Daily Wire Tip: Ideas for Inexpensive Jewelry

By on March 10, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip


I live in an area that doesn’t seem to want to pay more than $20.00 for anything so I’ve been using silver-plate and gold-plate to make my items…What kind of items could I sell in that price range using sterling silver?


When planning a project in sterling silver, that can be sold for about $20, my advice is to choose materials that do not total more than $10 per project, such as any of the many free patterns found on our website here: Free Wire Jewelry Patterns Other ideas would be headpin earrings made with your own handcrafted ear wires and simple single or 3-bead rings. Once your customers get addicted to your style, they will become interested in the items you have for $25 to $40 as well.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar”Armstrong

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  1. avatar

    Casey Willson

    March 10, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    I just started using little crystal drops (briolettes) with two 24 gauge wires sculpted around them. They’re inexpensive to make and are beautiful! I’m also sculpting found items such as interesting old clip or pierced earrings. Cost is low, each item is unique and they get lots of oooohs and ahs!

    • avatar


      February 18, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      They sound really pretty. You said that you sculpt the wire around the stone. Do you mean like in a cage?

  2. avatar


    March 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    10-4 on the cheapskates, but don’t scrimp by using plated metals – when the finish wears off, you’ll lose those few customers that actually bought from you.

    • avatar

      Linda Hall

      February 14, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      Amen, Fitz!
      It’s amazing how people remember anything negative when it comes to jewelry. I keep information sheets available as hand-outs that explain the differences between plate, rolled gold and .925 silver. I also have samples of what base metal and plate looks like after it’s been worn awhile. Works like a charm.

  3. avatar

    nancy beegle

    March 10, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I completely agree with both comments. I have found that with my disability income, it’s irrelevant that some customers here would pay much more for some of my items — I cannot afford to purchase the sterling silver or gold filled much of the time, and have learned that if I substitute cz or Swarovski for genuine gemstone focals or beads, I can then afford to use the more expensive wire, hence allaying any fears of the finish wearing off (as is often a deterrence to purchasing something which is deemed inexpensive). It’s easier to convince a potential client that the stone won’t turn, than it is to convince the same of the wire. This makes both people happy; the artist by being able to still create beautiful pieces, not ruin their reputation and still be able to make a profit; and your customer is happy because they will trust you (while enjoying and showing off your creations to others) and they’ll come back, hopefully bringing friends along!

    Happy Wrapping!

  4. avatar

    Donna Rainey

    March 10, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    I agree with Fitz. Using plated materials will only hurt you later on. You can cut your cost by purchasing wholesale or purchasing in slightly larger quantities to get a price break. There are places that only require a business license and no minimum purchase.

  5. avatar


    March 12, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I have the same problem with the church group at Quarter Auctions. They don’t seem to understand the quality, love, care, and time that we as jewelry designers put into every piece we make. I overheard comments, as did my 14 year old grand daughter, which upset her, that they don’t understand why I would think my jewelry would be worth so much even if it is pretty. In this type of auction it is the price range which tells each bidder how many qtrs they pay, EX: $1-$25 is 1 qtrs; $26-$50 is 2 qtrs, etc. Naturally I try to go for the price range of $76-$100 so the bid is 3 or 4 qtrs. I use semi-precious, Swarovski and other crystals, stainless steel, and SS to make my pieces so they will last and not tarnish, easy to care for. I practically gave away some of my best pieces in the last 2 auctions. Maybe I will just quit entering them. These folks don’t understand the value I’m giving them, even when I explain it to them. If I use plated and glass or inexpensive stones, I agree with you all that it would cheapen my products and eventually I’d lose more customers than I gained, but this seems to be what they want. How can I possibly win with odds like this? I don’t want to sell inferior jewelry I wouldn’t want to wear. Advice anyone????

    • avatar


      March 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm

      Krister, I am not really sure that I understand this ‘quarter’ auction. Are you saying that if you put a price of $75 on a piece that someone could purchase it for as little as the lowest bid of 75 cents?!
      No matter for my opinion though, I would either A. enter lower priced items (to see if that is really what these particular customers desire); B. offer to hold a ‘fund raiser’ home style party for the church (so you would have a captive audience to explain and maybe even do a short demo of, your work) to see if there is any real interest; or C. Find another venue! (like your own home show/open house).

    • avatar


      January 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm


      I am honestly more concerned about the “rude comments” made by fellow Sisters in Christ rather than the pricing. I agree with my fellow wrappers in finding another venue for your art, but I would also look for a different church with Christ-driven people.

  6. avatar

    Shirley Crabtree

    February 14, 2012 at 7:36 am

    I agree that using plated wire will hurt you in the long run. We inform our customers that we use only quality beads (crystal or gemstone), and either sterling silver or gold-filled wire and findings. Our customers seem to be willing to pay a little more when they know they are buying quality that will last for a long time. We have also started using some of the new silver-filled findings, but have not used them long enough to know how well they hold up.

