Jeweler$ versus Painter$$$

Hi All. I did a show this weekend, where I had a very fine wood
boxmaker on one side of me, and a very good painter on the other.
After the painter was celebrating the sale of a $4000 painting, the
boxmaker and I got to talking about something that had bugged both of
us for years. Why could painters get away with charging so much more
for their work than either of us could? WTF?

Does size really matter that much? What about time expended? Talent
demonstrated? Cost and rarity of materials? Length of respective
artistic traditions? Again, WTF???

A painting will fill that spot on the living room wall. Jewelry is
carried close, always there for enjoyment.

The cost of paint and canvas can be significant. But more so than
precious stones and metals?

As to respective traditions, I’m guessing that wearing a shell
around the neck is probably about as old as painting in a cave.

Lots of paintings clearly require a great deal of time and close
attention to detail, and lots don’t. Ditto for jewelry.

And then, what about the aesthetics expressed? Jewelry can be as
simple as that shell around the neck. Painting can be as simple as a
yellow square over a green one. Yet the painting will sell for
vastly more. For what???

While I’m using jewelry in this little rant, you could substitue any
other artistic tradition. The painters top them all.

Someone, please help me understand this warp in the universe!


I have been at many shows where painters near me do not sell anything
or else only giclee prints for less than $ 50 each. I have not seen
many with originals priced as high as $4000 either. Maybe this is a
regional difference or you are doing higher end shows that allow for
higher end pricing? Also, I do know some jewelers at shows that I
have done that do have $4000 pieces for sale in their booth (not me),
which can be a risk, and when sold it is just as exciting as selling
an expensive painting. One of the clay guys at the coop studio I used
to work out of explained his thoughts on pricing and why he could
sell a small simple hand thrown vase that had been pit fired for
close to $200… Credibility. He has many years experience and he
valued his own time and effort put into making the pot. This value of
time and experience was how he came up with his prices.

I do think an important difference between a painting and jewelry is
that usually you do not take a painting off the wall on a regular
basis, but jewelry can be changed quite easily to match outfits.
Jewelry is worn, and will show the effects over time (especially
silver jewelry) versus a painting in a setting with minimal exposure
to direct sunlight will not show the signs of age hopefully. But in
the end, it is only what the customer is willing to pay for it and
not really a painting versus anything else. When someone values it
enough that they have to have it or are willing/able to purchase,
then that creates its value.



First of all let me state that my father was a fine artist and
painter so my comments can be taken as slightly jaundiced.

I can say one thing in defense of the painters is that I see most of
them set up at art show after art show not selling a thing. And they
have to pay for space at shows and monthly credit card processing
fees like the rest of us. I think as a whole the painters are more on
the starving artist side of the equation. Again there are exceptions
to the rule and all it takes is a few key sales or representation in
the right gallery and your meal ticket is punched.

As jewelers and metalsmiths we have a lot more latitude as far as
producing pieces in varying price ranges. Now granted I’ve sat
through some pretty crappy shows but have never not sold a thing at a
show (knock on a big chunk of wood). And it is easier as a jeweler or
metalsmith to justify price because of the cost of the materials we
work with.

As far as pricing art I’ll stay out of that dog fight because that
will quickly transcend into a “What is art?” discussion. I usually
defer pricing my work to my SO because I’m always under pricing
myself. And I will admit I’m usually taken aback by most artwork
pricing. But then I’m not well versed in what is going on in the art
community and admit most of my culture comes from agriculture (one
of my late father’s favorite sayings). Now was that painting sold
worth $4000? Well it was to one purchaser and one lucky artist. But
what did it take for that connection to happen?

Rick Copeland

Allan, I understand where you’re coming from!

I worked part time in a friends fine art and craft gallery for 8
years. The gallery was owned by a couple - she ran things, he is an
accomplished painter.

