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Made in the USA - Wasting my time?


#1

I’m a small designer trying to break in to the wholesale business.
I do have reps at all the major marketplaces (Chicago, Dallas,
Atlanta) and I’m struggling with trying to keep my prices somewhat
competitive with the imported jewelry. One of the things I’m proud
to put on my jewelry (earring cards, hang tags) is “Made in the USA”.
However, I took a little shopping trip the other day and looked at
the jewelry on the counters at Nordstrom’s, Nieman’s, etc. I realize
that marking the actual jewelry itself is next to impossible, but why
aren’t there markings on the paper tags stating Made in China, Made
in Indonesia, etc.? I know for a fact that Liz Claiborne and Barse
are not made in the USA, but yet there is nothing showing where it is
actually made. Am I in the dark here? Is there an exception when it
comes to jewelry that there are no regulations for marking jewelry
(or the tags sold along with it) made in other countries? Where’s
the fair competition if buyers have no idea if a product is made in
the USA or made in a foreign country? Or does it not matter
anymore??? I won’t lie…this issue really bothers me.

Catherine


#2

Catherine, Why would geographic origin of a piece of jewelry be
relevant ? Any country that has a jewelry making tradition might
produce a wide range of craftsmanship and/or artistry. Indeed, it is
truly mind boggling that exquisite jewelry often comes from areas of
the world where modern technology, or even electricity, are non
existent ! A good case in point would be Taxco, Mexico. Many of the
shops there are completely low tech while some of their work is
superlative. Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, Ca.


#3

Catherine, I hear you. Unfortunately, US regulations only require
place of origin labelling on textiles, wool, fur products and
automobiles-- see here-

and

Note also that according to the FTC, if one does elect to label
one’s product “made in the USA,” all significant parts and
processing which go into the product must be of US origin. It would
be misleading to produce product using a significant proportion of
foreign-made components and call the result “made in the USA.”

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry
http://www.dosmanosjewelry.com


#4

My understanding is that all items are required to be marked
(permanently) with country of origin in order to enter the US. They
do seem to let jewelry by with a hang tag attached rather than
stamped in. But there is nothing to stop the store from removing the
hang tag. The place to put pressure is on the governing boards of the
companies that sell the work.

best
Charles


#5

Reguarding “Making my own” If you know for a fact that these folks
are removing the “origin” tags from jewelry, consider dropping a dime
on them to the Federal Trade Commission. My understanding is that a
Virginia pewter company had a full time employee removing “made in
Wherever” tags from items and received a significant fine when they
got caught at it. Rick Steingress.


#6

what about saying, “Made in the U.S. of imported materials” - I have
seen that in catalogs in describing artisan made jewelry.

  • Dee Dee

#7

Catherine, Be aware that while you could probably win some customers
by doing this, you could certainly lose a couple too. I, for one,
have no sympathy for this line of reasoning whatsoever. In buying a
piece of jewelry, I am interested in many things, but couldn’t care
less about where it was made. This is not relevant to me, and you
would leave me with a bad impression if this was one of the first
things I had to learn about this piece. Beautiful jewelry is made
everywhere in the world.

Will


#8

It was asked why the geographic origin of a piece of jewelry would
be relevant. Typically I would say it is not. In other
circumstances, I would say the origin does make a difference. A case
in point revolves around Native American style/look alike jewelry
made outside the US. Without a tag, many unwary purchasers may
assume the piece they just invested in is Native American. To get
around the ‘tag’ problem, I am aware that one country (I believe in
Asia) has renamed an entire city Zuni. This way they can legitimately
engrave ‘Zuni’ onto their pieces. Most purchasers would assume the
piece came from the Zuni pueblo in New Mexico. A BIG resulting
problem is that consumers don’t want to pay the prices a Native
American jeweler must charge to survive. Often not knowing the
difference, I’ve seen many consumers try to barter down prices for
authentic pieces. Because they’ve seen so much Native style jewelry
at ridiculously low rates (foreign made) they don’t want to get
’suckered’ into paying too much. It gets very frustrating for
vendors. And can be very disappointing to an individual wanting to
make an investment in Native American jewelry.

