India is emerging fast in the sphere of jewelry manufacturing
because of its low cost of labour. Increasingly, more and more
companies are adopting the approach of partnering with an Indian
counterpart to carry out work that involves manual labour and time.
And the gains for western companies are phenomenal.
I was quite surprised too learn from a previous discussion in
ganoksin that setting charges per stone in the west is on average
$3.50 pe stone. This when converted into Indian rupees is quite an
amount compared to what we get our work done here for. And if your
compare the total cost of making an item in the the US with that in
India, the latter will be a fraction of the former. This clearly
represents an opportunity for American companies to reduce their
costs. I recommend that they have a partner company in India to
carry out the labour itensive work.
(Its a general phenomenon that one would notice that the east is
always cheaper than the west. And it applies to India too. East
India produces jewelry more cheaper than India, given the same
quality of finishing. Kolkata (formerly calcutta) in the state of
west bengal has the lowest cost of producing jewelry in the world)
With all due respect, if you will go back in this message base, you
will see that many on this list are adversely affected by overseas
Many are the conversations that low wages take great advantage of
workers around the world. Having traveled over many parts of the
world, I have a somewhat different perspective. I understand much is
not slave labor as is believed here in the US.
I do know there must be a middle ground that is of benefit to all.
Costs here of setting stones are not outrageous based on our
economy. Wages are generally decent.
When you present an offer to have work done in India, you are
denying people here work they need to maintain their standard of
This is a very delicate area. It may not be easy to understand. I no
more want to take the food out of your children’s mouths, than I
want you to do that to mine.
Many here online are individual fabricators. They would not be
sending out great volume for setting. Mass manufacturers regularly
scope the world for less expensive labor. There are many countries to
contact. The business is fickle and what you offer may be undercut by
Not everyone here is looking for “cheap.” Most have great pride in
This clearly represents an opportunity for American companies to
reduce their costs.
Perhaps you should be looking at this in a different way. Perhaps
you should be saying that it is an ideal time for India to raise its
prices for labor, and pay its laborers better so that they can have
the same standard of living that we in the United States have, if, in
fact, the quality of their work is as good as it is here. As long as
Indian workers are paid so much less than their American counterparts
then you will continue to have people underpaid, without proper
health care, and living in poverty. There is a price to be paid for
underpaying human beings for their hard work.
Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140 @Daniel_R_Spirer
Outsourcing low-wage labor jobs to some other country might be the
popular thing for companies to do these days, but it is NOT popular
amoung americans (and immigrants) and you may get some down-right
hostile responses to your posting. Companies are taking jobs away
from americans (and immigrants) without the resources, education,
and skills to get better jobs and giving those jobs away for bargin
basement labor wages, leaving children without food and healthcare.
Who is going to buy all of this nice, cheap jewelry, if all the jobs
are gone? I doubt wealthy people buy much cheap jewelry.
Let me apologize in advance because I’m sure I’m going to offend at
least one person here.
The reason you have the lowest production cost for jewelry and just
about any other manufacturing industry you might care to mention is
because a lot of the foundation of India’s manufacturing economy is
resting on the shoulders of children who have been sold into virtual
slavery by desperately poor parents. There have been several
documentaries and news programs in the last couple of years which
have shown the human toll of cheap textiles, stones, etc.
I hate to seem rude but it is naive and disingenuous to be
incredulous at the production costs here in the West when compared
to India. It is like comparing apples and oranges. We don’t have the
economic “advantage” that comes with virtually free labor.
I know there are other countries who share these type of social
issues with India but I haven’t seen anyone from any of those
countries post here seemingly “crowing” about their production
I know there are a lot of people on this list besides myself who care
about the kind of life their fellow human beings are living.
Again, I apologize but I had to get that off my chest.
