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Daily Wire Tip Sept. 26: Sell or Display Valued Stones?

Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
September 26, 2011

Question:

Dale, I just love the series of articles on gemstones; it’s such a huge field of study one hardly knows where to start. Thank you! My question is about pricing for rarity.

You made a comment about Ocean Jasper that literally made me gasp! If Ocean Jasper is not being actively mined at the original source anymore, I’m reluctant to part with what I think are exceptional examples. My experience is that good specimens of Ocean Jasper are not that easy to come by (at least within the limited travel I do). I’m torn between starting a private collection of “not for sale” stones, and trying to decide what a fair price is for stones that truly stand out above the rest. It’s a fact that stones are one-of-a-kind, but as an artist, I put a higher value on visual impact. I might buy a whole strand because of one or two stones. I’m a bit timid about saying, “This stone is worth much more,” and then pricing accordingly. Help! Your encouragement and suggestions are always right on target.

-Marcia in Syracuse, New York

Answer:

Thanks Marcia! Yes, deciding how to proceed with the Gem Profiles was a bit confusing for me at first, but when I decided not to worry about the word "gem" and to just write about the rocks and minerals that we most often use in our wire jewelry designs, it became fun! (And it is helping me sort through the many piles of rocks in and around my studio, too!)

With regards to your question about rarity and pricing brought up by ocean jasper, well, I always tell my students that very special pieces deserve very special prices! As artists, usually when a special stone or cabochon catches our eye we have a definite idea of what we want to use it for. More often than not, the piece comes home with us and ends up in a special drawer, waiting for that day (and if you are like me, you find it again… years later!). Speaking from personal experience and choices, if and when I decide to use a very special piece or two in a jewelry design, I don’t worry about the price of materials, I just make what feels "right" (meaning that sometimes a stone screams to be set in 14 or 18kt solid gold). When the piece is done, I don’t worry about selling it, either! I believe that every piece has an owner (even though it may take years for them to find one another). This "show-stopper" becomes a centerpiece in my display cases at art shows, and it may spend a few months in one gallery or another, as an example of what I am able to create. Because of the attention it attracts, it often adds to my sales via customer orders (and I love wearing things like this to special events!)

With regard to pricing something like this, for example if the materials cost $300 wholesale, and I spent a week or so working on it, then my price could be from $1800 to $2500 or more. If it sells, fine. If not, that’s fine too! The photo below is one such piece. "Dancing Stones" is made entirely in Argentium® silver and with the exception of the 4mm lab-grown ruby, all of the rest are AA grade natural stones (rubile tourmaline, peridot, chrome diopside, blue topaz, iolite, orange topaz, citrine, and 2 rainbow moonstone/white labradorite cabs custom cut by my husband just for this piece); as metal prices rise, so does its price. (On average, I sell one piece every six months for between $1200 and $1800.)

Wire wrapped gemstone pendant

Dancing Stones by Dale Cougar Armstrong

Now the second part of your question, do you use and sell special stones or form a collection? Well, most of us already have such collections, waiting to be used. Why not label them and put them in a Riker case? This way you can enjoy looking at them while you work – for inspiration, and you can easily take them with you to shows if you desire – maybe generating special orders, or put them in your safe when you travel.

As far as trying to explain the value of one stone over another to a customer, in my opinion, if they have to ask, you will not make the sale anyhow because they can’t "see" the difference from an "art-eye." If they seem to like the stone but they want to dicker about the price, don’t even take it out of the case. Simply direct them to a similar item with a price that is in their comfort zone. This is one of the reasons why I recommend putting a "show-stopper" in the middle of a case, surrounded by less expensive pieces of similar colors. The "big" one catches the eye and the smaller ones make sales, just be sure all of the price tags are showing!!

This is a good time to tell you all what some of us do with those beads we really have no use for! Karen Braverman-Freeman came to visit me in Tucson, with a special request. Karen donates her time to run jewelry making classes at Camp Summersault in Long Beach, California. This is a day camp for children with cancer and their siblings. All of the supplies are donated, such as beads, findings, and stringing materials. If you would like to donate any tax deductible materials to this very worthy cause, please contact Karen via email here. I hope my answers have met your expectations, Marcia, thanks for asking!!

