Pricing repair work for the trade

Hi all -

I’ve been approached by a local antique shop owner who sometimes
gets in jewelry that needs repair. I use Geller’s Blue Book for my
pricing. (Haven’t read it all the way through yet…) But I’m new to
being on my own (my own shop, my own profit, my own bills!), so what
advice would you give me for pricing repair work to the trade?

My experience with wholesale pricing has been abysmal - the goldsmith
I worked for was gifted, but he should have billed himself as
"cut-rate". I can’t believe that sizing a ring down two sizes for $5
will cut it.

Thanks in advance,

Hi Kelly

Typical trade shop uses my book and charges wholesale 40% of the

You’ll need to adjust SETTING chapter lower sometimes, that chapter
might be too high for the trade, maybe charge 33-35%

Hope that helps

David S. Geller

I accept trade work on a limited basis, almost exclusively for laser
work… I use current “Geller” pricing, charging 1/3 to 1/2 of his
prices for trade. Occasionally I still run into some resistance to
those prices but have gradually been able to get the stores I deal
with to see that those prices are not only justified, but charging
those prices has lost them no customers while allowing them to make
a better profit. It is usually the sales people themselves that
resist the Geller price, not the customers, who generally are not
price shopping a repair. Once salespeople stop thinking to
themselves that the prices are high, and then projecting this
prejudice onto the customer they find the “price resistance” has

It helps that I hold my ground when I set a price, and am not hungry
enough to “chase” the trade work. I have more than enough work to
do, and welcome any threats to go elsewhere. Ironically few have,
and those who have done so come back.

Too many bench jewelers give their work away, believing they have to
be dirt cheap to get the work, and end up killing themselves with
volume, while making virtually no profit at all!

approached by a local antique shop owner 

I did this scenario for many many years, actually doing things by
the shoebox full for some dealers. Be very careful, as my experience
showed me that a vast number of antique shop owners have little to no
experience in jewelry, often resulting in pricing problems and
misunderstandings. They will often agree to everything one-at-a-time,
at take-in, and raise hell at pickup when they see the total. In the
course of aprox 30 yrs doing antique fine and costume jewelry
repair/restoration, I found only 2 from dzs that I could work with on
a profitable wholesale level. All my other work for the last 35 some
yrs has been retail, as I never wanted to be a trade shop.The 2 that
I stayed with, mostly specialized in antique jewelry, as opposed to
general antique dealers. For one, I repaired, built, and remounted
literally thousands of pieces in the course of nearly 30 yrs. She is
now retired due to her husbands death, and a head-on collision soon
after, but we stay in touch because we became close friends.

So many tried to cover their own buying mistakes by squeezing repair
pricing- bought junk, paid too much, too badly damaged, etc,…and
then wanted me to help them recover from their errors. Amateur
antique jewelry dealers, in my own experience, tended to be difficult
to work with because they simply didn’t understand how things work,
and often bought poor quality items needing more repair than could be
profitably repaired. Pros will eat their own mistakes and learn from
them. Amateuers dont learn if you eat their mistakes for them.

Also antique dealers tend to be gross time wasters, wanting to talk,
talk, talk about each seperate piece as they are requesting repair.
When they bring in packages of several items at a time(happens alot),
request they have them numbered, bagged, and listed with
instructions, to speed up the take-in time. If they are unwilling to
comply with this, you will spend all your valuable time listening to
them explain each and every single piece. Just as Mr Geller has said
time and again, its all about trust, and if the antiquer doesnt trust
you to deal with them fairly, and consistently, then it will not be
profitable for you. When they approach with a box of 10-30 items, you
cant afford to stand and hear the gory details of every single one of
them. Time is money.

Appraisels are a constant issue, as well. Many will buy pieces at
auctions, garage sales, etc… not actually knowing what they have,
and then they will go thru a bag or box asking for values on each
single item. And then are offended when you charge them for your time
and knowledge. As antique jewelry dealers they should already be
generally versed in the value of pieces before they buy them. In
general, if they start in with the free appraisel bit, inform them
immediately of your policy on appraisels, or drop them if they dont
agree. It doesnt get better with time.When regular antique
dealer/clients leave packages for repair, and request evaluation as
well as repair, I charge my regular retail rate for typed appraisels,
with photos, etc… and for quick generalizations of value,
authenticity,etc…I will usually invoice them for 2-5$ (based on
time spent)plus repair services rendered for ‘verbal’ appraisels. But
if you put it in writing, and sign your name to it, always charge
full retail appraisel prices, as these sometimes come back to bite
you, from the person who buys from the antique dealer. Your name is
on the appraisel, and they will find you. So make sure your time is
covered. Also watchout for the ones that will request higher
evaluations than realistic, to validate their ‘special deal’ to
their customers.

