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Pricing -One-of -a- kind

Could we talk some more about pricing one of a kind and limited
edition pieces? Are there any formulas that you find really
work for you, especially if the pieces are going to be on
consignment? Every time I arrive at what appears to be a fair
price, and then I have to double it, it seems to get way out of
line. Do you consider how long it takes to make a piece, and how
do you arrive at an appropriate hourly fee? Do you consider
what the market will bear, and do you stop making pieces that end
up being “too expensive” to sell? Would love to hear from
everyone on this! Sandra

Sandra Buchholz
Elegant Insects


Hi Sandra, I am also an independent artist doing
"one-of-a-kind". I am also having problems such as
yours…pricing…no I have not charged for my time in all
cases. I am trying to figure this out also. I have a friend
who is successful and she does product, time, etc. She does
mostly repair though. I am finishing up my B.F.A. and working
at home. Let me know if you get any answers. Hope to hear from
you. Beverly Bevington @Beverly_Ann_Bevingto

I can’t wait to see responses to this. Pricing is the hardest
part. Right now I just try to set a reasonable price, making
sure it well covers the cost of materials, plus some for time.
But if I try to set an hourly rate to a piece, I end up getting
prices that are way more than I think it should be. So I just
try to set a fair price. And if my stuff is ever in demand to
the point I can’t keep up I’ll think about raising prices then.


Sandra, great post topic. On a purely theoretical level, I
would say you need to come up with a “perceived value” price.
First come up with what your costs were (taking into
consideration labor, materials, etc). Then look at the
marketplace (or the gallery you’re planning to place your piece
in) and see what the going rate is for comparable jewlery. The
later would essentially be the price consumers are willing to
pay. These two figures are your upper and lower benchmarks.
Then price somewhere inbetween.

On a practical level, I’m still trying to work out how much it
cost me to make a particular item. :wink:

I’m looking forward to other reponses to your query. Rita


My formula…partially based on the advise of others in the
field including professors.

$20 per hour for my time(I went to 11 yrs. of college to learn
all this and damn it! I’m worth it! sometimes)

Cost of materials doubled…unless we are talking about a real
expensive stone or something. This covers my ordering time,
shipping fees etc. This is usually not alot of money since I
don’t use expensive stones or gold.

I fool with the price a little from there…add a little for a
really sucessful piece, take a little off if I don’t think it
works (where I usually loose out because customers love the stuff
I think is bad)

I know this looks harsh compared to the mass produced stuff…the
stuff people send out to have cast…but you probably aren’t
going to sell alot to people that can’t figure out the difference

I continue to make the high end one-of-a-kind pieces…if you
don’t sell them (and once in a while you will) they act as great
lures to draw people in…and great slides to get into
shows with.


Dear Sandra:

Pricing one of a kind pieces is extremely difficult. I double
the cost of all materials and then I (try) to calulate the hours
I put into it and attach a price to the hours I worked (in my
dreams I would like to get $40- $60 for every hour I put into my
work!!). This is ususually where my pricing goes sky high-
because some pieces just take FOREVER to make.So it depends on
how “special” the piece is. You should go to Soho and 57th
Street and check out what fine jewerly stores are charging for
similiar types of pieces (and believe half the people who make
this stuff are like you and working out of our homes!!). This
helps me as a gauge(you would not believe what people charge for
badly died freshwater pearls!!Half the time they are not even
strung properly!!) . The both of us are fortunate enough to live
in a city where some people will forgo paying their phone bill to
buy a pair of overly price shoes!!! I made two very similair
necklaces once- a buyer from a Bendels bought the necklace (fine
silver with some 18K gold) for $600. The other customer was
someone from my neighborhood who was about my age and was a
graduate student - she offered $200 for the same necklace and I
sold it to her because she really loved it (she paid me in
installments and I just about broke even with supplies and I had
some of my labor paid for). It is so hard to gauge because some
people will not flinch about a price and others will.


Sandra; Lets talk about pricing.

One of a kind. Materials +20%+labor+profit=wholesale / wholseale
x2-2.5 depending on the gallery is retail.

