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Estimating a price


Most of my work uses sterling silver but I’d love to start
incorporating some gold. This question can be related to both metals
but say I was commissioned to make a piece using gold, and the
client wants an idea of the cost, how on earth would I be able to
work that out without knowing how much material I would need, nor
the price of the gold on the day of purchasing. Is the price I state
final, or is it ok to make sure the client understands that it could

I’d hate to under estimate and end up paying for it myself. Or over
estimate so that price becomes higher than acceptable.

Pricing an item is hard at the best of times!

Any thoughts?

Emma Tallack

Hello Emma,

So far as a simple method of converting the price in silver to the
price in gold, check out the commercial folks (Stuller, Rio Grande,
etc.) who offer the same item in both metals. Do the math and
determine the multiplying factor between the items. That gives you a
ball park figure, which should cover the difference in metal costs.

Beyond that, you calculate your labor, which is most likely to be
about the same for gold as for silver. In my experience gold is
easier to work, so theprice for labor in silver should have a
cushion for your work in gold.

There is a “however” though. If you mess up the gold and have to
start overor buy more, your profit just went out the window. Do
learn how to handle gold first. There are some techniques that

Judy in Kansas, where the pleasant weather has lingered so that the
roses are blooming again. Such a treat. I fear that the change to
winter will be abrupt!

You need to start figuring out how much material you do need.
Depending on the piece you can use existing pricing structures from
another company, or make the model out of brass and multiply by golds
specific gravity and then figure your cost. Figure how much time it
will take you, and then factor in any hidden bummer factors. Give a
range of price so they know it’s not the final number.

It’s always easier to come down in price - but once you say it’s
going to be $20 or $200 - the really wont want to hear that it’s $40
or $400.

Better to give a range that includes 30% overage and then come in
under the price then say “I’m gonna need more for that project”.

Regarding the Gold price - You can say this project is based on gold
being $X within a small tolerance. If it goes up or down drastically
then you will need to requote based on that. But most often, day to
day, Gold doesn’t jump that much - so unless the project/quote drags
on for too long you should be okay. Again the 30% overage should take
care of the changing gold prices… Gold’s not gonna jump 30% in one
day… I suppose it could happen - but. that’s why you make caveats.

Is this a standard looking piece? Or something wild and unusual?
Will you be constructing out of metal? or carving out of wax? Or
designing in CAD?

Russell’s of Camden

Emma- This is why it is called “An Estimate”. Most clients
understand that metals prices can be volatile.

When we have been presented with a silver piece that someone wants
duplicated in gold… We weigh the silver piece. We divide the
weight by 10.4 and that will give you how much it would weigh in
wax. The number should be small. Like point 230 or .230. Then if you
are making it in 14kt you multiply the small number by 13.1. For 18kt
it’s 15.6 This gives you the finished weight of the piece whether
fabricated or cast. If you are casting be sure to allow for extra
metal for the sprue and button.

Please note we work in penny weights or DWTS.

That said the majority of the cost of a hand made piece of jewelry
is often the labor costs. When someone asks us if a custom piece
would be less in silver we usually reply that it won’t be that much
of a difference since we charge the same labor rate for silver as we
do for gold. If you are unsure of how much to charge for labor…
just find out how much plumbers, car mechanics and good tattoo
artists charge in your area. That should be your minimum whole sale
labor cost to a gallery or store.

Welcome to the wonderful world of working in gold. You are gonna
love it.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

Thanks Judy, very helpful! Don’t worry - I will make sure I know
what I’m doing before venturing too far :slight_smile:

Emma Tallack

Hi Jon,

Thank you for your very helpful response! It’s all hypothetical at
the moment and I catch myself trying to be prepared just in case I
am asked. I find pricing a really tough topic and am always looking
for similar work to compare my prices.

Work in progress…
Emma Tallack

My rule of thumb is for metals 5 times the estimated cost of
materials should be my retail price.

Vernon Wilson

It helps if you have made a couple of pieces already with gold so you
have an idea of what it cost and sold for. But you are on the front
end of that so it is hard. What I would do is what others suggested.
Look at suppliers and see what comparable items cost. How I quote a
custom job is to work up the quote as accurately as possible for
materials. I will look at components such as heads and clasps and use
current metal prices + $100 to figure my cost (rarely does gold cost
fluctuate this much in a couple of weeks). For most jobs, that tends
to give me about $10 more for components in thequote. For labor, If I
think it will be 4 to 5 hours to make the item, I use the higher
number. When I sit down with the client, I make sure they understand
this is a “QUOTE”. Not a fixed price. And I make sure they understand
that the price quoted, for example $680.00 is the target. But it may
vary as much as 10% either way ($612 to $748). If it looks for any
reasonthat it will be either lower or higher then 10%, I will stop
and call the client to see what they want to do. I put that on the
quote I give them and have them initial the copy they get and the
copy I put in the job envelope. So far my track record is that most
jobs come in about 3% to 5% less then quoted. This makes the clients
very happy as they see it as a savings. Only a few times have I had
the price go over for various reasons. But having prepared clients
for this beforehand, it is no big deal. Rarely have I ever needed to
call because the price was over 10% higher. Mainly because a supplier
ran out of stock and I had to order form a higher priced place.

I hope this helps. Jery
Gerald A. Livings


Are you saying that chain and headpins in gold should be multiplied
by 5? These are the materials I use but, I think would price me out
of the market. I would imagine this is a retail price. what about a
wholesale price? multiply by 2.5? and then add labor and extra’s?

Tina Ashmore

When I started making gold jewelry 40+ years ago I met a jeweler
that told me to take my cost of materials and mark it up 5 X. That
includes your laboron standard things. Then wholesale is half. There
are always exceptions…

If you are good you do not need to be concerned about pricing
yourself out of the market unless you want to kill yourself with
work. For the last 35 years when I wanted to work I keep a 3 month
back log of work on my bench.

The best piece of advice I got from a business accountant when he
came into my business to help me was for me to raise my prices 10%
every 6 months untilI noticed that my sales were dropping then hold
that price for a year and then raise it 10% every 6 months…

I thought the same as you. I will price myself out of the market.
Well I started charging $30.00 a hour. when I got to $300.00 a hour
and still had 3 months of work I just stopped taking new customers.
I retired after 20 years.

Vernon Wilson
Panama Bay Jewelers

Thank you Vernon,

Wise words indeed. I will follow your tried and tested advice

I hope you are enjoying a wonderful retirement.

Best wishes

Thanks Tina, but I keep flunking retirement. Now I am a volunteer
professor at the jewelry school I donated to the University of
Panama and have another project where I teach the blind how to make
jewelry. That program is soonto be up and running in Northern
Ireland also. Guess I just love doing what I do and helping others.

Vernon Wilson

Just popping on here to say wow to Vernon Wilson…:slight_smile: :slight_smile: Thanks for
giving my butt a kick this morning. You’re a great inspiration!

Deborah Lambson