Some thoughts on what you pay

It seems like on an almost daily basis someone asks for information
on finding materials and always adds the caveat that they don’t want
to pay a lot or they think the prices that they are paying are too
high. Unfortunately it is exactly this line of thinking that leads
your customers to come to you and demand lower prices. I would like to
challenge everyone to approach the cost of your materials in a
different way.

Say I buy a strand of freshwater pearls for $100. Logic has it that
if I restring it and put on one of my own handmade clasps I can sell
the pearls themselves at keystone the cost of the pearls and the
stringing. (Forget the clasp for a moment as that can be priced
separately.) That means that I can sell the pearls themselves for
$200( plus stringing). I make $100 on them when I sell them. Now
let’s say that I spend a few more hours of my time tracking down the
same, or similar pearls, and find that I can purchase them for $80.
If I go through the same process and keystone them I only make
$80–and I spent more of my time (which I currently value in the
$150/hr range) finding them so I am making less money and spending
more to make it. Now, some of you might say that I could sell the
pearls (if they were exactly the same) for the same $200, but it still
doesn’t make up for my lost time.

I have always found that if you add value to what you are selling
then you can set your pricing based on what you pay–not on what the
customer thinks they should pay. This is where the clasp on the
pearls comes in. Every strand of pearls we sell have our own handmade
clasp on them. It is the only way we sell them. It makes them
distinctly ours, i.e. it adds value.

This is not to say that you should overpay for a product, but what I
have found over the years is that if you develop a relationship over a
long period of time with a supplier (particularly gem dealers–it is a
little harder with bigger companies like Gesswein or Hoover) they will
eventually give you better prices because they know you, know you will
pay on time and know you will come back to them. They will also be
more willing to work deals with you if they know you will be there in
the future. You also benefit because you know exactly what you are
getting from them.

The other thing to remember in this is that while the jewelry
customers may be able to go out and price some common manufactured
piece at 5 different jewelers, if you make the product, they can only
price it out at your shop. Since most of the Orchid members seems to
make their own jewelry, pricing should not be something to be so
worried about and finding the absolute lowest cost on something you
are going to resell should not be such a big deal either.

I would like to encourage you all to go out and make a lot of money
on your product. After all, you are all professionals and are all
certainly worth it. Daniel R. Spirer, G.G. Spirer Somes Jewelers 1794
Massachusetts Ave Cambridge, MA 02140 617-491-6000

Hi Daniel, I liked what you said about being the only one able to
price your own work. I often have people try to compare a hand
fabricated or custom wax carved ring to the generic piece available
at a lot of stores.

I am starting to charge more and I should because I put an enormous
amount of time and effort to bring out really nice pieces. I don’t
want to make what you see everywhere else and if that is what they are
looking for then i guess I’m not the right person for the job.
Luckily, word of mouth is starting to happen more and more!

So, does anyone have any advice on what to say on objection handling
for price or whatever? ( I always get tongue tied when I should be

Thanks, Tara from Beautiful British Columbia (Canada)

Tara, Try not to get objections to your pricing by explaining what
makes your work unique before they can get around to asking the price.
Tell them that you hand make each piece. Tell them that you look for
quality gems and work with them as opposed to buying every bargain
that comes along. Tell them about any guarantees you have on your
work. Display all your diplomas from your jewelry educational
experiences. And most of all expect some people to walk away because
you are charging too much. If everyone who sees your works buys it
then you aren’t charging enough. If everyone walks away without buying
then you are charging too much (or you are just a really bad jeweler (
; ). Remember it isn’t worth making the sale if you don’t make
anything on it. No matter what they say you can’t make up negative
profits through volume.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

Hi Tara, In reply to your question from a manufacturers view point…

     So, does anyone have any advice on what to say on objection
handling for price or whatever? ( I always get tongue tied when
I should be selling!) 

