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Going rates for simple repairs

Hello all,

I hope that the following topic is appropriate for this list. If
not, please accept my apologies.

I come from a jewelry craft artist background but am starting to do
some easy repair jobs for a local jeweler.

I am somewhat confused as to the going rates. I have no way to
compare fees and don’t know what to charge. I fully understand and
agree with the per-job fee structure, which makes it fair since the
time for completion of a job is taken out of the equation.

The jeweler has a rate sheet from a goldsmith who does some of his
work. I have no idea how old this rate sheet is. This goldsmith
nowadays quotes his prices per job on the repair envelope (I am not
privy to this); the rate sheet was developed as a guideline. Working
off this really spare, uncommented rate sheet involves a lot of

For instance, one line item is “simple solder: $5”. I would consider
a simple solder something like when a jump ring needs to be soldered
as part of a chain clasp. But this jeweler also considers a tricky
chain repair a “simple solder”. I find some chain repairs to be quite
tricky and definitively more time consuming than soldering a simple
jump ring. For fee purposes, is it all the same? Is this the norm?

I know that there exists Geller’s Blue Book and understand that it
has a fee breakdown structure explained in it. It is just a bit too
much of an investment for me now, and am not even sure if it would
answer these questions from a bench jeweler’s perspective.

I would appreciate any and all comments about the rates for simple
repairs: fixing chains, performing simple ring sizing, etc., and how
this is handled in various shops. Feel free to respond off list. I
will treat any off-list correspondence with the greatest discretion
and confidentiality.

I have a great relationship with this jeweler and I don’t believe
that he is out to take advantage of me. I would just rest easier
having become more knowledgeable about this matter.

Thank you in advance for your replies.


PS: thank you, Orchidians, for this wonderful list. I have learned a
lot from reading my daily “Orchid fix”!

Hi Claudia

Knowing that I sell this book (comes as kit), I have a vested

This is too much of a part of your business and income not to be
more knowledgeable on it.

I know that there exists Geller's Blue Book and understand that it
has a fee breakdown structure explained in it. It is just a bit
too much of an investment for me now, and am not even sure if it
would answer these questions from a bench jeweler's perspective. 

The 9 Cd’s that comes with it explain everything about how pricing
SHOULD be done. Its based upon a jeweler being paid $40-$50,000 a
year and a 3 time markup on the jeweler and parts.

Go to my website and there is a pdf file that will help you

Also, go to the site and they still have the paper I
wrote The why’s and hows of pricing jewelry repair.

My site

David Geller

The jeweler has a rate sheet from a goldsmith who does some of his
work. I have no idea how old this rate sheet is. 

I bet it’s an antique!

But the Blue Book from David Geller at
and that will take care of everything.

Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

Be careful. The fact that the owner is not willing to share how the
other goldsmith prepares price quotes tells me one thing; there
looking for the best price possible and taking advantage of your
inexperience in this area. I’m sure it’s not personal, it’s just
business. I would also be leery of the “price sheet” you mentioned.
As you said, you have no idea how old it is.

Most goldsmiths I have worked with stopped completing a simple
solder for five dollars years ago. Typically, your going to be
looking at seven or eight dollars trade rate without a jump-ring. I
should mention it’s been a few years since I’ve done any trade work
so the price may have adjusted since. Another good example; if you
size a ring down it might be fifteen dollars if you keep the scrap.
If they request the scrap returned, twenty dollars.

Consider this; how long does it take you to complete a simple
solder? Not just the actual solder itself but the prep, cleaning and
polish. How much does this cost you and what are YOU worth per hour.
Ten, twenty, thirty dollars per hour? Do you rent space or complete
your work at home? How many hours do you have to work each day to
meet your financial needs and have something left over?

You say you trust this individual but they do have a business to run
and I can guarantee they have their eye on the profit margin.
Therefore, they’re waiting for you to make the first move expecting
you to come in low simply based on your lack of experience and
willingness to please. Negotiate the best price possible for
yourself and walk away if you feel your not getting a fair rate.
Chances are, unless your completely out of the ballpark, they will
call you eventually. If not, that’s just fine. Keep in mind, if you
sell yourself cheap your going to get a reputation for being cheap.
You’ll always have work but you’ll find it very hard to be respected
and ultimately increase your prices with time to justify your growth
and experience. As a goldsmith, designer, manager and former owner
please heed my words. Talented goldsmiths are hard to find and have

Don’t sell yourself short. Equally, respect your fellow professional
goldsmiths by not selling yourself short. I’ve seen too much of it
in competion over clients and we all lose. This is not a low price,
chain outlet. Represent yourself with dignity and to the benefit of
the industry.