Diana
Desert Canyon Jewelry


#9
Why would geographic origin of a piece of jewelry be relevant ? Any
country that has a jewelry making tradition might produce a wide
range of craftsmanship and/or artistry. Indeed, it is truly mind
boggling that exquisite jewelry often comes from areas of the world
where modern technology, or even electricity, are non existent ! 

Ron, the place of origin is relevant because there is a lot of
jewelry mass manufactured in places where human rights, labor laws
and environmental protection are virtually non-existant. These
places are often selected not because the area in question has a
unique heritage of craftsmanship and artistry, but because jewelry
can be mass-produced there with minimal labor cost and without
regard either to worker safety or safe disposal of toxic chemicals.

You can point, for example, to Taxco, where there is definitely a
tradition of craftsmanship and artistry, but you probably don’t have
to worry about one-of-a-kind, well made jewelry from Taxco not being
labeled. On the other hand, cheap, mass-produced jewelry being
produced in the maquiladoras by sweatshop labor is less likely to be
labeled.

And of course Mexico is far from the worst. The real hot spots for
mass-producing jewelry lie in Southeast Asia and Indonesia. How many
of the workers mass-producing cheap jewelry and cut stones in such
places are being paid a living wage, or for that matter are even
given adequate protection from the hazardous conditions and toxic
chemicals with with they work?

I agree with Catherine; the place of origin is relevant, because if
the consumer truly knew of the conditions under which their
mass-produced, mall-purchased jewelry was made, they might very well
think twice before buying.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry
http://www.dosmanosjewelry.com


#10

Hi Ron,

I agree with Catherine that the customer should know where a piece
originates from and has the right to make an informed decision. I
don’t say this because I believe the work is inferior, in fact, I
couldn’t agree more with your statement that “it is truly mind
boggling that exquisite jewelry often comes from areas of the world
where modern technology, or even electricity is not available.” You
couldn’t be more right!

I think that incredibly talented artisans from all over the world
are so badly taken advantage of by a system that favors the wealthy.
These artisans are paid nothing for the amazing work that they do and
this is a gross injustice. They deserve to be paid a fair market
value for their work. It also lessens the value of the work that we
do as artisans hoping to be paid a living wage to survive in an
expensive society.

As a consumer, I would like the opportunity to support an artisan
being paid at least a living wage for the work that’s being presented
and would pay more for a piece to do so. Not all customer feel this
way, I know, but it’s time to start educating the consumer. It can’t
hurt.

My two cents,
Pam


#11

I would agree with Will, except in the case of forced or underpaid
labor. It’s hard to know what goes on in countries without much
regulation. ali www.alfmetals.com


#12

Beautiful jewelry may be made everywhere in the world, but some
people are particular about where their money goes and who it
supports.

For instance:

“Hey you, you make that? Yeah, well lemme tell ya dat’s one nice
lookin’ stone, best I seen in all’a Brooklyn. Dat ting didn’t come
from Joisey did it? I don’ buy nuttin what comes from Joisey. You
sell me dat an I fin’ out it’s from Joisey an I come back here an
break your legs, got it?”


#13

Ron, my question is specifically geared at US companies using low
cost labor in other countries under poor working conditions. I’m
sure this subject has been approached many times and that I’m
probably bringing up something many of us are frustrated with, but
can’t do anything about it. When a company based in the US has their
goods produced in another country to put more money into the pockets
of the top executives and take jobs away from middle-class America,
they should be required to state where those goods are produced. My
post never questioned craftmanship or artistry of jewelry produced in
other countries. In fact, I have a couple pieces of Taxco jewelry
that I cherish. But even those items are marked “Taxco, Mexico”.


