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Handmade Disclosure

I am a studio jeweler, and I’m pretty new to taking in custom orders
(and I have to say that up to this point, I don’t really care for
them or the hassle much at all (I know, I need to get over it if I
want business)).

I recently finished and mailed out a custom order for a really
gorgeous, very heavy men’s ID bracelet. The person who placed the
order is a family friend.

I initially started the project making a 14gge beveled curb chain
for the band ; however, given the size of the recipient (a really big
guy–beyond the standard men’s 8.5 inch wrist), I thought it looked
like a toy against the bar–and the bar was actually pretty hefty at
12gge. [The bar was a combination of mokume gane and plain sterling.
I had to make a “doublet,” of sorts, out of the mokume portion
because it alone wasn’t thick enough to be soldered to the larger
sterling portion. I’ll post photos on my blog after the holiday is

In my email to the family friend letting her know the bracelet was
on the way, I purposely mentioned that, in the end, the chain was not
made by hand.

If I had done it myself (I love making chain and could have easily
made it–it’s just time-consuming), it would have changed the quoted
price a bit more and I didn’t want to do that. SO, rather than
ordering 10gge sterling, cutting, soldering, forming and shaping it
myself–and yes I DO indeed charge for labor–I ordered a beveled
curb chain from Rio and spliced it in half to fit the bar. I was also
under a time constraint here, keeping in mind that I had already made
a chain out of 14gge sterling.

Also of note is that I’d already undercut the price a little to
begin with because of the “family friend” thing.

So, my issue here is that I “disclosed” to her that I did not
HAND-MAKE this particular chain. I would have felt dishonest if I
hadn’t. In response to that “disclosure,” she sent a comment back to
me that seemed to indicate she’s getting “less-than” her money’s
worth because it’s not completely handmade.

I initially didn’t think anything of the “disclosure”-in fact I
thought I was doing something good by being honest.

Should I have kept my mouth shut? Is the inclusion of non-handmade
parts something that needs to be disclosed or no? How do others of
you handle this type of issue–a combo of handmade and commercial? I
will say that 98% of everything else I make is 100% handmade–down to
the claps and closures. [I even felt weird actually using the non-handmade components, but I’ve learned when to be nostalgic and when to be practical, and this case called for practical.]

Though she likely won’t say it, I know she wants me to give her a
discount because I didn’t make the chain myself…I don’t intend to
do this because regardless, I think my price is fair.

I’d really appreciate your thoughts. Thanks in advance.

Tamra Gentry

I’d tell her that you calculated the price based on using a suitable
commercial chain. If she wants the chain hand crafted also, it will
be an extra $200 - $400 to the bill.

Judy Shaw

I use both handmade and commercially purchased items; as you said,
sometimes it is not practical in terms of time and/or cost to do it
all by hand. I come from a fine arts background, and I look at it
like this: a painter today buys a canvas, usually pre-stretched and
pre-gessoed. They buy their paint. Then they put those "components"
together and using their artistry they create an original painting.
To me, I’m doing the same thing. When I combine elements - whether
any of those elements are purchased or handmade, or what the ration
is - I’m still creating something new using my artistic abilities.

I do disclose fully what is handmade by me, what is handmade but
purchased, and what is simply a commercially made item.

That said, when taking commissions I am quite clear in the initial
stages as to what the customer wants, and then price accordingly.
Some people do understand the concept of an artist creating from
components (or whatever term you want to use), and some want it all
to be completely hand made by the artist they are contracting with
(although I have to wonder if it were a painting if they would
really insist on the artist making their own paints!).

I think your issue is that the two of you did not have that clarity
up front. Maybe using the painter analogy would help your friend feel
better; or you could offer to take it back and redo the chain by
hand for x amount of money (enough to cover the cost of the chain
plus the cost to make the replacement chain). If nothing else that
would give her a sense of the value of what she has.

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio

It is handmade you had to design it and assemble it and really just
because a portion you did not hand make the chain you didn;t make the
flux or solder either. Tell her that if you had to hand make the
chain link it would have cost her double and tell her the actual
value and what you would have charged a non-friend.

It is not like you bought a premade bracelet and soldered a clasp on
sheeze lol

So keep calm and just tell her the whole truth including the actual
price you would have charged a stranger she may decide her money was
indeed well spent


Should I have kept my mouth shut? Is the inclusion of non-handmade
parts something that needs to be disclosed or no? How do others of
you handle this type of issue--a combo of handmade and commercial? 

