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Working at home


I have been turned back from applying to visit some American trade
shows, why? I work at home & I don’t have an office. Does it 'really’
make any difference where my bench is, or where I create my
jewellery? I was told on many an occasion I have to produce a copy of
a ‘Lease’ to a store. Then produce umpteen invoices worth thousands of
dollars. gimmee a break! My home base/office contains all of my
teaching equipment, diamond setting tools, literature. But this does
not help me.

Sometimes the many higher-up echelon think I do this for only a

I’ve been working at home since 1980’s & will not ever think of
moving to an office ever again. I did try it for a year, but expenses
were to astronomical to continue.

My attitude is if they don’t want me, it’s their loss…:>) I usually
start my day at 6:00 a. m., it’s now 10:00 p. m. & I’m still going
full-tilt, could I do this in an office & succeed? Let’s hear it from
the other Orchid readers, eh! Gerry Lewy


same problem with many show venues (even those locally), and when i
applied for an artisan account at a famous supplier in Louisiana, I
received notice that I had to supply all the invoices, etc., even
though their website stated other qualifications which I could meet.
very discouraging.



Hi Gerry that is just silly.

I used to work at home but when my son moved out of a house I bought
on the river I thought give that a try.

Love the view. We are lucky in Australia as the trade is small and
we all know each other so to speak.

American bureaucracy I suppose. Yes it is their loss a very big
loss. We on Orchid know what you are about and what an amazing job you
do and what great advice you give.

I feel very sorry for the people who did not get to talk to you at
these trade fairs as you could have changed their lives.

Some people in the trade look down on me as I sell from market
stalls. But at the end of the day make a very nice profit and have
many good regular customers who are so over the “average” jewellery
shop and like hand made and like to buy direct from the maker. Yes I
sell mostly sterling but do 18 kt with untreated sapphires and opals
to a few customers who cannot believe my prices. If I made just two
18 kt gem set rings per day 5 days a week I would clear $140,000 a
year before tax. $600 profit for four hours work. I also have a show
room in the house I have my workshop and it is amazing, designed by
the wife. Apart from photos I am really really crap at display.

But as things are where I live I mostly work in sterling and as I
only work at jewellery 3 to 4 days a week I make far less than that.
But it is used as an example of how much I could make, working from

So Gerry don’t sweat the small stuff, you know how good you are and
so do the 13,000 on Orchid. So if a few of the ignorant don’t want
your wealth of knowledge that is their loss.

All the best


I hear that and second it with a been there and wow really you are
not a jeweler unless you make 100k a year or have a storefront? I beg
to differ with the requirements demanded from suppliers and
associations. Many of these “jewelers” take calibrated stones and
plop them in premade settings and have big fancy stores.

I make my settings and now am beginning to learn to cab and facet my
own stones and I will always have my studio at home now. I had a
rental space in a warehouse for a year. Who needs the overhead and
commute time loss? Since I sell in person at shows and via the
internet? I am a jeweler. I have studied gemstones with a mentor and
am always learning when working with metals of all types. I see a
stone and think of its beauty and then I make a setting to show it
off as best I can. So right now I am not making 100k and I cannot get
associations to allow me to join so I can get insurance and benefits
of symposiums and work shops.

You want people to learn the trade and save it from becoming a lost
art. Until you start recognizing that the world is changing faster
than you think; especially where venues for selling jewelry is
concerned. Until you begin supporting all who work and make their
income from fabrication. You will not gain many novices to mentor to
fruition and continue this most joyous profession.

Teri Davis
Cornelius’s Pick


Hello Gerald,

That’s makes absolutely no sense. I would be interested in knowing
what federal agency set this restriction.

Jeff Herman


I have had the same exact problem for the same exact reason! I have a
business license, tax ID, I even have the invoices they request
(that far exceed the “minimums”), but no “lease”. I’m not a
hobbiest, I am a legitimate business and personal jeweler. I am sure
there are vendors at these shows who would be happy to have my
business - my current vendors tend to like me a lot because when I
order something I have already “qualified” my customer and the sale
is guaranteed almost without fail. My diamond dealer told me he
especially likes having me as a customer because with some of his
"bigger" accounts, he might send 10+ memos and sell only 1, but with
me he memos a shipment and I sell something - unless, of course, I
happen to get it in and “up-sell” the customer because I’m able to
prove the stone they thought they wanted wasn’t large enough to suit
their desires. :wink:

It is maddening - but I must say the vendor partners I have found
through my wonderful group of jeweler friends are awesome and many
of them are small business entrepreneurs, like me, eager to team up
and serve customers with courtesy and close attention. We are
creative people, in a creative industry - why are we penalized for
having a creative business model?