Over many glasses of wine, we used to debate this very question. The
painter husband always thought I was making big bucks when the
gallery would sell a major piece of mine, until I walked him through
the materials cost, particularly for the stones. Since the days he
worked in the gallery, he was usually painting, I came to understand
just how long it took for him to generate one of his paintings.
Answer - a lot longer than I would have thought. Materials expenses
are a lot lower, of course. But the skill and the time are the main
factors. He (and most painters I met during this time) price their
paintings based upon size and complexity. What a watercolorist can
accomplish on a 3ft by 5 ft canvas may take less time than what an
oil or acrylic painter may require to cover the same canvas. And just
like we jewelers have skills that most people don’t, when I watched
my friend paint an ocean and make it work (7 hours later), I realized
he’s got some skills that I don’t have. One day, when we were working
together, he was touching up a painting of his that was already
hanging in the gallery. I teased him and told him “don’t screw it
up”. He turned to me, and said, “you know, I am trying to paint the
atmosphere”. That’s when I realized that he sees different
wavelengths than I do, also. I did always find it weird to be at a
show and see paintings that I thought were terrible sell for a lot of
money. And I wish more painters would have their work properly

But it was always fun to compare a big sale with my friend - gosh my
tanzanite ring just went for as much as your triptych over there!
And in the economy we face today, at least we can do repairs and keep
the lights on. Painters don’t have the same options!

Someone, please help me understand this warp in the universe! 

Not that difficult, really. You are asking why a car costs &xxx and
why a gallon of milk costs $xxx, to begin with. Mixing your
metaphors, as it were. Fine art is priced much more on what the
market will bear, a percieved talent often but not always, and
reputation. Melissa (?) said it - credibility. Plus you are talking
about craft shows, where there is a certain price point in jewelry
and crafts - it’s a level of the industry. Jewelers sell $4000 pieces
of jewelry each and every day. Jewelers make $4000 profit on pieces
each and every day, they just don’t do it at craft shows. I’m a
painting student (not a painter) - it took me a month, part time, to
paint my best work…

Now paying a half-million for a white canvas is simply obscenity,
after the first one (which is also, IMO). But you’re looking at
low-end jewelry, not jewelry as a whole. Plenty of $25k pieces out

There appears to be a perception that if the thing is on canvas and
is made with paint and hangs on the wall, it is “art,” and therefore
worth more money. I find that problem a lot-- that for jewelry,
people want only to pay for the intrinsic value of the materials and
no compensation for the art of the design or the craftsmanship. My
mother has for years been a critic, judge for juried shows and
hobnobber with American Modern Artists. I have seen her walk into a
gallery and go directly to the 2 dimensional paintings, bypassing
beautiful fiber pieces without even a backward glance. To me this is
such a narrow view and a shame and disservice to the art of many,
many people. For myself, I make stuff. I like to work with my hands:
I make baskets and paintings and mostly jewelry: dinners and pottery
and thngs out of found objects. Perhaps the art historians can
enlighten us as to the reason for this sad sort of snobbery.

Mary Ferrulli Barker
Foggy Mountain Designs

Hi Allan,

Why could painters get away with charging so much more for their
work than either of us could? 

It all goes back to one simple concept, painting is considered “fine
art”, whereas jewelry is considered “craft”—people are conditioned
to pay more for fine art. It is the raw utility of jewelry that makes
it craft as opposed to painting and sculpture which are created,
supposedly, only to express ethereal concept. This is something I’ve
fought against for many years. I’ve seen a lot of paintings that have
no concept whatsoever and are simply utilitarian objects to place on
a wall…

I believe that fine art is designed with concept and ideas to
express. My jewelry is sculptural art that fits on the body as its
display base. Each piece is based on a concept that I am expressing
through that form. My paintings are the same, expressions of concepts
and ideas. There is absolutely no difference to me. I know this can
bring up a whole other discussion on what kinds of concepts make up
“fine art”… which in itself has yet to be resolved in the fine art

There seems to be more and more public awareness or education, so to
speak, on the differentiation of fine art jewelry and craft
jewelry-- galleries that used to carry only painting and sculpture
are branching out and carrying jewelry that is considered small
sculpture. SOFA has been presenting it as such for awhile now. Books
are being published to attest to the fine art side of jewelry. Be
conceptual with your jewelry—make it art, present it as art.

That’s my little soapbox rant… thanks.



Someone, please help me understand this warp in the universe! 

