Wire Jewelry Forum: Price vs. Quality?

By on June 19, 2013
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by Narlene Allen, Wire-Sculpture.com

Wire Jewelry Inspiration for
June 19, 2013

Price vs. Quality

Last week, we had some AMAZING comments from our wonderful readers. This week, we’d like to take a cue from you, and follow up with a topic that seemed to come to the surface quite a bit – Price vs. Quality.

How do you price a “hand made” item.  How do YOU put a “Price” on your “Quality”?

Let us hear what you think. I’ve put a few ideas below to get us started. Feel free to expand those ideas!

Discussion Topics:

  • How do you price your pieces?
  • How do you determine their value?
  • What price do you put on your creative works?

Let’s talk!

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  1. avatar

    Sue Woodard

    June 19, 2013 at 5:51 am

    I use a wonderful program called Bead Manager Pro to help me price my pieces. It considers material costs, time required, and overhead in determining pricing options.

  2. avatar


    June 19, 2013 at 6:19 am

    I’m excited to hear everyone’s responses. I only sell my earrings in 2 small salons (about 10 sales/month).
    I make my earrings from vintage beads I have had since 1993, new vintage purchases and also some new beads tThat I find partiquarly interesting and unique. I make my own argentium and gold filled ear wires too. A month ago I changed my pricing to one pair for $20, two pair for $35 and three pair for $45. Its been great at one salon (is encouraging multiple sales) and terrible at the other (only 2 sales this month). I changed it because I realized I used to price them according to how much I liked them! Since many of the beads are vintage I really have no way of knowing how much they are worth so this new pricing structure simplifies keeping up with stocking since now I don’t have to price each pair!


    • avatar


      June 20, 2013 at 6:24 am

      kim ~ great idea and simplified too! everyone feels like they have gained something! love love love it! thank you, shari

  3. avatar

    Joanne Gregg

    June 19, 2013 at 6:43 am

    I price my pieces by the amount of money I spent on the ingredients. Then I add $5-$10 depending on the metal so I can donate decent amounts of money to local charities. I make jewelry to keep myself occupied so I don’t swell on my pain. If I didn’t make jewelry I would go insane,plus I love learning new techniques.My ideal is to help those I can & to let people of all walks have quality hand made jewelry. The motto of ColorfulKreations.net is this “Everyone deserves some sparkle in their life at an affordable price”,so we sell affordably. I grew up with “heirlooms”& I was lucky to have that. With my jewelry people can start their own heirlooms!

  4. avatar


    June 19, 2013 at 6:52 am

    Everyone tells me I price my items too low. I have a problem pricing a piece too high when I know exactly what I paid for the materials. For example, I buy a string of beads and only use 2 or 3 in a design (or use 1 focal bead), use maybe 12″ of sterling silver wire, some chain or cord, which may be $5 to $10 for materials, 30 minutes in labor, and I would ask $15 to $20. My friends look at the piece and say “is that all you’re asking for that . . . your prices are so cheap!” I look at other sellers and they are asking $50 to $60 for something similar. I guess I would feel guilty taking that much money for something that took little money and little effort to make. I have made pieces where the focal stone alone cost me $25 or more and I put more time into the piece, and for that item I would ask a higher price.

    • avatar


      June 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      Price your items comparable to similar items sold by others and donate 1/2 of the difference to your favorite charities to ease your conscience. That way you can continue to buy materials as prices increase including gas to go shopping, and you are helping others.


  5. avatar

    Karen Hess

    June 19, 2013 at 7:07 am

    When I price a piece I take a number of things into consideration. Those are: how long did it take me, how much difficulty was involved (hand forged links as opposed to a manufactured chain), the number of steps in the process (creating a wire bezel, prepping an image, # of resin fills), the cost of materials (sterling components vs. silver plated or brass).

    Finally, I look to who my instructor was or what was my inspiration and how they priced their piece. An inspiration piece may be priced a little higher in a large city than what the small city inwhich I live. What the traffic will bear is another consideration.