Donna W
Huntsville, AL

I have been turned back from applying to visit some American trade
shows, why? I work at home & I don't have an office. 

It’s all politics. Here in Wisconsin they held the Midwest Jewelers
Show in Madison and technically the only way you could go, if you
were a goldsmith, was if you worked as an employee of a retail
store. Then you could go under the stores name. That was because all
of the board members were retail jewelers and they only wanted their
own to attend the show. In reality you could still go as an
independent goldsmith (whether you worked at home or not) if you
knew one of the board members. The whole thing is stupid. They
usually have a sizable tool section, you’d think they would want the
people who buy most of that stuff to attend the shows. I know the
SMART Show in Chicago is the same way you describe Gerry. But again,
if you know someone who will vouch for you then you get right in
without all the monkey business even if you work at home.

Years ago I talked to a board member about the problem and he said
that many retail jewelers feel threatened by independent goldsmiths
who can undercut their prices and “steal” their customers. So they
make it hard for them to attend.



In addition to not being able to attend some (most? all?) trade
shows because I have a home based business, (By the way I make about
300 items of quality jewellery a year - this is my career not a
hobby) I am not able to subscribe to some trade magazines. It is
incredibly short sighted. The advertisers in the publications are for
sure missing out on a legitimate customer.

The most offending publication is is a trade publication that would
include trade advertisements for local suppliers. I make my
purchases from far away as a result. My local supplier loses more
than I do.

It is note worthy that Gerry Lewy and I are in the same geographic
area. (and like Gerry I work every evening and long hours every day
because I can do it so easily - I just move from my living space to
my studio, sit and work!!) Is this refusal to acknowledge genuine and
legitimate businesses based in a home an isolated issue or is it
common everywhere? Franklin


heck of a time getting some wholesale accounts etc. because of that.
If I had the overhead of another building or store I would simply
not be as profitable. I work from 6am to late into the evening as
well but I have a young family so my after school time is often busy
with sports, homework and supper. I am shocked and amazed at the
living I make and I simply walk down a flight of steps to get to
work. Again, I work a lot of hours. I don’t take very many days off
even on weekends I get up early and work on something before anyone
else is up. I had not taken a vacation in years so I just took one
last summer. It pained me to do so but it was important to refresh
myself. I love what I do and I often think I should have a small
workshop built out of my house. and I think of heating it, shoveling
snow, maintenance, taxes. All of those things I have to do to my
home and I can’t imagine doing it to another building. So here I stay
working away and I love it. How the work keeps pouring in I have no
idea. I am blessed. :slight_smile:

joy kruse


Hi Gerry

There has always been a prejudice towards in home/studio jewelers
from the brick and mortar stores and the Jewelers Board of Trade
(JBT), and they force the shows to be exclusive for home studio
jewelers. The retailers at the mall don’t want the competition and
the JBT wants an address so their members can reach you and sell
their wares. It seems to be simple exclusionary business tactics.
Their show, their rules.

If you have a particular supplier that you have a working
relationship with, and they are in a show you want to attend, they
might be able to waiver you in.

Lesson here is to think about your business loyalty and who you want
to support.

If you go to Tucson and walk the AGTA show which requires all the
documents you mentioned, and found folks just standing around in a
big sleepy show, and then you cross the street to the GJX where
regular business documents are adequate, and you can’t get through
the massive crowds you have a lesson in why some of these big shows
are suffering.

Thank you for all your input about setting techniques and all. I
enjoy your letters very much.



HI Gerry,

The part of me that hasn’t qualified to attend a big trade show
since I became independent sympathizes with you on the issue.
However, the part of me that was an exhibitor at multiple wholesale
shows has less sympathy.

A bit of background here; When I was a young teenager my family took
me and my siblings to Dallas for the big regional jewelry trade

We went every year. This was in the 70’s. Show management soon
banned children under 17. My mother claimed that our behavior at the
last show my siblings and I attended was the reason why trade shows
stopped allowing children into shows! So, after that, we were
unceremoniously dumped at the big amusement park, Six Flags, while
Mom and Dad shopped the show. Show management also made other changes
that tightened attendance, which made my mother happy because for a
couple of years we met the local banker and his wife at the show
shopping for jewelry.