Welcome to the long standing and sometimes bitter “fine art vs.
crafts” conflict, wherein people are often willing to judge a
painting’s value according to intangible values they think define art
and innovation, yet when faced with groundbreakingly innovative,
technically astounding, and very time consuming jewelry pieces, they
then want to know how many grams of gold are in it…

If you ever do figure it out, you should keep it secret. Decades of
art school undergraduate and graduate jewelry programs have been able
to fill many hours of their seminar classes with this topic, often
along the lines of wondering how to get the crafts to have the same
artistic respect as painting and sculpture and the like, while of
course not giving up the over eight thousand year old legacy of the

It involves many aspects. Jewelry usually has a defined function and
purpose. Like a chair, or a table, or a fork, it has a use. Thus it’s
heritage as “craft”, especially since the majority of the jewelry in
the world is made on that basis, the primary function being the
decoration of the body and enhancement of various social values and
functions. Often these take precedence over the pure aesthetic
aspects of the jewelry. Fine art, (paintings, sculpture, etc) has
never been about much more than the images portrayed, and the roles
of those images. Even portraits and statues of people were still
images first, and the decoration of some park corner or a given wall,
second. With that reversal of which role is paramount, somehow people
started to place “artists” on a pedestal, occasionally revere them,
and then pay them more for the work of those whom, like rock stars,
seem to have gained public favor. Meanwhile, you sure wouldn’t want
to have to pay your jeweler more, would you, since then the jewelry
would cost more… He or she of course is just a worker, right?

Like I said. It’s a long standing and sometimes heated discussion,
often without a clear answer or even a clear direction…


Boy, that is so true Allan. I’ve often thought the same thing when I
hear about some dead artist’s painting selling for millions. It was
just canvas and paint for goodness sake, why spend millions…for
what? Go to an art fair and support an artist who’s actually living
if you must buy a painting.

And why people are more likely to spend on a painting than for other
finely crafted work has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I am
drawn to work that is not only beautiful but appears to have been
difficult to create, work that required multiple skills to execute,
and that is not usually a painting.

I guess people often think that they get more bang for their buck
with a painting than with jewelry. Everyone who comes over sees it
every time they visit. It represents that persons taste, says
something about who they are, sort of broadcasts it to everybody.
While jewelry is more of a personal gift between two people or to
ones self.

It’s all about career choices Allan, you should have been a painter.


Hi Gang:

It all goes back to one simple concept, painting is considered
"fine art", whereas jewelry is considered "craft"---people are
conditioned to pay more for fine art. It is the raw utility of
jewelry that makes it craft as opposed to painting and sculpture
which are created, 

I’m not going to get too heavily into this one, as it’s at some
peril of turning into yet another edition of the perpetual art/craft
debate, but allow me to say this:

It should be pointed out that the “fine” in fine art originally
meant “delicate” or “fragile” and was was used as a diminutive term
to distinguish the ‘delicate arts’ from the more more robust and
useful arts of technology. Technology that began with metalsmithing.
For most of human history, metalsmithing was where the best and
brightest went, it was the center of our highest technology. Nothing
’delicate’ about that, and it’s certainly not a legacy that we should
allow a bunch of art critics to dismiss with their noses in the air.

I’ve never been sure how the painters turned what was originally
almost an insult into a marketing masterpiece, but as we’ve all
noted, they’re very good at that. Before I mentioned it, you all
thought ‘fine’ meant ‘better’, didn’t you? Not exactly.

They stole the language out from under us. Perhaps it’s time we
steal it back?


I agree that some paintings make me wonder why they command such
prices when spending a good amount on something made of precious
metals and stones can be artistically good and also has some
intrinsic value. I am a goldsmith but I collect art also, my
collection has all been purchased from live artists, I have a
collection of about 60 original paintings and many pieces of
ceramics and glass, most unique one off pieces. Perhaps if you
jewellers out there could guarantee that you are selling unique
pieces then you could command higher prices, this practice has served
me well over the years. Many customers will pay a premium price if
they are sure that they are getting a unique one off item. Getting
back to paintings versus jewellery prices, we must admit that many
pieces of jewellery sold today are manufactured using machine and
casting processes, well the customer may not be aware that your
pieces are made totally by hand, so you must make it clear when
selling how the piece has been made. Obviousely some jewellery sells
at a high price because of the name attached to it, but this is
another topic and one of my favourite gripes especially when many of
the so called designer names are having their jewellery and clothes
made by children in third world countries. Over the years I have made
a good living from making unique pieces, although the collectors of
these pieces rarely know my name as the maker, collectors of art and
objects are usually impressed by the well known names so most of my
pieces have been sold as the art of Asprey, Garrard, Kutchinsky or
Cartier. This is one of the reasons why I made an effort to get my
book published so that perhaps history will give me credit for my
skills. One final thing about the cost of paintings is that I always
think of the labour hours when I think of buying. I also try to buy
from the artist direct rather than from a gallery.

