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Young jeweler in need of some advice

I need to get some advice form a seasoned pro, I have been making
jewelry now for about 5 years, and everyone that sees it loves it,
and I sell an okay amount, but I want to take my work to the next
level, I’d like to get my jewelry sold in jewelry stores. But, I have
some questions about pricing, and how exactly to go about doing that.
If anyone experienced in such things could privately e-mail me, so i
can ask a few questions, it would be much appreciated!


Hi Chris

Many people doing wholesale work use a starting formula of:

  1. Materials: 50% added to your costs.

  2. Labor: $65 to $85 an hour. Typically this ends up doubling your
    ACTUAL cost of labor. This may be tough for a one person shop as
    labor has to be as streamlined as possible In other words you can’t
    charge like making a ring for Mrs Jones. “Lazy” time.

Try making 2-3 of a number or several at a time to see how long
waxing, or fabrication takes, along with polishing 3 at a time (or
more) and get some averages. Figure costs as if you hired people. If
you paid someone $20 an hour, it would actually cost you 10-20% MORE
because of matching fica/medcare/vacation, etc.

So a $20 an hour jeweler REALLY costs $25 an hour.

Then figure down time, time you pay and no work is being done:
breaks, rolling emery paper, talking, etc.

Down time means MOST jewelers work 5-6 hours making jewelry although
you pay 8 hours. So add another 25% in to whatever time YOU THOUGHT
it took.

$20 an hour jeweler = $25 an hour

1 hour job REALLY takes 1.25 hours

Therefore $25 an hour x 1.25 hours = your COST TO MAKE =$31.25.
DOUBLE that = $62.50 per hour to charge (or $65 an hour, or more)

I might charge $65 an hour for silver work and $85 an hour for gold
work just because I CAN.

his is a good starting point for you.
Hope that helps

David Geller

Therefore $25 an hour x 1.25 hours your COST TO MAKE $31.25.
DOUBLE that $62.50 per hour to charge (or $65 an hour, or more) I
might charge $65 an hour for silver work and $85 an hour for gold
work just because I CAN. 

I’ll add to David’s calculations, for everyone, that you need to be
~qualified~ to make those numbers. There was a thread here quite a
few years back about someone who took 40 hours to make a wax. No,
you don’t get $4,000 for a wax, you get $200 as is pretty much
industry pay (or less) and you make $5/hr. You can, of course, ask
for anything you want, but there is an inherent value-based pay
structure in jewelry that you need to learn and understand. If it
takes you 4 hours to make a wedding band and it takes me an hour - I
will sell mine for $100 and yours will sit in the showcase for $400.
Just to say that David’s numbers are true, but you also have to have
a sense of where you fit in the greater scheme of things. You have
to be competitive.

I’m sitting here, teaching in JAMAICA where the standard of living
is quite low. None of the natives have much to spend, so Davids
equation is not for this island. But his rule seems correct in a
country anywhere else.

The average income here is terribly low. The few professionals can
afford the finer items…As John said, you must gear your price of
your jewellery to level of the ‘masses’.

What I would pay for a Cad design at home (Toronto) is out-to-lunch
down here!!! Some of the bench jewellers are only making $200.00 a
week! People are selling their gold (9kt-14 kt.) just to ‘make ends
meet’, or pay bills.


people - if you get hung up on balancing your time/effort-to-price
total you might wind up getting bogged down in the penny section of
the cash drawer. try a different route: analyze WHAT you’ve made
instead of what it cost to make;

  • is the design unique enough to charge more than for your time?

  • did you fabricate the setting to effectively set off the stones so
    they don’t get lost in the frou-frou? OR,

  • are you designing unnecessarily complicated settings requiring too
    much effort?

  • using all run-of-the-mill commercially cut s tones that are

if you answer the first 2 questions with ‘no’, and the last 2 with
’yes’, is it because you haven’t improved your techniques and
widened your abilities since you started - or did you just decide to
aim for ‘mediocre’ in the beginning? and, last, how much pleasure do
you get from your efforts? if ‘work pleasure’ and you aren’t on
speaking terms, consider Joseph Campbell’s marvelous advice on
focusing your life’s efforts: “Find your bliss.” doing what you can’t
imagine NOT doing is ‘your bliss’ - such as Hanuman’s photography and

good luck -
life is too short to cheat yourself.

