Sell or Display Valued Stones

by Dale Armstrong

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.)
Dale Armstrong's Sell or Display Valued Stones - , General Education, , gemstone necklace
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!!


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WireJewelry - Ultimate Wire-Pliers Jewelry Pliers with Case, Set of 5
  • G15-20
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
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  • Price: $170.72
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  • Category: General Education
  • Technique(s): General Education