If a complex solder takes an hour and you wish to make twenty
dollars per hour then the price is twenty dollars. That is NOT

Good luck.

Be true to your self. I have been in the custom and repair business
for many years and have had many offers for work that I simply could
not afford to take because MY TIME IS WORTH MORE TO ME THAN THEM. if
you simply figure out what you are worth to your self, and stick to
it you will be much happier to do the work and the person or people
giving you the work will understand that you have value. One more
note, any time some one has a problem with my price I simply remind
them that a plumber would charge them more to soft solder a pipe than
a jeweler charges to gold solder a ring. we are highly specialized
trades people and artists when we all start to demand the
professional respect that we deserve we will all be treated better
financially. I also would also recommend Geller’s book it’s a great
start. Always do your best, and charge what you are worth

James Kallas

I answered the “Simple solder…” question yesterday. Here’s the
link on ganoksin for the article I wrote years ago. Costs might be
different, but the theory Is always correct

"The how’s and why’s of profitable jewelry repair pricing"

David Geller

Hi All,

Repair work is not the glory part of any industry. It is the MOST
UNDER-APPRECIATED part of our industry. I, too, have customers that
are extremely cheap and complain about any repair price. They expect
their item to be refurbished with loving care but don’t want to pay
much. Last week a customer complained about a $45 repair estimate
and I was loosing money at that. Another customer damaged the item I
recently repaired and claimed that it should be repaired again for
free. What should I tell that customer??? How can I afford to stay
in this business??? Customers just don’t understand the value of time
of a skilled person to work on something and they don’t want to
understand that. I must have the cheapest customers. the bench
jewelers. I repair the equipment bench jewelers use.

John, The Jewelry Equipment Dr.

There is a thread of thought out there that says don’t do repairs on
anything that you didn’t make in the first place.

The lead story of the August, COMA Newsletter: (Colorado
Metalsmithing Association) Newbies Beware Don’t Do Repair! reads the

But if you want to repair someone else’s nightmare stick with David
Geller’s pricing He offers some very sound advise for
the jewelry business owner who wants to make a decent living.

Good Luck,
Nanz Aalund


As a long time repair jeweler I cannot agree more that a newbie
should not take on reapirs until, or unless, they have some
specialized training. I use my experience as an example. I was very
lucky!! I began repairing jewelry some 35 years ago with very little
understanding of what it really entailed. Fortunately, the jobs I
started out on were quite simple and most were at least 14K…not
the hassel of SS. It took me about 5/6 years of study and making
mistakes until I finally understood the complexity of fixing someone
elses’ problems/work. Much of the work included the TV stuff made in
Thailand etc. Anyway, to make a long story short, I never got into
big trouble but that was probably more the result of innocence rather
than knowledge.

On the other hand repairing will go a long way to learning jewelry
making! If you can repair someone elses’ poor work and make it look
right, you can make it from orginal design!!

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry!

Last week a customer complained about a $45 repair estimate and I
was loosing money at that. Another customer damaged the item I
recently repaired and claimed that it should be repaired again for
free. What should I tell that customer??? 

I have faced the same frustrating situations, and now I add a hassel
charge to every repair, for what it will cost me in time and
materials that I do not perceive when I take it in. If it goes
I reduce the charge. This added charge qualifies the customer, if
they want it done, they pay it, or they leave. I win either way.

I still lose money on some things and break even on some. You have to
be hard about this. You are taking responsibility for someone else’s
problem, you need to get paid commensurate with the responsibility. I
have to tell my employees to remind me of my policy when needed.

If a customer brought a piece back and had damaged it, if it was due
in any way to some fault of mine, I would redo for no charge, if the
fault was theirs, I would say "I am sorry that happened, as you know,
it was in perfect condition when you left, so I cannot be responsible
for what you did to it once you left here. Sometimes I tell a
that there is use and abuse and in my opinion, this was abuse. Some
our skills are greater than a dentists and we work with materials of
higher value than car mechanics, and we allow ourselves to get paid

I have been doing this for 30 years, I am really good at what I do
and I deserve to get paid appropriately for my skill and knowledge.
And I do! I have control, not my customers by their lack of
understanding or by what my “peers” get paid.