A custom hand made jewelry item would always be and should always be
more expensive then the average mass produced, store bought item …
and the

reason is related to this…

When a manufacturer designs and manufactures the model used to
produce an item that will be sold in the hundreds or thousands of
pieces… They have to first go through the same process to make the
original model… design the item , then make a handmade or computer
aided model. the cost of this model can range from $300 to $1500
dollars as it requires the same skills as a jeweler who hand
fabricates his own piece in gold. Model makers charge a lot for this
service as it is a skill beyond handmade due to the fact that there
are shrinkage factors involved that can be dramat ic If a master model,
then production models are involved.Professional models are a breed
apart from regular hand made pieces because it takes a lot of time ,
experience to be able to make such a model. This is why a model made
of silver will often cost as much, or more , than a gold hand made
item .

Now, when you take for instance a model that cost a $1000 to get
working correctly and divide this by the number of pieces that will be
produced (lets assume 1000 pieces) then the amortization of the model
and design is about $1 / item manufactured. Now, casting a
production piece is done in quantity and the costs are very low in
comparison to handmade work. Let’s assume you have a 10 gram ring in
14k gold that is reasonably complex…In production, a manufacturer
would probably sell a finished item to a jewelry store for $100- $120
.the jeweler could sell it for up to $360 , make a tidy profit based
on his investment. If it were hand made and , you paid yourself at
least $50/hr for your design time and hand fabrication time … then
it took you 10 hours to complete the design in gold… your cost for
making the design should be $500 for the design+ 10 grams of gold ,
Assume gold costs you $7 - $8 / gram as you have had to buy sheet and
wire You will have a much higher scrap factor than a manufacturer as
you will be cutting sheet and wire ( you would probably loose an
additional 15 % of your gold weight when you send it out for
reprocessing and replacement )So, add it up and your gold costs might
be close to $9/ gram. Now, your design has cost you $500 + gold $90
3D $590… if you are a jeweler of good reputation, you might be able
to sell the 1 off design for between $1180 to $1770… if you are well
known and lucky ! If you only get $1180, when you subtract your
overhead costs of running the business, advertising, space rental
etc… you would be very lucky to be lef t with 25 % of the total sale.

Apart from showing why a handfabricated item should be more
expensive, This also shows you the advantage of dealing with a
caster/finisher who can take your more popular items , produce them
for you far cheaper than you can , which allows your store to make a
higher profit for less time involved… th is then results in the fact
that you have a more steady income from sales, and , allows you the
time to create more custom made work. In other words… if you could
sell 20 inexpensive pieces in the $300 range and made a gross of $200
/ unit…you would gross $4000 that week without taking too much of
your bench time… If you do the reverse and calculate how many hours
in the day you would have to produce handmade jewelry to make the same
Gross income figure… you would be working day and night !

I have always advised the designers/store owners we work with that
the best stores are usually the ones where the designer/owner combines
their skill of design with some cast products to allow them more time
to develop new ideas that can be made by hand for high ticket items…
and still have their own popular designs available for other customers
to look at and buy at a more reasonable cost .This often results in a
sale as a customer who did not want to spend more than a few hundreds
of dollars will still buy from you as you now have custom made work to
show along with the less expensive cast items.This gives you, the
jeweler/ designer the ability to explain the differences in cost of
your own items and you will now get a nice mix of business… Usually
a customer who has bought an inexpensive quality cast design will come
back and at some point , order something custom made for their
cherished ones as they know you can do it.

In either case, you get a broader customer base, higher general
income, and eventually, the ability to hire someone to help you with
repairs,sales and other areas of the business as it expands…and
allows you to begin thinking about the years ahead when you won’t be
able to do 80 hours a week to make ends meet !

I hope this does not offend anyone as these are only to be considered
as suggestions.

Daniel Grandi we do high quality casting/ finishing in gold,
silver, brass/bronze and pewter for people in the trade

Dear Daniel , Your dissertation on pricing was well done and based on
reasonable assumptions. Nonetheless, I seriously question your
awareness of the realities of the contemporary marketplace. Yesterday
I went to a Gemfaire show in Santa Barbara, CA. and purchased a dozen
or so pieces of Indian silver pendants mounted with freeform cabochons
of Spectrolite. They were exquisitely executed and they cost 45 cents
per gram ! ( A typical piece cost 3-4 dollars) Unfortunately, when we
rationalize our charges we automatically base them on assimilation of
our grossly inflated American costs of doing business and living
costs. We have seen how various oriental nations have cashed into our
jewelry maufacturing business and we have seen how our marketplace has
been flooded with VERY affordable jewelery therefrom. . Most of us
have dismissed this threat to our livelihoods as being cheap and/or
sleazy imitations. In actuality, these highly affordable offerings
have made vast inroads into our marketplace. Furthermore, it is
evident to me that their offerings have become more and more
sophisticated and have made expanding inroads into the quality market.
On a more philosophical level, we might consider the fact that our
cultural orientation advocates the acceptance of a comptetitive
marketplace. Realistically, it is time that we consider the
possibility that we should re-focus our attention to having our
DESIGNS executed abroad, thus obviating the conflict between cost of
production and marketplace realities. Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

