Pricing Jewelry: Custom Made vs. Store Bought Pieces

by Barb Everett.
(Pennsylvania USA)

question-mark-original

Hi, everyone. My name is Barbara and I am thinking about started a jewelry business. I have made pieces for myself and received many compliments and a few orders.

I need to earn additional income in preparation for baby #4 and I thought this would be a good way to go.

I visited my local flea market and saw at least 4 vendors selling the same jewelry I am making (particularly my swarovski beaded pieces) at ROCK-BOTTOM prices. I am talking $4 for a bracelet that would cost me at least $25 to make (and that is only for the materials).

I also saw a LOT of murano style necklace pendants that they sold for $1 each. It was very discouraging.

Here are my questions: how are they able to do that? How can I compete with that if I was to sell my pieces at the same venue? I buy my materials from Michaels. Are there cheaper places I can buy my beads from?

Barb Everett

Comments:

Getting Started
by: Angel

First of all Barb….Micheals?? Really! They are high as all get out. Butthen I think back to when I first started jewelry making and I did the Micheals thing too. Then I discovered all the many places to order from online and some of them have really great bargains and unlike Micheals thousands to choose from, I mean literally thousands of items to choose from.
For your info on starting a jewelry business you may want to start right here where you are…hundreds of articles on the who, what, when and where’s from artists just like you and me. Just look at the top of the page and you can click on the link for Jewelry Business Tips (a great place to start). Then go to places online like Etsy.com and see other jewelry makers and get tips and advice. Or just do a Google search and use jewerly making as the keyword….so many possibilities.
For your shopping needs try FireMountain Gems and Beads or one of my favs is Beadaholique.com or Rings-things.com or shipwreckbeads.com or another good on is FusionBeads.com
So you see these can range from the very expensive to the low end as far as pricing goes.
My advice is to take you time and figure out just how you want to do this and you’ll be okay
Good Luck,
Angel

Points to Ponder..
by: Stef F.

Before starting a jewelry business, there are more than a few things to take into consideration.

1st – what kind of jewelry do you want to make?
The best answer I’ve ever read came from Dr. Dave Wiemann, who counsels to “Make what you love”. Don’t try to follow the trends, because you’ll be forever playing catch-up. I would also add that you should focus on quality. Even necklaces made from the most inexpensive stuff you can find should be comfortable to wear. It shouldn’t tangle in long hair, or stratch the wearer or snag on clothes.

2nd – who are your clientelle?
This should be a natural extension of the first question, but it isn’t always. If you love to make funky chip-bead and heishi-shell surfer necklaces, but you want to sell to the red-hat crowd… it’s not going to succeed very well. The clientelle and jewelry should match – this will also affect the third and 4th items.

3rd – Where will you sell?
There are all sorts of venues at which to sell, and it can be very easy to want to invest lots of $$ on stuff for all of them. You will want to pick a style of venue to start with, to get your feet wet. I would recommend starting with an open-house style party, and take it from there. The list of non-jewelry materials for a craft show is pretty long!

4th – How will you advertise?
Once you’ve determined where you’re selling, you’ll want to draw more people to wherever it is you’re selling. Vistaprint is a fantastic tool for creating a brand and getting marketing materials, such as business cards, rack cards, postcards, etc. for free or a reasonably los price. (I’ve been using them since I started selling jewelry 6 years ago).

Jewelry making is undeniably FUN – or we wouldn’t do it. And there are stories of successful – and not-so successful new jewelry enterprises… with enough forethought and finding decent prices on supplies, you can be one of the successes. But it is hard work, and it will take time to become successful.

Good Luck!

Good Prices
by: Paul Mattson

You may wish to check out ” Fire Mountain Gems ” in Oregon …
Very good prices , superb customer service and weekly contests to enter .
Good Luck !
You are welcome to follow Rena’s link to my Facebook profile and post your work on Artfire Business Page . That goes for everyone !

The folks at Facebook are working with me in promoting small business across America …

” ARTFIRE BUSINESS PAGE ” Facebook .com

Really Cheap
by: Diane

Even if you buy everything wholesale, $4 is way too cheap for a bracelet. They must be getting them ready made from Asia. If you are making good quality jewelry, you probably want to sell yourself somewhere else other than the $4 flea markets.