#14

Catherine, there is a reason that most jewelry is not marked with a
country of origin. That is because it is not required by the FTC,
and the rules for marking Made in America are extremely tight. There
is a good chance that they are in the right, and you are the one
misleading customers in the FTC’s eyes. See:

The way the rules are written most jewelry would not qualify because
if either the precious metal or stones are from outside the USA then
the item cannot carry an unqualified “Made in the USA” or “Made in
America” label. This came up late last summer when the Rosen Group
started to push that shows require Made in America markings on items
shown at there shows (Buyers Market of American Craft which is the
largest US based handcrafted craft trade show). Some of us raised
and big fuss about it not being practical for jewelers. The FTC was
contacted for informal rulings on some items and their response was
if a piece was made form silver or gold of unknown origin even if it
was refined by an American refiner like H&S, or contained stones from
outside the USA, then only a qualified label for like “Made in
America From Imported Materials” though they preferred “Assembled in
America From Imported Materials”. Not exactly great marketing, and i
prefer to just not bother with marking country of origin.

Cheers,
Paul Ewing


#15

Dear Lee, As with so many simplistic idealizations, you would assume
that everything made in a certain country would be the product of
demeaning exploitation. The fact is that all countries have
sweatshops and this would include the U.S. Furthermore, to assume
that the general public is going to give a whit about overseas
economies is overlooking the fact that consumers are essentially
economic animals who seek bang for the buck.

If we were to chastise all products from developing nations as being
products of brutal exploitation a hell of a lot of poor people would
starve and the developing economy would be held back. When we
support the products of developing nations we are ultimatly making a
contribution to their development.

I gather that you are in a position to sit in judgment of the
hundreds of societies around the world which might be producing
products that you deem to be of "conflict " origin. Would you also
damn any product that comes from a country which has citizens driving
old cars ? Would it also not meet with your approval if the average
caloric intake of a worker in Bangladesh is fewer than 1500 calories
? The question is, where do you draw the line and who draws that
line ? Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos , Ca.


#16
This is not relevant to me, and you would leave me with a bad
impression if this was one of the first things I had to learn about
this piece 

Right you are Will, So what if the money you spend helps keep
artists and craftsmen under the yoke of Slave labor, or if it is
being done by forced child labor, I heartily commend peole like
yourself that make it easier to keep oppressed people down and out
and keep artists by choice in a situation where we have to compete
against a market where Labor is an unpaid benifit, I do agree that
some very beautiful Jewelry is comming out of China, Bali, Indhonesia
and India, It’s just too bad we as Craftsmen and women have to
compete against it at REAL DOLLAR PRICES. if you ever step in to a
situation of being a production shop you would quickly understand how
it feels when you shoot a customer a price that’s about as low as you
can go and they say "But it only cost me X$ from here and you say to
your self ya right then about 8 weeks later you see they were telling
you the truth. . I know because I’ve been there and lost several
acounts that were good for 20 or 30 thousand a year, The real sad
part is when someone tries to sell you a dozen of your designs that
were knocked off in where ever, using compressed block instead of
real stone, “Oh Did I say STONE I’m sorry that must have been
Fruedian slop” for about one third what you charged for the same
piece. On custom One Of A Kind pieces or to the established artist
with the bonafides to back it up it should make no difference but it
does, Go to any major Flea Market or Craft Shows and see how many
booths are selling Jewelry that is crafted in the Asian or Mexican
Maquialadora (sp) market. and how much they sell, Then inspect the
goods. Look at the fire scale, look at the imatation stones, then
look at how many people won’t be byuing from you next week. Then
maybe you’ll care. Of course this is just my humnble opinion, maybe
you won’t Kenneth Ferrell


#17

My question is specifically geared at US companies using low cost
labor in other countries under poor working conditions. I’m sure
this subject has been approached many times and that I’m probably
bringing up something many of us are frustrated with, but can’t do
anything about it. When a company based in the US has their goods
produced in another country to put more money into the pockets of the
top executives and take jobs away from middle-class America, they
should be required to state where those goods are produced. My post
never questioned craftmanship or artistry of jewelry produced in
other countries. In fact, I have a couple pieces of Taxco jewelry
that I cherish. But even those items are marked “Taxco, Mexico”.

Catherine


#18

Ken, Thanks for your reaction.