A dollar a minute just to talk to them at take in. When I quote a
price it usually is a range, I tell them if it takes less time, they
pay the lower price, if it takes longer, the higher price, I never
charge more than the quote unless I call them and get an okay.

BEFORE. And you know what I mean!

Richard Hart

No John…you probably do not have the cheapest customers! Everyone
just looks at ‘repairing’ as a low function…‘anyone can do it’.
The best way to combat that, is to educate your customers to what it
entails. Explain up front what goes into a repair job and what they
can expect from it. Make sure they understand that you are not
’repairing’ a piece…you are ‘remaking it’. A few minutes of
discussion will save you a ton of problems later on.

Cheers from Don in SOFL.

I must have the cheapest customers. the bench jewelers. I repair
the equipment bench jewelers use. 

I feel your pain. Ever try to sell jewelry to rockhounds? You have
to pry their wallets out of their pockets with a crow bar. I belong
to a local rock club that has a lot of facetors. They all want
settings for their work. I’ve found the best way to get paid by them
is to trade my work for stones they facet. At least I get quality cut
stones that way.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado


If I were looking to do trade work again I would take the price list
that the store has and use it as a guide to what they would like to
pay. From there you can decide if doing their work is profitable for
you or not.

Now that you are doing work for this company you will undoubtedly
get jobs that do not fit the price structure.

You can handle these three ways:

  1. Refuse the job. (not optimal)

  2. Return the job with an estimate for the repair or call with an

  3. Do the job and charge what you think is fair. Explain the extra
    charges when you drop off the work.

Choose your approach. First consideration is that the store is able
to make a profit…Otherwise, why would they take a job in the first
place. I like #3 unless it is a big difference in price because you
will very quickly get a feel for the store owners attitude to you and
your repair work. You are creating a relationship not just a job.
Good relationships last…bad ones are never good.

Be firm on what you think is fair and be upfront on who is
responsible for breakage. I did trade work for 20 years. Contact me
off list if you like.


Ps My best customers never questioned my prices. If there was a
question it was for an estimate first.

David, are your prices in the book at todays market values? What
year was this published?

Thanks Johneric

David, are your prices in the book at todays market values? What
year was this published? 

Yep, gold at $700, Platinum at 41350
Has the stock numbers for findings IN the book for

Southeastern Findings
R Findings
Hoover & Strong

David Geller

If I were looking to do trade work again I would take the price
list that the store has and use it as a guide to what they would
like to pay. From there you can decide if doing their work is
profitable for you or not. 

I disagree. The problem trade shop folks have is EXACTLY the same
problem I have.

Let me boast: I am the repair pricing guru in America.

Argue if you like, but I’m the known expert. Whether you like my
prices or not doesn’t matter. I’m it.

That said, being so well known, I STILL HAVE A HARD TIME getting
retailers to even RAISE THEIR OWN prices. “No one will pay” is the

The cry is incorrect. Its proven with over a 90% closing ratio for
whatever you ASK.

Most folks are too scared to ask.

I spend 1 and 2 days in seminars teaching jewelers how to charge.

In a RETAIL store repairs ARE NOT price sensitive, they are trust


In a TRADE SHOP prices are INDEED price sensitive. A retailer might
go to another trade shop if the sizing goes up two bucks.

But in retail I promise you a typical customer will not go and drive
to another store for two bucks. Because her two bucks is an “every
now and then” expense. A Retailers two buck increase is on EVERY
SIZING JOB FOREVER. He will look else where most times.

So what can a TRADE SHOP do?

You have to do what I’ve had to do (in my now sold retail store and
my now consulting career).


Requires to things (this is what I’ve done in my kit)

  1. TRAINING for the staff and owner. I did Audio CD’s, you could to,
    some tradeshops go into the stores and do occasional sales training.
    I go to stores and do this, they get 50-100% increases from this.

  2. BIGGEE!! Give the retail store NOT your cost on a list but give
    them RETAIL, in a pretty fashion, nice looking list so the sales
    staff can use it.

I’m telling you if STULLER had done WHAT WAS DONE FOR 50 years you
would all be making less money. What’s that you say?

Previous to Stuller catalogues had no RETAIL, but a COST booklet.
YOU decided how much to mark UP. Guilt took over,

Matt Stuller gave YOU a 3 time markup. You either discount from that
or get all of it.

Do the same. That’s what my book is, a crutch.