Anyway, while I know you would be one of those non-retail storefront
attendees who would be respectful of the exhibitors, my experience
as a wholesale show exhibitor was that most nontraditional attendees
were time-consuming and sometimes flat out deceptive. I spent a good
chunk of my hard earned capital at shows I attended to make
connections with stores that could partner with me to sell lots of my
jewelry. The only way I could make a living selling wholesale was to
sell multiple pieces, I had no interest in selling one piece at a
time at wholesale prices to interior designers, personal or executive
shoppers regardless of how much they loved my work.

All that said, I understand the desire to attend shows. I just moved
my shop from home to a small retail space last summer, so I’m
looking forward to attending my first show as a genuine buyer. Prior
to that, I have had several relationships with retail clients who
would, if I asked, sign me up as a buyer from their store. I haven’t
attended a show in a while, so I don’t know if it’s still possible to
do this but it was relatively easy in the late 90’s early 00’s. At
that point all they required was a copy of a check paid to the person
applying as a buyer, presumably to demonstrate they were an employee.
Since these clients of mine paid me regularly for work I did for
them, that was pretty easy to do.

I had a difficult time one year getting into the AGTA gem show in
Tucson. I am listed in JBT but I asked that my name not be published
in the book. This completely frazzled the person who was registering
people. Fortunately, one of my good clients was a major exhibitor at
the show and they made a call and I was allowed to register. So,
there may be ways of getting around the strict buyers registration
process if you are creative and really want to go. I hope you get to

Proud owner of Virtuoso Jewels in downtown Apex NC since July 2013



You mentioned the contrast in Tucson between the AGTA and GJX
venues. I had wondered about that and if the prices were the same or
different for the gems (assuming “apples to apples”, of course)? I
hope to go next year and was curious if it was worth the trouble to
get the credentials to get into AGTA.

Donna W
Huntsville, AL


Hi Teri and others

Many of these "jewelers" take calibrated stones and plop them in
premade settings and have big fancy stores. 

They sure do. Buy the casting send it to a polisher, buy the stone
send it to a gem setter. Declare them self a master designer and
jeweller. LOL.

How many non-standard cut stones are there in the average jewellery
store, ZERO.

I make my settings and ring shanks and few do this these days. This
is what my customers like. Hand made and buying direct from the maker
WITHOUT the massive markups of stores. I do keystone my jewellery so
there is good profit in what I make. A friend had a repair come in
the lady had bought it at a half price sale $75 a gram for 9 kt he
sells 9 kt for $48 a gram guess where she shops now?

I think that those who hand make will win out, be it those like me
who make simple sterling gem set rings or sometimes 18 kt, or those
who make high end jewellery one offs. But it will be a hard road for
years to come.

Many customers like the personal hand made touch over the mass
produced. But there are many who want to put as many low grade
charms on a bracelet as they can to impress their girlfriends. But do
we want to sell to them, not me. I want customers with some taste and
intelligence or can be educated.

To me a jeweller/silversmith/goldsmith actually makes the jewellery.
And every day there are less and less of them, VERY SAD.

This is why I teach how to make jewellery. So people can buy
something that is not mass produced sh*t from Asia. On this point a
customer asked my why is all the jewellery from China crap? Because
the wealthy Chinese but all the good stuff like a $9 million jade
necklace. They are proud of their culture and their top quality
artisans some thing we in the west could learn from.

Until we educate the customer and the customers support the hand
makers of their home country there will be problems in this trade.

That is why Orchid is so important to the trade, it is a resource
like no other. Newbies to those who have been making for decades all
ask and contribute. Even if you lurk and learn that is still good.

newbies ask the question no matter how dumb you think it is. because
many of us have asked the same question, but on orchid you get many



Hi Donna

I must say the vendor partners I have found through my wonderful
group of jeweler friends are awesome and many of them are small
business entrepreneurs, like me, eager to team up and serve
customers with courtesy and close attention. We are creative
people, in a creative industry - why are we penalized for having a
creative business model? 

because we are a threat to the corporate model. I have many friends
who make jewellery we talk and share. Our customers feel like REAL
PEOPLE who are not used to such quality service but soon come to
expect it. They are used to some ill trained sales person going “Are
you right?” Acting bored and uninterested. Or else the customer gets
the sales pitch. Me I say, “Please try it on if you like.” When they
try on a piece I explain how it was made and what the gemstone is
natural or lab grown. A conversation not pressure sales. If they
don’t buy I tell them I have new pieces every week.

