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Starting my own jewelry business

Hi all:

After much soul searching, teeth grinding and sleepless nights, I’ve
finally made the decision to make my “hobby” into a business.
Fortunately, I have a very supportive husband who has, so far, funded
my addiction to metal, and has provided me with a fully equipped
shop, so at this point my largest expenditures are?purchasing raw
materials. I was a CFO of a specialty manufacturing firm until a
couple of years ago when I just walked in one day and quit. I’ll be
65 this year, so I probably should know better, but I figure that
after giving up a significant salary on a whim, opening a jewelry
business in a down economy? should be a snap, right? I have a BS in
accounting (I’ve always thought BS was appropriate for accounting
:>)), and an MBA, so hopefully those will help me with the business
side. I’ve been to the SBA, waste of time, BTW, and have had a number
of people offer advice on what to do next. I’ve ignored all those
suggestions until I could get the real scoop from the experts - the
collective knowledge of the Orchid Forum.

I am basically a self-taught “silversmith” even though I have taken
a number of classes at both JC Campell Folk School and Arrowmont, as
well as private classes. I’ve been making sterling silver jewelry
for about 3 years and have been selling it, mostly wholesale, for
about 1 year. I also like to combine silver with gemstones and have
sold some of that jewelry?also. Now I’d like to start doing a few
small shows and try to get my work into a?some small galleries.

I want to thank all of you for the wealth of knowledge I’ve gained
from reading the forum every day. I’ve been to many of your websites
and drooled over the beautiful things you create. I want to learn to
work in gold, but that is for later. Now, I need your advice on some
things, if you would be so kind.

  1. A search of the archives turned up a lot of info Re: booths; but
    I couldn’t find anything on signage, i. e., what size should my
    "banner" be for an 8x10 booth? Also, should there be anything on it
    other than my name and logo? I’ve already been accepted to two small
    local shows, one Sep 13-14, the other Nov 13-15, so I need to have
    some kind of sign made. Both shows provide pipe and drape, and one
    table, so I don’t have to worry about that immediately. I already
    have some cases and lights, but could use advice on low cost display

  2. I’ve already received a lot of good advice from the forum about
    setting up a website so I won’t ask anything about that at this time.
    The domain name I would like to have “Frog Pond Studio” is already
    in use by an artist, so I’ll have to come up with a different name
    for my website, or else use. org or. biz. A problem for later.

  3. After massive research I’ve selected a credit card processor and
    after reading all the latest posts Re: Amex, I’ve decided to not make
    a decision on that issue at this time. I’m set up to accept it so
    I’ll just see what happens.

  4. One of the shows I’m doing is a bridal expo, and bridal jewelry
    is really not my thing, but it will get my name out there. I’ve made
    a lot of beaded jewelry in the past, so right now I’m spending my
    time equally between stringing pearls and crystals and making silver
    jewelry. I have no idea how to price the bridal jewelry. I’ve been
    told that anything to do with a wedding should be priced much higher
    than any other jewelry, but that just seems wrong to me. My plan is
    to do a little comparison shopping and go to bridal shops, jewelry
    shops, etc. that sell bridal jewelry to get a feel for what their
    prices are. Do you think this would be okay?

  5. Any other advice or words of encouragement you can give me would
    be greatly appreciated.

I’m excited about this new adventure and I’m determined to make it
work. I have some pictures of my some of my work that I’d be happy to
have some of you critique if you’d do so. Let me know off line and
I’ll send them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this very long message.

Carolyn Vinson
Frog Pond Studio


You spoke of inexpensive signage in your post and I recently
stumbled on what seemed to me to be a good value. I was at Staples
the other day and noticed that they can produce very nice banners
and signs for about $99.00. Now I haven’t really researched the cost
of these things before, but it seemed like a good price and the
quality was nice. You might want to check it out next time you
happen to be near one of their stores. I plan on taking advantage of
this and the convenience of it when I get back into doing retail
shows, perhaps next year.

By the way, good luck with your business venture. I found that
lacking business knowledge made trying to start my tiny foray into
the jewelry market very hard. The fact that you worked for a
manufacturer, as a CFO no less, and have an MBA seems to be a BIG
plus on your side and will definately help you to succeed.

Augest Derenthal


Although this is unsolicited, and I generally don’t do
self-promotion, I have been a Consultant to start-up businesses
considering entry into the Jewelry Trade, as well as a Consultant on
an International level for going on 20 years, and a goldsmith for
over 35 years and function among other things as an appraiser, legal
counsel and estate jeweler - on the side! After leaving a life in
medicine, education and academia for love of metals and gems. If you
need any help let me know. I’m not cheap - nor expensive and have
worked on a sliding scale of sorts with Orchid members in the past.
(I may have met you at J.C.Campbell, Arrowmont, William Holland- in
the NC N GA area at a class or some event as your name does sound
familiar. Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with should
you need help!