    • avatar


      June 24, 2013 at 6:45 am

      I agree with your concept in pricing. I have taken several appraisal classes and location is a major factor in pricing; earring sold in New York City will be much higher priced than those sold in a small town. The cost of living where you are selling is a big factor. Also, your overhead, if you are selling in a shop your overhead is a lot higher then someone working from their home. It is important to pay yourself too even if it is a much enjoyed hobby, it is not fair to those of us who need the income. Donate your profit to your church or favorite charity, but please try not to undercut those of us who must work, I am handicapped and can not leave my home, I depend on my profits.
      Product + Labor + overhead + tax + % for profit (your market $) Your time and talent is valuable ! You are worth it!

  6. avatar

    Scott Rhamey

    June 19, 2013 at 7:26 am

    In response to thePrice vs. Quality Tip
    I don\’t think actual quality is the right term. I would hope that all the jewelry or art items of your readers are \"qualty\" merchandice or it really shouldn\’t be for sale.
    As for pricing, I start with the cost of materials, all of it even the waste, plus a reasonable hourly rate for labor, I also add in an overhead charge (booth cost) usually divided out to what I would expect to sell (number of sales). Next is the hard part, any added amount is determined by several factors; venue (some are expected to have high or low prices), competition (more competition lower prices), thewn basically what the \"market\" can handle. Sometimes your prices will be higher than others, if you really want to make the most at all your shows the items/products will need to be priced according to the event, etc…
    An online store pricing is a little different just a little more consistent. All the factor mentioned above still need to be considered and priority given to overhead (cost of the hosting, purchace processing, marketing etc has to be taken into account.
    The prices are not so much on \"Art\" but based on making a business profitable. As you become more \"known\" then you could add in some extra for that or \"Art\" but that\’s usually how you get undersold by your competiton. Becoming \"known\" should be treated as a bonus marketing strategy. \"OUR\" prices do not go up just because we\’ve become popular, quite the contrary actually. We have to do less actual paid marketing because of that popularity we save money and tend to offer discounts to repeat and referal customers.

    I hope this was some help!
    Scott Rhamey
    Co-Owner and Founder
    Knots Of Olde, A Celtic And Viking Shoppe

  7. avatar

    Bill Dettmer

    June 19, 2013 at 7:34 am

    After four fruitless years of trying to sell my handmade jewelry locally, at shows, fairs, etc., I decided I had better things to do with my time than sitting behind a table for the weekend or trying to “tweak demand’ in an economically depressed area where people don’t want to pay more than $25-50 for a piece. Moreover, the pieces I could make for that price range would barely offset cost of materials.

    I spoke to a friend in high-end real estate in another state. She suggested valuing my work at a price point that was at least 2-1/2 times the cost of materials, then try to penetrate the markets that were willing to pay that price. (The presumption here is that my work is attractive enough to command such prices. Since I work almost exclusively in sterling silver, gold-filled, and semi-precious gemstones (malachite, lapis lazuli, Biggs jasper, serpahinite, charoite, etc.), that generally puts my prices in the $125-$300 range.

    So, I changed my business model. I only make jewelry that doesn’t have a pre-determined buyer when I’m making gifts for family and friends, or for myself. Everything I make for sale now—except visual samples for promotion—has been ordered in advance by a paying customer. And I only advertise made-to-order, unique, one-of-a-kind pieces.

    I don’t sell very much (but I didn’t sell much before anyway), however I get my desired value out of each piece.

    • avatar

      Diane Dettmer

      June 19, 2013 at 7:00 pm

      I just have to add a comment. Bill also cuts and polishes most of his own stones, primarily from chunks of rocks. I feel this must be taken into consideration while pricing also. He’s working on updating the website to reflect the artist he’s truly become. (Excuse a proud wife who has seen his work grow over the years into something very special)

      • avatar

        Anamaria DiDonato

        September 14, 2014 at 11:50 am

        .You are right, Diane. I know the kind of stones that Bill use and I know the price of it too.
        Over all, all the process to finish that stones are hard but in the end, the result are absolutely great.

    • avatar

      Anamaria DiDonato

      September 14, 2014 at 11:45 am

      I always have the same problem. I never know how much is the costumer ready to pay for every piece I made.
      It’s not easy…
      Your idea it is perfect Bill, It is better if is possible just to work for the client directly, but it is necessary to have patience to wait for it.

