I’m also new to the industry. have more an advertising, marketing
and merchandising background than one of design, though i have
worked successfully in many a medium (just not jewelry, as yet). An
opportunity has arisen where I need prototypes made of my designs
ASAP since the learning curve is too great for me to do them NOW (I
fully intend on learning, though). I have met a few people who can
make me these prototypes. I am unclear in how to compensate them. My
opportunity is (hopefully), in a mass marketing venue. The
opportunity is still a massive and very expensive risk to me. I was
thinking about paying these designers a percentage of my net (or
gross???) sales OR per finished prototype piece which would include
either ownership of the design or an exclusive use arrangement in
either case scenario. I don’t think I would offer both levels of
compensation. All my “business” friends suggest a per piece basis
and not an on-going chunck of my conceivable business. But should I
do the latter, which I am willing to do (where they are compensated
on each unit I sell) they are taking part in the risk for a
potential opportunity of big bucks. My thought is that if they don’t
want the risk, they get paid per piece and that is it. In my
opinion, you can’t have it both ways. Am confused as how to proceed.
Anybody have any thoughts on industry standards? Thanks, M
I’m also new to the industry. have more an advertising, marketing
I have met a few people who can make me these prototypes. I am unclear in how to compensate them. My opportunity is (hopefully), in a mass marketing venue....
Hi Melissa, There are a number of ways to get involved in Jewelry…
We are a full manufacturing facility that has the capability to
create models from your designs( drawings or Digital art) … and
complete the final product in small and large volume.
My suggestions as far as using people to design or make models for
you is as follows.
First agree upon a price for the design/ model… Now, If
the idea for the design is your idea, then you are the originator of
the idea and the artist who does the drawing is not entitled to
anything more than the value of their time to draw it. They are not
If you see a design from a designer that you like, it is up to your
negotiation skills as to what the value for their design would be. In
my opinion, it is much cleaner if you simply buy the design rights.
We have used many designers in the past for various projects… A
very good designer I know in Connecticut who draws incredibly well,
would draw 3 or four variations on a theme ,then show them… pick
the one you like and he would do a final professional drawing for $35
to $40+ and you own it. He was charging $10 for the sketches not
used just to cover his time… Boy, could he draw fast… He used
to work for me in a large company many years ago and he could come up
with 10 to 20 designs an hour … His " sketches" were better than
most professional drawings i had seen from others.
In any case, the point of all this is that to own the designs is the
best route. Now, When It comes to creating the model… We do a lot of
model work… Models are definitely not cheap… More work goes into
a professionally built model than most jewelers put in their
finished jewelry… and in this respect, a model, made by hand in
sterling silver can be much more costly than a hand made gold ring.
An example of costing… a simple model may cost as low as $50 -
$100+ … a complex model can go from $150 to $2000+ … We did a
sleigh model for a customer that was $1500 for the model… the model
was built correctly and in production, it ended up costing $23 …
It retails for $90. Many considerations come in to play when a model
is created … first and foremost is the design… then the design
has to have a target price … ( in other words, you plan to whole
sale the item for $30… The item cost you approx $18… or some such
numbers ) It would probably retail for between $90 and $120
depending on the store /location. So the target price you need to
have when designing/model making is the price you believe you can
afford to pay for the final product.
Lets assume you want to have your design made from a manufacturer
and you need to be able to purchase the item for $15… The problem
you will bump into is that a person simply making a model or a
design for you is probably not capable of telling you what your
final cost is going to be. In cases like this, it is best to deal
with a manufacturer who has the capability to do the whole job…
sit with their designer/ model maker… work out some ideas… and
come up with a ball park figure for models, molds and estimated
production costs. The other way is to send the manufacturer the
model or design and allow them to determine what may need to be done
and make suggestions to you , to make the product look good while
keeping costs as low as possible.
If you should need our assistance, we would be happy to help. Best
Wishes, Daniel Grandi
We do models, casting, finishing and a whole lot more for designers,
jewelers, students and people in the trades. Contact:
An . . . opportunity has arisen where I need prototypes made of my designs ASAP since the learning curve is too great for me to do them NOW (I fully intend on learning, though). I have met a few people who can make me these prototypes. I am unclear in how to compensate them.
Hello M; It’s certainly an interesting offer, to pay what basically
amounts to a royalty to someone who prototypes your design. I can
see that this might be appropriate if the the designs required a lot
of input as far as engineering the practicality of manufacture.
There are certainly many shops, including my own, who will be glad to
make the prototypes and be paid on a per item basis which would
probably include their time in meeting with you (or corrosponding) to
arrive at a satisfactory product. More likely you’ll encounter
someone who’ll price the entire project, or part of it. Here would
be my approach; contact a couple trade shops or manufacturers, get
them to sign an agreement that when they have seen the designs they
will respect your copyright to them, and then have them work up an
estimate of what the costs would be. I do this kind of work (
email@example.com ), and I believe Daniel Grandi (one of our
forum contributors at http://www.racecarjewelry.com ) does this also.
Everything depends on everything. . . what I mean is, one must see
the designs, know the volume of production needed, know the price
point objectives, etc. Consultation on these matters is something
you can expect to pay for, although I think that whoever you went
ahead with on the project would probably roll that cost into the cost
of the entire project. After that point, it should be easy to
estimate the continuing costs, whether one party produces the
prototype and another manufactures, or the same company does
everything for you. In any case, you’ll need someone who is familiar
with both the production aspects and the design concerns. One
without the other is trouble, you’ll either have good designs that
are lost on bad manufacture, or designs that cripple the
manufacturing process itself. Good luck.
David L. Huffman
David L. Huffman Studios, Inc.
