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

By on September 25, 2011
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
September 26, 2011


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


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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  1. avatar

    Susannah St. Clair

    September 26, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Dale.. beautifully explained. I, as most of us, have certain pieces that share my heart. I put on a price that I feel they “deserve” not necessarily what they may have cost me. I once had a lady look at one of my necklaces and want ONLY the seahorse (which was glass) that I was showcasing the necklace with. I LOVED that silly piece. Pink and blues that I felt was made for a beloved child. All she wanted was the seahorse! (and she wasn’t gracious about that!) So I immediately said no. She came back a bit later and grudgingly said she’d take it.. meaning the whole thing. So I sold it to her and have regretted it ever since. It was a learning experience. I feared that she would just take it apart and toss the rest! I STILL think about it.. sigh. LESSON learned.

  2. avatar


    September 26, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks so much for all this information, Dale, and to Marcia for asking the question. I’m especially appreciative of the last part you added. I have been wondering what to do about the beads I purchased when first starting out which have been accumulating . . . I could never resist a good sale, and my inventory shows it! I will definitely contact Camp Summersault in Long Beach, which is convenient since I live in southern California. A worthy cause as well as a good tax deduction sounds great to me.

    • avatar


      September 26, 2011 at 4:44 pm

      Cool Nancy!! Karen is a delightful lady, and will be very appreciative :)

  3. avatar

    Margaret Lakas

    September 26, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    So inspirational in multiple venues, artistic appreciation and giving. Two important aspects of my life. I have been so blessed and love the opportunity to share. I’ve thought about starting a scholarship fund for your CD’s and classes for people who have to choose between educating themselves and buying wood to heat their homes. (read this comment from someone on your facebook that made me think of this). I too will be donating materials I will never use to the camp. Good question and answer.

    • avatar


      September 26, 2011 at 6:43 pm

      Thank you Margaret, I think most of “us” as artists, have special groups and organizations that we help, but rarely “advertise”.

  4. avatar


    September 27, 2011 at 4:50 am

    The discussion about beads that we no longer want, made me think of something else. These are more for already made jewelry. Many of the Children’s hospitals also treat teens. Some will keep a room of ‘treats’ for them after chemo or painful procedures. Some pretty jewelry is nice for the teens.

    Also, there are the shelters that are working with abused women to get them back into the work force. That includes clothing. A piece of handcrafted jewelry would make a lady feel special.

    I have thought that it might be fun sometime to get several jewelry makers together and have a ‘jewelry’ bee for some of these groups.

    • avatar


      September 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm

      Great ideas Cairenn! Let me know if you decide to get a group started :)

  5. avatar


    September 29, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Oh dear, a subject close to my heart…lol. Dale can testify that I certainly have a hoard of stones stuck back as special. I share Sussannah’s feelings regarding the sea horse and selling it to someone who didn’t feel the same way about it as she did.
    Nancy, you go girl! Cairann, you rock also. As artists, we feel things more deeply than other people do and we are almost always the first to jump and help an organization.

    Scrimshaw Mary

  6. avatar


    September 30, 2011 at 1:08 am

    Yes, Dale, That’s just what I needed to hear and more. You always have more to offer than I expect; but moreso, your encouragement is simply invaluable! Thanks for being such a strong advocate for those of us still learning the ropes.

    • avatar


      September 30, 2011 at 9:21 am

      Cool! Happy to help, Marcia :)

  7. avatar


    October 4, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Hi everyone, we initially published the wrong email address for Karen, sorry about that! I’ve updated the post. You can contact her at designerkaren2@aol.com, she would love to hear from you! Thanks.