  8. avatar


    June 19, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Most of us tend to underprice our jewelry. When I was starting to sell pieces, I had a tendency to NOT charge for time and labor. While it is difficult to recoup that time or labor, it needs to be considered. Of course, one must also KNOW how much was spent in creating the piece; findings, wire, stones, etc. I TRY to use a formula. The cost of the supplies x 3 + ( time + labor) And, I try to allot at least 1/2 hour for purchasing.

  9. avatar

    Susan Goss

    June 19, 2013 at 8:14 am

    I started out finding some beautiful rare gem stones and some of the good quality newer stones like druisy. I set them in conventional castings in sterling silver and sold them for 2.5X my price. My most expensive piece was $200.00. At shows people would pick them up and always ask “what is that it is beautiful”. But they would not buy it because it is too expensive or they are allergic to silver. I have spent over $5,000.00 on materials. I want to start wire wrapping some of these stones but I am afraid I will not be able to sell them. The only pieces I have sold were priced under $50.00. I have a absolutely beautiful flawless, reddish/orange 2.5 c. fire opal that I set in a simple traditional setting and could not sell it for $150.00. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I do not have an online site because I am not able to take a decent photo to post them. I have many of the books and videos by Dale and other accomplished artist.

  10. avatar


    June 19, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Personally I generally use a 3 times the cost plus an hourly wage. I do not use the learning curve in that wage however. I do not think it would be fair to charge someone a wage of an hour for an item I SHOULD only take 15 minutes to make once I get it under my belt.

    This is a general rule for me, but I will fluctuate a bit here and there for various items. For example, most of what I make are names and personalized items. If I am using plated wire, I do charge more than that price because the piece is that valuable in my mind. By the same token if I have a piece that I have made that is say a pendant or a pair of earrings, and they have not sold, I will certainly mark them down to make room for other stock.

    So for me, it varies, but the general rule above is a guideline.

  11. avatar

    Wyley Cotton

    June 19, 2013 at 8:48 am

    I price my pieces depending on the quality and rarity of stones. Then I weigh the total piece minus the weight of the stones to determine how much precious metal is used. I then charge between 1-20$/hr depending on the client…for custom work I charge upwards of $20/hr depending on difficulty… For close friends and family I will sometimes not charge for my time.

    I am finally getting confident enough to actually asking for payment of my time and asking for a price that is fair to me and accurately places appropriate value of the final work.

    Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

    Much love and many blessings,


    • avatar

      Wyley Cotton

      June 19, 2013 at 8:58 am

      I use all sterling and fine silver and either 14 kt gold filled or 14 kt gold wire for accents. I try to determine market value of my stones through comparison of comparable quality and size stones…my average prices for rings and earrings is $85-$150 and for pendants $200-$1000….

  12. avatar

    Wyley Cotton

    June 19, 2013 at 8:58 am

    I use all sterling and fine silver and either 14 kt gold filled or 14 kt gold wire for accents. I try to determine market value of my stones through comparison of comparable quality and size stones…my average prices for rings and earrings is $85-$150 and for pendants $200-$1000….

  13. avatar

    Gail Chambers

    June 19, 2013 at 9:18 am

    When I first started making wire jewelry, I just wanted to make sales, so I kept lowering my prices to do so. Then I thought about it and started to value my product as artistic jewelry. When I did that, others started to value it, too.

    I try to do some very unique things and use sterling and copper. I have a formula that works pretty good for me now that includes my hourly rate x number of hours, plus 4x the cost of materials. I take 10% of that total for overhead and add all together. Sometimes it comes out a little higher than I think the market will bear, but I try to stick pretty close to it.

    I work hard to make quality and finishing a priority, so I don’t mind that some of my items may be a little high for some clients. I view it as wire art, and most of them are one-of-a-kind.

    I think all jewelry makers are artists and need to value their time and art form. It is hard because there are lots of us out there, but there are so many venues to sell through. The key is to value yourself, your time, and your art. Hope that doesn’t sound snobby. It has taken me a while to get to where I valued “myself.”