Ron, That recommendation to consider moving jewelry manufacturing
"abroad" may get you some interesting replies. I, for one, enjoy
fabrication more than anything. If a customer designs their own,
that’s ok with me. As a matter of fact, that is a niche market that
would be hard to export! Almost anyone can design, some (obviously)
very much better than others. But, everyone can not "execute designs"
unless you are competing in the volumn/mass market. I think I’ll
stick with my “one-of-a-kind” using gold, silver, and "un-calibrated"
stones in every peice. But, then, I don’t have high rent or have to
put kids through college anymore. Let some customers design their
own peice and I can determine how to execute their "one-of-a-kind"
with top quality craftsmanship (and with proper compensation, of
course). Foreign maufacturing is certainly a business threat but,
design is not that far behind. Learning to compete and find your
market may become more and more important. Regis

All, I could not disagree more with everything Ron wrote. The United
States standard of living is based upon everyone being educated and
trained to complete a job which will earn them enough money to obtain
a middle class living. I define middle class as owning your own
home, owning your own automobile, having two to three children,
having expendable income over and above the necessities. This the
basic goal of every American. Our market flood of cheap, but well
made goods is the result of opening the U.S. market to countries
where the people who manufacture the goods have none of the above
expectations. A very small group in these countries makes tremendous
profit off the masses that are kept oppressed. That was the reason
that our national policy used to be no free trade without “human
rights” advances. On the U.S. homefront the impact of these low cost
items will be tremendous. Jobs will disappear as no one can make a
living manufacturing $3-$4 jewelry pieces in the U.S. Right now
silver smithing and cabochon cutting are dead unless you have a very
specific market that you can protect. I have not cut over 20
cabachons this year. My lapidary suppliers no longer get orders for
cutting wheels, belts, buffs, polishing compounds, etc… When I go
to a rock show I now buy one or two slabs. Before I would buy the
whole bin. Everyone in the production chain suffers. This is
happening across the board, textiles, steel, high technology. You
name it and our in-country production is suffering. Many jobs are
disappearing. Without jobs we develop a class society. People 60
and older are in the either “got mine” category or "will never have"
category. They made their place in this society during a time when
the marketing controls were guided by a “human rights” policy.
Without the human rights policy people in the U.S. work force are now
faced with a work place that is increasingly diminished in salary.
Gradually jobs are disappearing and our standard of living is being
diminished. This whole movement is the direct result of opening the
U.S. market to countries with very bad “human rights” policies.
There may come a time when even the $3-$4 jewelry item will be too
expensive for most working people.

Gerry Galarneau

Hi Ron, First of all, since I am in the contemporary marketplace
(alright most of Cambridge is back in the 60’s but we try not to be) I
am aware of what is available out there from overseas markets.
However most Americans have to pay rent, insurance and labor that is
based on the American high living standard. Therefore WE have to make
more money than someone from overseas does just to get by (I am not
opening up a discussion of whether other countries should also pay a
living wage here). I have to pay my son’s tuition that is based on
American lifestyles. I have to buy clothes, cars and appliances that
are all priced based on the American lifestyle. Therefore, to me, it
seems that I have to charge for my product based on the same pricing

Since my comment was directed at jewelers who mostly produce their
own product, and who are usually jewelers because they enjoy making
their own product, it isn’t really feasible for most of them to have
their designs produced overseas (and what fun would that be anyway?).
There have always been, and there will always be, cheaper merchandise
(some of it well made-some of it not) available. The thrust of my
comment, however, was that we don’t have to sink to our competitor’s
level in order to survive. What we do have to do is prove the value
of our product to our customers by adding enough to it to make it