Materials is the cost of ALL materials used in the production of
the piece. Saw blades, lost metal dust, refining fees, tools
depreciation and depletion, electric bills, studio rent and
insurance etc. cost of doing business. the 20% is for breaking
down size lots as a jobber.(Jobber is someone who buy large lots
and then sells smaller lots of the same item at an incresed

labor is the time you spend working on the piece. the time to
get the design correct, to gather the materials, to answer the
phone, to do your taxes, to open the mail. any and all labor used
in the day to day business as well as that targeted at a specific
piece.Try keeping a diary of you time for a week and you will see
what i am talking about. Lawyers do it.

oh and don’t forget a design fee. If this is the best design you
have ever done shoulden’t it be worth more than the worst?

Last and not least is the profit you feel you should make for
being in business and that is each mans own business.(no pun

I know this is all very difficult but my point is you must take
in the business aspects of being a jewelry artist if you are to
be successful and prolific…

It takes a while ,but shop around and see what other people are
charging and what people are paying for mass produced pieces in
the chain stores and you will find you can charge whatever you
feel is fair and sometimes even more. Remember we are also
selling art, mystery, romance and individuality. who can put a
price on these??

to sum it all up and i hope i don’t offend anyone but i like
this old cliche. (business is business and there are no $1,000 a
night hookers only $1,000 a night johns). its all in the

Frank(now off the soap box)

Thomas Mann, the jeweler has a book out on the subject of
pricing and software to go with it .I took his seminar last year
and it helped me bunches. I know he has a website and you can
order from there. I don’t know the URL, try the search engine
Good luck!

Wendy Newman

I do original designs, mostly one of a kind, hand cut, soldered,
the only casting used may be pin backs, sometimes even make my
own chains. Anyway, I’ve found that pieces of this kind end up
competing with what is being sold on QVC and Home Shopping
Network type cable networks. I’ve also found that when
consigning, prices HAVE to remain constant . . . it should be
the same price whether the customer buys from you directly or if
they find it in a gallery situation.

I’ve found myself not charging much for a basic piece (ie:
sterling, no stones.) Generally, considering the short amount of
time to make the piece . . . these (rings, bangle bracelets,
earrings) start off at around $10.00 and go up from there. If
adding stones, one has to consider the price (wholesale) paid
per stone and then add whatever basic price per piece. If I’m
doing layers (bottom, middle with cut-out, embelishment with
wire, shot or filings, again, the price would go up . .
.earrings would run between $20 and $30.00 If adding a stone to
that, the price would range anywhere between $35. and $48. For
rings the price can go as high as $75.00 and if it’s a link
bracelet (all links soldered) with stones on each link and toggle
clasp, the base rate has been around $75.00 (maybe higher, but
it depends on the stone.)

I doubt that anyone doing hand fabrication, one of a kind is
EVER going to become wealthy and may still end up having a tough
time just trying to pay for the hobby! I’m thinking that the
only way to make money is to cast (even if it’s a limited number
of pieces.) Just considering the time envolved per piece would
be a savings!!!

“Sterling” customers aren’t going to spend the bucks the "gold"
people do . . . regardless of whether the piece is “one of a
kind” or if it’s done by the thousands. One only has to visit a
local jewelry store to verify that fact. ; ) (Wishing I could
afford to work in GOLD!!!) Jealous as heck!

I was too shy to bring up the subject of pricing, I’m so happy
to see that someone else did!!! Thank you!!!

…$20 per hour for my time(I went to 11 yrs. of college to learn
all this and damn it! I’m worth it! sometimes)…


You’re selling yourself short at $20 an hour. When you add
overhead costs, which even if your working out of your house, you
still have, you will find that the average bench jeweler is worth
at least that for billing purposes. As for design or wax work,
I’ve seen charges from $35 to $65 an hour. Again, taking into
account your overhead. With a retail store, I charge $25 an hour
for my bench time and $50 and hour for design or wax work. That
then gets added to the cost of goods, and keystoned for a selling
price. I do have to admit, this is in theory, and I don’t always
practice it. I also don’t always charge for the actual time I
spent, but instead, I charge for how long I think it should have
taken, if everything went right. I basically don’t charge my
customers for my inefficiency, or my mistakes.