    • avatar

      Alice Ryan

      June 20, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      I don’t think your comments are snobby at all. If we don’t value our time and work, no one else will. It’s taken me a long time to reach that conclusion, too. For quite a while, I didn’t consider myself an artist and it showed in my work – sloppy closure on jump rings, for example. Once I realized that making my pieces the best they could be, I was able to charge a more realistic price for my work. Sometimes, we just need to take a step back and be the customer to be able to value our work properly. Thanks to everyone for their ideas!

  14. avatar


    June 19, 2013 at 9:33 am

    I have only been selling my pieces for a few years and this is the formula I follow: I add up all the expenses such as; stringing material, beads, closures etc. I add a fee on that helps cover my other expenses such as; pliers and other equipment and power and heat for my house (around $2) then I add on a fee for my time (I charge $30/hr for actual stringing/wire work time, I don’t charge for planning) . This helps me make sure that I’m not losing money on the pieces I sell.

  15. avatar

    Jeanne Lyons

    June 19, 2013 at 10:46 am

    I also use the program Bead Manager Pro. It keeps track of your inventory & costs, pulls out the items (& cost) used for making a piece, taking your hourly rate it then creates 3 suggested prices – wholesale – 2-1/2 times, Direct Sales – 3 times and Retail – 5x. You can ultimately choose any one of them or create your own price. Depending on my venue/customer potential, I use the direct sales price or half way between that and retail.

    As far as \"quality\" – I used to hear – that\’s too expensive or there\’s something similar over there or at a store that\’s less expensive. So, I created a banner for inside the back of my tent with 3 photos of my work and the motto \"Quality Materials + Craftsmanship = \". It seems to have cut down on some of those comments, and I also have friendly conversations with interested customers about the quality of my materials and stones…

  16. avatar

    Dorothy Pollak

    June 19, 2013 at 10:46 am

    I actually have a formula I use in pricing what I make. For a necklace/pendant and earring set (I always do sets) I start with a base of $10 to cover findings, wire, chain, whatever (I use primarily base metals). Then, whatever beads I use, I take my cost and double it, just as a lot of retailers do – they call it keystoning. Then I add a very reasonable hourly rate for my time in creating it. Since I wire wrap all connections, this seems like a fair way to price the difference in quality as well as time, because better quality in connections means better quality. The only adjustments I make after that are, if I’m in an economically depressed market, I lower the hourly rate and only add 25% to the materials price, or when I use more expensive materials, such as Sterling or Gold Filled, I do add the cost of those things instead of starting out with the $10 base. I find my work sells and when I explain my pricing formula they almost always see the fairness in it.

  17. avatar


    June 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I’ve just begun selling my work at small art fairs, so I’m certainly not an authority. But I price my work the same way I price my consulting fees in my real job — as much as the market will bear. I have about 10 basic designs, though each piece is a variation on one of the basic designs. I wear prototype pieces in public, and when someone says “I LOVE your necklace,” I say, “I’m just curious — what would you be willing to pay for a piece like this?” Often, when I think I should sell a piece for $75, the response doesn’t back it up. On the other hand, pieces that I’m not all that happy with get rave reviews, and people are happy to shell out $75.

    Since I do not rely on jewelry sales to support myself, I have flexibility, and my approach may not be realistic for many. My point is, however, that our business models should ensure that we are well compensated for our creativity. On the other hand, if our work isn’t selling at the price we ask, we need to figure out efficiencies in order to reduce costs or find better markets where our work is appreciated.

  18. avatar

    Rebecca Lans

    June 19, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I live on the Island of Kauai, which has two types of markets. One for locals and one for tourists. I sell at a botanical garden gift shop, which caters mostly to tourists. Since the shop doubles my price, I have to take into consideration whether the piece is worth the end price. I always make sets (necklace with earrings) and include the whole set in the price rather than pricing them separately. To determine my price, I determine the cost of materials, which is generally sterling silver or gold fill. If the piece is wire wrapped, I times the cost of the material by 5 and if it is strung, by 4. Since I have sold over 100 pieces, this pricing seems to work. When I sell to friends or locals, since they are direct sales, and my price is not going to be doubled, I add the cost of materials, times 4 or 5 and then add another 1/2 to that total. My pieces sell from $50.00 to as high as $300.00. I often visit local stores and craft fairs to see what their pieces are selling at to help me stay competitive without giving away anything. This seems to work for me, but it is just a hobby. My parting advice is to do good quality work, know your market and don’t sell yourself