There are plenty of jewelers in my area who will sell a diamond for
5% over cost and I have numerous people who bring those stones to me
to set. It has not, however, made me lower my prices one bit. Instead
I offer a brand name ideal cut diamond, only in high colors and
clarities, and I stringently back it up with multiple guarantees.
Sure I could go out and buy the same crappy diamond the other guy did
and mark it up 5% but it won’t be worth my time to sell it. If I only
make 5% on a $1000 diamond, I have to sell it in under 5 minutes for
it to be profitable to me and I have to say that I have never been
able to sell any diamond that fast. That is also assuming that I
didn’t own the diamond already (in which case I also have carrying
charges) and that I didn’t have to borrow the money to buy the diamond
as well.

The other thing I was trying to say in my original post is that if
you spend a lot of time looking to save 15% on something it isn’t
really worth it unless you are saving 15% on a whole lot of stuff.
It’s like what I have always told others about going to Tucson. Sure
you can save some money there, but you had better be spending enough
to make it worth the cost of the trip. If your budget is $1000 and you
save 15% you have barely paid for one night in a hotel–no matter the
plane fare, food, rental car, etc.(This is not to say that it isn’t
worth going there just because it is such a great experience–everyone
should go at least once just to see it all.)

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

Hello Ron, Sorry , I have to disagree with your statement…

 Realistically, it is time that we consider the possibility that we
shouldre-focus our attention to having our DESIGNS executed abroad,
thus obviating the conflict between cost of production and
marketplace realities 

First , I’m talking about the small store/designer who wants to
produce 10 or so pieces of their own exclusive designs for sale in
their own shops maybe 4 times per year … The problem I have with
having this done overseas is that often, when you find a reasonably
good manufacturer ,the delivery for small stores that design their own
goods for sale is the following:

1)Delivery on very small quantities is slow in comparison to a small
US based mfg.

2)most overseas mfg companies require letter of credit payment unless
you have a long history with them.This is a form of pre-payment and
the goods have been payed for when they are shipped. Not when they are
received. Then you have the problem of credits for improperly
manufactured goods and returns. The red tape can be a major problem.
for large orders , such as people dealing with QVC, this can be
aleviated and works for them .

  1. sending your own exclusive designs overseas is problematic as most
    likely, if the design is good, you will see your designs available on
    the open market in short order… or very similar concepts. I spent
    20+ years living in Asia and have seen this happen very often … and
    there is no protection available…of any kind. Having visited large
    mfg companies , I have seen the 50 page catalogs that they produce …
    and in these catalogs are lots of exclusive designs from famous
    designers… and I know that they did not give permission for them to
    mass market at .45 cents / gram as I know some of them personally…
    and this has happened to them when they had exclusive designs made
    specifically for them and not for general resale.

Ron, Realize that the pieces you speak of are produced in the 10,000
's of pieces and are mass marketed across the world… So, I don’t
recommend that the small designer/store owner have their small orders
produced by them.Nor can they get you an overnight casting on a one
off exclusively carved wax pattern when you desperately need it !

We also do mass manufacturing for customers that require it…
quantities of 10,000 plus and we can be very competitive with overseas
prices in that quantity… as we do special tooling for mass
stonesetting…Polyepiline injection molding instead of wax where the
quantity produced per day approaches 30,000 pcs/day from a single
operator… We still have mass production techniques that allow us to
be competitive if the volume is there .

Again, looking back at my original email and statement, it was more
related to the small store owner designer who was making all their
pieces by hand and trying to explain to customers why their hand- made
pieces were so expensive in comparison to regular store bought items
that were mass produced .I was suggesting that they take their popular
, unique designs and have them cast in small quantity so that they
would have a nice blend of custom handmade designs and some
inexpensive ( in comparison) designs of their own that were cast for a
much less expensive price than hand made. Under no circumstances would
I suggest they have these exclusive small quantities produced overseas

