of the cost was $52.

I think that artisans and craft persons are often to eager to please and
try to accomodate the buyer’s demands. I do know the skills it takes to
turn out a good piece. Unless your next day’s food depends on a sale,
stick to your guns and seek a price that rewards your efforts. Customers
will not value any less for doing so.

Hang in there !

Bob Bthere!

Hi, Mollie. I’m just one year ahead of you in experience in selling and
pricing. I have several pieces that, like you, took way to long to
produce due to my inexperience. You just can’t get your time out of those
pieces. I usually price them by the time it should have taken - not what
it actually did take. On the “labor of love” pieces - I usually price
them high. If they sell, fine - if not, I still have my favorite piece.
In fact, I almost always keep my favorite pieces for a while and wear
them. When I have a new favorite piece, I sell the first one. Hope this
gives you some ideas. Will write after I return from my mokume class at
Wildacres. Gini in Tampa bay, Fl.


A friend who is not in the business but is as avid “show goer” suggested
that I should keep clippings from magazines, catalogs, etc., that are of
pieces similar to mine and then use those as a guide to what the market
will bear. It was good advice for me as I am about where you are in my
discomfort with marketing etc. I’m still new enough at this that I often
take entirely too much time on a piece to ever expect to get it back in
sales. I’m not that bad a technician; sometimes I just enjoy seeing what
will materialize if I try a different or new technique. If the results
are unacceptable to price in the $ per hour system, the saved clippings
give me reasonable guidelines.

Enjoy the people at the show. And much luck in sales.


If you don’t really want to part with the 40 hour piece, put a huge price
on it. If it sells anyway you will feel greatly encouraged and if it
doesn’t, you still get to keep it. As far as lowering your hourly rate,
don’t do it. Use a fair rate for someone with your level of skills. If
the piece prices out too high you may have to make a decision whether or
not you want to sell it. If so, you can lower the total price to
something the market will tolerate. If you didn’t pay wholesale for all
your materials you will have to factor that into the formulas that have
been suggested and, alas, buying is yet another necessary skill.

Perceived value (on silver or gold) can be hard to judge and is often
affected by the show you are doing. Not all juried shows cater to the
same clientele, so you have to find the shows or galleries that already
have a following that supports your kind of work (another big part of
marketing!!). Look around on the net at other handmade jewellry sites and
their prices. Compare these to your design skills and craftsmanship and
see how your prices compare. Lastly, try to price your work so that you
can give a wholesale discount of 40-50% in case a gallery buyer wants a
number of pieces, but don’t discount at a retail show for just a few

I was once told that I needed to master 4 things to be successful in
this field… design, technique, sales and marketing.

If you want to be a one of a kind independent jeweller, I would add buying
and business fundamentals to your list. Good luck on your first show!!

Nancy <@nbwidmer>
ICQ # 9472643
Bacliff, Texas Gulf Coast USA