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[thoughts] new jewelry business


#1

I have recently completed a certificate program in jewelry. I want to
start my own business in designing and making non-traditional gold
and silver jewelry would like to get a feel for what I might expect
income wise (other than not much money to start with!). I am trying to
decided on the best way to transition from my current employment (not
in the jewelry field and where my hourly rate is $27.00/hr) to my own
business. It would be helpful to me if I knew what hourly rate ranges
jeweler’s in their own business charge. I’ve heard people say that you
can charge more for a gold piece than a silver piece. I, also,
understand that name recognition has a great deal to do with how much
can be charged.

Recent e-mails have mentioned that trade jeweler’s make around
$22.00/hr even with 27 years of experience. They have ,also, mentioned
that it is very difficult to make a living in this field - is this
true?

Any thoughts will be helpful.

Thanks
ds
kbds@qis.net


#2

Keep your current job and make jewelry in your off hours. When you have developed
a line of work and a market for it, consider moving into being self employed. I
believe that you would need a workshop with several employees to approach the
income level that you have now.

Steven Brixner - Jewelry Designer - San Diego CA USA
mailto:@Steven_Brixner4
http://home.att.net/~brixner


#3

While I don’t make aliving at this because I’m torn between two professions, if you
go this route I would strongly suggest you set up a website with your creations.
Art jewelry might not make you a living in anyplace but a large city, but with a
presence on the net you can get worldwide exposure if you do it right and put alot
of energy in making your site known. my two cents…Dave


#4

The transition phase could be rather tough- very few employees at the bench in the
jewelry field make anything near $27 an hour- $15-22 seems to be the range. I had a
conversation a year or so ago with a former setter who did piece work for one of
the MAJOR retail chains. He made a salary in the low six figures, but finally got
tired of the politics. Some designers get that kind of money, but nobody likes to
think that the bench people should get paid that well, no matter their skill
level. Self employment seems the only solution, but has its own pitfalls as well.
It takes years to develop a client base and they may or may not remain loyal. My
advice is “Don’t quit your day job…” at least until you have sold enough jewelry
at a profit to pay for your time, tools and materials. You’ll know when to make the
transition.

Rick Hamilton


#5
Recent e-mails have mentioned that trade jeweler's make around
$22.00/hr even with 27 years of experience. They have ,also, mentioned
that it is very difficult to make a living in this field - is this
true?

Yep, as far as I’ve seen. I suppose if you’re a senior jeweler in a big house,
you might see more. Take a look a www.Cgroup1.com and see what’s going on wage
wise. I charge my trade accounts $30/hr, but I work fast. I use a set price list
for most stuff. I do side work to survive. By the way, I’d be glad to
contribute if people want to start posting their price list on the site. As for
retail, I tell my boss "charge $60 hr. for my work, it’s costing you $25/hr. for
me to be hear, counting your share of S.S., unemp. ins., med., etc.). He usually
doesn’t. He’d rather keep my wages down and look good to his latte-sucking,
SUV-drivin’, cell -phone-beeping, golf buddies. Guess what I make per hour for my
27 years at the bench? yep, $15/hr, 3% commission on 160K of custom work, and my
3 dependants added to my med/dental (worth another $2/hr by figures given me by my
insuran Dan, there I go btchin’ again. Promised myself I’d give that a break!

David L. Huffman, Whining `ol bench-rat.


#6

david -

 He'd rather keep my wages down and look good to his latte-sucking, SUV-drivin',
cell -phone-beeping, golf buddies.  

employers who charge friends less on a professional discount basis usually go by
their own self-worth evaluation rather than the true value of their employee’s
work. of course the lion’s share employers take off of the top is based on the
employee’s actual high worth, not the employer’s low self-worth. hang in there &
paint a picture on the plywood! (on your own time jof course) - ive