Best wishes,
Daniel Grandi

You really hit on what its all about. Im sorry to agree with you and
I believe it will step up rather fast. I’ve watched the quality of
gold items being made in India over the years. It used to be you
could spot it from a mile away. Off cut diamonds and color treated
gems of low quality clarity, unfinished backs and in some cases to
heavy a design. They moved to better cuts on the diamonds but TLB’s
and semi precious stones of better clarity (Amethyst, citrene, topaz,
etc.) and rose gold retro designs. Now they are starting platinum &
18K white gold with even better cut diamonds, I-J or a very very
faint TLB’s. Because of the white metal and needing whiter stones. I
looked at an 18K white gold necklace/choker that had around 30 cts.
tw. all .03-.07 in size. SI2; I-J color and of fairly nice make. The
dealer who bought it asked what I thought. This is what I told him.
It’s made in India I think, the goods would cost around 300-400 pc
and from what I have been offered by Indians with this type of goods
I would say it’s available for around $15,000 and breaks out for
10,000. He said damn your right on the money. That he bought it with
the belief it was a genuine Deco period item. Paid $10,000 expecting
to get 15-20,000. That only because others as astute as I am pointed
the truth out to him. The best offer he had was around 8,000 and yes
the goods are worth 3-400 but the labor to break them out would be to
expensive. Asked how I knew it was from India I told them one was
because I’ve seen similar and two, they still don’t finish the backs
and undercuts as well as the QUALITY jewelers of the US and Europe
had back in the 30’s. This necklace could not be made in the US for
under $15-18,000 if not higher. Given two more years I bet nobody
will be able to tell the age of items like this and it will be even
cheaper. It really scares the bejeebers out of me.

Jim Mannella
Lake Worth, Fl.

Ron, I have to agree with Dan, but there is a qualified exception…

I lived in Taxco, Guererro, Mexico for 6 years - and I make two or
three trips down every year. My observations are about the same as
his, but having lived there, worked there, and gotten very well
connected with several families and individuals - I can get items
made in fairly small quantities without worrying about them being
knocked off - usually…

I have the language, the experience, and know who to go to - but that
took years to aquire. Even so, I have had designs show up out on the
streets of Taxco more than once or twice.

The advent of the Internet has made a fortune for several of the
family run shops that specialize in knocking off current designs.
Most of them have at least one computer literate member of the
family, who spends a couple of hours a day seeing what everyone else
in the world is making, and proudly posting on sites for them to see

  • and price.

If it is a simple item that looks interesting, they print it out,
take it down the street to a cousin who does wax carving, or die
making, and within a couple days it is in production. If they want a
duplicate of the original item to work from, another relative living
in the States will order the piece from your site and ship it to them
UPS or Fed Ex.

Almost forty percent of these knockoffs now go to Europe and Japan. I
have never seen anyone penalized for this practice in any way, nor
does the copyrighted design get stopped at our own border…

There are 20 or 30 North Americans (US & Canada) who own shops in
Mexico, or subcontract to existing shops for knockoffs of any design
that they think will sell up here… I’m sure the overseas copycats
work the same way.

Things have changed a lot in the past few years. You can now find
relatively high tech machinery and tools in some of these shops. I’ve
seen laser welders, laser cutters, CNC & CAD/CAM, mass finishing,
automatic feed punch presses… and everything else used in modern
day mass production. There are even little backyard workshops that
make copies of the GRS tools, and a Bonny Doon style hydraulic

While most of this manufacturing is done in sterling, there are
fairly large gold jewelry fabricators and manufacturers springing up
all over Mexico - take a look at the annual gold jewelry trade show
sometime… more and more genuine colored stones, pearls, and
diamonds - something that was extremely rare a few years back. They
too, are pulling designs off of the Internet, and ordering items to
copy from sites.

Conclusion: think about what it really costs (Including your time to
make the trips to personally oversee the work) to make the item
overseas or across the border, evaluate your risks, and proceed
cautiously if you have a really nice design…

Also, be aware that any design you post to your site is fair game to
those who want to make a quick profit off of your blood, sweat, and
tears… especially if it can be cast or die struck fairly simply.
Intricate fabrications are usually safest.

“Made in USA,” at least offers some small protection for all those
hours you invest in working out a design, and getting it ready to
market… but even here, you are looking at some big bucks to enforce
your copyright. Once it gets copied outside of the US, you might as
well move on to your next design.