Peace and good health to all
James Miller FIPG.

Hi All,

This arguement is a releatively recent one - perhaps in the last 100

Going back to Europe, there was “art” and there were “crafts”.

Artists would create art, either “on spec” or for a patron. If they
did it without a pre-order, they were permitted to starve on their
own. Some artists did it both ways, and some did their own work and,
unless they were very lucky, lived in poverty.

The crafts, be it jewelry, silversmith, ceramics, glass, pottery,
etc., it was (and is) controlled by guild halls that were/are ruled
by the master craftsmen of these crafts. Masters were allowed to use
their own “hallmarks” to identify their status. If you wanted to
enter any of these trades you need to be an apprentice - a poorly
paid student. It was a long process, giving the master nearly free
labor for years in exchange for “sharing” his knowledge. Once the
apprentice graduated to journeyman, he earned a better living. After
passing tests and putting in years for service, he could become a
master, and open his own store/studio.

Goldsmiths (today’s metalsmiths?) were perhaps the top of the crafts
pecking order - because they also did double duty as bankers, as
they dealt in many of the most stable “currencies” of the age - gems
& precious metals. At one point, they were laregely the ONLY bankers
in Western Europe thanks to rulings of the Church.

Craft design programs in universities is a relatively new phenomen
and blurs the line between arts and crafts. This is why some art
competitions, shows, etc. treat them as equal media - others as
judged superior/inferior. Not fair, not right but it is what it is.

Hope this helps!
Ray Gabriel /
since 1975

My late father Alan Haemer was a painter,illustrator, and educator.
He also loved to make jewelry. He was a better painter than a
jeweler. He used to say that his paintings came in two prices. A
thousand dollars or free.

If he liked you or found you interesting, sometimes he’d just do a
portrait and give it to you or your family, otherwise it was a
thousand bucks. That’s 1960’s-70’s dollars.

His old buddies Tom Lovell and Norman Rockwell would sell their
works for five figures.

Why do people spend that kind of money on paintings? Because they
want to.

He loved fine craftsmanship and loved to make jewelry. I’m guessing
that I became a professional jeweler because it was one of the only
art mediums I could out do the old man in. There were no prejudices
in our house about craft versus art. if you were good, you were good.
I was raised to admire fine craftsmanship whether is was on old
master or a piece of beautiful wood work or even a highly skilled
wall paper hanger or auto body work. Really.

Was Lalique an artist or a craftsman? Who cares! His stuff was just
gorgeous. I feel the same way a bout Jesse James the bike builder.
Personally sometimes I wish that my work wasn’t made of such high
priced materials. The public usually values my work based on the
materials rather than my skills and artistry. When they look at my
work it’s “Wow! Look at that beautiful diamond.” Not, “Wow! Look at
that finely carved mounting.” When they look at my father’s work
it’s “Wow! That’s beautiful.” They see the artistry and
craftsmanship. Not the materials.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

They stole the language out from under us. Perhaps it’s time we steal
it back?

But Brian, we do use the same language in the same way. After all, we
have “fashion jewelry” and “fine jewelry”. It’s more about the
materials than the method used to produce it.

I think there is also a psychological aspect involved currently in
Art/Craft shows regarding the economy and ostentatious spending. I’ve
seen women come by jewelry booths and admire but say that they can’t
justify spending a lot on themselves but spending on items for the
home (paintings and decorative objects for display) is more

Donna in VA

It seems like the things that are most coveted, are those that are
perceived to be completely unique (one of a kind) - and usually but
not always also beautiful and historically significant. A painting
has the potential to be a creation that is an entirely unique
expression of one individual. Because jewelry has a use, it can be
considered the creation of a craftsperson, but it has the potential
to also be considered a work of art, but not always. Jewelry that is
considered both the work of a true artist (an individual’s unique
expression), and is technically masterful, has the potential to
command a greater market value. Marketing is of course critical.
Look at JAR, given the right combination of all factors, anything,
and any price, is possible.