#7

A good place to start looking for on salaries in the Jewelers Circular
Keystone magazine. Just a few months ago they had their annual issue on salary
averages around the country. What you make in a business on your own is a highly
variable thing and it is not necessarily related to what you actually make. For
example, I charge $150. per hour for my appraisal work but I don’t actually make
that much on it. When you deduct typing fees, some research time that I don’t get
paid for, time to write up the original order, appraisal insurance costs, etc.
Incidentally I used to charge $75/hour until Bell Atlantic informed me that I had
to pay a wire man $75/hour to come into my house and install a new phone jack.
Then they told me that since I actually wanted 2 phone jacks installed (2
lines-same place) that it would be $75/hour for each line even though he could do
both of them at the same time, during the same hour. I figured that if someone
could charge 75/hour for running a wire from one end of my house to the other, than
a lifetime of experience and study should qualify me for a higher rate of pay. In
terms of what you can expect to actually make if you go out on your own, you have
to anticipate at least a few years of minimum wage type salary. It is always
critical that you reinvest anything you make in a new business at the beginning.
After a few (maybe 3-7 depending on how well you are doing) years you should be
able to make a decent living if you are running your own business. Of course, one
person’s decent living is different from another’s. I don’t think you can expect
to actually make $27/hour at the beginning, so either keep the other job for awhile
or anticipate a pay decrease. Of course there are other ways to generate income out
of a small business that can help. Many small business owners do a lot of trading
with other people in the same boat, which can help get you through those initial
lean years. Daniel R. Spirer, GG Spirer Somes Jewelers 1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140 617-491-6000


#8

I went there, just out of curiousity- WOW, compare what they
will pay a “master bench jeweler” (avg, $20 bucks an hour, about
$40,000 a year, maybe-) vs. what they will pay for a manager-
50,000, to 80,000. Definitely unfair, when you consider the
skills involved.


#9

David, I read your post with interest. It is sad that we allow
big corporations to get away with charging such phenominal fees
for mundane work such as phone installation. And at the same time
they would pay the installer maybe 10% of the fee. So I agree
with you it is a good idea to support private contractors to do
this work and thumb our noses at the phone company.

Jewelers have another problem however, which is that nothing
they do can’t be done just as good or better for a fraction of
the price by a fifteen year old child who’s been chained to his
bench for 10 years in some godless third world pesthole. IMHO the
best start might be a more aggressive stance against importation
of jewelry made by slaves. Until then, I think that it might
well be reasonable to refuse to refuse to do repairs on slave
made jewelry

Geo.


#10

The Jewelry business is the only business I know where the
talent (bench jewelers/designers) are paid lower then the
managers. It is insane! When I was a fulltime animator/designer
I was paid MORE then my bosses because it was my talent that made
the company money. They couldn’t survive without the people who
actually do the work.

I don’t get it.
dede


#11

Hi Geo, Here are some pictures of costume jewelry workers in a
third world country, the Philippines in particular.There is an
unfortunate and deplorable situation here for both the jewelry
guild of the first world and the pestholes of the third. There
ought to be a way for both sides to cooperate, survive, and
prosper together. As far I’m concerned, the world sure could
afford and deserve more beautiful works of art in the form of
jewelry.

you’ll find the pictures at http://www.fcq.com/Workers/


#12
IMHO the best start might be a more aggressive stance against
importation of jewelry made by slaves.  Until then, I think
that it might well be reasonable to refuse to refuse to do
repairs on slave made jewelry  

Well said, Geo. We should all bear in mind that we work in an
industry which relies on near slave labor for its profitibility
and wreaks environmental havoc with the excavation of our
materials. We should all make a stand in whatever way we can to
reform the process of extraction of metals and stones and the
employee policies involved as well.

Mike Rogers


#13

George, Then the slaves will starve, as will the miners digging
out the precious metals and gems.

Boycotts only hurt the man on the bottom. Education of the
peoples is the better way to eventually break down what we
perceive as evil.

Many people bless the jobs they have for they are able to feed
their family with yes the meager earnings. There is no job
retraining for those who boycotts cause to lose their jobs. Those
workers will never thank you for your action.

I bleed for them as well, I have stood among them. Even those
harvesting the poppy for heroin need their job. Boycott is not
the answer. Teresa


#14
 I went there, just out of curiousity- WOW, compare what they
will pay a "master bench jeweler" (avg, $20 bucks an hour,
about $40,000 a year, maybe-) vs. what they will pay for a
manager- 50,000, to 80,000. Definitely unfair, when you
consider the skills involved.

On soap box.

It depends on how you look at it. The bench jeweler is
responsible for getting the work s/he’s assigned done in an
efficient workmanlike way. The manager is responsible for the
whole magilla, the bench jeweler, the clerks, the bean counters &
making a profit.

What you do with your hands is not the sole basis on which worth
is based. If you look at most industries, the person that
produces something with his hands is toward the low end of the
pay scale (unless there’s a strong union involved), those
farther up the management ladder are usually better paid. Usually
the others that are higher paid are the sales staff (if they sell
stuff), the creative, engineering staff & the financial staff who
can directly impact the bottom line. Generally those involved in
mental labor (however poor it might be) & responsibility are
better rewarded than those doing hand labor (no matter how
skilled).

