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Making fashion jewelry


I am new to this forum and jewelry making. I’m hoping someone could
help me decide what is best for making fashion (plated) jewelry. I
have three questions.

Question 1: I would like to keep cost down but also provide a
quality product that will last at least 1.5-2 years for my customers.
What base metal would you recommend to have something nickel-free and
to not turn people’s skin green? My manufacturer said they can do
brass as the base.

Is this good as a base?

Question 2: What is a good thickness for plating that would have
some durability? I would like to plate in gold, rose gold, either
rhodium or palladium. The manufacturer suggested around 0.03~0.05 MIC
for thickness.

Is the thickness is different for different metal plating?

Question 3: I would like a silver look for my jewelry, which plating
would be better, Rhodium or Palladium?

Thank you so much for your help. I’ve been researching and can’t
seem to find it anywhere.


I don’t plate, so I can’t reply to your questions about plating. I
am concerned that you define a quality product as one that will last
1.5 - 2 years. Most of us make jewelry that will last a lifetime or
more. Can I assume that you are applying the 1.5 - 2 years criteria
to the plating only? That being the case, why plate at all? Since you
say that you are new to jewelry, your questions appear to be fairly
general and you should be able to get them answered by talking to
your plating vendors, reading the Ganoksin archives, doing google
searches or, my favorite, actually making some jewelry. I have been
making jewelry for over forty years and still ask more questions than
I answer for others. The more experienced you are, the more specific
your questions become and the more likely you are to get an answer.
Most metals (precious and non-precious) have attributes that you can
design around so that you don’t have to plate them. You also then
don’t have to worry about it wearing off in 1.5 - 2 years. The only
way to figure this out is to buy some tools and supplies, set up a
shop, learn from your successes and failures and then ask some
questions. You will eventually develop an informed notion of what
works and doesn’t work and what is right for you. I know that there
are successful jewelry designers who don’t have a clue about how to
make the jewelry that they design. Personally, I just can’t imagine
designing without taking into account how it is made, if it can be
safely and securely worn, if it will last and if my customer will be
happy with what I make them. I know that this sounds like a lecture
and, to some extent, it is intended to be one. Doing what we do is
not easy. It takes time, effort, expense and a willingness to fail
and learn from your failures. Otherwise, you are just trying to cash
in on the next jewelry fad. Good luck. Rob

the only time i ever plated, was using rhodium. but beyond that, as
a base id suggest silver. BUT may i ask why? also there will be more
questions than answers being offered here. next here would be the
gemstones (if any) which you would use.


Thanks Rob and Aaron for your reply. To address Rob’s comments, I am
making fashion jewelry and am hoping to create designs that I can
sell at a lower reasonable price to consumers than fine jewelry.
Plating machinery is expensive so doing it myself is not possible.
I’ve researched and looked on the internet and haven’t found answers
to these questions so that is why I’m going to this forum. If you
have resources like specific books to suggest, please do. I have only
found books on making jewelry from gold, etc.

I’ve talked to a few manufacturers and it’s too expensive for what I
want to do to create in precious metal, hence I want to make it with

Yes, I am referring to 2 years for the plating itself.

I’ve talked to my plating manufacturer about the different thickness
etc but they are an overseas manufacturer and I want to make sure I’m
not being taken advantage and the product is not junk. I am concerned
with what my customers are getting, that is why I am trying to do as
much research and work upfront before it is made. I am in the middle
of prototyping to ensure it will fit and work. I have been working
with experienced jewelry CAD designers so I know the design works,
they are also not familiar with the intricacies of plating.

I understand your frustration Rob about people making money in the
industry, but it’s not helpful to lecture without giving any solid
resources for help. The internet has a lot of facts that’s not

I’m here to learn which is what you’re lecturing about.

Thuy Nguyen, I guess people’s frustration with your question is that
this forum usually deals with issues of people wanting to learn how
to make - if not technically “fine"jewelry” jewelry that is not mass
produced and that is made from more quality materials. And jewelry
that will last longer. And many people here have gotten into jewelry
because they feel that they have something unique to contribute to
the jewelry world. Now, I might be missing something here, but what
it sounds like you want to make is the kind of jewelry that you can
go out and buy at any mall store counter display. Yes, there is
definitely a place for this kind of jewelry, but it’s not usually
the kind of jewelry that people address here on Orchid. I think you
might get better answers from your manufacturers. And if you’re
worried that your manufacturers are taking advantage of you, you
might need to look into better manufacturers. Maybe someone here
could suggest some better manufacturers for you.

