I've recently been communicating with a web-based pearl seller
hoping to do their stringing. I've been charging $2 per inch
wholesale for several years now and have not had complaints from
the stores that I >string for.
Your price doesn’t sound too far off to me. That’s about what I end
up paying a woman who does pearl stringing for me. But… she charges
by the knot (50 cents per), not by the inch. I think you should
consider this to protect yourself. Remember any jobs like this?
Grandma’s old pearls. The strand is 16 inches, tapering from about 5
millimeters in the center down to around 2.5 on the ends. The silk
is rotten, and many of the pearl’s holes are plugged with hardened
crud, a mixture of silk, sweat, perfume, and whatever, so you have to
drill this crap out, and the holes are rather small, hard to even get
the finest needle through. Careful not to bump that pearl board and
have the little buggers jump out of that trough or you’ll have to
measure and sort them all out. Oops, one just jumped out of your
hand, so now you can crawl around on your hands and knees looking for
it because the store did count and note how many and you don’t have
any extras in that size and color. How many knots per inch? 10? 15?
You’ve been doing this for a while, you must have an idea of what
your overhead is, how many hours in a day/year you actually get to
spend stringing. Don’t count time calling clients, ordering supplies,
packing up jobs and running them to the post office, etc., that’s in
the overhead. You need to determine how much an hour you need to make
to pay the bills and yourself and put a little money aside to grow or
just to cover the week you have to take off because you’re down with
the flu. Then sit down and time yourself. Okay, you’ve got a cost per
knot you need to make. Now, increase that a bit because you’re
probably pretty fast by now after all these years and that means you
are worth more per hour that the average schlub.
I know there are people on the West Coast tying for 25 cents a knot,
but ours works out to around 50 cents per. My guess is that works out
to about $2 an inch on 8 mm pearls. But how about one of those
"Add-A-Pearl" jobs, the ones on the delicate chain, about 2
millimeters each? I’ve paid around $15 each for those with about 10
pearls on them, but my stringer hates them so I send them out and
have to charge the customer shipping for both trips (I just pass on
the shipping charges without markup).
My opinion is, a realistic retailer knows good and well that a
competent pearl stringer with a reasonable turnarund time is not that
easy to find. I provide the service, but it’s almost a loss leader
for me. I don’t feel I can mark the charges up more than 100%, and I
often don’t do even that, but it’s good for customer relations
because these people are often buying other product from me. But we
give our customers excellent work, so I can’t exactly give it away. I
probably don’t do more than a half dozen pearl jobs a year, if that.
Mostly it’s a simple re-string on Beadalon with crimps and a lobster
clasp, and that’s a $15 job.
By the way (and you may not want to hear this), I can buy an 18" hank
of beautiful 8.5 millimeter pearls, allready strung and knotted
except for tying off the ends with French wire and adding a clasp,
for, get this, $139. They’re Chinese, not perfectly round, but close
enough that it takes a pretty good eye to tell. Nice thick nacre and
good luster and color. I believe these are from Akoya oysters.
Remember what a strand like that used to cost 20 years ago? Like
Anyway, think it over and let us know where this goes for you, I’d
David L. Huffman