Fair hourly rate

I’m sure that this question will seem a bit novice to everyone in
this forum, but since I’ve found Orchid members very supportive, I’d
like to throw it out there.

Recently, I have been thinking of finding another jeweler to help me
out when I have too much work for my little workshop. What would a
reasonable hourly rate be for fabrication of 14kt gold jewelry?
Nothing too complex…metal forming, soldering, and finishing. I
would supply the raw materials, but they would use their own

Also, as I do not have an established relationship with another
jewelry, what would be the best, most polite, but effective way to
make sure that they are accurately conveying hours worked given that
I would not be watching over them? I thought that I could just use
the length of time it takes me to complete a piece as a guide, but I
do not want to insult a fellow jeweler. Any suggestions would be
most appreciated!


Hello Jeet;

I think in this case, you would be best to negotiate a price for each
piece, based on your estimate of what you can afford to pay and still
make your margin. I do wholesale work for retail jewelers, and I
charge $40 per hour. I also have a price list for basic services such
as ring sizing, stone setting, etc. But on custom jobs, I usually
provide an off-the-cuff estimate for labor (at $40/hr.) and a
non-commital ball park figure for materials, then when the job is
done, I send an itemized invoice. Keep in mind, I have a lot more
overhead than someone working out of their home as a sole
proprietor, or using earned income, since I have rent, utilities,
insurance, wages for employees, taxes, the works. My hourly charge is
determined by what I need to make to cover all my overhead plus a
small profit to grow the business. If this person were a fairly
skilled in-house tradesman, capable of quality fabrication, I would
think that they’d be paid around $16-18/hr. before taxes, and with
some benifits. Certainly no less than $15/hr. Someone who could do
all that plus carve waxes, set stones, and design could expect
closer to $25/hr. plus benifits, and I know guys getting $35/hr. but
I think they’re lucky. But of course, this will vary from region to
region depending on the cost of living in those areas.

David L. Huffman

Dear Jeet,

I don’t think that it is at all realistic to have an outside person
charge by the hour. For one thing, there is no oversight and for
another, if you are paying him or her by the hour you are an
employer and a government agency might want you to account for all
the deductions and responsibilities that are attended by hiring
employees.God help you if you get into a disability claim scenario !

A better way to go is to have an independent contractor relationship
with the helper. This approach makes him responsible for all his own
actions. You can establish individual prices on jobs or you can go
by a price list. I seldom farm out anything, but when I do I
negotiate a price before hand and, if a problem develops in terms of
time required and the cause seems reasonable I add to the
compensation and pass the cost along to the consumer.I hate rigid
price lists. Jobs are always highly individual and need to be
treated as such. One ring sizing job can take ten times as long as
another while others are so easy that it is embarassing to charge
heftily for, lets say, a stretch that takes only seconds !

When you farm out work to a fellow jeweler it should never be on a
basis of squeezing him in a financial vise. You have got to see that
he is properly compensated for his skills and time so that your
relationship will be symbiotic rather than adversarial. In this
manner you can be assured of getting good work and priority
service…( are we not talking about enlightened self interest ?
) Ron Mills, Mills Gem Co., Los Osos, Ca.