One of a kind pieces pricing dilemma

Dear All,

If you create one of a kind pieces, I’m looking for your past
experiences and opinions on a pricing matter. Have you ever made a
piece, loved the way it turned out, but had that sinking feeling
that it doesn’t “look” like the amount of money it totals up that you
should sell if for? I know about the various formulas for cost and
markups and what not (I’m not new to this business). And, I’m not
into giving my work away- I know first hand that undercutting
yourself doesn’t help anyone in this business.

But the questions remains- do you price it like the math adds up and
just see what happens? Or do you adjust to a number that seems more
realistic based on the visual assessment you get when holding it in
your hand? (and then learn from this and adjust what you make in the

And to clarify, I’m talking about something you make on speculation
that is going into your showcase to sell, not a custom made piece
specifically for a client.

I’ve had this dilemma a couple of times over the years and I was
wondering how you all dealt with this. I am leaning towards pricing
it with the math and seeing what happens, but I am curious to hear
others’ thoughts.

Thanks and take care.
Nesheim-Fuller Design
Sunrise Jewelry Originals

But the questions remains- do you price it like the math adds up
and just see what happens? Or do you adjust to a number that seems
more realistic based on the visual assessment you get when holding
it in your hand? (and then learn from this and adjust what you make
in the future)" 

Don’t lower the price, you need consistant profits. INCREASE the
price if you think its that good, but keep the price. LOTS of jewelry
reequires hours of labor that may never look like it took that long.

I’ve had many jewelers tell me when an item doesn’t sell they RAISE
the price and it sells.

Of course you have to make things that sell in price points. Can’t
overprice the market place.

David Geller

Pricing one of a kind Unfortunatly my work is almost all one of a
kind, I can not bring myself to make the same thing again and again,
so it has a bit of a “craft” look to some, and a one of a kind to
others. I use the formula, and then I price what I think I can get
away with. It is a struggle. to see what I and some friends do take
a peek at our web site


Brenda -

I calculate the price based on my time, materials, etc., mark it
according to that price and put it in the case. If it doesn’t sell, I
mark it down the following season.


Hi Brendar

I create one of a kind pieces and have this same dilema. I’m fairly
new to this game and I have to say the whole pricing thing can be
quite daunting, especially when selling work in galleries etc. that
want 50% or more. In order to get what we want we have double the
price that we want for the piece and ergo, the price can be quite
high. I am currently pricing my one of a kinds with the math/pricing
formula that I have come up with to price my work. But…I then tend
to worry that the price is too high. As you stated, I give the piece
a visual assesment and wonder if it is worth what the price totals up
to. On a whole, I struggle with pricing and wonder if my ‘formula’ is
a good one to continue with. I wonder if you could share how you
price your work since you have been at this for some time, if you’d
care to share. I totally relate and agree to all you have stated in
your message. I feel as if I had written it! I don’t know if I helped
at all here but perhaps we both can get some input from your inquiry.

Carol A. Guenther

Brenda- You work is lovely and well executed.

We charge $75.00-$100.00 an hour for labor. We double our materials
costs. We are wholesale only and that is what we charge or galleries
and stores. They mark up from there. Never apologize for your prices
and never discount. Jewelry is a luxury item and folks expect to pay
real money for nice work. If fine jewelry was easy to do, every one
would do it. To the public, what we do is magic.

You deserve to get paid a fair wage for your work and then some.

An aside… I visited your web site and would like to offer a
suggestion about it’s design. When I click on an item I get a very
small picture with a blurb about the piece. I then have to click
again to see the image full size. I would recommend that you set it
up so that the full size image comes up automatically with the
description. Most folks have a very short attention span especially
when surfing the web. If a site is too cumbersome or takes too long
to load they just move onto another site.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer


One of a kind pieces are just that…“One Of A Kind”. If you truly
have no plans to make a duplicate, & the design is original, then
price it as such. Don’t be afraid to put a price that relates to
what you “Feel” the piece is worth. Over the years, I have found
that pricing these pieces too low sometimes will prevent them from
selling as quickly as asking too much.