First, I have been reading some reactions of people who do not agree
with me, but I agree with them: sure the region or country where the
jewelry comes from matters if the authenticity of the piece is in
question. Native American jewelry has to be made by native American
people, otherwise it is not authentic. But I oppose the thinking
behind ‘Made in America’. And why? First, you are not going to keep
one single job more over here but doing this. We have been discussing
this before (did you take the trouble to look at the statistics of
the Dept. of Labor?). Second, this piece of is
meaningless to me. So, the piece has been made in America - where, by
who, for which price, under which conditions? I completely agree with
Ron Mills where he says that sweat shops - and exploitation -
unfortunately exist everywhere in the world, including the USA - no
doubt about it. There are sweat shops in Europe too. As for the rest,
everyone reads (including disdifferently,
and it’s much in the eye of the beholder, but for me, personally, the
made in the USA-thing seems to be very much in tune with the new form
of patriotism in this country - one can hardly deny that there is a
political message in it - and I am not for it. As for your other
points, you are waging a lost battle. It will not take long before -
if it is not already the case - that people in India, China, you name
it, can do exactly the same as we do, but they will do it cheaper.
There is not much we can do about it, except to diversify. If you are
going to make the same products as the people in India and so make,
you are going to lose because you and them are going to play on the
same market. If you are afraid about people stealing your designs,
copyright them. If there is a difference in the quality, educate your
customers about it. This is a very uphill battle too, because I have
no clue how to do this in a relevant way. But you can try. There is
something else. I have quite a bit of little tools which are Made in
India and you what? They do the job. They are good tools. I also have
some tools Made in America. They are good tools too, but, frankly, I
think that they are overpriced. Now, if I can choose, why would I
rationally prefer tools in Made in America? The truth is that it
doesn’t matter a thing what I do - except for myself. But speaking in
macroeconomic terms, we wouldn’t pay any service to the economy of
the USA preferring Made in America tools. Best, Will


#19

It seems to be back to whining time here on Orchid. Whining about
how someone makes it cheaper, steals the designs, mass produces, ad
nauseum. Why don’t you all figure out what you can do that sets you
apart from everyone else. Maybe that’s the price you can sell it
for, maybe it’s the designs you can create it, maybe it’s how fast
you can produce your designs, maybe it’s how you market yourself or
your designs, maybe it’s how you sell yourself to the customer. But
why don’t you all go out and figure out what that is and do it. Stop
worrying about the competition. Do something that sets you apart.
And if you can’t figure out anything you can do that is better than
someone else, or different than someone else, than either go to work
for someone else or get out of the business. Harsh words, I know,
but sometimes it gets ridiculous. Let’s trade ideas on how to
produce jewelry and be better jewelers not just whine about the world
at large.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140
617-491-6000
@spirersomes
www.spirersomes.com


#20

Ron, you say that I would paint all products of a certain country as
being the product of exploitation, and yet, the example of Taxco vs
the maquiladoras, which I cited, is a counter-example of that.

You state

   If we were to chastise all products from developing nations as
being products of brutal exploitation a hell of a lot of poor
people would starve and the developing economy would be held back.
When we support the products of developing nations we are ultimatly
making a contribution to their development. 

The truth is that poor people are already starving, which is why we
call them poor people. Our continuing purchasing of the fruits of
their sweatshop labor does not benefit the exploited workers so much
as the businesses which are exploiting them. We are not
"developing" their economy by purchasing such goods- we are
financially rewarding the status quo. That is what holds them, and
their economy, back. At the same time, we exert strong downward
economic pressure on workers who are being paid a living wage.

I strongly disagree with your statement that consumers are
essentially economic animals who seek bang for the buck This is an
area in which you must speak for yourself. Consumers often
demonstrate that they are willing to boycott sweatshop produced
products, as long as they are educated regarding the conditions
under which these products are made. There is abundant evidence that
consumer boycotts of sweatshops and exploitive employers, rather
than further impoverishing workers as you claim, often forces
corporations operating in third-world countries to improve their
wages, working conditions, etc. These sweatshop boycotts also
benefit workers who are already being paid a living wage, as it
relieves them of the unfair competition from sweatshop labor, child
labor, etc.

For a working person to knowingly buy the products of sweatshop
labor because they are a “deal,” is roughly on a moral par with
eating one’s young. For a businessperson to profit from the
exploitation of sweatshop labor, and then rationalize this
exploitation by claiming to be a benefactor of those whom he
exploits, is no less deplorable.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry
http://www.dosmanosjewelry.com