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Pricing Complex Silver Jewelry as Art

I have gotten myself into a pickle and am looking for some advice.
My partner and I, in the Pacific Northwest, have been working with silver for a few years now, and we have pushed each other’s skill sets and design potentials since we both have a background in Fine Art.
Now we source all of our own rough and cut our own cabochons as well as incorporating enamel, faceted stones, gold, and hand engraving into our hand fabricated silver jewelry pieces. We have gone full art. However, in the process, our skill level has accelerated past our previous pricing style and I now realize I am significantly undercharging for what my work should be worth.
I am at a point where I cannot find any work from other artists that are similar for comparisons and I am wanting to adjust my prices appropriately before I start reaching out to Art Galleries to find more venues to sell our work.

Does anyone have a background or resources on pricing out jewelry like this? / Would any experienced Jewelers in this type of work be willing to take 5 minutes and look at a few of our pieces via email or direct message to help push me into the right ballpark?

Note: Yes, I have taken the time to explore the previous topics posted about pricing your work, and keystoning your materials. My struggle is with the artistic value and the combinations of materials and techniques I am working with, as well as wholesale/retail pricing due to the fact that I sell in person, online, and would like to get my foot in the door at several galleries.

I would suggest running up a few pictures of your work which might generate more responses from this community. Price is highly subjective - for both buyer and seller. Multipliers based on the cost of materials and the hours needed to fabricate the piece are nearly useless; your first objective is to fashion a piece which creates a reflexive craving in a prospective buyer such that they feel their life will be a stinking shithole without possessing it. The best way to judge whether you are presenting work which has ‘sizzle’ is to do a few juried shows where you will have hundreds, even thousands of willing buyers to observe as they weigh the price/desire ratio in their acquisitive minds as they inspect your work. A jeweler learns more in a couple weekends doing shows as to whether they are making the right stuff and pricing it right, than in years of packing it off to galleries or websites. Gallery owners can be a useful resource - they won’t take work which they judge won’t sell, either on aesthetic or price grounds. But since they are getting free inventory to display, and they keep half the proceeds if it sells, you may find yourself squeezed to make a decent return on your labor and material costs. Some gallery owners have an excellent sense of what will move quickly, but they are like realtors, favoring quick turnover rather than extracting the maximum profit on each piece. I began metalsmithing 40 years ago and made major changes in design, technique, materials, and price point, as my work did, or didn’t sell. Its a crab eat crab world out there, but a good living can be made off it if you are willing to conform to what it wants (with some educational uplift you provide as to mastery of techniques, stone characteristics, and design inventiveness), rather than try to sell them on something you have sold yourself on. Be flexible - Good Luck, DALE

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Hi,

one thing you might consider doing is looking online, to easily see pricing, at high end department store jewelry departments (ie: Neiman Marcus, Barneys, etc), as well as high end designer boutique jewelry websites, and make note of the price ranges for designer jewelry…there seem to be core price ranges, along with higher prices for the showpieces…especially for silver dominant jewelry…

from personal shopping and buying experience, I would venture to say that a core price range for high end established designer silver dominant jewelry is $600-3800…

I see it two ways"

  1. with the majority in the $600-$800 range, and then some in the $800-$1800, and less in the $1800-$3800+ range.

  2. with the majority in the $800-$1800, and then some in the $1800-$2800, and less in the $2800-3800+ range

(not including diamond or gemstone intensive pieces)

you may want to possibly consider a pricing pyramid approach to the assortment…

consider looking a jewelry designers that would appeal to the same customer, rather than just jewelers with similar pieces…ie for example, from your post I am thinking that maybe you would like to review work and pricing by Judy Geib…in Barneys…in boutique websites…

just my 2 cents

good luck

Julie

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Thank you both for your thoughts, so many things to consider while going through the process of finding the right price for our work, as well as the right place to put it. I have included a few photos of our most recent items to come out of our studio as well as a few from earlier this year.
Hand engraved cuff with a lightning ridge opal and gold accents.
The Australian Chrysoprase pendant features rhodolite garnet with peach topaz and two small diamonds (1/10 ct).
A Nipomo Agate with Marcasite ring with blue enamel.
The large turquoise pendant features alternating swiss blue topaz and black spinel. The turquoise is encircled with black enamel and I have also included a photo of the hand engraved ginko leaves on the back.
The split band ring holds an Andamooka Opal and a wonderful chrome diopside on a stippled and blacked band.
The last ring features a large turquoise with black enamel on the face as well as accompanying the mountain landscape imagery on the sides, the back of the band also features a blackened stippled texture.

Thank you guys again for your time and any feedback to point me in the right direction.

!
Ecotone%20Jewelery%20Small%20border_68|690x499

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Thank you Dale, we have our first juried show coming up in August and I am really excited to see what the audience in that setting thinks of our work. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your wisdom and encouragement.
-Molly

Thank you Julie, I will definetly take some time tonight exploring some of the high end jewelry departments.

