Capacity - Production - Making - Designing

May 16, 2018

Capacity - Production - Making - Designing

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This is one weird topic for today.  But the more I know about the jewelry industry the more I realize what I did not know before I came into this industry.  I am still learning but so many things have literally made the ‘light bulb’ come on and made me realize some things I should have known.  Other things I could have never known.

Let’s talk about jewelry fabrication, manufacturing and production. I never thought much about this before I began to make jewelry. But once I began to make jewelry I began to realize just how lengthy the process is to make even one piece of jewelry well.


I have gotten very good at production work.  That is where I am having to make several pieces of identical jewelry all at once.  But even at that I can take all day to make just a few pieces.  If the pieces are at all complicated it can take several days to make even 5 to 10 pieces of jewelry.

Now that I am getting my jewelry in a few stores I have people tell me that they hope to see my jewelry in stores all over the place.  Well let’s talk about that a bit.

Every jewelry designer who started out making jewelry and became sought after to the point where many stores were wanting their jewelry had to make a decision.  That decision was this…

  1. Not put their pieces in lots of stores and keep making it all myself
  2. Sell to some very high end stores and have their work manufactured in the US
  3. Sell to lots of stores in high quantity and outsource the production to China or Pakistan
  4. Have components cast here or abroad and assemble them with a team of people

Many people do not realize that once a Maker has a high demand on their product, they do not have the physical capacity to make it all themselves.  It just is not possible no matter how good you are. 

So at that point that person is no longer a Maker but a Designer.  At that point the consumer is no longer buying a piece handmade by a skilled artisan, but an idea thought by that artisan and mass produced by machines.

I hear people all the time that gush and goo over a ‘name’.  Oh that is an XYZ.  But what I know about that designer (and it is not just one) is that to mass produce they have had to outsource to China for the pieces. Often to keep costs low the pieces are plated with a thin coating of gold or other precious metal.

 Plating is a low cost way to try and get a high end look.  It does not wear well at all.  With physical contact it will soon wear away or chip off. A brand that may have started high end and quality made has had to compromise to produce in quantity. They can say this is gold and that it is silver because there is gold and silver on it!

Do I fault these designers for this? No way! They are making tons of money this way. And in all things ‘caveat emptor’ or buyer beware.  If I too have a demand that is higher than my capacity to produce, I too will be faced with a hard decision.

For now my goal is to keep my pieces designed and made by me with precious metals. I do not silver plate.  I use solid Argentium silver one of the highest forms of sterling silver available.

Right now I do not even have a production assistant.  I am such a stickler for quality that unless an assistant has the same or greater skill as I do I will have a hard time delegating a task to them.  My hope is that will change.  Someday I hope to have parts of the production process that I can delegate to a skilled person so that my capacity can grow.

Many consumers think that just because a certain name is on a piece of jewelry that the quality is higher or that it was made by that designer.  Often the quality is no better than much less expensive jewelry in bargain stores.  Most is made in the very same place by the same foreign manufactures.

I’ve seen on some designer websites it says made in America, but the truth is they have components cast elsewhere, usually overseas, and assemble the components into finished pieces here in America in a factory type setting with many workers all assembling the pieces.

And truthfully many of the names have even delegated out the process of design by hiring qualified designers to do that for them.

The money may be hard to resist should I get an order so large I cannot fill it, but I am just not sure I can say yes.  As hard as it is, for now I would rather produce less very high quality pieces made by me than slap my name on something of far less quality just for the sake of money.

I don’t let it bother me any more when someone would like to buy my pieces at a very reduced cost.  I try to remember that most consumers are used to mass produced machine made jewelry. 

My pieces are each individually made by me with the highest quality materials and that will always be worth more to me.


Spring Leaf Necklace in Brass


Spring Leaf Earrings in Brass

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