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Pricing woven silver chain

Up until now I have been giving away most of y jewelry to friends
and family but I have someone who would now like to purchase one of
my woven silver chains.

They are created in a similar manner as the Viking stitch but
without a dowel. I use a scribe to make the loops instead. When I am
through pulling them through the drawplate they are approx. 5.4 mm

She is very tall and wants the chain to measure 30 inches.

This seems quite long to me but she has requested that length.

I want to be sure I am paid accordingly so I am wondering what
tocharge her for it.

Any suggestions are very much appreciated.


weight of silver times the current price times 3 for retail. any
less and you are discounting your labor, but that is up to you. also
add in any other items like clasps before you multiply by the
weighting factor (2,3,4). Thus one ounce of silver used x current
price ($16.50) x 3 = $49.50 USD

John Atwell Rasmussen
Rasmussen Gems and Jewelry

As tedious as this is, you should make a shorter chain (like for a
matching bracelet so it would be at least 6" – I’ve found that 6.5"
is very sellable) and measure how long it takes you to do it. Then
you should decide what your time is worth and charge appropriately
for the time to make the piece. I also do woven chain work and people
who knit or weave other materials that see me at shows or see my work
consistently tell me I should charge more for what I’m doing (which I
think is interesting but not necessarily valid as I calculate my
prices by materials + (hours to produce * hourly labor rate)).


Having done Viking Knit for many years, I know that it can take a
considerable amount of time to make a quality chain. I have seen
poorly constructed copper pieces for $30 and absolutely wonderful
silver pieces for $900. I would base the price on an hourly rate
plus materials.


Roberta -

This, believe it or not, is a critical moment in your life as a
jeweler. If you are about to sell your first piece, and have never
priced your work before, you are about to set an important

I speak not only as a someone who recently went through this but as
someone who lives/works with a sculptor who sells enough work to
completely support himself, and would not have been able to do this
had he not confronted this issue intelligently from the start. I
have learned much from him on this score.

Many Orchidians will no doubt have excellent advice for you. I will
look forward to reading those posts.

Why is this such a crucial moment? Because pricing is about more
than figuring out what your materials cost and how much electricity
you used and how long you took to make something. How you price your
pieces is a declaration of sorts, about how you view yourself as an
artist, about where you feel you “fit in” in the wide world of

Pricing this first piece will set the marker from which everything
else you make and price proceeds. Price too high and no one will
buy; worse, you may seem arrogant or ridiculous. Price too low, and
you will have forever defined yourself as low-priced. It is very
hard to redefine yourself once you’ve done that. Yes, you can and
will raise prices as you develop yourself and as you gain
recognition, but incrementally and reasonably, as you begin to do
more complex work, or time passes and costs go up. People will
expect that. But initially you need to set a price that is high
enough to show you respect yourself but not so high that it will be
a deterrent. Most people tend to price themselves far too low at
first, thinking of all the ways the pieces could be better, or
feeling insecure.

Remember that your price must factor YOU in. Not just the cost of
the silver, or the ten hours you worked on it; it has to include the
value of you as an artist.

Sorry for such a long post, but as I said I just went through this.
I believe I set the prices on my first batch of pieces at the
correct price point, but it was after a lot of thought. These prices
are prices I can build on, as I grow and my work evolves. Not
unrealistically high nor self-effacingly low.

Good luck with this, and congratulations on your first sale!


Rachel -

This is a very good answer! The first Viking weave necklace that I
sold was for what I thought was a good price. The next one I made, I
took with me to a wholesale gem show where I was looking for silver
cones to finish the connection at the clasp. I showed it to the
dealer where I was buying some stones. He said it was good work and
asked what I was going to charge for it. I named my exorbitant(!)
price. He shook his head.

“Not enough,” he said.

If it’s good work, value it well. Others will if you do.

best regards,

Hi Roberta - I have developed a pricing formula that works well for
me - I use it for chain maille, but it could easily work for you.
It’s very simple to use, once you get it. First, decide what you
charge an hour. How long does it take to make 30 inches of chain,
start to finish? Multiply your hourly rate by time worked, add
dollar amount of sterling used, add any other materials (clasp?) and
multiply total by 1.3 (a profit margin of 30%) (H$(Time) + Sterling

  • Clasp) 1.3


Use “x” for spot market price and “y” for length of product - be
sure to include your profit margin. For example: ((x+20+30)/y)1.3 In
other words… Take the spot market price(x), add an hourly rate($ x
time or $20x 1 hour) and any additonal materials($30). Divide that
total by the length(y), then multiply by your profit margin(30%).
This formula is good for market changes, and pricing different
lengths of the same product, but you need to know how many inches
you produce in an hour, and what percentage of an ounce you use in
each inch, so that your variables are in the same scale.

Hope this helps, and congratulations on receiving your first paying

Sam Kaffine


Thanks VERY much for taking the time to post your pricing formulas.
Both formulas work well.