I’d say it’s time you begin incorporating some gold accents into your work. This will raise its perceived value much more than it will cost you in metal.
For instance, the accent band of stones in the chrysoprase and turquoise pendants could be gold without adding a huge expense in material. You could minimize the amount of gold in such designs by using lighter prongs, which has the advantage of showing more stone, and by finishing the backs à jouré. Given the time you spent engraving those ginko leaves, even in silver the strip of rounds should be ajouré.

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You didn’t ask, but your pictures are very dark and don’t really grab you. A professional jewelry photographer would do these a world of good.
As to pricing, it depends a great deal on where you are selling. and how you present your work. The descriptions on your website are way too detailed, sell the sizzle not the cow. I second Elliot’s suggestion to add gold accents. A quick glance leaves me thinking of lots of bumps - around the focal stone, supporting the accent stones - a swish of gold or plain brushed silver would make them feel more “designer”.
You are doing the right thing to question your pricing, question everything.

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Thank you Elliot for taking the time to share your thoughts. We have recently, like very recently started stepping into setting faceted stones, teaching ourselves as we go along. I can definitely see how adding more gold to our work would be beneficial and it is something we are working our way towards and incorporating more and more as we go.

Pricing for jewelry is not done the same way as for fine art, although the basic principle is the same - “whatever the market will bear”. But jewelers usually want their work to sell quickly, whereas fine artists (and their galleries) are generally content to have work sit around waiting for buyers who may never appear. That may be part of the reason why you and your partner gravitated to jewelry work in the first place, despite your fine art backgrounds.

You could certainly try to approach art galleries to see if they’re interested in handling your work. But you should be careful about that - art galleries, even if they are willing to try selling jewelry, aren’t experts in doing that, and gallery patrons aren’t looking for jewelry when they visit a gallery. Also, galleries never actually pay you for your work before it sells; you’d be loaning it to them in hopes that they’d sell it and eventually will pay you your cut (usually half the retail price). That can happen, but sometimes it doesn’t. Galleries can get into financial difficulties and get behind on payments; they can also suddenly go out of business and disappear with your goods. In some states there’s some legal protection for consigners (if they can track down the gallerists), in others, any property in the hands of a defaulting gallery becomes subject to the claims of their creditors, of whom you might not be first in line.

Also, what your jewelry is “worth” - above its scrap value, anyway - is really not up to you to decide. You can calculate the value of the materials and time that went into it and apply whatever multiplication factor you want to arrive at a pricing formula, but if the work doesn’t actually sell for that amount, then you’ll have to re-evaluate. I’d say try raising prices a little, and if that doesn’t result in a sales slump, repeat every once in a while,

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Judy, your right, I didn’t ask, but I totally should have and I am so happy you took the time to give me this additional feedback. I am actually in the process yesterday and today of redoing some of our previous product photography, because I agree many of them were too dark and were taken originally with an inadequate set up and lighting. The descriptions for me have always been a tough one of how much is too much or how much is not enough and I love your “sell the sizzle not the cow” way of thinking.

Molly, you might take a look at Marianne Hunter’s website and how she presents her work. The photos are vivid and information is minimal. First she sells the magic of each piece with a sort of short poem, then she tells what the materials are. Sizzle and magic first, then the details. http://www.hunter-studios.com/M/galleries/gFS/current.html#

Karen Hemmerle

You can do a quick “home made” touchup to fotos that may not have quite the zing that you see when looking at the piece live (well lit). I redid your fotos in 5 minutes to show an example.

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This has been a very interesting thread. As you transition into jewelry as art give some thought to presentation. Perhaps you should mount the pieces in a frame (shadow box) so that it can always be seen.

Gold accents and diamonds always add a disproportionate amount to value/price. Gold bezels on cabs, gold tube settings, even things as simple as gold wire patterns.

Thank you all for the feedback and tips about adding things, changing my website descriptions, and re-editing all of my photos. But getting back on topic, I had posted this thread specifically in regards to pricing, which seems to be the only thing people don’t want to talk about. From everything I read on Ganoksin around pricing, everyone seems to be all over the place from some people specifying charging $100 per hour and some saying they don’t need money so they do it for 35-40. Looks like I am back to doing more research on my own and trying to find the correct place for myself in this market.
If anyone does want to give some input as far as pricing please do, I know that I have searched through years worth of topics on this forum for the past few weeks looking for useful and up to date information, and I know that this topic is not only helpful to myself but many other’s trying to get their foot in the door of this industry.

Karen, thank you for suggesting her website, it looks lovely and I do like the simplicty of her descriptions. However, in the day and age of online marketing and SEO, I wonder how successful her web traffic is, I know that Google’s current indexing for rank on their search engine is currently driven by informative conversational information. This is the reason why all of your top search results for recipes give you this great long story about their grandmother coming from the old world and passing down this recipe through 30 people to perfection while telling you why a certain type of flour is better than another. It isn’t just for the consumer, it’s for the AI running google’s index so that you can be seen by a customer searching vs never being seen at all.
From my understanding, her descriptions wouldn’t drive google to rank her above other people whose product utilizes the same keywords in a more informative manner.
I guess there are those folks who don’t need to drive their web traffic because they are already established in the industry, but she might be losing out on potential new business.
I might aim for a happy medium somewhere in the middle.

