Sorry it's taken me so long to respond, but this takes some
thought. I apologize in advance it some of what I'm about to say
sounds a bit cold-blooded, but law school does that to a person.
It seems to me that the most logical way to go about it is to
start with price and work backward. That is, figure out what
price range your best available market will support and design
Let's pretend that your market will support bracelets at $100.
Your formula needs to look something like this:
$100 = [MC x 2.5] + [L x $50] + GM
where MC= Materials Cost; L = Labor in hours; GM = Gallery
When you sit down to design your next bracelet, you either fit
it into the formula or you don't make it. Does this mean that
you have to resort to cranking out assembly line schlock? No,
it just means that you have to think like an artist who needs to
pay the rent, utilities, grocery bills, etc.
If you are working in anything other than gold or platinum, then
labor is probably a larger cost than materials. So, design a
bracelet with several variations that can be added quickly.
Make them in wax, and send them out to be cast. Cast them
yourself if you must but, while you are doing it, ask yourself
whether anyone would really pay $50 per hour to have you do
this? If you have a teenager available, teach it to run a
tumbler (a 10-12 year-old would be better, as they tend to be
In short, do everything you can to maximize the percentage of
your time you can spend at your bench with a torch or tool in
Does this make a difference if you are
working in Gold or fine silver, or sterling, since Gold
(especially with seems to have a higher markup price
than silver ?
I think I've got this one figured out! It's not that Gold has a
higher markup price that makes the difference, per se. The
difference is that working in gold entails much higher MATERIALS
COSTS than working in silver. So what? So, suppose you were
going to make two identical bracelets, except that one is of
silver and the other 14k gold. Each one weighs 1 troy oz.
The silver bracelet begins life as $6 or so of raw material.
The gold bracelet starts out at about $300. (I haven't checked
spot prices lately, so humor me.)
If each bracelet takes 4 hours to complete, you wind up with
Silver: [2.5 x $6] + [4 x $50] = $215
Gold: [2.5 x $300] + [4 x $50] = $950
Labor makes up 90+ percent of the price of the silver braclet,
but less than 25% of the price of the gold bracelet. (I'm
ignoring the whole gallery issue.) Prediction: the silver
bracelet won't sell, but the gold bracelet probably will. Why?
Because $950 just FEELS right for a beautiful bracelet,
hand-made from gold. On the other hand, $215 just FEELS like
too much money for a silver bracelet, no matter HOW beautiful
and hand-made it is.
Consumers naturally understand that gold costs much more than
silver, but they have no idea (generally) how expensive and
time-consuming it is to run a business.
The moral of this story? Even if you can't afford to work in
gold, you can't afford not to work in gold, if you really must
do one-of-a-kind pieces.
I'll stop here for now, I'm even depressing myself!
Tom's Gems -- rough and cut gemstones