I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing, I multiply my costs by 3, add in
a salary based on time and difficulty ($10 easy, $15 intermediate,
$20-25 hard), then double the total. That’s my retail price.
Wholesale is 30-45% off retail based on purchase level. But before I
lock my retail price in, I go online looking for others selling
similar items. I check Etsy, Artfire and Handmade Artists Forum,
among others. I compare their prices to the price I got based on my
formula, and then either adjust it up or down a bit. I don’t want to
undersell myself but I don’t want to price myself out of the market

I just made a pair of copper earrings, 100% hand made, which I love.
Now using my formula I’d have to charge well over $100 bucks for it.
While simple, it as time consuming. But the formula isn’t always
right. Not when it overprices a simple pair of earrings. So, I went
online, compared makes of other copper earrings, similar, though none
the same, and lowered my price to one I think will sell. Whether it
will or not, who knows… that’s an entire 'nother story. [sigh]
Online, maybe, if I take it to a show, probably.

In case anyone is interested, you can find them at

What would YOU charge for these?


Michele- What does your plumber charge per hour? I’m betting
anywhere between $50.00 to $75.00 per hour. That’s what you should
charge for your time to be able to make a decent living.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

I see lots of people under pricing on Etsy, I don’t know how they
expect to make a living or even support their jewelry habit like
that. One thing I know is that I can’t compete with labor costs from
outside the US. I see ROOMS full of jewelry made outside the US here
at the Tucson gem show which look like much of whats on Etsy at
prices that would bury any US jewelry maker. I can’t compete on
price, there is no way I can compete on price that game is decided
already. I compete on artistry, craftsmanship, quality materials and
service. That is the only niche left where I feel I can win.

Sam Patania, Tucson

Hi Jo,

What does your plumber charge per hour? I'm betting anywhere
between $50.00 to $75.00 per hour. That's what you should charge
for your time to be able to make a decent living. 

Well, yes and no. I agree with you in general, but there’s a
difference between what you should charge as shop rate, versus what
you pay yourself. Depending on what I’m doing, and what tools it
requires, I bill the customer anywhere from $100-$300/hr.

Unfortunately, I don’t get paid any different. (or anywhere near
$100/hr) The rest of it goes into paying for the shop and the gear.
(and the oil/power/air/gas/tooling for the gear.)

Same thing with my car mechanic or plumber. Yeah, they bill out at
$100/hr, but they’re not getting anything close to that. Overhead
eats the rest.

So, start with $20/hr (as a start), then add in your overhead costs
(you know what those are, right?), then add on 10% for St.Murphy the
Merciless, and that’ll get you a basic shop rate. Then add on for
materials, and keep track of your time, and that’ll give you a
’break even’ cost for the piece. Anything above that (if you can get
it) is profit. Anything below that, and you’re losing money.

Wish it were easy.


Pricing can be found on ASK Harriete in a whole series of

Additional presentation about pricing from the SNAG PDS

What I can tell you is that your pricing formula did not cover
overhead.and that you did not charge enough in your hourly wages.

Overhead includes: Rent, Office expenses, Utilities, Insurance,
Depreciation, Shop/studio supplies, Advertising, Travel expenses,
Exhibition and Shows, Professional Expenses, Taxes (this is not a
comprehensive list.)

The prices on Etsy and Artfire are not a good comparison they are
way to low. (A huge problem with the sites in general.)

The biggest issue is that you can not compete on price alone. You
will NEVER be able to sell your work at a low enough price.

Your jewelry needs to have a unique aspect in design, appearance,
materials, quality or “signature style” of the artist to be
competitive with imported jewelry and the low prices of online sites.

Harriete Estel Berman


In case anyone is interested, you can find them at 

What would YOU charge for these? I think 67 is way too cheap. Those
are great earrings, and anyone can tell a lot of work. But, I know
what you mean about pricing for the market. When you see artists with
work that has a price I can only dream about, I wonder if it really
does sell, and if so, how do I do that. How to make something that is
worth 1,000 to the person who is willing to pay for it?


Your jewelry needs to have a unique aspect in design, appearance,
materials, quality or "signature style" of the artist to be
competitive with imported jewelry and the low prices of online

I appreciate your info and will make the time to do some more
research. But I am still at a phase where I have no signature style.
I’m still “playing”… experimenting, copying, learning… trying to
perfect my skill before dive into any original designs. Most of those
I do have, on paper, of course, I have no idea how to execute. Or
require stills I have not yet perfected. But I’m getting there. I’d
just like to be able to sell my “practice pieces” in order to have
the money to buy more material for more practice. :wink:

It ain’t easy learning on your own. Fun, but not easy.



What does your plumber charge per hour? I'm betting anywhere
between $50.00 to $75.00 per hour. That's what you should charge
for your time to be able to make a decent living. 

I would, but I am not yet skilled enough to warrant such a higher
hourly fee. I am, in my own opinion, still a beginner/apprentice. I
do good work, on some things, lousy work on others. I’m still
learning, it takes me two or three times as long to finish something
that it would an intermediate/journeyman. I do not want to undersell
my work, but darned if I want to price it out of the market too. But
I appreciate that you think the piece may be worth more than I’m
charging. I still don’t sell, low cost or high cost. I just don’t
have the drive to spend hours on the social nets and trying to get
the word out on my work. Hence, few sales. I hate to Blog and just
don’t know what to do to sell the few things I do have.