Good luck with the venture and best regards for success and


Hi Carolyn

Frog Pond Studio 

Advertrous soul, aren’t we? :slight_smile:

If there is a website with Your store name in it, I’d choose
soemthing else altogether. Most folks think “store name” + dot com

I used to own a custom design store with 5 jewelers. Doing bridal
fairs (we did one as a vendor) and I can tell you the bride to be
ALREADY has the engagement ring.

Making the matching wedding band is where the money is and they
usually don’t have that yet. Markup? Usually you can make 2.5 to 3
times on the matching band.

Advertising & marketing wil be your savior overall.

Good luck
David Geller

One concern about comparison shopping is that it will give you the
pricing that the market is currently selling at retail, then you
must work your formulas backward to see if you can hit those price
points. The one main concern about turning a hobby into a business
is to decide if you need to make a profit or not. If you don’t need
the sales to eat then you can do what ever you want with your
pricing but if it is food money you are making then pricing is
critical. You may or may not be able to compete with cheap labor, I
can’t so I don’t market for price. This effects design so that I
don’t or can’t make smaller less expensive items even if I want to.

With your accounting education you know what needs to happen with
the money side of things but the interaction of money, design and
market is an art that, as far as I can tell, can’t be taught.

Sam Patania, Tucson

Doing bridal fairs (we did one as a vendor) and I can tell you the
bride to be ALREADY has the engagement ring. 

I think a previous confusion has reared its head again. When Carolyn
mentioned bridal jewellery, I THINK she was talking about the
jewellery that brides wear on the day, you know, the tiara, the
necklace, earrings, bracelets etc - the stuff they sell in the
wedding dress shops. I might be wrong but she did mention pearls and
crystals and the like. And if that’s the case, she’s right when she
says anything designated “bridal” fetches a pretty penny, even if
it’s made of cheap, costume jewellery materials.


My advice is to avoid wishful thinking.

By that I don’t mean be a spoilsport. But make your decisions(and
there will be skazillions of those, its ongoing) based on sound
reasoning. Before you make decisions make sure you have logical,
beneficial reasons behind them. Its all so easy to get caught up in
the euphoric go-get-em optimism that comes with a startup. The old
adage of Build It And They Will Come is not a guarantee.

Example (hypothetical)…“Well I hope to make and sell $100,000 in
jewelry in my first year so I need to buy and have on hand $20,000
in stones so I’ll go ahead and order them now, the seller said he’d
give me 30-60-90 days to pay”.

That is a disaster waiting to happen. Obvious right? Yet that kind
of over extending in the beginning is more frequent than you might

A real life example. I was considering a retail location in a very
busy strip mall. Next door was a mega book seller, a few doors the
other way a computer mega store, constant stream of fresh faces in
and out. Rent was like $4K a month. Sounds like a winner!? I got cold
feet and over the next 4-5 years I saw a turnover in that spot at
least 3 times. None of those entrepreneurs made it.

Why didn’t I take that spot? I watched the center for awhile and saw
people drive in, park, walk to their stores then walk back out to
their cars and drive home. No one was ‘shopping’. My reasoning was
why should I pay top rates for a ‘high traffic’ location if the
traffic was strictly destination oriented? If I have to be a
destination I could do it for much less $. The touted high traffic
numbers were misleading. So if I had committed to a lease on the
assumption that a busy center MEANS traffic in my store I would have
been dead wrong. And dead.

The other thing is keep your risks small. Build the next phase on
the profit of the previous.

Good luck and clear thinking

Also check out for self generated business cards
and banners etc.


You are correct about the bridal jewelry I’m making. I was talking
about things a bride and her attendants would wear on her wedding
day.I’m using good pearls (not Akoya) that I bought from a reputable
dealer.They are A-Grade freshwater pearls, most in the 6 - 8 mm
range, most are white, but I am using some that are dyed and some
that are natural (peach, lavender). I only use Swarovski crystal.
All are original designs (at?least I haven’t seen them before, but
how many ways can you string pearls and crystals together?)?and are
finished with either sterling silver clasps (which I prefer with
pearls) or a few with gold or gold-filled clasps.I personally don’t
consider what I make to be costume jewelry, and I don’t think that
was what you were implying, but I guess if it isn’t made of gold and
diamonds some people consider it costume jewelry. Oh well.