David Geller

Hello All;

First of all, it’s my opinion that anyone going out on their own as
a subcontractor doing repairs had better have worked in other
established shops for a few years or they are at considerable risk in
2 critical areas.

  1. Do you know enough about what you’re doing not to put yourself
    forever in debt to replace some expensive stone you broke or piece of
    jewelry you destroyed?

  2. Do you have enough insurance to repay all your accounts for the
    jewelry you’d lose if you had a fire or a robbery?

That being said, if you aren’t going to use David Geller’s well
researched pricing system, you need to put in as much work into
researching and developing your own. I may differ with David on some
of his pricing strategies, but I know he’s said it’s a mistake to use
someone else’s price list and I agree entirely.

It takes at least a year or two to know what your actual overhead is
and how much time you spend at your bench AND at your books. Your
price list must come about as a ratio of cost of operation per hour
and after that, include wear and tear on equipment and add a
reasonable profit. No profit means no growth means you’re left in the
dust because you don’t have money to buy the technology to compete
cost effectively. Don’t forget, your accounts have some room to shop
for price. My advice, get the Geller system and save some time. Then,
work real hard to convince your accounts to use it too or they won’t
be able to afford you. Not that David’s prices are too high, it’s
that they’ll charge too little.

Finally, I wouldn’t go into running a trade shop unless I preferred
the additional degree of self direction that it affords. You’ll be a
long time at it before you’ll make what you will as an in-store bench
jeweler in a good store. The job of solo trade shop owner/operator is
the hardest in the entire industry. You have to be good, fast, and
smart, and you have to have access to plenty of people that can do
what you can’t. If you don’t intend to work in other people’s shops,
you’d better figure on opening a retail venture as soon as you can
because you won’t get far as a wholesaler without that education and

David L. Huffman

Hi Claudia,

The problem you express is shared by many professional jewelery
repairers. I believe the root cause of the problem is we allow the
price structure for our labour to be set by the business owners. They
have a selfish duty to maximise the profit they make on our labour
and they are not going to show us how to make a fortune other than by
working faster and for longer hours. This does not have to be the
case and there are ways to take control of our time value.

My advice is to go along with it in the beginning so that you can
learn and get experience, but while doing their work you must also do
your own work.

  1. Build your own job/time database. Get a sports stopwatch with
    nice big buttons on top and attach it to your bench. When you start a
    job (before reading the instructions or opening the packet) hit the
    start button. Any time you do something else not related to that job
    hit the stop button, then hit the start button when you return to
    that job. When you have sealed the packet and written up the account
    you will have your own total time for that job. Start your time
    database now because it is the foundation for YOUR price list. As
    your price list grows and mutates, so do you gradually take control
    of the fees you charge.

  2. Determine your realistic annual income. Calculate your hourly
    rate. Keep a close watch on whether you are achieving your hourly
    rate for each job you do. If you see accurately that you are earning
    $3 per hour on a certain job when your target is $45 per hour, then
    you WILL do something about it.

  3. Categorise the common repairs in your own way as you see fit for
    your price list. Soldering a charm jump ring is different to joining
    a break in a fine fancy chain. Uncommon repairs should be quoted
    individually and should not be priced on your price list.

  4. Your repairs should never come back for any reason. To achieve
    this you need to: a) Do a thorough inspection of the item before
    starting the repair and communicate your findings and recommendations
    to your customer so that everybody knows beforehand what to expect;
    and b) Do an excellent repair job as expected. (Murphy’s law dictates
    that st happens, so you must add a st factor into your hourly

As a rushed employee you may not be allowed to take the time to do
any of these things, but then your income is fixed regardless and
your responsibility is less. If you are working on commission or are
self-employed then the time spent doing the above will be a valuable
investment towards taking full responsibility for your work, and
that includes setting your own prices and your own time value. There
is no course you can take to learn full responsibility but with
patience and care you can work towards it gradually as many others
have done. Persevere because the demand is there and the commodity is

All the best, Alastair

Well David,

I would never argue about your self professed GURU status. Your
books sell.

Nor would I argue with all the financial advisers selling their
secrets of the stock market.

But I can give advise to a new person trying to get their foot in
the door to do trade work because I have done it my self. It takes
time (relationships) to build trust and confidence. Prices become
insignificant to a good account when the service is done right.

As for Mr. Stuller: He runs a wonderful business. You’ve got that

Enough said sir,

There is no such thing as simple repairs. Something that looks like
a simple repair can turn into a nightmare in a heartbeat.