Firstly, when I do custom work, I always hash out what the piece
costs in detail. I itemize that in this case, the handforged 14ga
chain costs X, and I charge X for mokume, so the total is XX. If I
plan on using parts that are prefab, I disclose that during the
design phase. If the design must change during the creation process,
I contact the buyer, and tell them, and find out what they want.

For instance, in your shoes I would have said: "Hey, Sue
(madeupname), this bracelet I’m making for you? Yeah, you remember
when we were discussing price and I said I’d make the chain 14ga?
Well, I’ve got the chain done but it just doesn’t look thick enough,
and you know that I want this to look fantastic as bad as you do…
Now, with the price of (insertmetal) right now, I’ll be making
nothing on this if I make a chain in a larger gauge, as my time is
worth something, and I’ll be using more (metal) to boot. So I can
either buy a prefab chain in the larger gauge and save the time, and
the price is the same, or I could make the heavy chain from scratch
for a little more, say (insert$$). Which would you rather I do?

That’s just my two little cents.

I love the eternal handmade question!!

One of the companies i worked for when i was just starting in the
trade decided they could call their cast jewellery as handmade -
because it was polished and set by hand!

Although i usually try to keep everything handmade, sometimes it
just isnt practical. Am i supposed to make a clasp for a chian or a
collet for a ring by hand if someone may have a strict budget to
stick to?! No! your entitled to take the easier option (ideally
discuss it with them before hand!), to stick within their budget and
not waste your own time.

I would say you did the right thing disclosing that it was not
handmade and although it would have been nice to have it that way,
was not justifiable for that price. Some customers are hard to please
and dont realise that time is money!

Your disclosure was appropriate and necessary.

I would explain that your price to her covered a fabricated 14ga
chain, but when you made it, you didn’t think it was sufficiently
hefty to please the recipient. If she would like the fabricated
chain, you can put the 14ga on for her, but a “hand made” 10ga chain
is going to cost substantially more.

The 10ga chain used could not be fabricated at the same price.
Period. If she wants the original price quoted, she can have a
machine made 10ga or the 14ga fab’d.

IMHO (I do a lot of “family and friends” custom. Some friends, I
don’t accept commissions from anymore :-))


Tamara, If after making the chain portion and deciding that the chain
I made didn’t look right I would contact the client and tell them
that and suggest the commercial chain. I wouldn’t quote for a chain I
was going to make and then substitute a commercial chain, those would
be two very different prices. If I spent the time to make a chain
which didn’t look right that’s on me as a designer and a lesson
learned and I would feel it necessary to contact the client. If It
goes over budget on a piece I quoted on because of problems I
created, I loose money. If it is a redesign they initiated then it’s
a new quote. If it’s a redesign I initiate, it’s a new quote. If I
get half way into a project and I need to change anything I have to
tell them and the project is on hold until we are able to talk and
part of the discussion will be price differences. Many times I have
eaten the difference and Ifeel it wasn’t until I had lots of
experience quoting that I was able to make good money on custom work.
Custom work allowed me to experiment on someone else’s dime so I felt
it was worth it.

All businesses who do quotes go through this process, budgets are
hard to stick to, time goes over so profit margin goes down,
materials thought to be obtainable from a supplier need to be bought
from another supplier and the price is different, all kinds of
things go wrong. One strategy I employ to cut down on this is to use
the program Jewelry Design Manager which keeps my inventory prices
available, and to spend the time up front to call suppliers to check
on prices and availability. I try to give myself time insteadof
quoting from the hip.

Sam Patania, Tucson

I also disclose. Its my preference. I also try to make eveything by
hand, but I’m not alloying my own metal or drawing down my wire.
However, if I add what I consider ‘pre-fab’ components, then I
disclose. Lots of people use pre-fab basket settings etc and
couldn’t (wouldn’t), I’m sure, disclose that on every item made. I
think it has a lot to do with what kind of business one runs - one
of a kinds vs. production vs. etc etc.

Also, I note on my website etc that everything is handmade and when
its not a notation will be made. (if I use a prefab chain lets say).
I do see more and more artists using pre-fab ‘charms’ soldered to
sheet and other things in their work and not disclosing that at all.
To me, it does lessen the ‘handmade’ and I have often wondered about
the integrity of the procedure…

However, I don’t cut my own cabs…so they are ‘pre-fab’…-) I guess
there are lots of ways of looking at it and each person probably has
to come to their own conclusions as to what they are comfortable
with and how they present themselves and their work. I would have
probably done like you and I wouldn’t have changed the price if I
was already discounting it.