Small runs of 10 to 50 exclusive pieces, can still be done
economically, faster, and a bit more securely right here at home.

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School

Another 2 cents on why I believe manufacturers/designers outside the
US have trouble penetrating the US market in any lasting way, at least
in the manner of our “star” players. The American market is much like
the English language. Plenty of rules; all meant to be broken. You
have to be steeped in the turbulent American culture, partly emulating
what is popular and partly dictating it. It requires the art of
"creole-ization", much like cooking, in that regard, with
appropriation, innovation, and the occasional inspiration. It’s a
fine line that one walks almost instinctively. I’ve seen the "new"
fall flat on it’s face; and you never can predict when “vintage” will
be in again. It takes a strong personality, in my opinion.

David L. Huffman

 They made their place in this society during a time when the
marketing controls were guided by a "human rights" policy. 
(referring to people 60 and over) 

The key word in that paragraph is controls. Those people fought long
and hard for decent working conditions in the American manufacturing
industries, and protected their products from cheap imports. But
times have changed. The labor unions were corrupted, discredited and
diminished, along with the better working conditions they originally
created. Deregulation and decontrol have opened our markets to
anyone who can sell the most at the best price . The goal is the
greatest profit to the owners and the investors, and labor is
expendable. There’s always someone desperate enough to work for less
. Poverty is relative, as is wealth; and if a good craftsman in a
third-world country makes the equivalent of one hundred dollars a
month he might consider himself wealthy in terms of his buying
power at home. That being said, why isn’t it good business for an
entrepreneur over here to contract for that fellow’s work instead of
paying someone over here three thousand a month for the same
quality stuff? He isn’t interested in your standard of living or in
human rights or anything else. He’s interested in p-r-o-f-i-t. That
is why he is in business in the first place. Idealism is a wonderful
thing, but in a society that uses money as a universal standard for
judging all things, it has lost its place… And that’s the bottom

Hi, All- There are two responses to competition- the first is to make
a superior product. The second is to make a cheaper product. The first
option helps the entire market- customers will come to appreciate the
value of a superior product, and demand it, and this will force others
to strive for a better product as well. Customers will pay a good
deal more for a product that is slightly better- The Rolex is an
example- it is better than the Timex in terms of accuracy and
aesthetics, but certainly not 100 times better, yet it commands 100
times the price. Along with making a superior product, one must
educate consumers as to what constitutes quality in order for this
strategy to be successful.

The second option is to compete solely on the basis of price. This
option harms the entire market. Manufacturers and suppliers are
forced to produce the shoddiest goods salable by exploiting the
cheapest labor. The market ends up flooded with crap. Just as the
first option exerts an upward pressure on price and profit, this
second option exerts a downward pressure, with the end result being
that everyone makes less profit, despite having slashed prices by
lowering quality and exploiting labor. Whereas the first option is
dependent upon educating customers, the second option is dependent on
deceiving and misleading customers, “marketing” in it’s lowest sense.
If you want examples of this, just turn on your TV, and watch QVC and
the shopping channel, hyping their incredibly included columbian
emeralds, pale as water tanzanites, and denim lapis, assuring the home
viewers that these are just wonderful stones, and a value that can’t
be passed up.

Which side are you on?

Lee Einer

Hi Ron, Regis, et al. . . Here’s my 2 cents on custom after nearly 30
years at it. There is a bit more to custom than meets the eye. There
is “custom” and there is “Custom”. Used to be, you picked a mounting
out of the old ALA casting catalogs (you old guys remember those 3
volume bound sets that looked like encyclopedias?). You soldered in a
couple heads, maybe a white gold plate which got bright cut with
melee. That passed for custom. Now your customer is likely to get a
rather sour look on their face when you whip a catalog out of the
drawer. They want a relationship, and it better be sincere. The kind
of artistry I’m talking about will NEVER be exportable. I don’t care
how many CAD programs you can run or how fast your overseas
manufacturer can turn it around. I’m not trying to put down the guys
selling the jewel cad programs and machines or the people taking
advantage of various “have it your way” campaigns the suppliers offer.
I’m talking about cold selling of something that doesn’t yet exist to
somebody who doesn’t yet know what they want. You have to be part
artist, part salesman, part psychologist, and a consummate craftsman.
That is if you really want to stand out in the crowd and not have to
fight with the dogs over the bones. You can’t pick it up in a few
weeks with even our best instructors. Most of the graduates of the
schools we tout on this forum are only ready to begin working under a
master. It takes talent and it takes training like an Olympic
athlete. And it takes years, at least 10 for passable and 20 for
excellent. That doesn’t mean you have to work that hard to make nice
jewelry and sell it. It’s a mighty big market, and most of it is
neglected. It’s the requirement for making something that nobody can
duplicate, export, or generally capitalize on without having the
chops. To sum it up, if you don’t want to be displaced by all the
changes and innovations in the market place, you’ve got to be an
indisputable original, not only in terms of your product, but in terms
of your relationships with your customers. Of course, the drawback
is that you risk constantly tripping over your own ego. :wink:

