i have been operating a silver “art jewelry” business for about 8
years. i am re-thinking my business strategies and am considering
switching over to all gold. i am terrified of this, of course, and am
holding onto some idea of blackened silver with gold. currently i do
not blacken any of my silver. should i just give up all thoughts of
using silver and make the financial/design/mind-set change plunge? i
would probably have to get almost all new galleries! what would i do
with all my old work? anyone have thoughts on this? thank you so
As someone who now works in beads and would like to (in the future)
incorporate precious beads and gold into my work, I have to
ask…why do you feel you have to give up silver cold turkey? Is
there a way that you can gradually incorporate the use of gold into
your work? I see many artists using a combination of
conventional/unconventional and precious/non-precious materials. It
is not all that uncommon these days to see a diamond pendant
suspended from a silk, or even rubber cord. People’s perceptions are
changing. Does any of this sound appealing? You may not have to find
all new galleries…I recently visited a gallery where they had very
fine work. There was one artist represented there, however, who
happened to use asphalt in her work. There is a big mix nowadays.
Swithing to gold doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I feel it better
to move gradually in matters like this. Swithing to gold may only
increase your cost of goods and not the sales. Working gold is much
different than silver so you will have a learning curve, and
expensive one. Why make such a seemingly drastic change? Gold may get
more respect in the trade and industry world but I have found that my
silver profit margin just as high if not higher than gold.
I am doing most of my work in Silver and Copper right now. I also do
much in Silver using Gold for the accent color. (It has GOLD! I can
Charge more for it!) I also do pieces entirely in Gold. The choice is
by what the design/vision calls for. I then put the piece in the
location that I think will be the best venue for it.
If you have low end pieces in a low end gallery, the gold would
probably not do well there. You may need to keep some low end outlets
for the old stock and cultivate new, higher end locations for the
gold work that you will be developing. In the end, it is not the
materials but your vision that counts. The real question will be is
your work/vision proper for that location? Can that location market
your vision/work to their customers?
Boy have you picked a time to switch!! Gold is at its highest in
what, nearly 20 years. I would think twice before I plunged right in.
If you really want to switch you ought to ask yourself the following
What kind of markup can I allow on my new pieces? Gold is so much
more expensive you may have to rethink your profit margins.
Do my present venues have the clientele to purchase adequate
numbers of my pieces in Gold? If not how do I find new galleries I
can trust with my now more expensive inventory. If your galleries
’aren’t broke why fix them’?
Am I comfortable enough with the entire switch over, by this I
mean are you ready to purchase better or more expensive stones,
chains etc, to go with this newer work? Do you know what you are
doing when it comes to purchasing Do you have good
Are you willing and able to have your work set in retail shops
longing and wait for your new profits to come in?
It is good that you are asking some of these questions already but I
have to ask again, why change galleries that are selling work for
you already? Are they successful? If so, why not try a few pieces out
in Gold and Silver as you mentioned? [they don’t have to be
blackened]. See how they fly. Also your galleries may be able to
accommodate some work in 2 metals.
It sounds as though maybe the unasked question is why change at all?
Sometimes people tend to throw the baby out with the bath water,
thinking that they have to change something because they simply
thrive on challenge, and have to do new things all of the time. Or
are you thinking that Gold is more prestigious to work in and
therefore you would be a more professional jeweler? If neither of
these are the case then maybe you know why you want to change. Great
give it a try, but be willing to really struggle for a while. [
Unless of course you are independently wealthy].
I have started to make my own personal work in silver again. When I
look back, all of my most innovative and interesting pieces have
always been in Silver. Not having had a lot of money, I could make
huge pieces in silver that I couldn’t possibly have afforded to make
in Gold. The silver always sold well, and the margin of profit was
What I am trying to say is go with what you really want to do. Don’t
think that Gold is better because it is more expensive and that it
will sell better. Because it probably won’t. Unless you have your own
store it can be tough. It is beautiful no doubt, but silver sells a
lot more easily.
Always an adventure tracking down the origin of a thread in Orchid!!!
But I found it… First, I would echo some of the replies I read - Why
plunge? Why do it all overnight? Why not just make a piece or two,
but them with your present inventory, and see how they move? And if
they do, they will help finance the next work. I will, with
reservations, also echo some other replies - generally, the cheaper
the piece, they higher the profit margin. Some of the richest people
in industry are those with punch presses putting out washers 24/7.
As for the learning curve - I sat down and made a gold signet ring
with a family crest, fabricated, as my first gold piece, without
guidance or problems. Gold is at once very different from silver and
not so different. If you flux properly, soldering is similar -
hotter, considerably easier, but similar. Better and stronger tools
will cover most of the rest - good files are essential. My
reservations about profit, though: If you are a silversmith doing a
gold piece, you’re probably making a silver piece in a different
metal, and you might make less money. I’m a goldsmith (platinum,
more, even), and if I do a silver piece they either choke on the
price or I work for 1/3 pay. Gold is not just a snobbery thing with
precious stones and fine work - it’s hardness and working properties
lend itself to those things as silver never could. Which is to say,
you’re probably not ever going to sell a $6,000 diamond, design a
$3,000 ring, make it and pocket the lucrative profit, in the silver
business. But you (I would think) don’t have to take a running leap,
Why switch to gold when gold is at its highest price in years? Seems
counter intuitive but this is probably the best time to switch. When
I started in 1978 everything was sterling silver. We were at the tail
end of the second Arts & Crafts Movement and 'luxury ’ were
considered somehow degenerate, not quite the thing. People are aware
that gold prices are up and it actually adds to the cashet.
