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What will people pay for

The New York Times (Sunday-May 30) has a half page article, with
photos, titled “Jewelry Without the Jewels,” here is a list of the 7
pieces they describe, all of which are in pricey galleries in the

  1. Necklace of gold colored silk threads – $250.00
  2. Necklace of springs stretched over square frames-$135.00
  3. Rubber brooch – $40.00
  4. Necklace of Disks of laminated paper – $175.00
  5. Necklace made of multi colored key tags – $350.00
  6. Strings of beads covered in fabric scraps – $135.00 to $385.00
  7. Necklace made of colored rubber bands and red glass
    beads – $125.00

Granted they all look pretty colorful,. and “different”–

Any Comments?


It’s nice to see instances where work is valued for it’s creativity,
artistic input, and the labor required to make it, rather than the
all to common scenario where jewelry customers want to know “how much
per gram?”. My thought, looking at your listed prices, is that
these are likely production pieces done in at least editions, if not
larger numbers, or the prices might well have had to be higher for
true one of a kind items. (remembering that the artist’s share of
those prices might easily have been only 40 or 50 percent. Very
often, jewelers use precious materials as much as a means to justify
getting paid a decent amount of money for their work as they do
because it’s the right material for the job. And there are a lot of
very fine, artistically and technically competent works that get sold
for too low a price because the materials are not deemed valuable
enough, with buyers reluctant to pay for the aspect of the work
that’s the most valuable, the artists time and creativity. They
may grumble when their lawyer bills them a hundred fifty bucks an
hour, but they pay it. Then their jeweler wants half that or less for
his competent labor, well trained design sense, and jewelry
expertise, and they balk. but if that work is made in platinum, then
they’ll pay. This is all too common, and frankly, a sad commentary
on the buying public’s tastes and awareness of what goes into good
work. So seeing work promoted as art and original and worth having
just on those scores, regardless of the intrinsic value of the
material, is refreshing and encouraging.


Hi Sandra;

I’ll let you know how the market responds to my latest efforts, the
"bricks and mortar" collection, which used, you guessed it, bricks
and mortar. The next series will be my "sticks and stones"
collection. You’re right, same logic applies. Heavy on the
metaphor, light on the pocket. I still have to pay the student loan
for that MFA I bought back in 91, so I suspect these will be priced
at considerably more than the value of the materials involved. By
the way, I spent today making reproductions of Edwardian pieces,
excessive detail, pierced, engraved, etc. I’m also working on a lot
of that pave/white gold stuff you see slathered throughout Town &
Country. Sooo, sometimes I need to “deconstruct” the issue of
intrinsic value a bit.

David L. Huffman

Art would understand. As for me - might like to look at them once,
and understand that they represent thought and work on the part of
their designers, but pay that for them? Very unlikely.


Sandra Well, would you be caught dead wearing any of them? …And
if you fancied one, would you consider paying the asking price?
Let’s see how well they sell. Maybe I can market my necklace of
strung-together paper clips in assorted colors… ? I’ll be watching
for next week’s New York Times Styles section to see which stores
will be featuring the latest in Emperors’ new clothes… Sorry for
being such a cynic


All, Accepting the risk of offending…I looked at the items in the
NY Times article and was not at all impressed. I instruct at an art
school where heavy emphasis is on the graphics side of fine art. We
have some painters who could rival the best who ever painted. All
schools and techniques are included…some of which could even be
called ‘wierd’. That does not mean it is not art…just wierd art.

We also have instructors in our jewelry department who teach what I
call ‘esthetic art jewelry’. What is that? In my humble opinion it
is wierd ‘jewelry’ that cannot be worn or otherwise adorn one’s body.
It is simply something to sit there and look at now and then. It is
also wierd art but can be called ‘jewelry’ only by a very long
stretch of one’s imagination.

The stuff in the NY Times article cannot even begin to fit the above
descriptions. My young granddaughters do that stuff…lots of it
much nicer than that pictured. On the other hand, if there are those
talent challanged people out there who cannot match two colors,
shapes or whatever who would rather pay someone else to do it for
them…so be it. I guess even those with no talent have the right to
pay those who may not have talent but perhaps have a wild sense of
imagination for something they can at least wear on their bod.