Eleanor. Your reply to Thuy Nguyen, was much clearer and kinder than
mine and you summarize my frustration and, I suspect that of others
with this type of question. I have been on Orchid for about four
years now and I don’t recall a discussion of fashion jewelry
manufacturing. I did do a few internet searches and there seems to be
many sources of that might help answer his questions. In
the end, I would suggest that he talk to as many vendors as he can,
see what the common answers are and then take a chance and go with
one. When I go to the local mall with my wife, I spend a lot of time
looking at jewelry. I am especially amazed at the design and quality
of much of the fashion jewelry that I see. I also shake my head at
the very poorly made fad jewelry that sells very well in spite of
its poor quality. To each his own (maker and buyer), but I could
never sell jewelry with open joints and tool marks still visible made
out of a metal that can’t be identified. I guess that what they are
selling is the moment or the message and not the piece. Thanks. Rob

Hi Thuy,

With your own admission that you are new to jewellery making, I have
to support Bob’s replies to your plans.

I, however would like to reply to your questions in a different way,
namely, that I wish to ask what is your business plan? because unless
you have gotten that right, by the time you have a finished product
for sale, you will find that whats on offer in the stores in malls is
half the price your needing to ask to make your business viable.

So Id suggest you go to stores in malls and look at work similar to
what you want to make, ask the price and what its made from. Then
see if you can match that for quality and price with enough margins
to make it viable.

Especialy if your going to put all the making out to subcontractors,
who will want to be paid before you have sold 1 item!!.

Also theres a big difference in designing making and marketing your
own designs directly retail, this way you control the whole
operation, have all the work but make all the profit for you time and
materials investment.

Wholesaling is a mugs game, as most buyers want to pay you 90 days
after you deliver, ie they wa nt it effectiverly on sale or long
term payment. Thats the hardest hard way, and you need very seep
pockets to do that.

So lets have your business plan, and well see if it adds up. We all
have to do this wether were in the cheap end of the trade or have
worked up a reputation to the point were dealing in platinum and 5
carat diamonds.


Thanks Eleanor. I didn’t mean to cause frustration but it’s also
very insulting (not to you but more to other comments) that would
automatically think that I am mass producing and not creating unique
designs. I am making my own designs and don’t want to be part of the
crap that’s out there.

Anyways, this forum seems to not be the right place for my
questions. I really hope that people in this forum would be more open
to assisting anyone who would want to learn more about jewelry and
not immediately attack, which I felt like by Rob’s comments.

-I am sorry that you feel that my comments were an attack. While
strong, they were intended to be instructional in the -nature of my
participation, and I feel that to be of many others, on this
discussion board. If you want to feel attacked, put your work up to
be juried in a truly competitive show or art competition and be ready
to have your hat handed to you. In a more subtle way, this will
happen when you try to sell your work to high end galleries and craft
stores. Eventually you will find your place. I know mine, and it is
no where near the quality of work done by many on this discussion
board, but I have arrived where am by a lot of work, failure, success
and many of the things that I don’t hear in your posts. Be ready to
plan, fail, regroup and make a recovery plan only to go thru this
process again and again. You need to define that which you truly feel
is important to you. If it is financial, great! make a lot of money.
For me it is knowing that I can design a piece and then predict and
control how it will go together and successfully execute it.
Hopefully it will meet my needs, that of my customer, should I have
one, and be at a level of quality of which I can be proud. These
should all be moving targets and, that which satisfies you today,
will not tomorrow. Please don’t let my words keep you from finding
your place. That was not my intent. I wish you good luck. Rob

Hi Ted,

Thanks for the response and tips. I’ve done extensive research on
the market and have a viable business plan. I am not new to the
concepts of business. I have an MBA and have helped many friends
start a business. I am only new to the nuances of the jewelry
business. Some very friendly and helpful individuals have reached out
to me so I am good. I don’t think I need to share with you my
business plan to justify that I am serious about my business plan

I think it’s up to individual consumers to decide what they are
willing to spend (and what compliments their personal tastes). I have
such a soft spot for costume jewelry, and it’s disheartening hearing
people discount it so readily. There’s some really beautifully
crafted costume jewelry out there, and it’s sad seeing it lumped
together with the totally forgettable, cheaply made stuff.

I cherish the fine jewelry I’ve inherited or saved up to buy for
myself, but I also love how dramatic, colorful, and over-the-top
costume jewelry can be. I wish I could own a necklace by Irene
Neuwirth or a bracelet by Solange Azagury-Partridge and support their
fine jewelry work, but I just can’t afford to spend thousands of
dollars on their pieces. And costume jewelry’s popularity (regardless
of price point or craftsmanship) shows that lots of other people are
into the flashier stuff, too.

(I’m absolutely, 1000% not condoning copying those more expensive
works in order to make them more affordable " please don’t
misunderstand me. I AM saying that there are designers and
manufacturers developing equally whimsical costume jewelry pieces and
contributing their own unique voices to the wider jewelry market.)

Please keep an open mind " at the end of the day we’re all here
tolearn more, help one another, and make the best jewelry we can.