As well, you thought of the piece, created it, and toiled throughout
the process… if YOU don’t think enough of it to put a really high
end price on it… Who will?

I have made pieces that didn’t quite make the mark I expected when I
started… and then too, I priced them by what I felt I wanted.
Always know a bottom dollar in your mind for your piece… then,
price it up there where you want it…and if all else fails after
some length of time, make someone a deal. Watch the potential buyers
reactions to the piece when you show it. I have done that as well…
and when customers drooled on the countertop, but left without the
piece… I raised the price. You can’t sell it twice!

One thing I have found that helps is to sell the piece with a
certificate of authenticity. I’m not sure why, but that piece of
paper can truly mean a difference in $$. I have done single pieces
and collections that way and it does work.

Hope this helps. Dan.

Hi Brenda,

I only make one-off pieces. Pricing is really difficult for me, too.
I think you’ll find that, over time, people will become accustomed
to the price range of your work. I am all over the map on the types
and costs of materials. ( giving a presentation on materials
/imagination at GIA for faculty and students may 2nd). I simply
explain when I have a piece that is unusually material and/or time
intensive. Sometimes, I can feel a little self conscious to say how
much a particular piece is, but I’m always willing to explain it
without acting huffy if someone questions why. It’s a valid question.
It just doesn’t make sense to sell a piece without covering your
materials and your time. If you’re doing one off work, you’ll
probably make more for your time on some pieces than on others. If
you work alone, as I do, you have more flexibility because you aren’t
responsible for anyone’s livilihood but your own, so you can make
less profit on some pieces.

If you don’t make enough to make a living, then you’re going to have
to change something. If you don’t make enough to afford to take some
risks on inspiring materials AND/OR give yourself the time you need
to create to your highest ability, you’ll find yourself and your
work uninspired. I tend to think that your time and talent should be
the most exciting aspect of your work…to you and to others. People
make great work from humble materials…using gorgeous stones just
makes it easier! I admit to loving being able to work with inspiring

Marianne Hunter

Hi Brenda, Two separate formulae that overlap… 1. For a
maker/creator it’s dollars per hour. 2. For the seller/marketer it’s
perceived value. The formulae overlap because the maker/creator
needs to sell the product, and the seller/marketer needs the made and
created. Either one can be greedy and spoil the relationship.

Whichever side we specialize in, we need a good understanding of both
in order to find the best relationship.


Hello Brenda,

What an interesting question. This is something I have come up
against from time to time, when the piece just doesn’t “look” as
though it should sell for the amount of money that you need to get
for it. I don’t make a lot of pieces for spec, mostly custom, and
that is a bit of a different story, since the pieces have been
commissioned, and there is usually an emotional or sentimental
component to the request that rises above the actual price. However,
when the vision is yours, and you are creating something unique, the
customer is still looking for something of a “wow” factor payoff for
the price.

I believe that there are so many outlets for jewelry these days, that
the question is really more along the lines of separating yourself
from the pack. We are competing against cable TV, the internet,
mass-production technology, and cheap foreign knockoff’s. Customers
are rather jaded, and have become used to looking for bargains, so if
they see something similar somewhere else for less, that’s where they
will go. I do know that there customers who are willing and able to
pay for unique pieces, nicely designed and well made, but those
pieces have to “speak to” the buyer, and you have to find those
buyers. (and there are alot of us attempting to do that very same

I would continue to stick with the formulas that you are using to
price your items, (you still need to get a certain amount, or it’s
giving away your time and materials), and let the price be what it
is. I would also give a critical eye to the designs, and look at what
is available in the marketplace that is similar. If you have made
something extra special, then make the price appropriately higher to
reflect the specialness of that piece. If your piece is something
less than fantastic? A little less, perhaps, or maybe a revamped
design is in order. I’m interested in other responses you receive.