Your second formula is very helpful because it allows the cost per
inch FOR THIS PRODUCT to be calculated at the time it is made. Then
if the same design is requested again, the artist could plug in all
the changed variables - different cost of materials, different length
requested by the new customer, etc, and accurately reproduce a
consistent pricing structure for another piece of the same design.

May I describe some of my own record keeping methods, and ask how
you and others in the discussion forum would handle these record
keeping methods?

I agree - the artist needs to know how much silver (or other raw
materials) are consumed either per inch or per hour. I do this by
keeping strict track of my time as I work on each piece.

I write down my time in this format:

  • started 5:37pm; stopped at 6:45pm and had completed x length;

  • started 10:00am, stopped at 10:15 (phone call)

  • started again 10:20am, stopped 12:30pm and had completed y
    inches… etc.

When I’m finished I add up my time and my inches, and calculate my
time per inch for the whole piece. (I’m often surprised by the
differences in how much I can get done at different times during a
day. one hour in the morning is sometimes better than two hours late
at night. )

Do you keep track of your time to this level of detail, or do you
feel this approach is too precise? (You can be honest - my accountant
thinks I’m nuts!)

Another question on the “time per inch” calculation. As I’m learning
a technique I often work fairly slowly. Then, as I do the second half
of the first piece, or perhaps a second or third piece, my production
time decreases significantly.

Right now I totally ignore the time I spend working on the first
iteration of a specific pattern… or at least the first couple of
hours worth of work. When I’m working at a comfortable rate I start
timing my work. Is this the way you would record the 'time per inch"
portion of your formula?

I also calculate the amount of material (by weight or by count) that
I started with and ended with. or, if the piece is made of a single
metal with no accents, I weigh the finished piece before adding a
clasp and any other ornamentation.

two questions on using the spot price in your second equation.

  • First, do you include fabrication cost as well as the spot price
    any time you pay a fabrication cost - say, for wire, sheet, or

  • Second, what spot price do you use when you paid one spot price,
    but now the spot price is significantly different? As you use your
    formula, do you use the spot price at the time you are making the
    piece, regardless of the price you paid for it?

…II write down the detailed cost info for all silver wire and
sheet at the time I buy it. If I make a chain, I could write down,
73 rings @ price 1; 158 rings at price 2; etc… then average the
prices for THIS piece. my accountant also thinks this is crazy. how
do you handle this?

If I have made my own jump rings, I sometimes start by weighing
every coil as I wind it. then I cut the jump rings and weigh the
"keepers." I’m sometimes surprised by the amount of silver I lose to
kerf dust and occasional partial rings. At this time I’m not adding
this additional silver into the cost of goods for the finished
product. Would you add this cost in?

I sincerely hope I haven’t worn out my welcome with everyone in the
discussion group. If anyone is "rolling on the floor laughing,"
please feel free to tell me I’m totally nuts. Right now I’m spending
more time keeping records than I am making jewelry.

all the best,

I’ve been following this thread with interest as I weave viking knit
chain and construct other chain maille and soldered chain. The
pricing models are interesting, but one important fact that seems to
be left out is the market. There is only so much a customer is
willing to pay for a piece. You can price your pieces any way you
want, but if no one will purchase them it is worthless. I think the
market is a better indicator of pricing than any model. You can use a
model to get an estimate of the price, but you need to keep in mind
what price the market will bear.

Leanne Elliott Soden

Hi Roberta,

I am certainly no expert here, and I struggle with pricing issues as
well. I often think that is one of the most difficult parts of
making jewelry. The pricing formulas I read here seem quite low to
me, more for wholesale pricing than retail. First, a note on
formulas: I use them as a guideline, to help me compare potential
prices of pieces, to compare materials costs to time spent,and so
on. They make me feel better, and give me a concrete basis for the
prices I use, but they are a guide, but not a rule. Feel free to use
them and then to ignore them. That said, my formula is pretty

Time (in $/hr) + materials cost x 1.5 - 2 (your choice in the range
between 1.5 and 2) = wholesale price. Wholesale x 2 = Retail Price

You need to decide what you would pay someone per hour to make the
piece, and set your hourly rate. Then, keep approximate time figures
for making a piece of a particular length. You also need to know how
much wire and other materials you are using in a piece. The
multiplier of 1.5 - 2 is a number I came up with for myself only,
based on my own relatively low overhead, combined with a profit
margin. This formula yields a basic charge for a wholesale price,
covering your materials costs, labor costs (whether you pay yourself
or someone else to make the piece), overhead (helps defray all of
the “hidden” costs of a business, such as tools, consumable
materials, studio, advertising, shipping, office costs…) and a
profit (which is generally returned to the business to help it grow

  • maybe you will buy a new pair of pliers, maybe it will contribute
    to a new drawplate for your chains…).You may want to use 1.5, or
    even, as suggested earlier, 1.3 to start with, if you don’t have
    much in the way of overhead costs. Your overhead will change as you
    grow. DOUBLE this for retail sale, and there you have it.

