How to dip your toe into the jewelry design water

How to put your toe in the water for custom design in your store The
majority of stores across the country are still doing well in shop
sales. With all of the gold melted in the last 5 years you’d think
there’d be nothing left to fix. But while some stores are down in
repair intake many are up dramatically in custom design. Design is
divided into two

  1. Making something new from scratch, you selling the metals and

  2. Remaking customer’s old jewelry-remember not everything has been

There are three types of jewelers doing design work in my mind.

  1. Stores that do mostly shop sales (my store was this way-75%)

  2. Stores where custom design is about 50% of total store sales

  3. Stores where design/shop work is a very small percentage of total
    sales but does bring in good money and probably assists in selling
    center diamonds.

Let’s discuss the possibilities in custom design.

Custom design can easily have a much higher average sale that your
store’s product sales. Typically custom design sales (not counting a
center diamond) can easily be $1500 to $3000. If you make a $1500
sale from the case it requires hundreds of thousands or millions of
dollars of inventory.

Making a $1500 custom sales requires less than $10,000 in inventory
(material in the shop), but does require more expertise selling it
than selling product from the case.

Profit margins from selling product range from 44% to 55%. Custom
Design profits can easily be 50%-66%, sometimes more. To start with
design you have to be able to sell it to the customer with
confidence. Most sales either start with a custom saying “I like that
ring in the case but different” or maybe from a magazine they brought
in. For those with no idea of what they want you can show our trade
magazines (Instore is great at that) or just use your own creative

Designing jewelry with a customer is a different selling technique.
For an easy crash course on how others do it go to youtube and
search for “Designing Jewelry”. There are stores and schools showing
the process starting with a sketch. Learning how to present designing
with confidence is key.

The actual making process. Today there are several computer programs
that allow you to design the item on the screen and then you show the
screen to the client. Stuller has “Counter Sketch” which also employs
a large amount of their mounting catalogue which can be altered on
screen. After doing the design you can email the file to Stuller and
they can make the ring for you, send it back for you to finish or
they can do it complete. This is a “fairly” simple program to learn
and has its limitations.

Many jewelers have more sophisticated programs (Gemvision; Artcam;
3D Space pro, etc) that can do almost anything. Again you can send
your file to someone to manufacture the wax for casting but many
jewelers I deal with buy their own machines that produce the wax
right in the store. Then cast into metal and finish.

But don’t give up on tried and true hand carving of waxes.

But how do you get your customers interested in custom? Advertising
of course but in store presentations and signage is a great start.
You should be taking pictures of virtually every custom item you
make. We did and put the 4x6" pictures in a book that that size (like
your grandmother used to carry around). We had 18 of them placed
around the showcases and customer would just flip them open “Oh my,
did you make that? I want one!”

You can take an old out of date computer, place it under a showcase
and have a small flat screen monitor on the showcase and just have a
constant slide show going for customers to see. We did this too and
I’d edit the pictures and add words “We made this for another from
her 3 daughters using grandmothers diamonds”

Here’s how we started doing custom in the 1980’s and it would still
work today, especially for a smaller store that gets most of its
income from shop sales. We dedicated several showcases to display
WAXES. That’s right, not gold rings but wax rings. Bought nice
plastic boxes with foam inserts and placed 6 rings per box and had
them in the cases. At one time we had over a 1000 waxes of rings,
bracelets, pendants, earrings. Customers have never seen anything
like and respond: “What in the world are those?”

“These are the molds we use to make jewelry. Do you have old gold
and jewelry lying around at home? If so bring it in and we can make
any ring you see here with your gold for only $195 (setting and such
is extra)”.

That started the conversation. Where did $195 come from? That’s the
labor to pour the gold, file up, size & polish. We would use the
customers gold, some jewelers buy customer’s gold and sell fresh. No
matter what $195 is all labor, I figured our cost to cast and polish
at $35.00. Additional charges for setting and such made our average
sale with these stock waxes $750.00! If the client didn’t see
anything they liked then we pulled out the pictures and such and
would start designing from scratch. Labor only for producing a wax,
casting it and polishing starts at $400 - $645 and added charges for
other labor, metals, stones, etc. These truly custom designed rings
and such had an average sale of $1500 to $3000

So start training the staff, have them practice sketching pictures
and such and you too can be a world famous designer! If you want to
stock some waxes in the case as we did when we started here are some
companies we used. Don’t expect the styles you see in magazines but
you can sell as is or alter them of course:

Lex Wax

Paradise Waxes
Toms River NJ 08754

Timberline Wax Patterns
Dan Johnson
Carlsbad CA 92008
no web site

Legacy Designs

David Geller
Director of Shop Profits