How your product is to be made - casting, die-struck, whatever,
really can't be addressed without knowing what the items are.
Tool-and-die work is expensive, though. I would also suggest that you
qualify your buyers before you tool up much, also. Department stores
are notorious for dreams and 90 - 120 day payment. Meaning that they
will see a prototype, and then change their minds on the line, or
decide that it won't sell afterall. Get it in writing. We have a
network of people, and we farm out work as needed, back and forth. If
you need to take on help, though, don't go cheap. Make sure they can
do the work from the beginning. The process is simple in essence,
though: Dissect your pieces into components, and figure how each is
to be done - cast, stamp, whatever. It's boring, but the only way you
will succeed is by production methods - make all 100 parts, make all
50 other parts, assemble all 100 pieces, etc. Do a time-and-motion
study on each piece to get a figure on work time for your cost basis.
The exception to this is polishing- you might have a polisher
working, or do some here and there, because marathon polishing
sessions are murder, plus you have product waiting to be shipped,
laying around. You'll get plenty of advise, here - mostly it's just
lots of work, though. It's still making jewelry.