Frog Pond Studio (for a little while anyway)


I appreciate your advice on starting my own business. At one time in
my accounting career, before I was a CFO (that title and $2.50 will
get me a cup of coffee in some places!) I worked for a company whose
only purpose was to help start up businesses, mostly manufacturing.
My job was to help them set up an accounting system, find qualified
staff, find business financing if needed and help?the owners whose
heads were in the clouds keep their feet firmly planted on the
ground; not an easy task when all they see is blue sky. Some were
successful, others were not.

What I learned in that job was invaluable and helped me throughout
my entire career. It was easier to make decisions for those
companies because I was dealing with their money. Now I’m dealing
with mine. You are so correct, it is easy to get all caught up in
the adrenaline rush of the moment, but I’m trying very hard not to
do that. My husband is very good at keeping me grounded. I’m
determined to make this work without any debt. I think I’m realistic
in my expectations, even though several business friends have told
me I’m too conservative. What little money I have made so far has
gone into buying raw materials since I already have a fully equipped
shop. I did’nt include opening a storefront in my business plan,
because I don’t think I’d like to do that.

I value all comments from the members of this forum because so many
of you have been where I am now. Any advice you can offer is greatly
appreciated. It’s good to know that I can ask the advice of so many
knowledgeable people. I’ll have a lot more questions as I struggle
along to make this a success.

Frog Pond Studio (for now anyway)

Thank you to all who have so kindly offered advice on starting my
own business. I very much appreciate the input regarding where to
get business cards printed, where to find on booth
displays and the advice about my choice of a name for my studio. I
like frogs, what can I say? I will probably end up changing the use
of that name as a business name, but the physical space of my studio
will always be the frog pond. I have a large supply of Frog Pond
Studio business cards, so I’ll keep using them until I can decide
what to call my business. I don’t have a picture of any of my work
on my cards, but I recently completed a piece that I am very proud
of and is a perfect example of what I want to do (just as soon as I
finish this bridal jewelry!). :>) Sometime this winter I want to
have new cards made with a picture on them and perhaps some post
card size also. Maybe by then all of you will have helped me come up
with a name!

In a reply to another post, someone said they were using a digital
picture frame. I had just looked at one a couple of weeks ago and
thought it might work for me. I’m going tonight to see if I can find
an inexpensive one that will fit in my budget.

A special thanks to Jan who sent me an e-mail off list offering to
look at my photos and offer feedback.

I’ll keep you posted on my journey.

Frog Pond Studio (for now anyway)

Hi Carolyn,

I’m sorry about the “even if they’re made of cheap costume jewellery
materials” comment. You’re right in thinking I didn’t mean that you
are making costume jewellery and I’m glad you realised that. I was
speaking to the “only work in gold, platinum and diamonds” type
jewellers on the list who do seem to be blinkered. There was a
thread not long ago where someone asked about setting sapphires in
silver for a bridal necklace and so this “bridal” can of worms opened
up. I said that I had no problem whatsoever with setting nice
sapphires (good quality lab sapphires were the topic in question)
with v. good quality CZ’s in sterling silver, and said that in my
book such a combination would be much nicer than the inflated priced
"costume" jewellery that is often made of glass/plastic, faux pearls,
base metals, etc that the bridal shops sell. The “gold, platinum and
diamonds only” jewellers completely got the wrong end of the stick
and thought I was talking about making engagement/wedding rings out
of sterling and cheap blue sapphires!!! It was a complete nightmare.
So when you mentioned bridal jewellery made from pearls and crystals,
and people were replying, saying things like “Doing bridal fairs (we
did one as a vendor) and I can tell you the bride to be ALREADY has
the engagement ring. Making the matching wedding band is where the
money is and they usually don’t have that yet.” I realised that the
same confusion had arisen again. So my comments were in an attempt to
defend you and your position in the market.

I personally think that the “bridal” jewellery you’re talking about
making is a beautiful alternative to what’s available commercially.
I married for the second time, five years ago (before I started
making jewellery) and bought a gorgeous necklace and earring set
(base metal and faux pearls) from the bridal department in a
department store. I paid a fair chunk of money for it and didn’t
flinch at the price. In my opinion, the fact that brides are more
than happy to pay good money for what is essentially junk (and I’m
sure I’m not the only one who would), then your jewellery which is
made of high quality materials such as real pearls, Swarovski
crystals and solid sterling silver, goldfill - your jewellery should
fetch decent money.

Does what I’ve said make sense? I hope so. I sometimes struggle
making people understand where I’m coming from.

Good luck with it all.

Helen Hill

Does what I've said make sense? I hope so. I sometimes struggle
making people understand where I'm coming from. 