You’re right about being worth it, but “it” is a lot more than
you think. Remember, you are not just selling a piece of jewelry,
you are selling someone their heart’s desire, you are selling
romance, mystery, adventure, you are giving your customers a
piece of yourself, and something no one else has. You have made
something that to them is priceless, and you did it just for

The trick of course (reality check) is to do this within their
budget, without selling yourself short. This may require a
simpler design, less expensive stones, using commercially avaible
findings or even modifying commercially available jewelry.
Someone on a tight budget is just as likely to love a Stuller
piece that has been slightly modified to personalize it to their
tastes as they would a piece made from scratch that costs more
than they feel comfortable paying. Creativety (sp?) has as much
to do with designing a brand new piece as it does with working
with what is already available and transforming it into a piece
that a customer can love. I have been ‘accused’ of being
"sooo… creative" more when I have worked with existing peices
than for any one of a kind piece that I have done. (Maybe that
says something about my designs!?)

Time to get off the soap box. I apologize if I have offended

Have a great day.


to sum it all up and i hope i don’t offend anyone but i like
this old cliche. (business is business and there are no $1,000 a
night hookers only $1,000 a night johns). its all in the

Those are words to live by. For some reason some of us fee
guilty charging what we think a piece is worth (I do!). You
really have to create your own market.



I saw the reference to casting and “wishing I could” essentially
make a ‘zillion pieces’… Unless you have an array of tumblers
and a source of EXACTLY calibrated cast pieces are
just as time consuming for the part time jewelry maker as the
one of a kind pieces. When you combine the two processes you
can spend much time making the tiniest of minutia just exactly

Have you ever really watched QVC and Home Shopping network? I
have and even bought a Garnet bracelet with matching earrings
for $45. I had to see for myself what this looked like. It
looked like a $45 bracelet. The garnets were 8x6 stones, 21 of
them including the earrings, machine set in a rhodium finished
bracelet of less than mediocre quality(tried to use the rhodium
to not only make it flashy but to cover the surface porosity of
the castings), but none the less for $45 you got 21 well
polished garnets (included with both small black spots and air
bubbles), color a 7 on a 1-10, a box clasp, earring clutch
backs. That many garnets would cost more than the cost of the
bracelet! HSN bought 3,500,000 carats. They are the largest
buyer/seller of colored gems in the world. I use this bracelet
to show customers the difference and the reason why my creations
cost more than theirs! They bring in thousands of pieces of
each product they sell so you can’t compete with them. Create
a niche only you can fill and then fill it!

The sleeper in this blizzard of shopping channels is Value Vision
from the Twin Cities http://www. they are on the web.
Go to their site and click on favorites(on left of screen) and
click on “Gems at Large”. This show features John and Laura
Ramsey. He is a Gemologist and a cutter and has a high-end gem
wholesale business in Seattle and she is a jewelry designer.
They sell her creations AND loose gems of impeccable quality.
You have 30 days to decide if you want the gem or jewelry piece.
NICE MDSE I can tell you from experience. The stones can be
pricey but are of excellent quality. They don’t bring in
thousands of pieces. They bring in 15-40 pieces in maybe 5 or 6

Other guests are Chuck Clemency from N.Y. who has a show called
"Your Personal Jeweler" along with other shows. In this show
all pieces are in 18k with SI diamonds. He gives you a 1 yr.
guarantee on everything! If you break your 2ct. chrome diopside
within 1 yr. they replace it for free including shipping both
ways! You could even step on the ring and the fix is free. Don’t
like a stone? They replace it free. They have rings up to the
$2000+ category-30 days approval!

