Designing a collection

I’d love to see some discussion around this topic. I recently made
the first steps toward putting together “a collection.” In doing so,
it raised lots of questions. How much commonality should each piece
in a collection have? Can there be too much commonality? How many
pieces in a collection typically? What pieces are standard in a
collection (ring, earrings, etc.)?

Does a collection have a lifetime (one year, multiple years)? Does a
collection die off or morph into a different iteration? Etc., etc.,
etc. Thanks for thoughts about designing a collection.


Wow, Jamie Those are some really good questions. And for as much as
everyone on this forum is going to scream at me for saying it, take a
good long look at David Yurman’s line.

If you can find it look at Henry Dunay’s work! He is whom I consider
to be the father of American jewelry design by a name designer. Look
at how these two masters create constancy without redundancy. They
are the two most successful jewelry designers who have created
multiple commercial collections.

Of course you will always need to fill gaps in your price points
within a collection. Example: there are 2 rings, a bracelet, 2
necklaces, and 4 earrings options sharing a common design theme, this
would be the minimum basis of a collection. You will want them to
“match” without being too identical.

Then you make more expensive versions and less expensive versions.
Changing from all gold & platinum with diamonds to sterling with
gold accents and perhaps color (ruby & sapphire). Then you take it
completely to lower price points with amethyst and blue topaz and all
silver. Along the way you change up the range of size for a design
from petite to a larger scale, this will change the costs.

Good luck,
Nanz Aalund

Hi Jamie,

I’ve been thinking about and doing the same thing. I spent my career
making anything any of my customers wanted and sort of prided myself
on being able to make whatever it was. I have always thought that
when I finally got around to putting together a line it would be an
eclectic mix of all the looks I loved and I never understood those
who had just one signature look.

But I find that now that I am doing it that I am much more focused
and productive when I do stick with a theme or a look. I find that I
work through a cycle where I come up with the first two or three
pieces and think that will be it, but once I get going I find that
one leads into another and the next thing I know I have 6 or 12
pieces. I’ve been surprised by how satisfying it’s been to explore
an idea until I’ve exhausted it. Work through it, develop and improve
it. Often the first of that series is never reproduced, not because
it was bad but because the subsequent pieces evolved into so much
more than the first. You work through the ideas, think about them in
the garden or in the shower or the car and they just get better and

So I guess I find that when making a line or a collection that I want
a series of pieces that I really love and that I keep making them
until they don’t come anymore (for me that’s usually under a dozen).
Then I start something different. I think the look or commonality of
a series of pieces creates more impact than the single piece will
have on it’s own. That customers see it and understand it better when
there is a group of related objects.

It also can give it a story, something that it critical in
generating sales.


Bingo! What you are doing is creating a voice and at the very
essence of successful marketing. Jurors of a show will appreciate
your “look”, as it will have a cohesive theme, rather than, and I’ve
seen this, “every piece of jewelry you made at a workshop” look.

Although Daniel Spirer said goodbye from this list, I have been a
huge fan and good friend of his for ages. He is an uber designer with
a distinct look. Search out his website from the Orchid Archives. No,
I’m not posting it here cause one of Hanuman’s strokes of genuis was
in creating an incredible archived search engine and we should all be
using it.

If you create limited edition lines, you keep your options open for
fresh work and exploration with new materials. There is nothing more
yummy than thinking we can buy something which is limited. We as
consumers want what we can’t have and by limiting our choice, we
want it more. Do Chinese restaurant menus make you crazy? Too many
choices and our brains shut down.

Creating a voice in your work has an upside and a downside. The
upside is that you have a voice and your work looks fabulous and
cohesive. The downside is the you have a voice and your work
continues to look fabulous and cohesive and any time you change
anything, people shy from change. Or, people become bored because all
your work looks the same.

Ask any rock star who became famous on the one song that everyone
hums, or the album that made platinum. When they play live at a
concert, they all want to hear their favorite songs and when they
play their new work is not always well received. Ask Jimmy Buffet
what fresh music he has to offer. What he is selling is not his new
songs, it’s community and burgers, but it works.

In creating a jewelry line, look outside your field and see what
others have done. Look at food trends. Tropicana has 8, count 8 types
of orange juice. The packaging all looks similar.

Sometimes it takes years to create a line. The resin inlay work I’ve
been producing for years suddenly is now attractive to the New Age
style of stores. The materials I use have great appeal because people
are treating them like amulets. I just finished a commission for a
woman who rides a horse and is a painter. Her horse was being sold
and she was sad not to have access to her favorite hobby. I told her
to clip a few hairs of the horse’s mane and with a simple design, I
combined the horsehairs with ochre, her favorite choice in a dry
paint pigment. The pendant is now more than a piece of jewelry, it’s
personal. The appeal of locking a memory into a wearable object is
creating my “line.”

The point of this long post is that your line is your line. It is
personal, and only you can tell the story. We like stories, and isn’t
it cool to wear a story.

Good luck!
Karen Christians

Thanks to each of you for your thoughtful responses on designing a
collection. Thinking about pieces as a part of a collection instead
of individually is a whole new way of thinking for me… but very

Best regards, Jamie