The global economy is that real world and it exists in your town as
well as every other town in America. The "American " car that you
drive is made from parts manufactured throughout the world ! The food
that you eat comes from all over the world as well. Chances are that
the apple cider that is in your grocer’s fruit juices came from
China. Many of the crackers and cookies that he carries come from
Mexico under the Nabisco brand name. The Ahi Ahi tuna that I had for
breakfast this morning came from Fiji. Last night my wife and I
viewed a movie that was filmed in three different foreign countries
by an American company which has employees from various countries
throughout the world. As for jewelry, it has been decades since
American jewelry production was dominant in terms of domestic
production. Furthermore, it is very wrong to assume that everything
that is made in India is cheap or shoddy. They are capable of
producing whatever the market demands…and, it is usually the
American retailer who demands the cheap goods. It is the nature of
the beast; in a competitive economy cheap stuff always has a niche.
By the way; the aerial photo of your town suggests that you have a
nice little burg. Your Murphy park would probably be the envy of many
towns your size ! Ron Mills, Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca. ( We’re only
a tad bit larger than you !)
May I agree with a lot of the recent posts regarding, western
companies taking advantage of the low wages in India. I know of one
company here in the UK, who used to employ 18 craftsmen and 5
apprentices, this company has now closed down and all the management
now only have an office because they send all of their manufacture
and setting to India. Over the years our unions have achieved a
minimum wage in the this country so the lowest wage at which an
apprentice would get when starting in the trade would be about UKP -
$9 per hour, which is what I am told a good apprentice in India will
earn in a 7 day week. I agree that the craftsmen in India should be
paid higher wages, with such poverty in the country. The only
downside to this trend is that future generations in the UK will not
have the craftsmen to teach apprentices their trade if the skilled
work is all imported. I have seen many manufacturing crafts and
skills lost to this country over my working carreer. I feel the need
to make items continually cheaper in an attempt to make a few
entrepenuers extremely rich is a sad route to be following. We must
as a group try to promote individual crafts rather than find cheap
options for production. I always say to my customers that the items I
produce are unique and I guarantee that they will never see the same
article reproduced on the mass market. I have seen cheap offerings
of similar Easter Eggs to the ones I have produced, but when you show
them together there is no comparison. I just think that the
customers may need some education as to quality rather than the
constant race for a bargain, we all know that cheap jewellery is just
that. I say if you want to own jewellery or any other item of art
metal, I am sure there is more value in a unique piece rather than
one of a million of the same design.
One last rant, although nothing to do with the jewellery trade, I
will pass on an article written in my local newspaper this week. A
local mushroom farm has closed, because their customers, a
supermarket has switched its suppliers to one from Poland. The
article states that the UK mushroom growers pay their workers UKP .40
per hour ($9.72) but the Polish growers pay their workers UKP 0.68p
per hour ($1.22), who can compete with that, and with Poland now in
the Europian Union we have free trade with them, I am just waiting to
hear how much Eastern Europians charge for their jewellery. Perhaps
another nail in the UKs jewellery trades coffin.
Sorry to go on but I am not happy with the way my trade is going,
all I can say is I buy as much art and craft as I can from living
artist / craftspeople working in the UK.
Peace and prosperity to all Orchidians, and if you are in a low wage
paying country, push for better wages. James Miller, an ageing
English goldsmith, who moans a lot, but loves his trade.
I’m not denying or refuting anything you posted about global
economy. Not really the point either. The point is, when you take
low wage jobs away from any people and give them to even lower wage
employees, someone is going hungry. How long can any economy support
it’s ‘body’ if its feet and legs are being systematically chopped
As for ‘assuming’ that India is producing cheap product (I never
said shoddy), I took that thought from the tenor of the origional
post. Frankly, regardless of who is to blame (the outsourcer or the
retailer), quality quite often takes a nose dive when things get
btw: I wish Murphy Park were as nice as it looks on maps.
Its a general phenomenon that one would notice that the east is
always cheaper than the west."
Oh, but don’t start counting your money too fast.
I have been working export and living in Kashmir (Indian Occupied
Territories 5 years)
I would not underestimate the cross cultural differences. There are
One example may be the hundreds of years of mentality in India
thinking “survival!” So, after payment the first 50 widget of your
hundred will be perfect, the next 25 will have minor flaws, and the
remaining 25 will be waste.