Yes, Helen - good business is good business. Bottom line is “you
can’t fool all of the people all of the time…” Whatever you are
selling has to be what people desire to buy, with all that goes
along with that - quality, packaging, guarantee, service, etc…

Carolyn -

I just checked, and “” is ‘available’ at the charming
price of $1988; however, “” is available at
$9.99/yr through If it suits you, GO FOR IT RIGHT NOW.

best regards,

I just checked, and "" is 'available' at the charming
price of $1988; however, "" is available at
$9.99/yr through If it suits you, GO FOR IT RIGHT NOW"

Buy, And lastly, if

David S. Geller

good business is good business. Bottom line is "you can't fool all
of the people all of the time...

I’m not quite sure what you’re saying John. Your post SEEMS to be
implying that I or the original poster am/is trying to fool people?
I’m extremely confused as to why you might think this. Neither of us
has the intention of fooling anyone.

Helen (confused)

About naming your business…

I believe one should consider what message the company name conveys.
Lets take a car wash. Candidates are

Freddie’s Sudsy Bucket
Freddie’s Instant Car Wash
Frederick’s Meticulous Car Care Spa

The first is folksy and cute and familiar but doesn’t immediately
tag this business as a car wash. The second says in and out fast,
connoting maybe its not so fine a job. The last says ‘pamper your
Benz here’.

Any of those could fit their market segment. But which is your
market segment? Once you name it, and project the associated image,
it can be difficult to change it if you find its mismatched to the

IMHO a name like Frog Pond doesn’t deliver a message related to
Bridal Jewelry at all. Perhaps its even counter to what you might
want to convey…a special day of romance and remembrance. I do have
to beg your pardon because I’m not trying to be brutal here, just
trying to help.

If you were making silver animal charms or something, Frog Pond
might be right on target.

Ok, I just reread the original and some subsequent posts and I’m
confused about the Bridal but I’ll let this stand anyway, just as
food for thought. My apologies to FrogPonders everywhere.


IMHO a name like Frog Pond doesn't deliver a message related to
Bridal Jewelry at all.

I’m the owner of Frog Pond Studio and the poster Re: bridal jewelry.
I think the name Frog Pond conveys romance and remembrance perfectly.
Haven’t you ever heard “Froggy went a courtin’.”

Carolyn Vinson

I'm not quite sure what you're saying John. Your post SEEMS to be
implying that I or the original poster am/is trying to fool

Not even a little bit, Helen. I wrote it a bit too creatively, I
guess. My meaning was that one can sell anything to some people and
for awhile, but to make the long haul they need to have more than
that going on. That being the usual things - quality product,
service, packaging, etc. What some people trying to get a business
going sometimes just don’t grasp is that you need to offer what
people want to buy. If people don’t want to buy your product, that’s
YOUR fault - maybe it’s the product itself, maybe you’re talking to
the wrong people, sitting in the wrong place, whatever.

Hi Neil,

Regarding the "bridal jewellery confusion, I know that many of you
traditional jewellers make the engagement, wedding, eternity rings,
etc and that that is referred to as “Bridal” jewellery - but what
Carolyn and myself have been referring to is the jewellery worn on
the day - necklace, earrings and the like, you know, pearls and
crystals. I knew Carolyn was referring to such jewellery and NOT
rings when she mentioned pearls and crystals.

This very same confusion arose a few months ago when someone posted
about setting sapphires in silver for “bridal” jewellery. I wrote
many posts during that thread and ended up with all the traditional
jewellers on the forum thinking I was talking about setting lab
sapphires in silver as engagement rings, even though the poster
clearly stated the word NECKLACE, as did I in my replies. Such
jewellery is often sold in wedding dress shops, together with
tiaras, wedding shoes, etc and although they are usually made of base
metals, glass and faux pearls, a fortune is usually charged. I
personally feel that rather than paying a fortune for such jewellery
in a bridal shop, Carolyns products made with real pearls, Swarovski
crystals and solid sterling silver would be a much lovelier option
for the brides to be.

John posted something yesterday, addressing me and said “you can’t
fool all of the people all of the time” and I was more than a little
confused about his comments. But now I’m wondering whether John is
also confused by our talk of “bridal” jewellery and thinking perhaps
thinks we’re talking about selling engagement rings made of silver -
I’m not sure. I’ve tried my level best on many occasions to clear up
this confusion but it seems to persist. There is more than one type
of “bridal” jewellery.

I’m with you on the Frog Pond Studio name and it perhaps conveying
an image far away from bridal, but the name obviously has sentimental
connotations for Carolyn. Hopefully she’ll come up with something
that will suit her business.