  19. avatar

    Rosemary Bachman

    June 19, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    To arrive at a price, my formula is similar to many of the other artists who have commented.
    A strategy I use for shows is to include a wide price range of merchandise. I can do this by the way I combine materials and techniques.
    For example, I will display similar items in three different metals, or show a piece with high-end stones and a similar design in stones that have cost me less. The pieces are still one of a kind, and this way they are available to a wider group of potential buyers.
    The caution here is to make sure that the lower-cost pieces don’t look “cheap” next to high-end ones. The design has to be sound enough artistically to hold its own, no matter what materials are used.

  20. avatar


    June 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    I also use Bead Manager Pro and highly recommend it. I used to have a formula that ended up being nearly the same, but using the software makes me less likely to cheat myself. BMP first has you price your hourly based on what your expensed really are and there is a worksheet to help you determine what a fair price is for yourself. You still have control of the final pricing figures, so if you want to bump the price up or down you still can.

  21. avatar

    Sherry Poplarchik

    June 19, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I calculate up the cost of my item and multiply by either 3 or 5 depending on how long it took to make and/or the cost of the beading supplies…….usually I use x3. I do believe this formula was suggested by wire sculpture a year or so ago when this question came up.

  22. avatar

    Janice Fingado

    June 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    My problem is not how much to charge and how to figure it out; it is HOW DO YOU GET THE CUSTOMER INFORMED ENOUGH ABOUT THE PRICE OF QUALITY! My pricing is simple because I want as many people as possible to be able to buy hand-made Artisan jewelry; I remember only too well when I was a young-married and could not afford to pay $15 for a pair of silver earrings. So I do: 1. Cost of materials – and yes, I break down a strand to individual prices for each bead. If I bought the stones or beads at an exceptionally low price, I might add a bit to it. 2.I add Labor charges, but never more than $20 regardless of how long it took me. 3. I double that cost, to pay for Ruby Lane advertising, postage and shipping, business cards, etc. and profit. And, 4. I sell on a Website with a fixed selling price, NOT a Bid, or What do you offer…………
    And yesterday I got an email from a customer asking what “better price” I could give them on a 36″ cultured pearl and quartz nugget necklace: 11.5mm cultured fresh-water pearls, my price was only $135, and included postage and insurance! How can we educate the customers?????????????

  23. avatar

    Marty Blu

    June 19, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    I sell most of my work on a consignment basis and so all of my work is priced at what it would sell at a shop. My consignments take up to 50% of the total price sold, so I mark all of my work accordingly. I like to ask for at least 3 times the materials and an hourly rate per piece.

    Most of my work is one of a kind. Occasionally a personal masterpiece emerges. When I make an exceptionally beautiful piece, I will add a little or a lot more to the price.

    Selling too low can deplete inventory, and you may not make enough to replace materials and/or make a profit. You should leave enough room in your prices so that later if you do want to lower the price, you are not already at rock bottom pricing.

    Occasionally a friend or acquaintance will ask to see my work and want to buy, or make a special order. In these cases I do not lower my prices, but I may offer them a special discount.

    I love making my jewelry and I am so happy when my work sells.

  24. avatar

    Bonnie DeHart

    June 20, 2013 at 7:38 am

    I have a decreasing scale pricing formula that I apply to the total cost of the materials. I add in my hourly cost for time, (minimum 1 hr.)Since I do shows as well as galleries, I factor in a certain percentage to cover commissions or show fees, etc. I actually do that for all pieces as when I package and ship, it will offset those costs. My prices are “reasonable” but not cheap. I do have lower priced items that I know will go well at the arts and craft shows that I have fun showing at, but am pleasantly surprised when someone comes along who recognizes quality and just has to have a more expensive piece.