Or the fact that most jewelers pay the cutter by weight retained in
rough. The result are often large windows, bowties, deep bellies,
irregular shapes or off center culets.
Granted you do a damn good job with a jampeg, there is plenty of
room for improvement.
Surely this is the flip side of the same impulse which leads us to
seek what we perceive as the best value for money when we make any
purchase these days…there is always a trade off between price and
quality, but for example, if you buy a tv, you’ll tend to go for the
one which satisfies your needs at the cheapest price whether that tv
is manufactured in Europe or Asia…
Speaking as an Englishman who abandoned his native land 20 years ago
partly in protest at the way my life was being slowly ruined by both
local and global political policies, I still deplore the fact that
globalisation means that it’s cheaper to import coal from Poland,
salad leaves from Africa, cars from Japan, steel from Korea, cotton
clothing from China, than it is to produce them in the UK…but in
the end I still tend to buy the cheapest dvd player that does the
job, regardless of where it was manufactured…
…I do the same professionally too…if I source turquoise stones
at an acceptable quality from China, then I’ll buy them,or if the
price is the same I’ll source from wherever gives the best service
and, despite the complaints from some Orchid members that they’re
being undercut by cheap imports on their finished goods, my guess is
that they’ll still be sourcing their own raw materials from wherever
it’s cheapest or most efficient to buy at the quality level they
need, even if the source is India, Istanbul or Iceland rather than in
their own country…
The flip side of “the workers” securing a good standard of living
seems to be that they eventually price themselves out of a job as
cheaper alternatives to their labour become available…that’s
capitalism for you…and as long as Western-style consumerism is
price-driven, that’s always going to happen…eventually it’ll
happen in India and Korea and Poland etc…especially when China
starts to stretch its economic muscle in the global labour
market…but to complain about it is a little like a car driver
moaning about the delays caused by jay walkers on the street, then
parking up and running in front of traffic to get to the bank before
it closes,and complaining that the roads are full of cars…it’s the
same guy flipping from driver to pedestrian…aren’t we doing the
The world is shrinking! The fact that more people are outsourcing to
places like India and the outer realms of the earth is a factor of
being able to access those places easily through the internet and
ship products easily worldwide. Never in the history of this planet
have so many had access to unlimited goods and services without
leaving their homes or offices. Any one of us in the Orchid community
has the ability to buy and sell goods all over the world. The playing
field has been leveled to allow any one with the skills and
imagination to utilize the tools that have been given to us. This
change in the boundaries of commerce gives people more choices and
creates and atmosphere that fosters creative thinking in that people
have to alter the way they do business. New models are hatched and
people adapt. Unfortunately not everyone will make it they will not
adapt or move out of their comfort zone. Some will become bitter and
blame the foreign interests or bad government or their parents their
voices will fade as the world moves ahead. Cheap manufactured goods
increases the desire in many for handmade quality goods. Cad/Cam
allows artists to pull designs out of their imagination that could
never have been seen before. Lasers, milling machines and a host of
new tools and techniques save time and thereby increasing creativity.
The internet has allowed all of us to share knowledge in a fear free
environment. Why should I fear sharing a technique or skill with any
of you when you can Google it and within seconds obtain it on your
own. This one point is in my opinion one of the greatest gifts we
have been given from technology. The freeing up of knowledge
worldwide. Fifteen or twenty years ago if you were new to the jewelry
world and you wanted to know how to size a ring your options would be
the library or a local jeweler who would probably look at you like a
future competitor and not be of much help or enroll in a school.
Cheap stone setting from India shouldn’t be feared maybe just looked
at from a different angle. Fear should be reserved for tyrants. My 2
Well said James Miller, I am not going to be as diplomatic as some
on the forum.
I think the outsourcing work to these lower priced labor child
exploitation countries is abhorrent.