Sara you are correct. I have made and sold luxury jewellery for most
of my adult life. Getting into my Golden years I realize people who
buy fashion jewellery really appreciate the craftmanship of the
artist. Do your thing. Hartley

Hi Thuy,

Thanks for your reply, To answer your plating questions, just a bit
of background, because I made lots of plated jewellery, and had my
plater put on silver to the thickness of 2 tho/in. Microns are much
smaller than thous, sounds good tho theres not much metal there!

With plating, the setup and handling sometimes is more than the
metal costs. So I was priced so many tho per hour tank time And more
importantly how long it will last depends on its user. Ive had
customers who complained how the plating wore, and on inspection
found that this lady was building a rockery! without gloves!. So how
thick plating you will decide upon will depend on what proportion of
the total cost the plating is in your business plan. As much as you
can afford.

OK so your not prepared to give an outline of your plan, no matter,
its yours not mine so it really doesnt matter to me, I was just
curious how it compared to mine…

However, ill outline the business plan I had when I started some 48
yrs ago and its served me faithfully over this time.

  1. I made absolutely sure I mastered all the technical details of
    what I wanted to make with my 2 hands, to the point itwas as good as
    the best in the professional jewellery market.

  2. I also made sure I made what no one else was making, because
    theres much bigger and much more capital funded makers that were
    streets ahead of my starting efforts.

  3. I had to ensure that my marketing produced the weekly results I
    needed to make it financially viable. Its lovely making beautiful
    things but it has to be commercial as well otherwise its just a

I had 1 and 2 sorted within 3 months of starting up in 1968, but it
wasnt till I decided to try and sell direct 3 months later to the
customer retail that it all came together and took off. Selling
wholesale didnt work for me.

I was 34 at that time, and had an artistic upbringing as a child,
then as I had an aptitude for engineering, I trained in aviation
engineering, wonderful dicipline !! then had 11 yrs in sales and
marketing. all 3 came together, and Ive built on that base over the

As Rob said in his last post, we wish you well, youll survive or
fall by your own efforts in this game.

and I hope to hear more about what you finish up doing. Post here,
theres room on Ganoksin for costume jewellery makers too!


Just my thoughts.

I personally like this group. Have been here for many years off and
on. theyou get is almost always top of the line…

Sometimes we old folks in the trade do get a little short and to the
point. We are old and have little time left to help so. No sweet
talking. that said I think that everyone here has your interest as a
top priority in their mind when commenting…

Sometimes it is very frustrating to think someone is going to do the
very same mistake we did and we want them not to make the same
mistake. what we want is for them to take our experiences and be
better then we were. Kinda like your parents…

We might be rough we may be short we may be kind and helpful. but we
are collectively the most knowledgeable group of jewelers/Designers
in the world here to help you succeed.

Pick through what is posted and see what might help you and discard
the rest. just like designing. take in a inspiration and cut and
trim and then expand it into something beautiful that touches the
heartstrings of someone enough so they will buy it so you can afford
to make something else more beautiful.

I have not commented on your plans because I think others have given
you a lot to think about.

I think that the fact you have a business education is very good but
do not think we were aware of that. we are still just getting to
know you… Keep us informed of your progress. And I am sure that we
all will help as much as we can to see you be the best you can be…

And NO I do not work for Orchid. You can google me for my background

Vernon Wilson
Panama Bay Jewelers

To Vernon and Edward,

What kind and thoughtful replies to Thuy. This forum has helped so
many, myself included, and has made me aware of things I’d never
considered as an artist and “business person”.

There are so many people who lurk quietly in the background,
learning from masters. We appreciate your kindness and patience
since this is a wonderous way to learn. It’s hard to open up and
admit a certain incompetence whenstarting out and we reach out to
any and all who are so generous in sharing their knowledge and

On behalf of those who are too shy to come forward, I thank you
wholeheartedly for your wisdom and continuing support.

In grateful appreciation…
Denny Diamond

You are quite welcomed. When I started there was no Internet and no
one was willing to teach me so I had to learn the hard way. I ran
into a old gentleman who took the time to give me some tips on
working with silver and cuttingstones. I was down to my last $10.00
literally. Now I am just passing on what he started with me to
others who want to learn. I have been very blessed with this trade
and hope you will do better then I have by not making the same
mistakes I had to make to get here. Just pass it on to others…

Thanks for your kind words and thoughts.

Vernon Wilson
Panama Bay Jewelers

Thank you to those who sent kind words. It is nice to know that you
spent the time to reach out. I’ve been working on my idea for over a
year now so some not so supportive words will not derail me. I
completely understand some people’s frustration but there were many
assumptions just made immediately which is quite unfair.

Edward - thank you for sharing your business plan. That is very
helpful to know. I have taken some local jewelry making classes in my
city but dealing with manufacturing and plating is a totally
different beast.

Thanks all.