David L. Huffman

Rex & Gabrielle Merten Dear Daniel, your summation of costs in the
jewellery manufacturing industry are excellent, and a model for
thoughtful debate - to which many jewellers are already responding.
May I add an Australian perspective?

Jewellery manufacturing in Australia closely parallels many of the
concerns and responses raised by our American colleagues. On the one
hand, there is an expectation that a highly skilled and experienced
jeweller should receive a just payment based on accepted living
standards. This is being continually challenged by jewellery retailers
whose prime motive is to buy cheap and sell dear. As Ron Mills has
pointed out (and I think has been somewhat misunderstood on the basis
of “shoot the messenger”), the economic primitivism of buy cheap, sell
dear has been hugely aided by the essentially monetarist focus of
globalisation in which there is no acknowledgement of justice, let
alone morality. It’s all about two things: how much profit can be
made, and more is never enough.

We have already had some experience of this when a national retail
chain which had supported many smaller, high standard manufacturing
jewellers, abandoned them in favour of buying cheaper goods from
third-world sweatshops. It worked on the notion that the public
wouldn’t know the difference. A year later, they announced the first
loss ever in their trading figures. One of their store managers said
it was as if someone had turned the tap off. The chain has never
recovered its reputation. Many of the small manufacturers that they
had been supporting turned to retailing their product and discovered
that they could survive by offering the much better service to the
public that they had once supplied to the retailer.

It’s history that the US has always worshipped at the altar of
Competition. Globalisation is far more ruthless in its worship at that
same altar and the results are starting to bite. As Gerry Galarneau
points out, society is being more and more divided into the “got
mines” and “never will haves”. We’ re seeing the same thing in
Australia. I hope I’m a pretty good jeweller. I have forty six years
experience, and four Diamonds International awards, but I know that my
general standard of living and that of my peers has been eroded by
aggressive retailers who have no compunction about abandoning local
manufacturing jewellers for third-world sweat shops. They don’t give
a thought to Australian jobs and standards of living - let alone the
more basic issues of justice and morality.

I hate the idea of the poor being exploited in the third world and I
support foreign aid initiatives which help to educate and establish
viable communities and progress in these countries. Exploiting these
same people as factory fodder for global profiteering destroys these
initiatives and the people’s development.

In all things, education is the key. In Australia, a growing group of
manufacturing jewellers are promoting their professionalism and
expertise through the guild concept. It’s not easy, but we are
gradually winning over other expert jewellers to join our Gold and
Silversmiths Guild of Australia. Our own clients and the public are
seeing that we have standards and expertise that are unique. The Guild
and its voluntary hallmark system is a guarantee of quality. We
cooperate in combined strength to maintain the integrity of both the
members and their work.

Elsewhere in Canberra, the centre of Aussie politics, there is a
proposal being pushed by an alliance of academic economists and
artists asserting that “top artists” (whatever that means) in
Australia should be paid a minimum wage of A$125 per hour (Aussie
exchange rate is around 53 cents to the US$). Apparently this was
worked out by measuring what artists do against people with comparable
working conditions. Whether this will be accepted by commissioning
bodies or corporations is anyone’s guess. We’re on the eve of
elections here, and the politicians are doing anything and everything
to attract votes from any group that looks like it might have a few -
even artists.

Kind regards,