Ex - If I were to use $10 in materials, and spend 1/2 hr on a quick
piece, my lowball price might be $10 mater. + $7.50 (I usually
figure my time at $15/hr) =$17.50 * 1.5 = 26.25 for wholesale,
around $52.50 for retail. More reasonable might be $17.50 * 2 =$35
WS, $70 retail. At the same hourly rate, the same $10 in materials
used in a more complex piece, that takes 2 hours to execute, might
retail between $120 and $160. You can see the range this offers, and
of course, based on your expertise, you may pay yourself more or
less per hour as well. If I am not comfortable with the price range,
I may sell the piece for a bit less, but I will also think about
what I could do to reduce either the materials or time cost if I
were to make more of these. I also tend to play around while working
on one-of-a-kind pieces, and the time I charge for is usually
estimated based on what I think it would take me if I were to repeat
the design, not a first-time execution.

Don’t undercharge. Selling retail to a friend or co-worker is nice,
and seems to have few background costs. But if you were to sell
retail at a craft show, for instance, build a nice booth, buy
display cases/risers/etc, get packaging equipment, pay a merchant
credit card service for bare bones services, rent a space in a
decent show (300-$800/weekend?), and spend the entire weekend
loading, driving, building, setting up, selling, packing, tearing
down, accounting, etc, print basic business cards, packing slips,
receipts… you can see where the extra costs come from.

Lots to think about. Sorry to go so long. Play around with some
numbers, and don’t panic. Good luck with your first sale, and have

Lisa W.

Hi Roberta - This is a link to an article that I wrote for Orchid on
the subject of pricing. It deals with both wholesale and retail
pricing and covers labor, overhead, and profit. You will want to make
changes to it to fit your situation. It is not for your taxes, it is
how to make a living making things.

In reviewing the feedback I got on terminology, I think that the
term “Equipment Replacement” would be a better description than what
I called amortization. Instead of using the notion of amortization to
spread your equipment costs over their useful life, take the more
aggressive approach of planning to replace worn or outdated
equipment. Unlike amortization, your equipment replacement costs
don’t end at some period.

To further elaborate on how to price your metals, consider this
analogy. In my checkered past I owned a small grocery store. I sold
the canned vegetables at a modest markup. When I went to order more
vegetables, the wholesale price had gone up and even with my markup,
I didn’t have enough money to replace what I had sold. The lesson was
clear - your markup has to be on the current replacement price, not
on what you paid. If the wholesale price decreases, hold your retail
price for a while until you know what the market is doing.

There was a question of how to calculate the price of precious metal
used in a project. Whatever you start with, less what remains that
you can use for a new project, is what you used. While there is value
in the dust from sawing and the trimming bits and the polishing dust
and the dust from filing, you can’t readily re-use it. It is part of
the cost of the metal in your project. Later when you recycle your
bench scrap and sweeps, you have a bit of unplanned profit.

Of course the manufacturing component of your metal cost is included
in your pricing. You had to pay it, it is part of your cost. If you
buy your silver at the 100 ounce price, consider using the 10 ounce
price in your cost formula. You can easily set up a spread sheet for
current pricing from the free trial version of Jeff Herman’s
Metalsmith’s Calculator.

And please to the accountants out there - I’m not one, but I am
making a living using these pricing formulae.

Judy Hoch

Great article, Judy. That is a keeper for me.

Just to clarify, for Roberta and any others interested, I used
calculations similar to those Judy used to come up with my own
numbers, for my own much simpler workshop (I have a much lower
overhead, since I do this only part time for spare income ), and
that’s how I came up with a multiplier of 1.5 - 2 for a wholesale
price. I estimated the costs, overhead, profit, etc. for several of
my own pieces at different price extremes, and simplified the
results. My own end results worked out more or less to direct
costs1.875, so that’s the simplified version I use for myself as a
guideline, generalized to 1.5 - 2 for wider application. In the
example in Judy’s article ($15 labor + $15 materials = $30 direct
costs), wholesale price came out to about $65. Using direct costs
wholesale comes out to about $60, and as Judy said, retail is about
double that ($120 by my simple calculation, $135 by hers). Both end
up in pretty much the same ball park. You can work out your own
numbers, or use the range provided for a good starting place, and
work your own numbers farther down the line - you’ll get curious
enough to do that at some point. I think the main point of all this
is that it would NOT be appropriate to charge $30 for the above
piece, even though that would pay you for your labor. It would also
not be appropriate to charge $60-70 for that piece, unless you are
intending to sell wholesale. There is simply NO way you could make a
living selling retail at those prices, since retail sales usually
eats up either a whole lot of cash or time, and usually both.

Interesting thread. Other thoughts?

Lisa W.