Melissa Veres, engraver and goldsmith

I struggle with pricing and wonder if my 'formula' is a good one to
continue with. 

Not really directed at Carol’s quote, just the thread…

The standard pricing formula, which is more geared to production, is
cost times four equals retail. Then half of that is wholesale, 1/3 of
that is “jobber” - large quantities. Cost is labor, materials and
overhead, and you should put something on materials in your cost
basis, like 20%. In that formula you can’t keystone or anything
because the formula will multiply that profit automatically. If you
keystone a diamond and multiply by four, it will become 500% or
something - I’m not going to calculate it here.

What I do, and I think others, for specials is more straightforward.
I think how much I need to make for labor, figure materials with a
profit included, and add it up. Then add a profit to that, because
you might pay someone to do the work. IOW, the fact that you are the
goldsmith means you get paid for that, and then your business makes
a profit. You might pay another goldsmith for the labor… Then in
the end I just look at it and think, “What will the market bear?”
But you need the basis of your costs behind you so you really know
where you are at.

Two important things: I’ve found that a good response from ~anybody~
including galleries saying, “We want to pay THIS” is a blank stare
accompanied by “Huh? You’re a funny guy…” And many readers here
are painfully slow. A few years back someone here said they had 12
hours invested in a wax. We generally pay or get something like $75
up to maybe $200 for a wax. If it takes you 12 hours to make a wax
ring then you just aren’t going to get paid for your time. Same thing
with soldering, filing, finishing, everything. If it takes you three
hours to make a pendant that I can do in 45 minutes, then either you
get less pay or if you don’t understand this, your piece will be
overpriced and it likely won’t sell. An understanding of the jewelry
marketplace is pretty essential. David Geller’s advice about charging
what things are worth is good, but that doesn’t mean you can just
pluck numbers out of the sky - you have to be competitive in the real


Thanks for the insight. Several of your posts hit the nail exactly
on the head- needing to recover costs and make a profit, while also
needed to be market savvy. I appreciate those of you that weighed
in on the topic and I have decided to price these recent pieces per
my formula- cost of materials, time, plus mark up- and see what
happens. I’m excited about my pieces, and hopefully that will come
through and be a selling tool.

I have high hopes for the coming art show season- I figure we might
as well aim high!

Thanks and take care.
Nesheim-Fuller Design
Sunrise Jewelry Originals

Dear Brenda, another trick I have done, I have eliminated all of the
odd pricing. I have trays, and I have them priced as
$25/50/75/100/125/150. From there, when a piece is done, I decide
which category I will sell it at. I have been doing this for 2 years
now, and it simplifies my decisions. Also there are some pieces that
are more profitable than others. Based on sheer design.

Another thing that I have done is eliminate my really fancy clasps
on a general basis. I make 3-5 necklaces a day. I work with a
tourist market that demands penny stuff. Daily I make one or two
"bread and butter" then make a few nice pieces, then at the end of
the day, I make a drop dead gorgeous piece. I do this because I know
that the tourist market is what keeps me in materials. Then the
middle section are the church and school teacher market that I have,
and the expensive one is because I want to become better and better.

After many years of replacing fancy clasps, I have made a decision
to use a simpler fail proof, problem proof clasp and keep much of my
inventory cheaper.

Now with my pricing, I am just asking myself who would wear the
necklace, The little old lady on a tour bus, a friend next to me in
church or Sarah Palin.

