Shawn…an interesting topic to me and to many of us hobby or part time silversmiths looking to expand beyond giving presents to family and friends…a few comments… there are so many factors that I think you just have to do a lot of advance planning and research on your potential markets and marketing practices and then jump in and see what happens. I was surprised at how many books there are on selling on Etsy, Ebay, through websites, etc. It sometimes seems the whole world wants to work from home.
As an analogy, I found posts by David Geller here very helpful. He’s an expert on jewelry store productivity and pricing. Not that you are in that traditional market, but he discusses all the hidden costs in time, materials in labor and you can apply that to your own one-person-shop situation. As others have mentioned, it’s not the 1-2 hours of labor on each piece that’s going to make or break you, it’s the marketing, customer care, fulfillment and shipping, assembling supplies, etc., that are the bugbears. So having as good a business plan as possible at the start and then constantly refining it is going to be key.
Another thought I have is that you do have to find your market and methods to reach those people. I work in silver, like you, but also do gem cutting, both cabs and mid to high end faceted stones. Different markets which require different marketing strategies. As far as silver jewelry, you have several options. Yes, $100-$200 might be too high if you are looking for volume. Have you considered items which you could bang out in 20 minutes each or less? Then you would be in the impulse buy range of ~$20 to $75. Rings, pairs of earrings and small pendants can go out in a padded First Class mailer for cheap (“free shipping”), so you could look at boxing up and shipping five of these in an hour each morning…or you could look at silver with gold accents, which seems to be pretty popular now, but is a different niche market. I’ve seen it at museum shops and galleries…not an on line item, but perhaps you can find galleries to feature you.
So, yes, as you say, do a lot of business plan research, see what others seem to be doing, see what you can find on jewelry marketing in books and on line discussions. I’ve read some books on setting up a jewelry business and, since everyone seems to use a narrative form for writing now, you can find some case histories in such…they always seem to want to tell you what they did wrong as well as right…good luck! -royjohn