Retailer in Need of Jewelry

Hello all. I have been lurking for some time while making
preparations to start a retail jewelry business and have found a
wealth of good here. I am now seeking advice as to how
to get products to sell, as my needs are just a bit unusual.

Our web based jewelry outlet will feature jewelry made from gold
that is certified as ecologically friendly. Following years of
research and training, mining communities in the South American
rainforest are starting to produce a limited amount of alluvial gold
which is certified as being non-destructive to the environment. The
certification process also reflects the fact that the refinery limits
emissions and that alloys used are also ‘green’.

We are currently seeking artisans who are interested in working with
ecological gold and selling those products through our site. My
question is this: What is the best way to reach and engage those
artisans? I have tried email to a number of Orchid members, but
received only a few responses. (This is not surprising considering
the amount of spam I receive myself). I realize that development of
these relationships must be an ongoing part of doing business, but
our catalog is in need of a ‘kick-start’ at the beginning. Oddly
enough, I didn’t think finding product would be such a hurdle in
starting the business, but it’s starting to look fairly big, as we
plan to launch by June.

The gold price shouldn’t be a big issue. Although certified gold is
slightly more expensive, I expect the retail pricing of jewelry to
easily absorb that cost. As to availability. we can facilitate the
supply of gold. Granted, we are the new kids on the block. Is that
scary to an artist who is producing pieces on a 'made to order’
basis? Any input from the artisan’s side of the equation would be

I have to believe that there are artists looking for a market. I
happen to have a market looking for artists. How do we make the
match? How should I evaluate an artist before committing to a
relationship? What are they looking for in me?

As there has been a good bit of discussion at Orchid regarding
environmental issues, I also welcome the community’s comments and
continued debate on eco concerns. I hope to keep this constructive.
I simply strive to provide an alternative for jewelry customers who
are environmentally minded and wish to make a positive choice when
buying gold products. It’s a niche, somewhat like organic

By the way. I love this community. I hope to find a way to
contribute back even a portion of what I have gained already from all
of you.

Thanks so much!
Matt (cyber-based, but plugged in near Houston)

Matt, I read your post with interest – ecologically friendly
products are a special interest of mine, and I was looking to see how
you were planning on building a business around it.

There are a couple of specific points that I, as an artisan, would
definitely want to know before entering into any type of agreement
to participate in such a venture (again, in the spirit of
constructive feedback).

  1. It sounds like you are contracting artisans to produce work that
    would be sold exclusively through your outlet, using materials that
    you would be selling to the artist. Does this mean that you are
    commissioning the work and purchasing it from the artist as soon as
    it’s completed? Or does the artist still own the work and you’re
    selling it on commission for them? (i.e., they don’t get paid until
    it sells)

  2. Does this work then become “work for hire” from a copyright
    sense here in the U.S.? Or does the artist still retain the
    copyright for the design?

  3. Web-based jewelry stores are really common these days, and
    having customers find yours, trust yours, and be willing to pay more
    (!) for yours is a truly huge challenge. What is your business plan
    to meet that challenge? How much are you investing in online AND
    offline media to promote the site? Are you looking at
    brick-and-mortar partnerships as additional sales outlets? How are
    you getting your product out to the consumer and educating them about
    the additional value of eco-friendly gold?

  4. Can the artists who participate obtain thier “eco-gold”
    elsewhere? Or do they have to buy it from you? What is the real
    differential in price (wholesale AND retail), and how can you certify
    that it really is eco-friendly? Who is the “trusted 3rd party”
    ensuring that neither you nor your artists get ripped off by paying
    more for the same old product?

  5. Finally, what restrictions other than the source of gold are you
    placing on participating artists? For example, certification of
    stone sources (i.e., non-conflict stones), eco-friendly production
    techniques, etc.?

Let us know the answers to these types of questions, and you might
find more reception to the idea.

Karen Goeller
Handcrafted and Unique Artisan Jewelry

Matthew, Very small-time jewelers like myself have established
relationships with casting companies to take care of our casting and
sometimes finishing needs, as the equipment for casting and
finishing in production quantities can be very expensive. These
companies supply the metals, and are familiar with the
characteristics of their chosen alloys, so they know how to get
repeatable results. Many of us also have relationships with precious
metal refiners, who can take our scraps and bench sweeps and turn
them into usable metal or into money. :slight_smile: You don’t mention how the
jewelers or the foundries can acquire your gold.

I would be happy to work in eco-friendly materials, and would be
happy to have pieces in your catalog, just tell me where I can send
my originals to be cast at a reasonable price into your gold, and
where I can send scraps and sweeps.

Laurie Cavanaugh
Acanthusleaf Designs

Dear Matthew, It would help if you could provide any easy way for
goldsmiths to learn about eco-gold. Then they need to evaluate
whether the new source could provide the equivalent product in all
the forms and dimensions they need. Speed and good service are also
important. Do you have an idea of how you want to market? Have you
done this before? Unless you have a strong track record and a
reputation for prompt payment, you’ll probably have to pay on receipt
(COD) for work until you. I look forward to hearing more. Good luck.