Other guests include Harry Ivans from Miami Beach (Great stuff),
and Suarte from Indonesia who has sterling(including granulated
pieces) that are unique and all hand crafted. They have very
little of the “shopping channel” jewelry. There are at least 4
or 5 other sellers on the show that have 1st class mdse. They
do have a woman who sells Talisman jewelry that I consider run
of the mill stuff but she must sell a ton because she is on

Another channel is Shop at Home I
get it for only 3hrs. from midnight 'til 3 am. They are from
Chattanooga TN. They have a loose gem show that sometimes has a
cutter cutting right on the show. They have loose gems for as
much as $20,000! Someone must be buying this stuff or they
wouldn’t be showing it. This is another smaller channel.

These channels are your real competition. You don’t even need
to leave your house. They bring it right to you.



                                  Skip Meister
                                NRA Endowment and

Karen, I’m assuming your pieces are $50.00 and higher . . .
Perhaps, your area is more used to paying for original art, than
other areas???

Time to get off the soap box.  I apologize if I have
offended anyone. 

hi sharon, wonderful points you’ve made here. i would agree with
all that you said. best regards,

geo fox

lost metal dust,

Lost metal dust . . . H m mm m, I save (or at least try to) all
the dust, filings, from the silver I work with. I end up
soldering this material onto my pieces to produce a texture. It
ends up looking pretty good! And it makes me feel like I’ve not
swept away a bunch of bucks by throwing it into the trash can.

We do primarily custom work for about 30 retail jewelers. My
pricing method may not help you, but this is it. I triple the
cost of the material, plus any additional labor (stone setting,
bezels, heads etc), I then may or may not add more for overall
difficulty ( say if its cast in peices or an intricate pattern).
Thats the wholesale price. My customers will double or triple
that price. We can do it at that wholesale price because
everything is sold before we start working on it. I think most
people under price their stuff. We raised our prices rather
dramatically about a year ago and we are busier than ever, I feel
like an idiot for not doing it sooner. People will pay for good
work, don’t be afraid to charge for it. Mark P.

I also don't always charge for the actual time I    spent, but
instead, I charge for how long I think it should have   
taken, if everything went right.  I basically don't charge my 
  customers for my inefficiency, or my mistakes.

I can relate to that!

However, ask yourself this question. ‘If I was working for Joe
Jeweler In c & had to account for the time spent on all jobs,
would he deduct my coffe
breaks & my ‘oops’?’ Heck no! He’d take the actual clock hours
you spent,
multiply it by his hourly rate (which would be a lot more than
he was paying you) & that’s most likely what the customer would
be charged for.
Don’t give your time away! You’ve got some extraordinary skills!


Hi Sharon,

I agree with everything you’re saying! I feel that
one-of-a-kind jewelry doesn’t have to compete with the price of
piece of production jewelry. The customer (or patron) is buying
exclusivity… a piece of artwork.

You will sometimes (often?) encounter a potential customer who
thinks that the price of a handmade piece of jewelry should be
priced competitively with a production piece. In that
situation, I feel it is more appropriate to educate the
consumer, rather than to lower the price.

Would you expect to get an original watercolor painting at the
same price as a lithograph print? Of course not. Don’t let the
consumer’s misperception or lack of education about jewelry
force you to sell yourself short.

I also agree with charging for labor the job should have taken
me, not what it really did. I’m not an expert yet, and I make
mistakes. I don’t think it’s right to charge the customer for
my learning process. 20

I’m still struggling with the issue of using manufactured
components in my pieces. Clasps, pin components, prong
settings, etc. are no-brainers to me… I use them. I would
love to do all handmade clasps, but it would significantly
increase the cost of my mostly silver jewelry. 20

Bola tips, bezel cups, bails… I don’t know. I have a hard
time with them, as they often look manufactured, and can have a
significant impact on the appearance of the piece. I guess in
each case you have to balance the cost/labor involved with the
price and design integrity of the piece. If I ever come up with
a concise answer to this question I’ll let you know!


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Hi Beverly: keep reading all the interesting responses on Orchid
and post any new thoughts or ideas you may have. Maybe we’ll
all figure it out eventually. Sandra

Dede-I need to go back to Soho and look at prices. I tried
checking ut Galleries to see whether my jewelry would fit
anywhere ut do need a return trip. Thanks for the suggestion.