Melissa, I can’t speak to industry standards, but I know others here
will chime in with wonderful info. But I can offer a framework for
thinking about the problem (at least here in the U.S. – I don’t know
where you are geographically).
The way you have described it, YOU are the designer of the piece and
"own" the copyright on it. You are considering hiring someone to
execute a prototype under your direction, of your design. You are
not hiring them to design the piece. Their creativity is really not
coming into the equation, since you have created the design,
specified the materials to be used, the finishes, etc.
So the people you hire to do this are acting as your hands, rather
than your brain, if you get my drift. Your contract with them should
clearly specify their role and yours, and clearly state that you own
the intellectual property, the copyright, and "all attendant rights"
to the work.
Given that, I would say you should pay them per piece for the
prototypes. No residuals on the production line. Of course, given
the importance of a high-quality prototype and its role in the
long-term production of a piece, payment for a prototype should be
If, on the other hand, you were simply giving them a general idea of
what you want and they were both designing and creating a prototype,
I would consider offering a residual/royalty, in acknowledgement of
their intellectual contribution (intellectual property). But in this
case, I’d also make sure I had a good contract that specified that
the work performed was done on a “work for hire” basis and that YOU
retain the copyright and intellectual property on the work.
Hi Melissa, I’ve been a goldsmith for over 18 years. During the last
few years. I’ve become fascinated with computer aided design,
embracing it as an integral tool in my creative process.
Using Rhino and ArtCAM with Model Master’s CNC system, I can create
and mill a wax model of your design from an existing model, sketch
Communicating closely by email and phone, we will develop an
accurately dimensioned, highly manufacturable model that is true to
your vision as a designer.
Photo-realistic images of the CAD model from all visible
perspectives are possible [with a rendering program called
Flamingo]. By working together with these images, we will determine
exactly how your design will look before a prototype is produced in
If you have further interest in this method of jewelry making,
please read December’s AJM magazine for part two of an article on
CAD/CAM jewelry. I’m one of four digital artisans who were asked to
contribute to a feature article on this cutting edge technique.
Feel free to call or email me for examples and references. I welcome
the opportunity to do free-lance projects for you.
The way you have described it, YOU are the designer of the piece and "own" the copyright on it. You are considering hiring someone to execute a prototype under your direction, of your design. You are not hiring them to design the piece. Their creativity is really not coming into the equation, since you have created the design, specified the materials to be used, the finishes, etc.
Hi Karen, Actually, I might need help with the designs. Then what?
How to compensate? I would like to provide input into the
design–tell them what I’d like to see–show them pieces whose
essences I lovee and let them provide me with ideas. The critical
piece here is that I (my company) needs to own the design. I would
like to add charms to the piece also. Do you know where I can I buy
charms (symbolic charms) and use them in my work? If this project
flies, I may cast my own charms but now, i’d like ready-made pieces
that I buy in bulk as I’m in a hurry. Can I call the piece my own if
I buy ready-made charms and incorporate them within my designs? So
many questtions, I appreciate everyone’s help. -Melissa
Melissa, Well, that puts a different light on the problem. As I see
it, if you are providing a concept and then hiring someone to create
designs based on that concept, there is a much greater degree of
latitude for the artist to negotiate payment vs. royalties. If you
specify that you want full ownership of the resulting design(s), then
you need to pay them accordingly for their design services. In that
case, I would suggest that you offer a “design package” payment and
that your agreement specify that you are paying for their design
time, materials required to execute the prototypes (i.e., “time and
materials” contract), and that you are purchasing the rights to ALL
the designs generated in the course of the project.
The issue here is this … say you give them the ideas and
examples, and they come up with 10 designs. You love 5 of them and
want to go into production. What happens to the other 5? Do they
get to market them? In your case, you probably want to retain them,
too, to keep competitively positioned products from going to market.
Writing your agreement with them to transfer all the designs bypasses
this problem, and transfer of copyright to you make the project a
"work for hire" from the designer’s perspective.
So in this case, you’re hiring a designer, paying them for their
design expertise, AND paying them to execute the prototypes. You’re
buying their designs, based on your concepts.
If you want to add charms to the piece, then shouldn’t the charms
also be designs that you own? If sold as part of your piece, in such
mass quantities, why not have them designed/cast as well?
Does this help clarify the issue?
Hi Melissa, When I am contacted by someone to do this type of work, I
usually charge one of two ways:
Per hour - this is for advice, consulting, researching
trends/ideas, finding resources for as well as drawing up designs or
making models/prototypes to make a mold from
Per item - this is a flat fee for each design or
model/prototype I make for them.
Sometimes when the company is short on cash they offer a percentage
of the sales on the specific pieces that I worked on, but it is hard
for me to know exactly how much they are selling and there are a lot
of unscrupulous business owners out there who have no intention of
paying. I once worked for a company that hired a designer at minimum
wage plus a percentage of her designs that sold. She never saw a
dime from what sold and the owner made sure he hid those orders from
her. I know not everyone is so horrible, but it makes the jewelry
industry a scarier place.
If you are starting with general ideas and letting someone else draw
up designs for you, then it should be possible for you to pay a flat
price for each design you would like to use and then you would have
ownership of the design. The price would depend on how complicated
and how long it takes to draw it up. And many companies use
pre-fabricated charms and findings incorporated into their designs.
It is o.k. to use these for your own creations as long as you are
puchasing them from the company that makes them. It would be a
copyright infringement if you took the other companies charm, made a
mold of it, and started casting pieces for your own use. Rio-grande
has a selection of charms in all sorts of metals. There are other
companies who specialize in making just charms and sell in bulk, but
I cannot recall any of their names right now.