I will be interested in hearing other people’s thoughts on this.
This couldperhaps be a lively discussion…-)


Should I have kept my mouth shut? Is the inclusion of non-handmade
parts something that needs to be disclosed or no? 

Well, Tamra, I could have some words about raising “hand-made” to
some sort of saintly status to begin with, but I won’t go there.

If you call a piece “hand-made” then it must be that, the meaning of
which has been pounded on here on Orchid before. If it’s not, then
you have no responsibility to say anything at all. “Here’s your
bracelet” will work quite nicely. And I’d suggest raising your price
on the complainer in the future… Handmade stuff is good, but it’s
not saintly or a holy grail. IMHO… Tell them you’d be happy to
change the chain for $750…

If a higher price was quoted for handmade then the client might be
justified in expecting a lower price for machine made. But this would
depend on the communication before hand. Did it go something like, “I
can make you this particular hand made bracelet for $A” or did it go,
“I can make you a bracelet for $B”. There is a difference. The first
lays the ground work for customer expectations of certain criteria.
The second doesn’t define the parameters in detail. So if the maker
charges for A but delivers B, you can see the potential for a let

I don't really care for them or the hassle much at all (I know, I
need to get over it if I want business)). 

Personally, I enjoy custom work. And the more confining the
parameters, the more I like it. When I know exactly the tiny bull’s
eye I have to hit, its a challenge I have great difficulty backing
away from. But in order to meet the challenge I need as much info as
I can get re expectations.

Then there’s the thing about pricing. Everybody likes to be well
paid. Custom pays very well. The reason one can get a good price is
because the outcome is more certain than with a lesser able
craftsperson (see Geller’s trust based thing). This is based on your
reputation. (I admit that sometimes I have dead ends too, but I don’t
charge for them). Hate to sound like a broken record but your
reputation is everything in this biz. So if you have a mind to do
custom as a line of work and have it pay well, you need to ensure
customer satisfaction on each and every deal, because people talk.

In this particular case I don’t believe its a matter of handmade or
not as much as it is a matter of contractual obligations and
customer expectations. But you did the right thing to disclose. How
you price things is up to you.

I love the eternal handmade question!!

So do I.

My business is exclusively handmade. But if I could find usable
pre-made components, I would use them as long as they fit into
design. The reason that shops specializing in handmade jewellery very
often start from casting an ingot, is not because they have nothing
else to do with their time, but because of the lack of suitable
components. Beth said it correctly. It is how you mix it. One can
make junk been totally handmade, or achieve great results from
pre-manufactured parts. I will give another parallel. Think of
cooking. The same ingredients, different outcome. The only difference
is the cook.

Leonid Surpin

I don’t think handmade vs commercial is really the issue in this
case…why did the client feel let downupon learning that the
chain was a commercial chain?

Why would therehave been the expectation of a handmade chain - most
people don’t evenrealize that chains can be handmade, at least that
is my experiencewhen selling jewelry…“you made this chain?!”

After re-reading your initial post and skipping through your blog
entries, I am pretty sure theexpectation of the client was that you
would make the chaineven if it wasn’t stated in writing. Considering
that the client was family friend - I’d bet atsome point prior to
the order, your friend saw your chains and you or your surrogate
(family member) waxed poetically about chainmaking, the
craftsmanship that goes into it and the quality differenceb/w a
handmade and a commercial chain.

If myassumptions are correct, the client’s expectations of a
handmade chainwere very reasonable; you write about how the
14g(handmade) chain was too small in scale for the client - leading
me tothink {even} you expected to make the chain for the bracelet.
Only upon concluding that the first chain was too small in scale for
the design (and client),knowing you’d have to make a second, larger
chain was the decision/justification made that using a commercial
chain would suit the piece justas well, cutting your losses.

Right, wrong…no judgement from me - but based on your post, your
client is unhappy and most people can’t afford that - I think you
have to make some adjustment.

I guess there are lots of ways of looking at it and each person
probably has to come to their own conclusions as to what they are
comfortable with and how they present themselves and their work. 