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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Daily Wire Tip August 31: Home Jewelry Show Inventory

Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
August 31, 2011

Question:

I have read a lot about "home parties" as a great place to start with selling handcrafted jewelry. My question that I have not seen addressed: How much inventory should I have before a party? I make mainly necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Any tips would be appreciated! Thanks!

-Linda in Littleton, Colorado

Answer:

Hi Linda, you can easily work a "home-party" styled show with just a few pieces or sets of jewelry and some loose cabochons or beads. You can do a really nice display of your work and take orders, using the loose supplies you brought to inspire the sales. It really depends on how many guests are expected and what they think they want to purchase.

For a large, serious “cash and carry” home show, you would need a lot of inventory (also meaning it will take you longer to set up and break down). It has been my experience that the people who attend a home show expect to have some fun while learning about your product and socializing with their friends, therefore an "order" show like I described above with a reasonable delivery deadline is usually the way to go. This can be a great way for the artist to recover cash to replace their supply inventory, as well as test the waters to see what style of jewelry a particular customer group is interested in, as well as materials they prefer.

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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Daily Wire Tip August 18: Learning How to Sell Jewelry

Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
August 18, 2011

Question:

Dale, thank you for your tips and encouragement! I have been to many shows, but my jewelry simply does not sell. I get lots of traffic and many people comment on how beautiful my pieces are, but most do not even look at the price. I have had other artists tell me how nice my work is. I have asked for advice from other vendors on improving my booth, but they tell me it is welcoming and appealing. I am lost as to what to do. Suggestions? Thanks.

-Merry in Smyrna, Tennessee

Answer:

Hi Merry, well it sounds like you have a good booth set-up and great product, but you feel like you are running a museum display with free admission! (Been there, done that, learned to sell!!)

My questions to you are: Do you engage the customer in a conversation? When you say "Hello" and they reply, "I’m just looking," do you reply with something like, "May I tell you what you are looking at?", and then launch into a conversation about a particular item, drawing them into a conversation? Do you have a special business card to give them offering a discount if they return to your booth before the end of the day? Do you have a photo album showing how you create your designs? How about a list of all of the possible birthstones that they may not be aware of? All of these tips and so much more are included in The Definitive Guide to Selling Your Handcrafted Jewelry. You might think about this as a very wise investment to be able to sell your work (that contains so much cost in supplies and time). I wish you good fall and holiday showings Merry!!

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip

Question:

Hi Dale, I have 3 granddaughters ages 5, 12, and 13. I would like to make necklaces and bracelets for them for their birthdays, but I can’t seem to find definitive sizes for kids’ jewelry. I’ve looked at lots of web sites and each web site gives different sizes. I’d really appreciate your help. Thank you.

-Colleen in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Answer:

Hello Colleen, I think the reason why you cannot find any definitive information with regards to children’s jewelry sizes is because regardless of their age, all children are different! The best way for you to make bracelets for your grandchildren would be to measure each of their wrists and add 1/2". Because children also grow at different rates, I like to add a 1/2" chain with links that the clasp (usually a trigger or lobster claw style so the bracelet is more secure) will fit into so the bracelet can be worn while the child grows. (I have to note here that personally I do not recommend using any type of stretchy cord for children’s jewelry because it has a tendency to break too easily.) As for necklaces, again children are built and grow differently, so you could choose 16" as the overall length, or measure the child’s neck and add 3". I hope I have helped you a bit! Does anyone have another suggestion for Colleen?

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip

Question:

In making the ends of a necklace, is there a standard for which side gets the clasp? I’ve been making pendants, and just randomly chose where to put the clasp.

-Helene in Perkasie, Pennsylvania

Answer:

Hi Helene! I found some interesting information to go along with my answer today. Did you know that statistics say there are more right-handed people than left-handed? The percentages I found say that only 10 to 20% of the world’s population is left-handed. I know that I have worked with several people who seem to work better with the left hand, but had been encouraged to use the right at an early age. Most of these folks could be ambidextrous, if they will let themselves, enjoying the best of both!

Most of those in the jewelry making industry design necklaces with the clasp on the right side, so that a right-handed person can easily take them on and off. The beauty of making jewelry yourself is that you are free to also create necklaces for those who are left-handed! Here is a marketing idea that I occasionally use: make a necklace that is either reversible, or easily changed, so you can switch the clasp from one end to the other in a few minutes. This is a great way to be able to customize your work, and customers love it!

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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