The parents of these children are not employed and once the
children’s eyesight is gone and they are sick or injured with the
unsafe conditions they have to work under they are on the scrap heap
with no medical help for the illness they gained for a pittance per
The only way to keep ahead is to do the finest work and charge
accordingly as my brother once told me if I have too much work
either I am underpricing my work or doing a great job, in either
case I should increase my charges and that will get rid of the time
wasters and I would have more time to spend with my real customers
who appreciate what I do and are happy to pay me accordingly.
The opal I work with is to expensive to outsource and that is the
only protection I have, so I am lucky in that respect but I do feel
very sad for the jewelers who are trying to keep ahead of the off
Love the forum and all you folks who contribute.
Christine in Australia where summer is here full on.
Your assertion that Walmart is building a store in your area using
prison labor is really interesting. It is also a political
bombshell. I can’t imagine that any political entity would condone
that kind of malfeasance. It suggests that Walmart is using its
economic muscle to subvert the local economy by using the areas’ own
legal system! Is it possible that this is a just a rumour ? I
certainly agree that Walmart is a very aggressive marketing entity
and that it has no qualms about putting smaller enterprises out of
business, but I hardly think that it would stoop to using prison
labor to fudge on competitive processes…it simply doesn’t need to !
Hoping to hear more,
Ron Mills, Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.
There might be more to this then Walmart using prison labor to
undercut costs. That though this may be a driving factor, there has
been a push to make ‘private prisons’. These are to be self
sufficient prisons where the inmates learn a trade and actually work
for their keep. I don’t know if this is one of those, but I for one
would like to see something like this come to fruition. Maybe this is
it??? It would be interesting to know.
No it is not a rumor prisons are renting their labor. When you call
to order from a mail order catalog you can be talking to an inmate to
place your order.
Prisons have always had work programs. The old hammering out
liscense plates has gone by the wayside with the advent of computers
and modern times prisoners are being used like work gangs for profit
rather than work gangs for community labor.
Ron, Walmart’s use of prison labor to build their new store is
anything but a rumor-
Additionally, you should know that use of prison labor by private
businesses is ubiquitous in the US. We imprison more of our citizens
than does any other country, some two million are currently behind
bars in the US, and many if not most labor for private corporations,
working for a dollar an hour or less. It is a profound downward
pressure on wages, and the unions should be screaming about it, but
it seems it is easier to rail against offshoring than to take on the
more embarassing issue of prison labor right here at home.
I have included a scan of the November 10, 2005 article on the use
of prisoners to work on the building site of a Wal-Mart north of
Wal-Mart didn’t hire the prisoners; they hired the low-bid contract
agency who hired the prisoners (thus prevailing wages do not apply).
The prisoners benefit because WI (and many other states) charges
each prisoner for room & board. Their work is “voluntary” but if
they don’t work, they leave prison with a debt of several thousand
dollars (depending on the length of their incarceration). And, the
state benefits, because all prisoner earnings are taken by the state
to pay off the prisoner’s debt for room & board, child support, etc.
The main “political” concern seems to be on whether the community is
being protected. The prison guards drop the prisoners off at the
work site and the local (contract agency) supervises them. As you
can see from the article, the state is defending this practice
because it “builds job skills” etc., and reduces the state’s prison
I think Wal-Mart had a “chat” about this with their contract agency.
It probably became too high a price to pay politically for the small
number of prisoners who were not really very good employees anyway.
In this situation, the prisoners (and a thousand + others statewide)
were sent to the work site; however, private agencies contract with
the state for a number of manufacturing & service jobs that take
place in the prison or at a more secure work place.
My point is that we need to be concerned as well about what the U.S.
is doing to its own work force here and not just focus on
outsourcing to other countries.
If we look closely at the issue I think the trend is the work is
flowing from the countries, the currency of which fetches more
currency of the beneficiary (so called “poor”) countries. Also are
China and India really “poor” with their foreign currency balance at
the highest level, and ours in negative? Also probably most of us
have not even visited / know enough about, China or India to
judiciously comment on the issue. The work facilities, workers,
education, output if cannot surpass ours here, but it is in no way
inferior. The child labor is no more than what we have here in
Since the most of the manufacturing is family owned so all family
members get involved in it (due to large families) instead of
"hanging out" with the crowd.