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Thank you for the nudge in the direction of the photos, sitting down tonight to do the edits on a huge batch of photos. I used your examples as a side by side with my originals to see the directions I needed to take it, and the new batch is looking way better than I might have done without your input.

We’ve had a couple of decades of conversations regarding the topic of pricing and you will find a number of pricing formulas used by our members in the archives.

I use our search engine as well as Google to search our archives.

Here’s the long form I wrote for Orchid in 2006 so the absolute numbers won’t make sense as to metal price - but the formula works. I hope I can post something this long -

First - I apologize to the real accountants out there. This is a
pricing plan that works for my artistic brain. I have used terms that
have real meaning in accounting because I don't know any better ones
to use. This is a way to get it mostly right when I price my work.

I use three segments to determine wholesale pricing. I call them:
Direct costs, Overhead and Profit. This is an overview on how I go
about figuring a wholesale price. I'm using a fabricated brooch set
with a single cabochon as an example.

DIRECT costs are those that you can directly attribute to this
piece. In this segment is your labor (you do get paid for doing this,
don't you?) and the cost or current value of the materials in the
piece. When you figure labor cost, be realistic about what you are
worth in the marketplace doing this work - not the great salary you
previously got as a computer executive. So in this example, direct
costs for this brooch are 45 minutes labor at $20 per hour - $15,
silver sheet and bezel at $4.65, pin catch, hinge and stem for $0.35
and a cabochon purchased for $10, for a total of $30.

OVERHEAD costs are computed annually and should have these
components:

1. Space - costs for a year of having a space to work in - rent or
mortgage, utilities, insurance, janitorial services, repairs. 

2. Marketing - costs for a year - wholesale trade show booth rental,
travel, mailing, photography, website, printing, ads. I have not
included juried art fair booth rental and jury fees because those are
marketing expenses associated with retail sales. 

3. Amortization - this is the number that accounts for your bigger
equipment - Add up the value of your shop equipment - flex shaft,
buffer, tumblers, hydraulic press, sand blasting cabinet etc - and
divide by 5. This is a simplistic estimation of the cost of owning
your tools. For this example, all my big tools add up to a value of
$12000. When divided by 5, we get $2400. 

4. Supplies - the annual costs of stuff you use up but are not
directly attributable to this particular brooch - solder, compressed
gas, saw blades, burrs, polishing compound, sand paper, etc.

Now this is the tricky part - add together the four components of
overhead. This is your annual overhead. To get it to a number you can
use for this piece, estimate the number of hours you work in your
studio for a year. If you work 8 hour days, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a
year, that number is 2000 hours. I know that only part of the
available hours are spent working directly on product so I use 1000
hours as my number. The other time is distributed to all the other
stuff an independent artist has to do - selling, ordering supplies,
thinking, designing, running to the post office, etc.

In this example - Space is $8000, Marketing is $5000, Amortization
is $2400, Supplies are $3000. So overhead is $18400 annually and when
divided by the number of hours in the studio (1000) is $18.40 per
hour. 

PROFIT is the reward for having your own business, and to allow you
to take classes, send your kids to school, buy new equipment, retire,
etc. I figure profit as one third of the cost of wholesale. So I
compute profit as half of Direct cost plus Overhead. This number is
not your salary - that's in the DIRECT cost computed above.

In this example - the wholesale cost of this brooch is calculated
this way: 

DIRECT: $30, 

OVERHEAD: 0.75 hours x $18.40 = $13.80, 

PROFIT = ($30 + 13.80)/2 = $21.90 

WHOLESALE = $30 + $13.80 + $21.90 = $65.70 

Retail prices are usually double or more, so a retailer would price
this brooch for sale at about $135. You can make a living with this
kind of pricing. If you are pricing your work at material costs plus
some kind of mark up - and omitting your own labor- this brooch would
be priced at $45. Unless you are independently wealthy, you can't
afford that simplistic pricing.

These are some things that I do to make these calculations
relatively easy. I have made a spread sheet that shows manufacturing
costs for commonly used metal products - sheet and wire by size in
silver and gold. It computes my cost of a foot of wire or square inch
of a particular gauge based on current market prices. When I do my
taxes, it is easy to extract the dollar amounts for overhead, and I
only need to do it once a year.

Here is a fun calculation to make - If you want to show a profit of
$10,000 this year, what would your sales number be? You need to book
$30,000 in sales. 

For even more fun - you can work the equations above backwards. The
proof is left to the reader. 

Judy Hoch
Marstal Smithy
judy@marstal.com

Thank you so much Judy, this is very helpful for thinking about the big picture. You mentioned that this is from a write up from 2006, I am curious how often everyone adjusts their hourly, $20 an hour in 2006 is not the same as $20 an hour in 2019. The hourly always seems to be a kicker for me because I am always trying to add new skills and as I continue my work my skills get more refined. Do most people just pick one hourly to encompass all of their work is it better to think of it as certain hourly rates for certain levels of complexity. Hours on hand engraving vs just making a silver bezel and a simple ring, or setting diamonds vs a labradorite cabochon.