There appears to be a perception that if the thing is on canvas
and is made with paint and hangs on the wall, it is "art," and
therefore worth more money.

I have wondered if jewelry, being a personal item, might be seen as
a selfish purchase as opposed to other forms of art that could be
enjoyed by others.

Just a thought.
Bobbie Horn

Alright everyone,

I sort of have a litmus test on this. This works for me any way.

Paint plus brush plus canvas plus chimp equals art?

Piece of gold plus hammer plus chimp is still just a piece of gold!

My reasoning behind that is that my wife’s boss has two paintings
hanging on his wall painted by dolphins! Is it craft or is it art?

So you can give that brush to about any animal and let it smear it
around or even walk in the paint and then onto the canvas. Then is
this art? I want to see that damn dirty ape make a ring, sorry for
the Heston reference.

Here is my point in print:

June 20, 2005

Dead Chimp’s Art Sells Big Three Works By The Late Chimpanzee 'Congo’
Sell For $25,620

(AP) Monkey business proved to be a lucrative pastime Monday when
paintings by Congo the chimpanzee sold at auction for more than

The collection of three tempera paintings - all abstract - were
auctioned at Bonhams in London alongside works by impressionist
master Renoir and pop art provocateur Andy Warhol.

But while Warhol and Renoir’s work didn’t sell, bidders lavished
attention on Congo’s paintings.

An American bidder named Howard Hong, who described himself as an
"enthusiast of modern and contemporary painting," purchased the lot
of paintings for $26,352 including a buyer’s premium.

The sale price surpassed predictions that priced the paintings
between $1,000 and $1,500.

“We had no idea what these things were worth,” said Howard
Rutkowski, director of modern and contemporary art at Bonhams. “We
just put them in for our own amusement.”

Congo, born in 1954, produced about 400 drawings and paintings
between the ages of 2 and 4. He died in 1964 of tuberculosis.

I am inclined to agree with Rick. Painters tend to sell fewer items
because whilst people are quite happy to make multiple purchases of
something they can wear, many see no need or use for decent artwork
for their walls. When someone does buy a painting it is often a one
off purchase. There are not many people in this world who own more
than a few paintings, yet there are many who have quite a collection
of jewellery. Unless you have a huge house or more than one house
any painting you purchase will be seen every day, so people are
understandably cautious and invest quite a lot of time in deciding
upon the purchase - and perhaps because of the time they spend making
that decision they are willing to pay reasonably substantially.
Anyone purchasing jewellery does not have to ask themselves whether
they can live with looking at that particular piece of jewellery on a
daily basis for the next X number of years, or whether it suits their
furniture and house and whether the light is right for it where they
intend to hang it. A piece of jewellery is liberated from all of
that; it can be gazed upon only when the viewer is in the mood to
appreciate it, it can be worn or not and clothes co-ordinated as
appropriate, and part of its beauty is that as the wearer moves into
different lights the jewellery reacts to those lights.

As regards any argument that jewellery is a lower art form because
it has a function, I prefer to adopt the Dada stance - anything is
art once it is looked upon as such (and I do think some bathroom
designs are worthy of being regarded as art although the particular
urinal exhibited did nothing for me). I do have difficulty with
conceptual art though (despite being an ex Goldsmith’s College art
student). If my aim had been simply to make people stop and think I
would’ve become a politician or a preacher. Instead, I wanted to
create things which would evoke pleasing emotions (I know some seek
to shock and disgust but that’s never been my scene). It does not
matter to me whether I create paintings, sculptures or jewellery.
Because I am very much a beginner at creating jewellery I take longer
to achieve a finished product than when I paint but I probably get
more pleasure from it precisely because every piece of jewellery I
make is an achievement I did not quite know I was capable of. Given
the current economic climate being able to diversify is beneficial
and if sales are slow perhaps now is the right time to learn a new

Why do people spend that kind of money on paintings? Because they
want to. 

Ok people. Jo just said the singlemost important bit of info you are
ever likely to hear about understanding luxury goods buyers, be it
paintings, jewelry, custom motorcycles, or in my case vintage Hemi
engines (“No, seriously Dear. I NEED a Hemi, it goes to my soul. And
next year I’ll need another”). Expensive little buggers btw.