I think a few people hit on the essence of this topic - you should
deliver what you said you would, and nail that down with the
customer beforehand. Some thoughts, though…

Frequently we’ll get an “amateur jewelry designer” who brings in
some measured drawing of their “self-designed” engagement ring or
what have you. I’ll look in a book and show them their very ring,
but for some tiny detail. So I’ll say, truthfully, “You can have the
essence of your design for $200, or we can hand-make it with the
1/2mm wider shank for $800.” These issues become something else in
gold and platinum… Guess which one they always choose.

I delivered a lovely opal carving in a white gold setting I made
just yesterday. I didn’t tell them it was handmade because frankly
nobody cares and it’s just my job. Idealists…

From where I sit, if you are making jewelry with mill products then
you are assembling tinker-toys. We buy gold bullion, alloy our own
metal, and make everything with the rolling mill and draw plates -
THAT’S hand made. And that’s not to start an argument - technically
you can use mill products and call it handmade, of course. But as
Janice points out above, the whole thing is overblown and to my mind
mostly snobbery - at it’s best it is pride in one’s work. To me it’s
a big So What? It’s just my job…

If anybody wants to use the term as a marketing tool, I have no
problem with that. If the customer gets what they pay for and walks
out gazing at their beautiful new ring at a reasonable price- well,
that’s what’s important to me.

Tell them you’ll be happy to make a chain and exchange it for $750
and everybody will be happy. They get what they pay for, either way.
Guess which one they’ll choose?

Hi All,

Thank you SO much for the feedback-I really do appreciate it.

I went back and looked at all of the pre-order correspondence. What
happened is that we discussed “me making the bracelet,” but there was
nothing specific said about the chain except that it needed big links
(which I initially thought would be the 14gge). We talked very
specifically about the mokume part and how I would construct that,
but nothing about the construction of the chain. That was the gist of
the specific language used. That said, I am known for making about
90% of my chain by hand, so the unspoken expectation was that I’d
make this as well.

Because I just KNEW the bracelet design would work out at 14gge, I
hadn’t thought of needing a Plan B disclosure/disclaimer in the
beginning. From that I erroneously assumed "designer’s prerogative"
a) because I was running out of time and ordering 10gge wire to
fabricate from scratch meant I had to wait, and b) I had already
undercut the price AND I was giving her more silver in the end (i.e.,
I saw undercutting the price as something of a limited-time sacrifice
to gain continued business).

The price for the bracelet was an average of prices that I had seen
elsewhere for comparable commercially-made items. I averaged that
all out and took into consideration the actual cost of materials and
my time. For me, the final price was the final price, so I figured if
I went a little over on time/effort/materials, fine, if I went a
little under fine. I should mention that my price also included
shipping, tax, etc. [And, on Friday, I physically drove an hour to
pick up the bracelet for adjustment because it turns out it was a tad
too big-it’s no longer a surprise so I wanted to go measure for
myself. I’ll be mailing it back to them at no extra charge. All of
THIS I had anticipated-the handmade chain question, not so much.

Handmade expectations were one thing, but I also realized that,
generally speaking, I hadn’t communicated in detail what else the
price included-a huge mistake on my part. I have a much better idea
of how I want to handle custom orders going forward. It’s funny
because I can now look back critically at all of it and say “DUH,
Tamra, --well why didn’t you do/say that???”.

I totally agree that handmade can be way overrated, and I hate to
have to play the “handmade” games-as someone mentioned, there is
great handmade jewelry, and there is not-so-great handmade jewelry.
My focus is always on the design and quality of what I do whether
it’s 100% handmade or otherwise. In my case, it looks like I will
have to continue to play the game because I am known for making my
own chain for most things I sell, and as I’ve found out in this
situation, human expectations seem to require that I disclose when I
don’t. On the other hand I do think there will be some times when
it’s not necessary to say anything.

It all worked out nicely in the end after they saw it/held it. I
think I might have over-emotionalized the issue, especially with this
being one of my first few truly custom orders where I got to figure
out everything, including the complete design, from scratch (again,
which is kind of why I assumed so much “designer’s prerogative.” I
guess the question kind of made me feel like she thought I was trying
to “pull one over” or something (you know, that whole thing of–well
if it’s not handmade it’s a scam!!!), which speaks to issues of
integrity-integrity being very important to me. Maybe my nerves and
tolerance for customer feedback (of all types) will get "steelier"
with more c-o’s and more experience.

Thank you SO much for the feedback-it really helped me put some
things in perspective. I’ll be checking the comments in case others
add more.

Tamra Gentry