Now I wonder why I even started writing this message!! Cheers from
Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple elegance IS fine
jewelry! @coralnut2

My answer is yes! I would even wear some of these items before
death. If I had the disposable income and didn’t want to make it, I
would pay the going price. My requirements are interesting, unusual
(though wearable) and well crafted. I was thrilled when I saw the
article, because it helps to separate the “value” of the piece from
the materials it is made from. All of these pieces help the viewer
see an everyday material in a new way- in my mind way better than
the thousand(s) dollar diamond ring that looks like most of the
other ones out there and is ONLY expensive because of the diamond
(i.e. not much craft, no real interest but for the rock).

(in Baja Arizona where it’s supposed to be 104 today)


Thanks for posting the info. on the NYT article - love being pointed
to things like this!

For others who are interested, I found it (with a photo of the
pieces) online on the NYT website:

You have to register, but it’s free.

-Jessica, where the SF summer fog has yet to mosey on in…

Jessica Sexton
Jessica Sexton Precious Metalworks
(415) 587-0131 / (800) 533-2779

Dee, I would not wear paper clips (of any color) but there are
artists who feature them in their jewelry. Not only do these
"artists" get into shows, they sell better than those who present
hand fabricated, precious metal with (I never
understood why that happened?!) Their stuff isn’t inexpensive
either. $70 -150.

Dee–No (I wouldn’t think of wearing them) and NO (if I did I
certainly wouldn’t pay the price they asked) However, don’t knock
colored paper clips–how about fake fingernails–I bet we’ll see
both of those things before long.

My guess is that it’s certainly requires some imagination, and for
people with lots of money, those prices are probably like pennies
and nickels to the rest of us.


I call this sort of jewelry, Exhibition Jewelry. by this I mean that
it is meant for a competitive show and need only look as if it would
be possible for it to be worn.

Marilyn Smith


Hey Dee, that’s why some people make lots of money, and some sit
back and complain. Niche market is what it is all about, and if you
live in a bubble, you will sell in a bubble. Fashion is fickle,
yes, but fashion has very deep pockets!

And by the way, it’s not all about money (even though currency flows
through it). If a piece is art, it transforms the meager materials
and becomes a sum greater than it’s parts.

I haven’t seen these pieces, so who knows whether I would consider
them art or not – but my opinion doesn’t matter, so long as someone
considers them worth the asking price. And that, my fellow
Orchidian, is supply and demand – the root of economics.


Nora, That diamond might be set in a setting that was made from a
hand carved wax that was then cast in gold or platinum. The metal
alone could cost many hundreds of dollars.

Joel Schwalb

hank you Nora for being willing to speak up on the affirmative side -
I totally agree with you. I love seeing things presented in a new
and unexpected way. I studied painting in a former life and my
instructor disdained realistic painting. He often said, "Why paint it
realistically - for that we have photography - paint what you “feel"
or “think” about it instead”. I think this could apply to jewelry
too. Perfectly made pieces often remind me of the pianist who plays
exactly right but with no feeling. But each to his own - that’s what
makes the world go round.


All, My thoughts of why people buy what they buy. Concernig lurury
items. Jewelry is a luxury item.

Whenever an item is being evaluated for purchase numerous factors
come into play. These factors are impulse, selling price, and the
buyers percieved value of the object.

Impulse is what first brings one to look at an object. Simple
impulse is: I will buy the object no matter what it costs because I
like the object. More complex impulse happens when a buyer is looking
for a specific item or an item which will fulfil a specific set of
variables. Simple impulse is what normally occurs in purchases of
inexpensive jewelry. Complex impulse is what occurs in the purchase
of expensive jewelry.

Selling price determines the kind of impulse buying. Many purchases
end when the buyer finds out the selling price of the object. Yes,
feathers and sea shells may be an artistic expression of great
design, but are they worth $300? $3,000? At the same time a piece
of well made jewelry made of 10K gold, SI2 diamonds, and a poor
clarity, but highly colored gemstone; may trigger the impulse buy
when the selling price is much less than the same object constructed
of higher quality materials. The artist can utilize this marketing to
get the same pay for thier design and exectution, but less total
money for the actual materials utilized. You cannot sell 10K gold
for 18K, SI2 diamonds for VVS, or a poor gemstone for the same price
as a high clarity and deeply colored gemstone. You can try, but you
will be very shortly discovered and your business will suffer.