  7. avatar


    February 14, 2012 at 7:39 am

    All are good answers. Like Dale, I don’t understand Krister and the church auction thing either. I also use a variety of different metals when I work. I mix copper with silver, silver with gold-filled, etc. Bread and butter pieces are earrings, of course, and by using Swarovski crystals the bling is added and the cost remains low. Doing bulk buys with fellow jewelry artists can help keep the price of your supplies down. Krister, you may just have to bite the bullet and find another understanding venue as Dale recommended.

    Scrimshaw Mary

  8. avatar

    Patricia Vittetoe

    February 14, 2012 at 9:36 am

    I have found that a lot of customers just want a little trinket to make them happy for a little while. I make earrings (plated) and sell them for as little as $4-$8. In just about every show, I manage to sell more of the $4 earrings and even have repeat customers. No one has ever complained that the wires have tarnished because the price is low enough that most people don’t care. Sometimes I end up making more money in some shows than those who are selling higher priced items.

    • avatar


      February 15, 2012 at 7:52 am

      Are you making any money for your time, Patricia? For those of us who make and sell jewelry for a living, it is impossible to make and sell a pair of earrings for any less than $15!

  9. avatar

    Rhonda Chase

    February 14, 2012 at 10:24 am

    This is an issue I’ve been struggling with a lot lately. I’ve figured out some good ways to make some low priced items using resin, stainless steel, bronze etc. This works well for me at shows, but I’m stuck when it comes to work I sell through shops. Where I live shops and galleries typically take 40% of the retail price, but they still want items they can sell for $20-$25. Even if my material costs are very low, I want to make something for the time I spend! So far, I can’t seem to get my retail prices under about $40, so I’m losing sales to cheaper artists. Suggestions?!

    • avatar


      February 15, 2012 at 7:49 am

      Rhonda, the only items I sell to gift shops that they can price at $20 to $25 are sterling silver headpin earrings! Personally, any galleries I show/sell at, usually want items that are from $250 and up (at a 35 to 40% commission).

  10. avatar


    February 14, 2012 at 11:16 am

    i love the church i go to. someimes i offer a piece of my jewlery as a fund raiser for a charity.they will take a chance to win, and prhaps after 3wks or so of selling tickets we will have a drawing.Im happy with that, because my work gets seen, and the church gets money for their charity.

    • avatar


      February 15, 2012 at 7:46 am

      That is a great way to get your work ‘out there’!

  11. avatar


    February 14, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    I find myself in the same quandry: lack of funds!! I just cannot afford to buy the siver or gold-filled wires, so have to ciontent myself with the gold and silver craft wires. I do use a lot of swarovski crystals (4 mm), turquoise chips, amethyst beads, other gemstone chips, tibetan silver spacers, fresh water pearls, shell pendants and beads some gemtone beads and pendants like aventurine, jasper, agate etc., I use pretty ribbon, leather, and rubber necklaces or make my own “beads” and chain. For earwires I use mainly the hypoallergenic surgical SS and sometimes maybe silver or gold plated. I will be offering what I make as handmade costume jewelry so there should be no problems…I pray!! Do you think that would be appropriate Dale? I try to make sure that what goes into the ear lobe won’t cause a reaction (like mine, they get weepy, hot, and swollen!!)I also want to thank your site for the great free videos and tutorials you have, it has helped me learn a lot. Now I want to learn how to wrap a stone.

    • avatar


      February 15, 2012 at 7:46 am

      Actually Daniella, I do not recommend using plated wire for ear wires, because due to a person’s body chemistry, the plating can come off too easily. Check out this post on Jewelry Wire for Earring Wires. Wrapping a “stone” can be easy, just find the directions for the style you wish to learn, follow the formulas for whatever stone you have and you’re off!

  12. avatar

    Genevieve Greene

    June 5, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    I made a woven bracelet and matching earrings for my sister as a gift at Christmas 2010 when i first started out and I used gold-plated earwires. I saw the earrings again in February this year and I was so shocked. Never again, I vow, will I dare use silver or gold plated stuff. If it’s base metal I’m staying away, specially if I’m selling it. You live you learn. It’s better to spend a bit more and produce something of lasting quality, than a pretty piece of junk. I order gold filled or silver filled, or sterling online now.

  13. avatar

    Deb H.

    November 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    This was timely; my first craft fair is this Saturday. I have a program to track inventory and price jewelry pieces and I know a bit about accounting. However, each time it spits out the Suggested Retail figure, I am floored! I doubt I will be able to sell for that amount, but there is a “Direct” figure in between wholesale and Suggested Retail that I think may work and appears to be close to the formula shown in the article above.

    Anyway, hopefully Saturday will go well and I won’t be too discouraged (’cause I really like this “hobby”)!

  14. avatar


    January 15, 2013 at 6:57 am

    You’re so right, Dale! I like to sell some lower cost items like earrings, wire rings and simple pins/brooches along with my necklaces and sets at shows. At $15 to $25 the earrings sell like crazy and take so little time to make. You can add just one gorgeous semi precious stone or lampwork bead and they look great! Using copper, bronze brass and stainless steel is also a good way to keep my costs down. Many, many people just want a beautiful piece of well made jewelry and don’t necessarily look for gold or silver.


