Custom jewelry costs more than costume jewelry

Its been quite a day.  My mother fell this morning and cracked open her head.  Heads bleed quite a bit.  Luckily, my brother took her to hospital quickly and she received stitches.  When I visited her later in the day, I realized she was ok because from her bed, she was pointing to my step dad directing him to brush his teeth and floss.  When her bossiness returned, I felt a bit relieved.   However this is not the theme of tonight’s blog.  I cannot seem to get away from my teaching roots and so I am taking the time to educate whoever wants to listen why custom jewelry costs more than costume/mass produced / jewelry produced in third world countries.  Here is an excerpt from a conversation I had with a potential customer who found an item I was willing to make for $50 on etsy for $30

–Customer: “I was just wondering if with multiple orders there was a way to calculate some sort of discount.”

My response: ” I am so glad we are having these conversations. People don’t understand.

Point 1:Beads are not sold much cheaper in bulk than the prices you are seeing on Amazon unless you purchase lesser quality beads that have uneven holes, broken pieces or are not what the picture shows.  Sometimes the beads are passed off as semi precious gems, but are dyed less valuable stones, etc.

Point 2: At a minimum each women’s bracelet you are proposing will take 50 to 68 beads(I just counted). If we go with rondelles, we are doubling the amount of beads because the beads would sit side by side. So if each strand of turqoise  I purchase contains around 16 to 20 beads and costs 5-7 dollars/each, we are talking at a minimum 20 dollars for the beads.  Other supplies include a button: $1.00 to $2.00, leather $1.00, thread $1.00. So costs of materials are around $25.00.

Point 3: In general, to make any money from a craft, one needs to triple the costs of supplies, which would put this bracelet at $75.00 and that does not take into consideration the two to three hours need to make the bracelet. 

Point 4:Duplicating hand-made jewelry is  not like duplicating a photo or a painting, where you make one and then you can reproduce more in bulk by a method that takes less time. Each item a jeweler makes is still going to take approximately the same amount of time.

Conclusion: So making in bulk does not lower costs in this kind of work. What works best for a custom design jewelry artist is to have customers willing to pay what the item is really worth or if you give them a deal for the first item they 

These leather and stone wraps are all the rage. They look so simple, but require two needles weaving thread back and forth over each stone and going around the leather

 become regular and repeat customers.



  1. Thank you so much for this post! I agree with you completely. I am a glass artist, making my own beads at the torch with costs of gas, glass, bead release, silver leaf, kiln usage, etc. Some of my glass rods are specialty glass that is reactive and produces interesting effects, and cost $30-$100 per pound. I have a booth at 2 local markets, and often potential customers want to bargain with me, as if I’m selling a used item: “Oh, it’s $65? Well, will you take $50 for it?”
    Me: “No.”
    Unless the customer is purchasing more than one item, and then, only if they request a discount… I may take off $5 to make the sale. Most people who appreciate art and what goes in to its creation, do not make such requests.
    Recently, I had a fairly large order from a corporation who wanted to buy “awards” for their employees. They requested a small discount, as they said, “We’re buying in bulk”. I didn’t bother to tell them that it takes me just as long to make the first bead, necklace, key, etc, as it does the last one; I just agreed to the discount, as the potential for future business through their award recipients was my bargaining point.

    • There seems to be too very distinct trains of thought on the pricing issues and I guess alot of it is how much we want to sell versus selling ourselves short. I feel like if we educate people on the craft, we have a better chance of getting what our product is worth. I will never skip an opportunity to do demonstrations at any shows I go to. For one thing, I feel like I am not wasting time just sitting there waiting for customers and for another, I feel like if I can develop more understanding among the public as to what goes into hand crafter jewelry, then maybe they will be proud to support us and pay us what we are worth. But guess what field I come from… teaching… another field, where the real artists are mixed in with the hacks and are not valued like we should be.

      • Education about our craft is essential, and is indeed written in the mission statement of our markets that I participate in. I always explain the process and have my glass rods to show. When opportunity knocks, I always jump at the chance to torch on site…this is how people can see “part” of the process of my creations. It’s interesting to see their faces…you can almost see the light bulb light up over their heads 😉

  2. Interesting post, although I do not completely agree with you. I think that if you buy beads (even good beads) in bulk, you should be able to negotiate a deal with your supplier. Of course, this would only make sense if you plan to have a certain jewelry item in your collection over an extended period of time and sell lots of them.

    Other than that I think people have no clue when it comes to the time it takes to make something; be it a chair, a dress or a piece of jewelry. I think we should turn the conversation around and ask customers how it is possible that most costume jewelry is so cheap. The word child labor comes to mind. So how sustainable is costume jewelry really? Not very, I suspect.

    • Hi. I agree with your statement about buying in bulk if you repeate your designs. I think the biggest problem I have right now is I hate to repeat designs. It bores me. My mother never repeated a recipe and I am kind of that way with jewelry making. The closest thing I have done to repeat a pattern with my floating bead necklaces. They are, for me, my most profitable seller because they are quite easy to duplicate. Thanks for commenting and I will look for your blog as well.

  3. Good for you!
    People who would bargain with an artist have no soul.
    The amount of time and thought you’ve obviously put into choosing your materials and placing them just so, is your art. You can’t give that away.

    Others will come along and appreciate your work for what it is.
    Warm regards,


  4. I’m curious. What was her reaction to this conversation?

    • Well she said she understood completely, but then I wasn’t quite sure. Her next comment was that she was going to try and make it herself. The Leather wraps are not as easy as they look. Two needles going two different directions. Tiny holes, thread that tangles and round beads that roll. Plus you have to keep tightening the thread or it does not look professional and ofcourse there is the difficulty of the beginning and the end of the project.

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