Percieved value figures into the equation whenever luxury items are
sold. Understanding percieved value is very complex. In my business
I have spent many hours trying to figure out how to better market my
items. Percieved value plays an enormous part of this equation. We
do not target any one area of human beings. Every one that
approaches us is treated like they are the most impotant person at
that moment. We sell our gemstones and jewelry because the customer
percieves that the product is what we say it is in physical
description and in actual components. When customers check out the
jewelry at either appraisers or other stores they quickly find out
we are trying our best to be truthful. That is what brings customers
back. This is just my analysis in very short form of the complexity
of the sales of luxury items.

Gerry Galarneau, in sunny and hot (105 F today) Phoenix, Arizona,
USA, where my stock of finished products is the lowest it has ever
been and I am working hard to recover from a very brisk sales season.

Joel, When I put my answer together I refrained from saying
"titanium and diamond ring" because I was pretty sure someone would
come back with "the cost of titanium+the cost of
diamonds+labor+overhead+profit=$5000 (a reasonable price).

The point I wanted to make is that IMHO something (jewelry or
whatever) is not necessarily less “art/good design/valuable” because
the materials are everyday items or not expensive. It seemed to me
that the jewelry in the article was being dissed because if was made
of inexpensive material (and, I’m not forgetting, some just plain
out didn’t like it :-).

I know someone who makes wonderful pieces incorporating aluminum cut
from found cans. The design is good, the craftsmanship is extremely
good- I don’t think he should charge less because he’s using part of
a drink can instead of textured silver ('course he doesn’t pretend
to the customer that the can is anything but). My brother-in-law
makes baskets from previously used materials, like traffic signs and
house wrap. He’s been in the Smithsonian Craft show a few times.
And his work seems to sell better at a higher price than it ever did
at a lower price, because he now sells to collectors rather than
people who just want a basket (no offense to "usable basket"

If we stick to the idea that a design is only valuable if the
components are valuable then we run the risk of missing out on great
design ideas, because we dismiss the design ideas before we have a
chance to understand and appreciate them. And, of course, there’s
always learning to see the everyday in a new way.

And Kay, quality of execution is VERY important to me (sorry if I
wasn’t clear). I have turned away from what might have been good
design because the craftsmanship was bad-- I guess that’s my

Getting off my soap box NOW!

Ok, I went to the Times website and saw the “jewelery” and now I am
incensed. If I were “god on the mountain” I would have made one
more commandment—I would have forbid cynicism. It is the most
unforgivable sin; to think so little of your fellow man that you
would attempt to sell her/him garbage, because “you know their going
to buy it, and if I don’t somebody else will.” It’s a vile,
despicable attitude and serves only to highlight what is worst about
American business.

And of the people who would buy it, suffice it to say that the rich
are just as insecure as the poor, just as unsure of what is cool and
what will make people love or envy them. That is where the ultimate
cynic comes in, the style writer at the New York Times. Could it be
that Marianne Rohrlich laughed as she typed, knowing Greenwich
Village mommies who haven’t been hip since they were too poor to
dream about the real estate they now inhabit, would rush to be the
first on the block in laminated paper?

Are the girls in Brooklyn and out at the Paramus Mall wearing paper
clip necklaces? Could be…but I doubt it. But watch this
phenomenon carefully, as ghetto kids (as we discussed several weeks
ago) are putting diamonds on their teeth, white ladies of a certain
socio-economic strata are going to have to think of something less
ostentatious to put around their slender necks…and if we don’t
sell it to them, someone will.

people - my partner, born in one parent’s country that is heavily
into red & black decoration & furnishings while the other parent’s
birthplace goes for orange & green, once quoted someone long
forgotten: "no one ever went broke underestimating american taste."
fortunately, we orchidaires deal only with those not in that group.