It’s getting word for me as my disability increasingly limits me
each day and there’s no money for doctors. I am almost to the point
where I may have no choice but to sell my studio. (shudder) Okay, I
just depressed myself enough. Time to go do something silly like try
to carve a stone with my flexshaft. Should be interesting.



Nothing worth doing is easy! I would say we all on this forum enjoy
what we do, but it’s not easy. Many of us are self taught, many of
us have had professional instruction, and some of us a lot of both.
The key is to work hard and develop as you grow. Develop the
suggested “signature style” that sets you apart from others.

I read your response and think you are on the right track except for
the idea of copying. Please understand that is a sensitive word.
Inspiration is a wonderful thing, but it is not the same as copying.
It’s far too easy to copy someone. You want to be recognized for
your talents to create something fresh and different. Not a remake of
what someone else did. Save yourself from the urge of “I could make
that.” It’s a waste of time and talent. Be inspired by something and
take it a step further.

Work hard, play hard, love what you do, give credit to those who
inspire you, become your own artist. You’ll do well. And
congratulations on joining an amazing group of talented, giving


I'm still "playing"... experimenting, copying, learning... trying
to perfect my skill before dive into any original designs. 

I hope that I didn’t just read copying- as in copying other’s
designs …that is at best frowned upon, and at least illegal if you
then attempt to resell any copied pieces. While it is acceptable to
use others designs as a guide- for instance, examining the piece to
see how it was fabricated, and then trying to fabricate your own
workpieces using those same techniques…to say you are copying
Jewellery, even as a novice, is not a good practice to begin with at
all. I’m hoping it was just a semantic slip-up and you aren’t trying
to make your pieces look identical to someone else’s. There are many
designs that are so basic and universal that copying them isn’t quite
right a descriptor: a simple band ring, a stone set gypsy sytle ring,
cuff bracelets that are roll printed are pretty much the same
"design" what differs is the materials that make yours stand out or
working towards developing a thematic collection based on simple
designs, or even colourant techniques added to a channel ring qualify
as “unique” to the degree they can possibly be unique as they are all
formed exactly the same way- a cuff bracelet is simply a strip of
metal generally 7-7 1/2 or even 8 inches formed so that it can be
worn comfortably and stays on the wearer’s wrist…what you do to the
metal or combination of metals or how you decorate it is the element
that sets your design apart from a very standard fabrication without
hot connections. If you use retail plates to roll print the strip, as
do the other 1, 000 new metalsmiths learning to use a rolling mill
then yes, your work will appear as a copy of all the other’s using
identical techniques. But if you were to enamel the
depressions/debossing it is then idiosyncratic and thus, your own
design… Many people that are part of ganoksin make their living at
metalsmithing/ Jewellery making and to hear someone saying they copy
other’s work may be offensive to some. I understand what you intended
to say but have found over the years on this forum ( and others
relating to making Jewellery) some take a single word out of context
and blow it up into a forum wide, divisive debate of sorts ( some
that turn into endless rants it seems). I would personally be
cautious with admitting you copy work regardless of the design
source, and edit your posts before hitting send ! ( a skill I’m still
working on myself after at least 8 years!!!)… rer

I highly recommend your getting a copy of Tim McCreight’s " the
Complete Metalsmith" any edition is good- it doesn’t have to be the
most expensive with the cd of technique video clips as many are
available on youtube( in fact there is a wealth of video how-to’s" on
you tube that should solve many of your fabrication questions). It is
a very thorough manual for novices, and will help you figure out how
to fabricate anything, or practically anything you can design. I know
of many many jewelers that taught themselves with Tim’s book and a
flexshaft adding tools and more expensive materials as they could
afford them. You can build a simple website for free, or offer your
pieces on a site like etsy ( though I wholly do not recommend etsy in
any way) that caters to handmade articles and has a section in which
potential buyers post a call for bids on items they design or
describe. That may be a way to learn what you are doing in terms of
custom made pieces only if you can do clean work that looks
professional ( i. e. - clean solder joins, cold connections that
hold up, correct sizing, good polishing and finishing skills, etc. )
the point is there are many items that buyers call for that are very
simple to execute ( in fact some are even as simple as wire wrapping
(which barely qualifies as jewelry making ) a crystal or other item
that has some sentimental meaning to the buyer) and they specify what
they are willing to pay for the finished piece. All you need to do is
check the costs of materials against the market price and if it
differs greatly from the buyer’s order, inform them that, for
instance, sterling silver wire costs “x” per foot and to fabricate
their order it will require “x” length of wire at a cost of X, + your
labour and then see if you can agree on a competitive price. Don’t go
too low or it will be clear that you aren’t experienced and don’t
commit to doing work in, say, 18 kt gold if A) you don’t have any on
hand and B) have never worked with it…If their allowed price is far
too high for the amount of labour involved the right thing may be to
tell them the actual cost is closer to 19. 50 than the 195. 00 they
project…you get repeat business from submitting quality work at
realistic prices for your skill level and the level of skill called
for in their request… Another thing you mentioned is being disabled.
Please check out the legality of working on your own and the
difference in hobby and business as defined by the SSA or SSI in your
state. If you are selling anything as a business you must report that
income once you set up a business website, and if the case is that
you receive SSA/SSI you may qualify for micro-enterprise assistance
and funds to start a legitimate business once you attend an 8-12 week
program in conjunction with the federal Ticket-to-work program if you
haven’t been working. CERF is another resource to explore if you are
becoming progressively/ more disabled and have a legitimate business
already set up ( which is unclear as you say you may have to sell
your studio)… so once you sort out your situation there may be a
number of resources to help you develop your business, skills and/or
marketing, however a few pieces of work doesn’t make an inventory or
even enough to rationalize keeping a storefront/studio open unless
its a shared space…I don’t mean to sound harsh but do want to
present some realistic concerns that may affect your decision making
process and clarity regarding jewellery making as your sole