It can be profitable, but be very picky with who/what you get
involved. Its your reputation at stake. And should you decide to
accept this mission, make sure the antique dealer is clear on your
rules of the game before you start-afterward is difficult to backup
and restart the relationship.


When I was a kid, my Dad was doing trade work. He eventually opened
a store of his own. Started with maybe 20 pieces and a lot of
custom/repair work. I was in my last years of high school, coming to
work after taking 3 classes and then staying there until 12am, 1am,
2 am, etc routinely. This was about 20 years ago. The wholesale
accounts would come in with repairs and custom work that simply
wasn’t profitable while expecting a 2 or 3 time markup on our labor.
(I’m not real sure but I think Geller’s book is based upon the
jeweler working under your roof, you pay insurance, taxes, etc–not
take it to a jeweler who does all of these things himself)
Ultimately, he got upset one day when one of the suppliers was
haggling him after he completed a large batch of jobs and he decided
to only do retail work. He now makes money. He still works a lot,
but he doesn’t size rings for $5 either. The only trade work that I
do in my store, is for a really sweet lady who has a small antique
store and sell a little bit of jewelry. I don’t do the work for the
money, I do it because I like her. So that’s my suggestion to you. If
you like the antique dealer and you can do the work without screwing
up your workflow in the shop, do it. Just don’t do it for the money,
because you can’t make a living doing trade work.(Unless you have a
trade shop with 100 accounts and 5 jewelers, and even then it’s

Stanley Bright
A&M Jewelers
Baltimore, MD

Kelly, your price is your time x your rate + materials + overheads.
OK it gets confusing if your rate includes materials and overheads
or not.

My rate is based on the formula derived from desired weekly income
over 5 working days per week at 6 actual working hours per day. (The
other two hours are for answering the phone, ordering materials,
sweeping the floor, delivering stuff etc etc).

*46/52 Because you do need a holiday or sickie or two every year. If
you were employed you will get this for free.

Add a) 10% for fkups, and b) 10% for risk. They do happen…we are
humans. b) Can be dropped if you refuse to take on a risk.

If you have worked on your own for a year then you will know your
business overheads. They are every expense involved in keeping your
business alive. Dont be afraid of this cost; it is the very reason
the customer can come to you. If the customer cannot come to you
then you dont exist. Friends and family dont count unless you are
giving gifts. (Your tax agent can give some creative advice here).

My rate is the above formula + materials for every repair or make. I
have a stopwatch and use it routinely.

Work out your own price and get YOUR number. Stick to it because
this is your business.

The $5 sizing is a special case for special circumstances. Another
world where you are an employee and not a business. S*it I charge
that much for just looking at the item.

Hope this helps, Alastair

Be very careful, as my experience showed me that a vast number of
antique shop owners have little to no experience in jewelry, 

Eddy speaks truth… I quit making contract models for much the
same reason: “It’s just a silver ring, I don’t see how it could cost
more than$100…”

My advice to Kelly is in line with Eddy’s - pricing is the least of
your worries on some level. Real trade people, as in real trade
work, already know what is necessary and it’s just a transaction.
Clean, quick, profitable for everyone. Amateurs, like the quote
above, won’t know what retipping is or why a sizing really needs a
new shank. They’ll need everything explained to them and resist any
cost over a dollar. We used to get bags from a jewelry store that
would say, “Call if over $3”. So I called them and told them to quit
sending us work… It was referred anyway…

And yes, those people can love to talk - sometimes they’re just
lonely, more often they want you to be their jewelry school… And
yes, much of the work might be junk that they want you to salvage
because they overpaid… No joy in that. Depends on the store…

None of which is to say that Kelly can’t succeed and maybe has found
a choice account - you never know. It’s just the things to look out

antique shop owner who sometimes gets in jewelry that needs repair 

wholesale pricing doesn’t work too well if its a onesie here and a
onesie there. Until he/she brings you a somewhat steady stream of
work, its just cheap work. Maybe you could encourage a stream with
creative pricing. Like maybe a percentage off if the monthly total
exceeds $X. No rollover minutes. Once you agree to wholesale pricing
on small lots you may never be able to charge more, but you can
charge less if the volume warrants.

Then again, work is work, especially when you’re just starting out
and need it.