  15. avatar


    September 17, 2014 at 9:01 am

    I agree with the \"Cougar\". Many pieces of good looking jewelry can be made using sterling silver with inexpensive beads and even Swarovski crystal. Check out Firemountain or Shipwreck beads. I live in an area where people (at local craft fairs) don\’t even want to spend more than $10 for items. Because I\’m retired and making wire wrapped jewelry is my hobby, my time is \"cheap\". I just want to earn enough to keep myself in supplies. So, what I do is break down the cost of my wire into a per inch price, add the cost of the beads, stones,etc. and usually double the price. Nothing less than $5. I also have some high end pieces using opals and other precious stones and beads that sell for a lot more and I don\’t have trouble selling those when buyers know I\’m using silver for my lesser expensive pieces. Selling one of those peices greatly out weighs the low prices of my other sales. The point being, you can keep the fabrication cost down even when using sterling. Happy wrapping. :) Twistedbrother

  16. avatar


    October 20, 2014 at 8:36 am

    I think every jewelry seller faces this dilemna. I try to be friendly to other jewelry sellers and bring up the subject and sometimes they share their ideas on how to sell in my particular community. Once I sold a nice looking bracelet (inexpensive shell beads and elastic – very inexpensive materials)for $7 to a tourist and she was embarrassed for me and gave me $15. I learned from that experience that sometimes pricing too low can work against you. So now I have a \"sales rack\" where I place my inexpensive jewelry so it looks like the low price is because of a price reduction. I have also learned to keep a more limited amount of inexpensive jewelry (which everyone seems to be selling and looks common) and concentrate on my more expensive \"art pieces\" which are unique and made with high-end materials. This seems to be working. I also learned that presentation makes a big difference, particularly at craft shows. Raising some items on an a stand and covering some with acrylic or glass tells people that these pieces are valuable. Thanks for the discussion.

  17. avatar


    October 21, 2014 at 11:42 am

    I would also agree with the remarks on plated wire especially as it seems with modern plated metals they really don\’t last, on me for example earwires can be back to the base metal in a minimum of 24 hours wear, and other wire and findings around a month of wear takes off most of the plate but here in the UK unless we buy from the States it is very hard to get silverfilled wire- goldfilled rolled gold and vermeil yes, even coloured copper and aluminium but silverfill not so easy, but we also have people who want the goods but won\’t spend especially at school, brownie or scout and church fairs people want gemstones for less than £20 and seem to think handmade means you can let things go for little or nothing at the end of the event too

  18. avatar

    Michele C

    December 2, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    This is a great subject. Many of you are talking about shows, and this brings up something that I’ve been wondering about. Are things picking up at shows now? If you had to pay an entry fee that was more than the church fee, would you do it? If not, where do you find the most profitable places to sell?

    If this isn’t on subject please just point me to another post – thanks!

  19. avatar

    beckey neal

    December 29, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Thank you for all the comments. My daughter and I are just beginning in the jewelry and clay making. I am already deciding that using better wire is probably advisable but using anything else like cubic zirconia, etc will still enable one to sell at a lower price. The most important thing to me when buying myself something is that it is UNIQUE. Play up the fact that whatever you sell is ONE OF A KIND and noone else in the world has one exactly like it!! AFter all, that is what being handmade and being made by a jewelry artist makes it worth whatever. And from being in retail for many years, I know you can be too cheap. Too CHEAP to that customer means that they think it is junk. Price it fair and remember that someone will think it is worth it even it others do not.

  20. avatar

    Lynn Walz

    January 18, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Talking of Art/Craft Shows. If you submit an application for a juried show and they specify that all your work \"must be original and hand made\"…why are people selling jewelry that is not hand made?? I have seen statement pieces from ebay and
    things that so called artists \"buy and sell as their own.\" How does a person compete with this? Aside from taking a spot that could have been a real artists location, the pieces they sell are not \"hand made\" by the person who is in the booth!!!
    Who is doing the jurying??? In short, \"buy and sell\" items should not be allowed. Any comments on this???

  21. avatar

    Faith Teems

    December 28, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Question , in reading these comments on wire I didn’t see anyone address the ‘permanent’ colored Artisan copper core wires ..I make a lot of pearl jewelry and don’t want to use ss or siver coated/filled wire wrapped pieces because silver cleaners will harm the pearls over time I think. I’m fairly new to making jewelry , so don’t know which materials will hold up without tarnishing in the long run. It seems very strange to me that I have costume jewelry which hasn’t tarnished in over 30 years , but in making jewelry everything I use for wire and findings will tarnish!! I called Fire Mountain and asked them about their silver findings and they said all would tarnish , nothing was coated to prevent tarnishing…does anyone have any place to get coated findings?????

  22. avatar


    February 2, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Offer to make a similar product using brass or copper.