Thursday, June 4, 2009

Artisan Jewelry

I wanted to post this article from that I found. For any new jewelery designers or hand made crafters out there.

So here it is. Check it out below.

Artisan Jewelry

Pricing handmade artisan jewelry always seems to pose a problem for my artisans. It took me a while to come up with my own system and thought I would share what I have learned with everyone. I sell my handmade jewelry both retail and wholesale.

I feel that many of artisans underprice their jewelry – period! We feel “guilty” about asking “too much”. I mean, it is just a hobby, isn’t it? Well, not if you are trying to sell what you create – you must start thinking of your “craft” as a business. There are multiple factors to consider when calculating expense, too much to include in this article but this will certainly get you thinking about prices.

Here are two books that might help with making the transition of “it’s just a craft” to IT’S A BUSINESS (please note, there are more books on the subject – these are two of which I am aware):

Viki Lareau – Marketing and Selling Your Handmade Jewelry

Wendy Rosen – Crafting as a Business

Some key things to take into consideration when pricing:

(1) How do you put a price tag on creativity?

(2) Do you buy your supplies retail or wholesale?

(3) How long does it take to make the piece of jewelry that you are pricing?

(4) How long did it take to design the piece?

(5) What about overhead costs? The list can go on and on but here are some great pointers to get you started:

How to Price Creativity:

I took an intermediate forging class and my instructor, Michael David Sturlin, was full of stories. We briefly discussed the subject of pricing jewelry and he told the class this: “A jeweler colleague was asked at an artisan show how long it took him to make a particular ring. He responded “30 years and 15 minutes.” His point was that his design and technique evolved over time. Think about it – how often do we sketch an idea or have an idea in mind and start making it and by the time the final product is complete, it is different than the original thought? I have one bracelet that is my best seller that I have been making since 2008 and each time I make it, I still improve my technique. Although a repetitive design may only take 15 minutes to make, how long did it take to get to that 15 minutes? It is hard to put a price on creativity. In my opinion, it comes down to your reputation and quality of your work: In other words, are you an established artisan? Does the quality of your work match the price you are asking? Quality of work, your “reputation”, trust of the buyer, what the market can bear, word of mouth – some things come with time and can be a big part of pricing your jewelry.

Key Points for Pricing:

In addition to the books I listed, classes are also taught about pricing jewelry, many of which are taught at bead shows. I have not read either of the books or taken a class on the subject. Some of the key factors that I use are:

1. Time involved

2. Overhead expense

3. Cost of supplies - are you purchasing supplies wholesale or retail?

4. What can the market bear?

What Helped Me Find My Niche:

1. Eni Oken has a price calculator at for $5. I purchased a copy a few years ago and use it all the time. The jewelry price calculator has many variables for wholesale and retail pricing. There are columns for itemizing components used for the piece of jewelry being priced, hours/minutes, and wire cost calculated in inches and feet. You can use the numbers that Eni plugged in or change them to fit your needs. And, of course, you are able to change the cost of sterling silver wire which fluctuates continuously.

2. Keeping track of time is a necessity. If you are selling a piece that you have made multiple times and now it has become your “15-minute ring”, you should still charge a fair amount for your time. Just because you have become proficient at making this one piece of jewelry, think of the “30 years” it took you to get there!

If you are making 1-of-a-kind pieces, then that becomes a bit more challenging. When I make something that is 1-of-a-kind, it is usually because it was a pain in the neck to make and although a nice piece, I just never want to go there again! So I just use my best judgment of time to charge. If it took me 8 hours, that is probably too much time to charge for so I would stop and think how long would it reasonably take me to remake this and I also try to make the price “fit in” with my other pieces. If I chose to never make that piece again and break even on it, for me, it was probably a GREAT learning curve!

3. You need to decide how much you are going to charge per hour for your time. I have a retail hourly rate and a wholesale hourly rate.

Find Your 30 Years and 15 Minute Pieces:

Some of my pieces are definitely my money makers. These are my “30 years and 15 minutes” pieces. For example, one of my money makers is a necklace that I wholesale for $100 and retail for $200. Here is the cost breakdown: The necklace takes me 1 hour to make with about $20 of material. I plug my materials into my jewelry price calculator and the optimal suggested wholesale price is $59 and suggested retail prices range from $83 to $119. When I first started making this particular design, it took me 3 HOURS to make it!

Here is another nice money maker: I have a leather bracelet that I wholesale for $20 and retail for $30. This particular bracelet takes me 15 minutes to make with about $4 of material. Again using my jewelry price calculator, I enter my minutes and material cost. The optimal suggested wholesale price is $13 with the range of suggested retail prices being $18 to $26.

Both are good money makers but the necklace wins hands down - my point being if you sell wholesale, you can keep a profit balance between your products. I wholesale 1-of-a-kind pieces with established clients, making a small profit, because I know those clients are also going to buy my money makers, so I keep a nice profit balance with everything.

In my examples above, it is easy to see the profit I make based on what I feel the market can bear, what I feel my creativity is worth, what I can get for that jewelry based on the repetitiveness of my client and my reputation. The calculator is a GREAT TOOL but cannot incorporate what the market will bear and what your creativity is worth because these are arbitrary factors that will change with time and as your expertise and reputation develop. LET ME REPEAT THAT – AS YOUR EXPERTISE AND REPUTATION DEVELOP, the factors will change.

I specialize in wire wrapped jewelry, woven wire jewelry, and forged jewelry. The more my expertise develops with each style, the better my finished products are constructed. The larger customer base I build and the more contacts I make, whether they are customers or other vendors, the more my reputation is established as a longstanding business.

Wholesale Buyers – Some Things to Expect

1. Wholesale buyers will try to give you every excuse and sob story they can think of to get you to lower your prices. “Wow! This necklace is stunning, but I can’t make my profit on it at your wholesale price” or “I mark up 3 times from the wholesale price so that makes this necklace too expensive for my store clientele” or “I won’t be able to pay my overhead if I reduce my price to 2.5 times mark up.” Honestly, I could go on and on – I have heard all the stories of how they REALLY WANT to buy my jewelry but it is just too expensive! When I first started selling wholesale, green and naive as ever, I would buckle and lower my prices – I wanted to sell! Do you want to buckle or get what you deserve?!

I have a longstanding client who owns two jewelry stores. She marks up 3 times the wholesale price. Upon one of my return visits to her store to show her more jewelry I had for sale, she was on the phone so I was browsing and saw some of her prices on my jewelry and many were priced more than the 3 times that I had wholesaled for – HELLO! My prices went up after that visit, slowly and over time, but they went up.

So now when I hear “I love this necklace but…”, I may respond with “If you tell me how much you mark up, I can calculate if I can work with my price” (so make sure you always takes a calculator with you unless you are great at math) or if I don’t want to barter and this is a new buyer to me, I might remind the buyer of the materials used in the piece and/or the complexity of design. Or maybe this is a well established buyer and I know their ploys to try to get me to reduce and I keep my necklace because I know I will sell it without a problem elsewhere. Sometimes presenting the necklace on my next visit does the trick, too, just because when the buyer sees it for the second time, they just have to have it!

2. “What if I want to buy 50 leather bracelets. Will I get a discount for buying volume?” If your answer is yes, know how much you will discount. I have no personal experience with this but the stores that I sell to are not chains so they don’t buy in quantity. I would think there are vendors out there who do give quantity price breaks and this can probably be researched on the web to get ideas on the subject.

(for the original article please click link at top of page)

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