All really good points
by: Millie.GotRocks

However, if you are looking for product that’s cheap, prepare for some disappointments uneven cuts, imperfections etc. Cheap looks cheap, if you are going to buy from Firemountain, that’s great but learn to read what is man-made, synthetic, dyed, natural etc.

Firemountain also sells cheap jewelry, straight from China. There are other places less expensive than Firemountain, all you have to do is first google and then get your notebook out and start comparing prices; do some research.

If you look at the quality of craftsmanship in Rena’s other site that shows handcrafted jewelry you won’t find prices but you can get a good idea of what “handcrafted” is all about.

I don’t know where you are from but you need to look in some boutiques and shops that sell handcrafted jewelry also.

Good Luck to you!

Go for uniqueness
by: Rena

First of all, great tips from the folks above here – thank you for your insights!

Barb, I can tell you from one of my early experiences that if anyone else at the same venue is selling jewelry that looks a lot like yours, you’ll probably have more success by working toward creating a more unique looking jewelry line.

Some of the best ways to boost your jewelry’s uniqueness:

* use unusual components

* use less common jewelry making techniques or tools

* combine different jewelry techniques in one piece of jewelry

* source your supplies from off-the-beaten-path vendors or individual artists who make the components

* make your own components.

Also, if shoppers at the flea market are after $1 and $4 jewelry, you will probably do better at a different venue where people are willing to pay more for the things they buy, and will appreciate your work.

Trying to compete in a low-price war isn’t a good business strategy – there’s no way for you to “win” – and your time and artistry are certainly worth much more than that!

Please keep us posted on your progress, Barb! We’re behind you all the way.

When is Baby #4 due to arrive?

A jewelry business is a business
by: Lynda

There are many good tips and advice given here, but none regarding the “business” end. If you are selling, you need a legal permit or license, depending on where you live. So, be prepared to research this, and pay fees. In California, it’s a resale permit, plus “fictitious name” form and fee. This however permits me to pay for raw materials without sales tax, and I can often get better prices at wholesale sites with the permit. I pay the sales tax once a year on what I sell, so I factor the sales tax into the price of each piece. I also pay income tax to the state and federal government. This means extra record keeping.

You will have to judge whether this is worth it..turning a beloved passion into a business. Best wishes on whatever you decide.

good luck
by: “out of my gourd”creations,N.Y.

First, congratulations on #4!
What Rena says is true, most of my customers come back because each piece I make is unique in some way. I carve gourds, so they bring people to look at the Jewelry I make with silver and Gemstones. As you perfect your jewelry,you learn what looks worth the price you sell for. I always say to myself “would I wear it? would I pay the price?”
Packaging and display are also key factors. If your display looks well put together, more people will stop to look. Check for “townwide” sales near you, most people go to these looking to buy something. And small gift shops will take jewelry well packaged and priced and sell them for you while you care for your baby. Good Luck!

Shop smart, not cheap!
by: Dianne Culbertson

So much great input! Flea markets are not where I shop for jewelry so I can’t say much about them except that the name does not render an image of quality for me. People buy jewelry based on their income level. Some think they can only afford to purchase at big box stores and the like so they do so and replace their jewelry often. The thing to remember about producing that quality is that while you can’t take a broken piece back to Wal Mart, your customers will bring yours back should they break. Repair is not what I want to do so I try at all cost to avoid it and have been quite successful. Others buy their jewelry in the most elite shops in New York or Beverly Hills and then there are the majority of us who shop somewhere in between. I have been successful (and have the most fun) in creating unique designs with quality materials. That does not always mean sterling or gold but I do shop for quality materials and I watch the lead and nickel content. Please do not try and compete with “Made in China”, strive to produce quality goods that you are proud to put your name on. I want my customers to be complimented on a piece of jewelry and be able to say “ I have had this for years and it looks just as beautiful as the day I bought it”.
Michael’s is a place for those who want to make a cute piece of jewelry for themselves or as a gift. It is not the place to buy if you are trying to make a profit. I don’t care for the quality of Fire Mountain either. I try to buy my gems and pearls locally so I can see and feel them, check them for flaws, etc… If you are using plated metals check out accessoriessusan.com. They have nice plated materials and very unusual ones at a great price and without the lead and nickel you will find elsewhere. I also use Artbeads.com, Gemphora, Caravan Beads, and 2 places I get consistently nice pearls and gems are JS Ritter and Beadin Path. You can submit a retail license (free) and you will get a considerable discount, always ask if a business has a wholesale discount.
The very best of luck to you and congratulations on your new baby!

