Making a custom design a regular piece?

So since starting out I’ve made the assumption that after finishing a custom order for a customer that if I think the design would sell, I made it a regular item available for other customers. Or sometimes I will post on Instagram a photo of a custom piece I’ve finished and get some emails asking for another to be made.

Fast forward to now after years of doing this I’ve come into two situations with customers being upset that I am reproducing the design. Both of these are the clients idea but my design of the idea. I’ve made a policy on my website that states ‘when commissioning a piece I own the overall rights to the design including right to reproduce’ but this just seems like customers will still be upset but I can’t just say sorry, that’s my policy. Ultimately I don’t want customers having a bad experience with my jewellery brand. Would love to hear any thoughts on this, what is the industry standard for reproducing a custom project? What are people’s pens experience of this?

I feel confused about it, I’m not copying anyone else’s design work, and do feel entitled to remake my own designs. Any comments will be really appreciated

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Did you bill them for the design time? If they paid for that they may reasonably feel they own the design.

At the time you discussed the commission with them did you tell them you might sell copies and theirs might not be a one-of-a-kind?

Websites do need to spell out clear policies, but you know very well that most people don’t read them.

Basically, you made a contract with your customers but did not clearly communicate the terms (your intentions), and left them to assume design ownership you did not intend to deliver.

Whatever rights you have under copyright law, you do want happy customers, so tell them clearly what you want to do with their commission, and get their agreement. Don’t sell duplicates without that.

Neil A


AlexL41398 I have been making custom pieces and one of a kind pieces for about 10 years. I would never replicate any custom piece without making a significant change in it. My clients value the fact that they have the only one that exists. Maybe the stone is a different size and color, maybe the overall shape is similar but reversed - but never the same. One client even lost her piece and I told her that I could not exactly reproduce it, but would come close. She was happy.



What I say about designs is “I maintain copyright for all designs. If you wish to purchase copyright, that is a separate transaction.” while that should be understood, I’ve sold too many pieces to other jewelers that flat out copy the piece and when questioned, they say, - I bought it, it’s mine, I get to do what I want with it. Well I say phooey.
Judy Hoch


So according to their logic, if I bought a signature style ring that they made and then I copied it and sold the copies thats ok. Somehow I don’t think they would view that as fair if the shoe was on the other foot. I don’t think their logic would hold up in court but there again, is there a contract? As far as the original question, I think communication is the issue. I have a custom order contract that spells out everything I can think of because inevitably someone doesn’t want to pay, etc. Don’t assume that customers understand anything about the process or common practice. For example, I have many customers who don’t understand why custom pieces cost more than over the counter purchases. With a contract it is explained and I don’t have to justify anything because everything is spelled out and they agree and sign before they pay. I am in control of the transaction.

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Some of the bracelet designs that Don and I make are identical. That is not to say that we make them in the exact same way. I am not sure where the claim of copying starts and stops when you take into account how a piece is made vs the final product. We both learned these designs from our father who learned them from Native American silversmiths in Oklahoma when he work at the Chilocco Indian School during WWII. As far as I know, none of us has worried much lately about copyright or who might copy our designs. We have had our moments in the past. When someone asks me how I make something, I tell them. I guess that is because I made my living as a teacher for forty years and consider such a question a teachable moment. At the age of 72, having made jewelry for nearly 50 years, I am happy to pass on what I know. I realize that making jewelry is not my livelihood and I don’t depend on it for a living. If I did, I might feel differently. I have been very happy to participate in ganoksin more for what I have learned than what I have passed on to others. I am not making light of this discussion. It is important and needs to be had, but for many of us it not really very relevant. More importantly, it should not be an impediment to anyone’s creativity. Right now I am really busy making jewelry for people to give as Christmas gifts. Some of these pieces are the first that I have ever made and others may be the 500th time that I have made the same piece, but probably not the same way. They all get my mark and that makes them special, at least to me, regardless of how similar they might be to a piece that someone else has made. Happy Holidays…Rob

I would love to see what your contract looks like. Would you please either post a link or send me one directly?