I believe gold was about 100-150 per ounce at the time. One of our
resident gold bugs might be able to correct me. It then began its
steep rise that ended a few years later when it peaked at $850.00.
Attention was focused on gold and it seemed within a week no one was
interested in sterling any more. Sensing the trend we changed our
company name from Silversmiths to Goldsmiths and never looked back.
Frankly, I am amazed that American handcraftspeople can make a
living working in SS and did you say copper? My hat is off to you. My
experience is that people will pay a premium for gold, meaning that
you can charge a decent hourly buck (more) for your time. I love
silver by the way but, we only work in 18k gold and above. Choose 18k
it sets you apart from the commercial herd and its really the best
all around metal.
For Information and sample chapters from my new book:
generally, the cheaper the piece, they higher the profit margin.
Well, yes, but let’s say you have $5.00 in materials in a silver ring
and you’re able to sell it for $50. Your profit margin is huge,
granted. But let’s say you make the same ring in gold and the
material cost is $50 and you’re able to sell it for $200. Your
margin is much lower…on the other hand, in the same amount of
time it would take you to make and sell the same ring you’re making
$150 instead of $45. Actually in order to make the same amount in the
silver you would have to make up three rings (more time and labor)
and sell three rings (more time and labor). So it might be a higher
margin but certainly not more profitable.
Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140 @Daniel_R_Spirer
hi. thank you all who responded to my post. i gained some insight
into my plan thanks to your posts. since i am already proficient at
working with gold, i plan on slowly testing some pieces in my current
market. i plan on making some pieces in gold and silver, while being
aware that i can take them apart later at much less expense than
committing the whole piece to gold. i sent in my scrap to hoover this
past week and will start with that return as a base for my gold
pruchasing. i plan on giving myself a year to convert, and a year to
make sure that is what i think is appropriate as far as designing and
planning for materials. part of the reason i think about switching is
that i fabricate everything, and with my new designs i am spending a
whole lot of time making the work…in silver, which can only yeild
so much profit. i am tired of doing production work and want and need
a new challenge…why be self employed and BORED? perhaps more time
spent making a piece will be better for me financially in gold than
in silver. perhaps it will be more challengin to me, in the fat that
i will be limited as far as materials…perhaps it will open me up as
far as what materials i feel are worth putting into my designs
(colored etc) i am not interested in making the big bucks,
i am just interested in making a nice little living doing what i love
to do. so thank you for your input and advice. please don’t stop
giving advice if you still have it!
Some more input on this thread from my experience. I started making
only silver, then later went into gold until half my work was gold.
Now I make very little all gold but incorporate silver, copper and
rose, white and yellow gold in my work. 14k, 18k and 22k. I’ve
gravitated in this direction because I enjoy it, find it more
interesting and my particular retail market and clientele at juried
art shows on the west coast and in the southwest likes mixed metals
better than anything else that I’ve ever done. I like making very big
pieces sometimes also. I have a ring series that I make up to 20+
different designs in. If I make the same/similar design in all
silver, all gold and one that is a mixture of silver copper and
yellow gold, I will sell 3 or 4 of the mixtures to every all silver
or all gold one. The silver one might have $2-$5 worth of metal, the
gold one $30-$50+. The mixed ones have $5-$12 worth of materials.
The silver ones I will sell for $75 to $125, the all gold one will
sell for $195 to $250+, the mixtures will sell (I’ve sold hundreds)
for $145 to $225. These are fabricated rings that take from 25
minutes to an hour to make.
I’ve never had much choice but to follow the jewel path that was fun
and interesting to me, any other way has interfered with the overall
quality of my life. Luckily I’ve been able to find/establish a
market that responds to the work I want to do.
I remember a time when I hesitated to use gold in my work because it
was so much more expensive than silver, $35 an ounce!! Then one day I
bit the bullet and spent a couple of hundred dollars and made 7 small
pieces. At the next show that I did, (this was in the early 70’s) I
sold 6 of those pieces. You really can start small and transition
slowly. Based on my experience though and that of others I’ve
mentored through this process, you might try mixing metals if you can
find an interest in that for yourself. Keep successful designs, drop
the ones that don’t work, never stop experimenting.
I have read the entries on this thread and it seems like everyone is
giving you good advise.
The one note I would like to add is that with your knowledge of
metals, you could easily utilize each metal to it best advantage
with in a jewelry item.
The strength of gold where needed and the texture, volume, and
ability to take a patina of silver as a compliment to the overall
Also, I have been experimenting with a new alloy of 3.5%Platinum
with silver to make a sterling, you might want to try it. It’s super
white, no firescale, and works like 14k yellow at a quarter of the
P.S. I love your books! When I was teaching, one quarter there was a
equipment SNAFU and I had to teach my metals class without any
torches. Your book “Making Metal Jewelry” was a total inspiration to
my class. They got so into cold connections that when the gas finally
got fixed hardly a single student wanted to do their final project
using soldering techniques. You rock!
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
I have been experimenting with a new alloy of 3.5% Platinum with
silver to make a sterling, you might want to try it. It's super
white, no firescale, and works like 14k yellow at a quarter of the
Nanz: Would like to hear more about the new alloy with platinum.
Similarity with silver, sources, availability, techniques etc.