The world is made of all kinds of folks, some who can do things
& some who can get others to do things. Each is needed. Unless
your the boss/owner’s offspring more money is usually be made by
folks in the 2nd group.

It may not be right, that’s just the way it is.

I’ll get off the soap box now.

Dave


#15
    A good place to start looking for on salaries
in the Jewelers Circular Keystone magazine. 

NOT!

Excuse me, I don’t mean to sound sarcastic, but JCK is a trade
rag whose subscribers are mostly small retailers. They don’t
want to upset these people or their advertisers with a realistic
appraissal of jewelers wages. Wages are definitely on the rise.
You’ll get a somewhat better picture at www.cgroup1.com but
even they show higher wages offered by employers/lower wages
asked by job applicants. It’s simply to give a good impression
of the potential employers. JCK has used every trick in the
book to attempt to contain the figures on jewelers salaries.
Last year they lumped us in with buyers to lower the average.
What has a bench jeweler to do with a buyer? This year the
lumped everyone together as “bench personnel” which I’m sure,
judging from wages, includes polishers and part timers, since
the lower end of the wage spread wouldn’t even meet minimum wage
for a full timers.


#16

The item that gets overlooked too often in this conversation is
that the labor of the U.S, benchjeweler can be replaced by the
work of a jeweler in the 3rd world where people are happy making
$10.00 a day with no addtional benefits. The job of the manager
is not yet posible to transfer overseas. The US consumer has
been able to enjoy the benefits of the high value of the dollar
at the cost of the US manufacturing craftsman. Etienne Perret


#17
Hi Geo, Here are some pictures of costume jewelry workers in a
third world country 

I’m sure there are jewelry workers subjected to appaling
conditions, but honestly, this didn’t look too bad. A bit on the
crude side, but I imagine there are much less pleasant ways to
make a living in the Phillipines. I don’t think it’s entirely
realistic to compare working conditions between countries with
fundamental differences in their level of development. These
people do have to put food on the table, and with a limited
choice of work this must be seen as a worthwhile job. Otherwise,
no one would be doing it.


#18

Well, lets look at a few things. 1: regular teachers. they are
paid a horrid salary…even lower than the jewelers. Admins. in
that area get higher wages… Of course they are supposed to have
more degrees too. But hey…it still isn’t worth the money.

2: Dance field. Most dancers get less than 30,000. per year. They
have trained since age 8 or younger. And their career must begin
at age 18 or 19, and will only go till (if lucky)…29- 36. yr.
old. After that it is back to the drawing board to learn a new
skill.

3: Most any one dealing in the arts, except the famous ones.

I think there are more, but why bother listing them. The list
could be endless with worthy talented folk who do not get the
salaries they should. Then one looks at Jim Carey, and he gets 20
million for one film… I don’t get that!

m


#19

All, It is truly good to hear from bench jewelers whining about
their current status as paid employees in the jewelry industry.
You should try being a stone cutter in this industry. Slave
labor and slanted marketing has taken the value right out of
precious You want to shake up the industry. Do the
following. #1 - Refuse to repair the junk jewelry. That includes
resizing rigs from TV junk shows. #2 - Refuse to mount stones
from supply houses that buy from slave nations. #3 - Unionize or
organize. Set minimum standards for work, pay, benefits, etc. #4

  • Do not work for stores that piece out their production. Divide
    and conquer strategy by the owners. #5 - Sponsor congressional
    mandates to standardize and regulate our industry. Do not whine
    if you are not willing to stand up and do something about it.
    Gerry Galarneau

#20

Jewelers of the world unite!

The message is that you have to be organized if you don’t want
to be exploited. This has been the case for labor since time
immemorial. We live in the world’s most aggressively
capitalistic society of all times in which the guiding principle
is to charge the most that the market will bear and pay the
least that the market will bear. Paying low wages is not only
not unfair, it is what any good capitalist is supposed to do.

The only valid response to this exploitation, now as ever, is to
organize. This is of course not going to be easy to do. But one
thing that is making it easier is the Net, and this list is a
perfect example of a viable means of communication that can help.
How many of you would be willing to work on this?

Riccardo Accurso
Ricco Gallery of Contemporary Art Jewelry
125 W German St /PO Box 883
Shepherdstown, WV 25443-0883