  25. avatar

    Bonnie DeHart

    June 20, 2013 at 7:39 am

    I have a decreasing scale pricing formula that I apply to the total cost of the materials. I add in my hourly cost for time, (minimum 1 hr.)Since I do shows as well as galleries, I factor in a certain percentage to cover commissions or show fees, etc. I actually do that for all pieces as when I package and ship, it will offset those costs. My prices are \"reasonable\" but not cheap. I do have lower priced items that I know will go well at the arts and craft shows that I have fun showing at, but am pleasantly surprised when someone comes along who recognizes quality and just has to have a more expensive piece.

  26. avatar


    June 20, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Price vs. Quality… I looked up the definition of Quality: the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something: an improvement in product quality

    Can an artist put a price on quality? Sure! The materials I use to design my products, findings, wire, and crystals… etc. measure quality. Of course, time is a factor as well. I have a niche, so pricing is generally the same.

    However, I’m in the beginning stages of branching out into wire wrapping (which I find fascinating) and this topic is very interesting to read.

    I understand many factors go into pricing, but how does one determine price using only wire?


    You have a hot selling item that takes 20 minutes to make. Over the years, you have perfected the design and now it takes 8 minutes to make.

    Do you adjust the price or leave well enough alone?

    Thank you everyone… excited to read responses.

  27. avatar

    kirsten Philadelphia

    June 20, 2013 at 10:58 am

    for earrings (no base metal in the earring post or wire) i have several “price categories” i have the simple ones at $15 each or 2 for $25..
    (actually anything i have on my table that is 15 dollars is mix and match 2 for 25.. it keeps the math easy, and people like getting a simple necklace and earrings, etc)

    then the next level that is 20 each or 2 for 35
    then individual prices (i had a pair of really expensive earrings at 40 dollars a pair, but discounted to 30 with its matching necklace…)

    earrings i find people buy like they are impulse items… so they need to be mostly priced as impulse items. they are the “snack food” of jewelry sales…

  28. avatar

    kirsten Philadelphia

    June 20, 2013 at 11:02 am

    pendants and etc i try to keep track of what i paid for the supplies. i admit that since i often buy a “tray full” of cabs… mixed sizes… i often have to kind of guess at the actual cost,

    then i TRY to look at what i charged for something similar.

    so if i normally have to charge.. um… 50 dollars for something… and this si very similar.. i will not go below 45 for it.
    the reason is that if i get an amazing deal once in a while, i dont want to undercut my usual price, because then everyone wants to know why the other one is “so much more”

    if i need to, i can always have a piece marked at 50 and put it “on sale” at 30 if i got the stone at a good price

  29. avatar


    June 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    My nemesis is pricing!! I do everything by hand, chains, links, closures. I love working with gemstones because I am fascinated by what comes out of the earth…..I call it “nature’s art”. I have a problem called dyscalculia which does not allow me to do more than add and subtract, I cannot understand anything further. So what I try to do is guesstimate for a price for my work, try to keep track of what I spent on the stones and beads, wire, can’t afford to use silver or gold filled, use copper covered wire and copper which I love. What would be the best way to go for a fair price? My work has been admired.

  30. avatar


    June 26, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I have a question on pricing.
    When taking the cost of materials into consideration like, findings, chains, stones, bead or whatever it is that you are using to make a piece do you take the percentage of the cost on the whole string of beads when making a piece OR do you take the percentage for each bead that is on the string?
    EXAMPLE: Say I paid $20 for a sting of beads with 30 beads on it, and I am making 10 pairs of earrings, is the percentage that I include on each pair of earrings coming from the $20 I paid for the string or on each individual bead on that string?

    Sorry for such a simple question, I am very very new to jewelry making and am in love with the art of it all.

    • avatar

      Jim Horth

      July 17, 2013 at 5:30 am

      To answer your question, I’ll tell you what I do: If I’m using all or most of a strand of beads (leaving, say 10% leftover) I will calculate in the full price of the strand. If I’m going to have enough left over to make a significant portion of another piece, I’ll calculate in a percentage cost of that strand. So in the example you used, I would divide the price of the whole strand by 10 and use that number as the cost of the beads for each pair of earrings.