Kim, if you can't rant to fellow jewelers, who can you rant to?
It's so disheartening when a "friend" turns out to be an opportunist
instead. Be of good heart, though--at least you're now separating
the sturdy wheat of true friends from the chaff of people who want
discounts on jewelry. Sounds to me like it's time to discontinue the
"friendship" discount for future sales. If they are true friends and
buy from you repeatedly at the marked price (or your "best" price, if
you negotiate at all), then offer them a "repeat customer" discount.
With family, oy! what a headache! Unfortunately, you can't choose
your family the way you can your friends. Does your family understand
that jewelry is your business and livelihood, not just a cute hobby?
You may have to explain to each and every one of them that you pay
actual money for the metal and stones you use, and that you bill for
your time. If your work is expensive enough and your income low
enough that you cannot afford to give them your pieces for birthday,
Christmas, whatever, ask each person if they'd prefer you give them
some item (probably not of your jewelry) you can afford on each
occasion or get one piece of jewelry to cover all of them. If any of
your relatives own businesses themselves, they should understand
your point. Another option is to make "special" gift pieces for your
relatives. You can put as much time and money as you can afford into
these, and keep them separate from your "professional" line.
For the sister-in-law who isn't paying for the necklace, contemplate
asking her to please return the item or pay for it--as much as you'd
like to make it a gift, you simply cannot afford to do so. You could
also offer her a payment plan for the necklace if she's just
temporarily short of funds. If she refuses to pay or return, there's
the omen for you to require payment in advance of handing over the
goods, even with your family. Use this policy for all family members
so your policy is consistent and no one can point fingers at your
discrimination against your sister-in-law.
Note that things could get really rocky with the family as a result
of your standing up for yourself as a professional. Family matters
are the ones that give us sleepless nights and ulcers. It will be
your choice whether to give in to their demands for free jewelry. Try
to look realistically at your options and how you'll feel about the
consequences of each. Which will bother you more--to lose the good
opinion of your sister-in-law or to feel slighted as a professional?