Thank you all for the input, I was the one that originally posed
this question. I use a fee of 60 dollars an hour for shop time, but
of course this isn’t my wage, that 60 dollars an hour is a standard
machine shop rate. Which is designed to include wear and tear of
machinery and drills and such. Which is important since I use a lot
of machine tools in my jewelry making. I earn a lot less than that,
when you take into account my time spent working on my jewelry,
working on my website, customer service, ect, ect… I haven’t been
in this industry as long as many of you have been, only for 5 years,
and I’m 25 years old. And I have been fortunate to be able to work
with some amazing jewelers and learn some great jewelry making
skills from them, but where I have run into a problem is more the
wholesale aspect of the business. I would ideally like to start
getting my jewelry out into the hands of fine jewelry stores. But I
have really run into a wall with this. I can wholesale my jewelry for
around half the price I have it on my website, and since it sells
well on my website, considering the traffic I get, my pricing seems
to be fair enough for most people, and in the few cases I have gotten
to display my jewelry in a public setting, it has sold briskly. But
most of the jewelry stores I have contacted fall into a few
categories. They believe my jewelry is way over priced. One jewelry
store I visited seemed promising, but said he wouldn’t pay more than
5 dollars wholesale for a titanium ring, and then showed me the rings
he pays 5 dollars for and sells for 100 dollars. They happened to be
steel rings that he was incorrectly selling as titanium.

I also had another run in where a person called to actually yell at
me for my prices after I left his store. He was very angry that I
had titanium rings with certified diamonds on my website for around
2200 dollars. Which when I was in his store, was around where he had
some basic engagement rings of the same size. The yelling went along
the lines of, “no one will ever buy titanium rings at that price” and
it was all very discouraging. I not too long ago had a jewelry look
at one of my rings, he left the room with it and came back with the
ruby in it smashed. Then said my rings where of poor quality because
he hit the ruby with a hammer and it shattered. I was tempted to hit
him with a hammer… Of course I realize my jewelry is a lot more
expensive than you can buy mass produced Chinese jewelry for, but
such jewelry is only temporary, the gemstones are usually fake or of
terrible quality, and the metal is soft and will soon deform and the
gems will fall out. I also sell much better and larger gemstones
than my competitors, and am actually a bit cheaper than companies
like Teno, and some other companies that make similar products. And
my work is of the same quality. I have had a few offers from stores
to carry my work, but they where the kinds of places that carry a lot
of handmade jewelry, ranging in prices of 10-50 dollars. So my
jewelry would be very out of place price and style wise. I have
turned down a few of those because they did not have adequate
security to house my jewelry, and didn’t have proper insurance in
the event of loss or theft. So any guidance anyone can give me to
alleviate these problems would be greatly appreciated.

Chris Anderson

I not too long ago had a jewelry look at one of my rings, he left
the room with it and came back with the ruby in it smashed. Then
said my rings where of poor quality because he hit the ruby with a
hammer and it shattered. 

Sorry that happened. This is the most bizarre thing I have heard in
40 years of my jewelry career. I would have taken him to small claims

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.

Copy? if it helps you learn then… you have to practice some how
just do it on stuff you don’t try to sell later & don’t brag about it

Obviously Richard you are doing good work and this guy felt
threatened. In Australia we deal with these guys fairly severely.
Why don’t you go back with a hammer and some friends and hit one of
his pieces of jewellery? Only kidding, why not contact the police
it is criminal isn’t it?