Tax # = Wholesale Pricing
by: Tracy

I might have missed it being said already, (need more coffee) but once you get your tax number, you are often able to buy from sites at wholesale pricing( uo to 50% cheaper) Now, wholesale means that you often have to spend a minimum, but if you use sites that sell findings, stringing materials etc as well as beads it is a great savings. I shop at Fire Mountain, too but get my sterling & gemstones at Bamiyan Silver,(Fire Mtn ‘s sterling is expensive and Bamiyan has wonderful gemstones) as well as several other sites that give wholesale discounts.Pick up beading magazines and there will be coupons(Beadaholique always has a 15% coupon )Sign up for e- newsletters to get specials (Too Cute Beads currently is discounting pave beads by 30%)
When I started out, I spent months just going through magazines , visiting sites and looking at what appealed to me, going to bead stores and talking to the people who work there.Just like any other businesses , there are good and bad stores, I was fortunate enough to have a very good store(That Bead Lady) to deal with and ultimately get a a part time job there I learned so much, never mind that I never took home a cent!
Michaels is well and fine for hobbyists but not foe someone running a business!
Tracy May -www.whimsyjewellerydesign.ca

Don’t worry about what others are doing
by: Gina

Hi Barb,
First of all, I want to say that jewelry designing is a great career for a stay at home mom – I hope you find your niche and run with it!
Don’t look at flea market jewelry as your “gold standard.” Think about what you envision yourself making, the style jewelry you want to create, the materials you want to use, etc…
When I started my business a few years ago, i started out making winecharms for wine glasses. If I looked at the price points of all the wine charms out there, I would have stopped what I was doing and never proceeded with my vision. I came up with my own design idea using gold and silver chain and colorful Venetian beads. They were (and still are) a big hit with people and I get $40 for a set of 4. My point – If you believe in your product, it will sell! I always say, if people are looking for 6 winecharms for $10, they have come to the wrong place. Real Venetian beads imported from Italy (that is what i use) are expensive – even the smaller ones I use for my stemware jewelry. Many times,a jewelry artist may say Murano “style” beads and they are mass produced in China and clearly cheap and not of the same quality. I can pick out a “Murano style” bead from China a mile away:)
I loved making my stemware jewelry so much that, after many requests for jewelry, I embarked on a my journey of jewelry design and it is a true passion! I knew I wanted high quality and i started right away with sterling silver, vermeil and gold fill. I also learned (through trial and error) how to apply 23karat gold leaf to gemstones. My vision was to sell higher quality at lower volumes and higher prices. So far it has worked out well for me. How this ties in to you? My whole point is you can’t be afraid of cheaper priced jewelry. Ask yourself -are they using crystals or Swarovski crystals? Is the “Murano glass” really from Italy ? with a price tag of $1 i can tell you from experience, it is not.
Create your vision of what you would like to produce and price it so it is fair to you – if your customer loves your jewelry, they will purchase it. When it comes to jewelry, women make emotional purchases and many times, price does not affect their decision. Some tips on where to buy your supplies -Michaels is way over priced and not of the highest quality. Art Beads, Firemountain Gems, and Beads of Cambay have alot of great items and some frequently have sales. For business cards go to vistaprint.com They have awsome styles and easy templates to follow to design your cards. Many times they have offers where you get 250 cards for free (just shipping cost) and they also offer alot of promotional material for your business.
I wish you the best of luck – keep looking at inspirational stories and tips posted on this website – it keeps me empowered and Rena has some of the most valuable information you could ever want. It has greatly helped me!
Good Luck:)