I do free cleaning on all my pieces. Had a customer come to have 5
pieces cleaned did her husbands 3 gold pieces too not mine. Gave him
a gold cleaning cloth for free. Where will they come to look for
their next jewellery purchase? If I have what they want it will be my
sale, if not they will have looked at my stock FIRST!

I treat my customers with the utmost respect unless they cop an
attitude. “Where are are those earrings I ordered three months ago
without a deposit.” Sold sorry, held them for a month but you did
not turn up. If they get nasty, I tell them to f*ck off. If my
customers are polite I am too if not then too bad I have some one to
take their place who WILL appreciate my service. They have my phone
number and my email so if they cannot collect on time and contact me
it is not a problem.

I have been in this business for decades and have found that some
customers are very picky that is ok we are a precision trade, others
are just rude and so am I to them. No one wants their attitude and
they don’t spend serious $. I am not in business to be insulted so if
a customer insults me I give it to them in spades.

I like being old and insensitive. I have many customers who like the
quality service I give them, the others well #$@!



Hi everyone-

I am a newbie, barely above hobbyist, really. A stay at home mom who
doesn’t want to go back to being a nurse when the youngest goes to
school next year. I have a little set-up at home, hit a few shows to
sell my things when I can, but my goals within the next few years
include growing both my knowledge and business. I would never even
pretend to be ‘worthy’ of attending a major trade show, but was
wondering if there were shows geared for the artists and jewellers
who work out of their homes. One would think that it would be a

Thanks to all of you who share your knowledge so freely!




I just read about the number of hoops and hurdles just to get into
this place for Jan/15.

  1. I need a JBT number. n/a!
  2. Bus. licence. n/a
  3. Tax exempt licence…(I pay all of my taxes!)
  4. Invoices totaling over $10,000 from three separate suppliers. and
    not ‘one big purchase’
  5. Proof of Membership from 11 trade orgs. n/a

Should I even mention that I have a Guinness World Record? I’m going
to call them see just what happens then. I’ll report back later
today!! Gerry Lewy


“AGT, eh?”

No matter what I have, they still need those *** pieces of wallpaper.
The AGTA membership representative didn’t give me much help. only “Go
online & see what happens”. Doesn’t look too promising!! Thankfully
in Toronto, we are inundated with great gem-stone dealers. We can
examine any stone we need by ‘holding & viewing’ that stone in our
tweezers. Yearly membership is only a mere $360.00 US, or $400.00

Gerry Lewy


Love the way Richard Hopkins stresses the education of customers part
of making and selling jewellery. I love explaining the “nuts and
bolts” of jewellery - how it’s made, how to care for it and all
that. Trouble is, most don’t seem to want to listen: they buy on
price point, and if it’s cheap silver-plated plastic, well they don’t
care. They’ll just get another from WalMart. It’s all part of today’s
non-existent attention span culture.

Such a pity - those people don’t know what they’re missing. The ones
who want to know? Plenty of them out there too - love 'em!



Hi Patty,

I know a little about nurses. I was able to get one to join me here
some 40 yrs ago.

Their people skills will stand you in good stead in dealing with
customers for your work. Tho your focus will be more on what you
have made than what the patient needs.

As an independent, your 3 areas of growth will be, design, making and

The 1st 2 are were you will need to develop your skills.

I advise, if you can, find some where where you can show what you
made on say, a one day a week, for say 3 hrs. By talking about what
you have made, with folk will stimulate you with new ideas and give
you a good idea what the market is willing to buy.

As for larger shows, they will come in the future, you will know
when the time is right.

I did a weekly show for some 14 yrs beore moving up to bigger events
on a less frequent schedule.

Whats impoortant at this stage is making regulary, to get the skill
level and production speed up.

After all if itssold, then you need to remake for the next week, not
just one but two.

hope you follow.


Hi Donna

Both the AGTA and the GJX are wonderful shows. Tucson is one big
wonderful show! My favorite show is the GJX and you will enjoy it.
Busy, loud, crowded, and a very high energy show, not to be missed.
Standard business documents like state sales tax docs and business
license, business cards are required. Much more reasonable for an in
home jeweler.

Don’t forget that Tucson has about 30 official shows and a bunch of
"dirt" shows as well. I imagine you will find whatever you like/need
at the shows you can attend.