Blessings Pat

I went to a Christmas market, and there was this young girl. She did
the most beautiful wire-work, and she was giving it away for $10-15.
I called her over to my booth and had a mentoring talk to her. I told
her that being a jeweler, she had necklaces that were worth
$100-$150, that she should raise her prices. She broke out crying
saying that her husband was making her sell them cheap because they
needed the money. So I sent her back to relieve the husband and he
came swaggering over. I sat him down, told him that his wife had a
very precious gift and that she could do nothing but improve. That he
could settle for pennies, or support her and help her and raise the
prices, they would make more money in the long run. He raised the
prices to 35-50, and they made more money. I have not seen them

In 2005, my first year public, I had made homestead necklaces on
Irish linen. I sold them for $10-15. I had gotten Czech Crystal from
Shipwreck, and had made a nice $15 necklace. A tourist was in and
handled the necklace and said it looked like Crystal, i told her it
was Czech Crystal. She turned to me and actually snarled. “Not for
$15 it isn’t” and threw the piece down. I went home, put the crystal
on wire, put a nice spacer in it, priced it at $50 and sold
something like 4 for the summer.



I like your post.

How are the “Drop dead gorgeous” items selling? I would think with
the tourists you’d have a wide market to consistantly sell some of
those? Yes/no?

David Geller

Most people are too worried about paying the car note to GAMBLE on a
higher price.

Loved your post. I had something similar with selling a $3 cost pearl
for a repair for $12. The lady’s son said “Is that a real pearl

Her answer “Not for $12 son, it can’t be”.

The sad part is where people get their initial training. If your
mentor used a 3 time markup on a $5 item then you will.

I helped a moth daughter team that had been told by someone that you
so a 7 tie markup on material and figured to add in $75 an hour for
assembly labor to make the item. hey paid part time moms $10 an hour
to assemble the items.

I was astounded that silver & brass PLATED bead necklaces were
selling for hundreds and near thousand dollars!

“Do they sell”

“Did anyone ever tell you the markup is sinful?”
“NO, are we doing it wrong?”

“NO, just never talk to anyone else in the business!”

I suggest anyone making necklaces or other low end items to make a
dozen pieces and label them “Special Collection” ad in your booth or
store give that selection a special area, better display material
make some things that look DIFFERENT than your other items. Add in
something that’s real, like sapphires or diamonds and use an 8 time
markup. See what happens. Give it 6 months. I think you’ll be
pleasantly surprised.

David Geller

The drop dead gorgeous items went really well the year i had credit
card capabilities. I live in Alaska, we have a 5 month season at the
most. My clientele base is limited, I have some really precious
customers, most of my work with them is custom around events and
clothes or repairs. Then I have a few gift shop managers and owners
that like my style. When I had my own shop, I did really well, but
the rent for the 8x16 space was huge. My motto seems to be been
there, done that. Truth is, what sells are the 2 earrings for $5,
2bracelets for $10, and $10 necklaces. The tourists love to dig and
root in my treasure boxes for just the right thing. I make for a
summer market, I start out with a lot, and at the end of the season I
should have a few. I also give our local waitresses, bank tellers,
postal employees, librarians nice Christmas necklaces and bracelets.
I get a lot of return from them, custom work, and they are faithful
to refer me. My number is easy to remember…local exchange, gems.

The reality is no matter who the market is, you have to hustle and
be creative. I have donated 36 necklaces to Fight 4 Life, battered
kids who have taken up boxing. We will see how many return clients I
get with that booth.

I am going to try to download a few of my pictures, let me know if
they work. blessings pat


Attachment removed:

How can I share files and pictures with the list?

Or… send the files to the attention of and
we will upload them for you…


I have found that no matter what formula you use to arrive at a
retail price (and there have been many fine suggestions shared
here)… I still find that if I price on the day I finish the piece
I will see it only as numbers…my materials cost, time spent
designing and making, etc. So, a long time ago I decided to write
down that “first day when it’s finished price” and then set the
piece aside for a day or more. Later I look at it as a creation,
unlike any others - my one of a kind offering. Then I see and
appreciate it as a piece of art and not as a piece of pieces with
numbers attached to them. Of course you still have to remember all
the other good stuff about getting it sold and competition. Bottom
line…appreciate yourself and your gift and others will too.

p.s…I live in a real world too and am flexible about changing my
glowing concept (price) of how “great” my one of a kind piece may
be. I like to sell and to be able to buy new materials to create
more great stuff.