Gina
A Splash of Chic

Pricing Jewelry — Custom made vs handcrafted
by: EarArt

Hi Barb —

Here is my two cents!! When you sell at Flea Markets, people expect flea market prices. I tried to sell at a flea market about 10 years ago and did sell a couple of pieces of my high end jewelry to folks with more discriminating tastes! For the most part, people kept asking me if I could lower my prices!! So no more flea markets for me.
Second, I bet you anything that the beads in those other bracelets were not Swarovski. You can buy those look alikes at Gem and Jewelry Shows for about $3 a strand. (I know, because I have some.)
As others have said, do an online search and you will fine tons of places to buy your jewelry parts.

Janet
www.picturetrail.com/earart

Outside the Box
by: Maria Rosa

When I first started making jewelry 6 years ago I too was a stay at home mom also. I at first bought what I could afford for beads and findings(which wasn’t much),but I had fun and did sell a little.But most of what I was using was so common place and my skill level was limited.

As time went on I decided to learn new techniques and work with not so common items. I also have to love what I am making or there is no joy in it at all,for me.

I love to use vintage beads,harvested mostly from old pieces found at rummage sales,yard sales,thrift shops etc..,I also use nature elements,shells,moss,butterfly wings,wood slices,most of these things are free to me,leather,resin,old keys,old postage stamps,copper tubing,just about anything I can get my greedy little hands on.

I always catch myself saying I could use that for jewelry making,no matter where I’m at could be the beach,hardware store,flea market, anywhere.

With this outside the box way of thinking,my sales have increased tremendously,I have been commissioned to make all sorts of jewelry for people,have been approached by galleries,shops and recently a museum.I now try to be selective in my venues,because Sometimes it’s overwhelming but I am having a good time.

Good luck to you.

Sourcing and Pricing
by: Doug Kelly

All great comments and advice.

When you start a business, if you are serious, you need a business plan. In it you will define a profit margin that you intend to make. It is a moving target for a while because you will have variables; cost of goods, venues, overhead, etc.

Then things will settle down to where you know your clientèle and what they will pay. Setting your selling price is the toughest obstacle you will probably face. The old salesman’s dilemma of whether to sell 5 items for $10 or 1 for $50 will surely enter your mind. It did mine.

We currently work the Union County (GA) Farmer’s Market every Saturday (June thru October) and this is our 3rd year. I won’t tell you how much we make every day being open from 7am to 1pm, but it’s good. Who would think a Farmer’s Market would be the place for jewelry? It works for us. Being up here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains we get visitors from Atlanta, Marietta, Chattanooga, Asheville and all over. They come here to enjoy the scenery and shop.

I have judges, senators and all sorts of highbrow people as customers. How did I get them? By having unique designs and not pricing myself off the chart. I never figure time into my equation for profit, but I can easily make 300% over my cost of goods.

Keep working at it and keep asking questions. Try variations (A/B testing) and it will work out for you. Be Fearless!!!

Doug Kelly
JD Kelly Jewelry
www.JDKellyJewelry.com
JDKellyJewelry@facebook.com

pricing & sales & marketing
by: Lisa

I leaped into busines in 2009. I thought with my knowledge of business and accouting and my jewelry making skills, I’d be fine. I knew nothing of sales & marketing. I am still learning. This website is good and I just bought her “profitable jewelry booth” book. I’m not ready to give up yet.

Some great advise about wholesale already, so my advise would be to research what type of business you want to set up and what federal and state fees are involved.I set my business up as a LLC & had some issues with the $250 federal government fee that is due on a yearly basis.

One positive thing about starting your business right away is that if you take classes-wether it is advance jewelry or marketing, they are a business expense and so your business losses can reduce your taxes (assuming that you have a primary income).

to Stef F
by: Barbara

I was reading all the posts & yours had a comment that I would love to know how to deal with.
You said that necklace chains should not tangle in long hair. PLEASE, tell me how to prevent that! I have long hair, & whether I buy a necklace or make my own, when I take it off there is always hair tangled in the chain. ouch! Please help!

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