Net Profits: How Jewelry Artists Deal with Stolen Inventory

Having your inventory stolen — it’s every jewelry artist’s nightmare, and it happens more often than you would think. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the chance that it will happen to you.

ABOVE IMAGE: GETTY IMAGES

Marne Ryan had her inventory stolen from the Pasadena Craft Show in November 2016. Janine DeCresenzo and Megan Clark had theirs taken from a rental car while working the Art of the Pearl show in Portland, Oregon, in September. Thieves made off with about $300,000 worth of Janine and Megan’s handmade jewelry, mostly one-of-a-kind.

All these artists are back in the studio and working the craft show circuit, with a little help from friends in the industry. But all are exercising extreme caution with their jewelry — and suggest you do the same.

Janine and Megan were traveling together when they were robbed, but both believe they were safer together. “I definitely think there is power in numbers,” Janine says, who is following security measures such as these issued by the Jewelers’ Security Alliance. “Traveling by yourself isn’t smart. I usually meet up with other artists just to have somebody to travel with.”

Losing valuable jewelry to thieves is never good, but losing one-of-a-kind pieces made by your own hand is a tragedy that’s difficult to bounce back from. Most often, jewelry is stolen from the trunk of a car when the jewelry stops for a bite on the way back to the hotel.

PHOTO: Getty Images

Janine’s signature pieces are designed around shards of coral from a collection her late grandmother gathered along the shore. (Find more on her website.) The quirky shapes and textures of the coral dictate the designs, and while the coral wasn’t worth much in itself, the gems and metal Janine uses — not to mention the hours spent in the studio – represented a lot of income.

Much of Megan’s lost inventory was equally distinctive. Megan’s signature work is designed around stingray, often with hand-textured mixed metals in unique geometric forms. The fact that both artists’ jewelry is so distinctive makes it harder for the thieves to sell — which can work for or against the artists.

If you do have your work stolen, there are support systems in place to help you get back on your feet.

Janine, Megan, and Marne all successfully applied for online donations within hours of the thefts, using the crowdsourcing site and app GoFundMe. Janine and Megan set theirs up together, shooting for a goal of $10,000. Word of the double theft spread fast on social media and hundreds of fellow makers and others in the jewelry industry piled on to donate, me included.

In the end, they made twice their goal. After the 8 percent in fees charged by the site, each ended up with about $9,000 to spend on materials and supplies. “That was amazing. We were very grateful,” says Janine. “It was enough to buy materials to get us started and take the edge off a little. I just went to a gem show and placed a huge order with Rio Grande.”

Rio Grande also fronted each of them a $500 credit and a generous discount on supplies. They also applied for relief from CERF (Craft Emergency Relief Fund). “They’ve been around for a while. They’re wonderful,” Janine says of CERF. “We had to fill out a form explaining what happened with a copy of the police report. They offer a grant and a loan to get you back on your feet.”

When I spoke to Janine a few weeks after the theft, she was dealing with PTSD, but back in the studio and finding ways to rebuild her inventory. “Some things I really liked so I might make something similar,” she told me. “But most of the pieces that are one-of-a-kind, I don’t want to just replicate. It’s bittersweet. I’m just going to pretend they were sold. So if I see a photo of it, I won’t get upset. I’ll just start making new things.”

You can read a firsthand account of the theft on Janine’s website.


CATHLEEN MCCARTHY has written about jewelry and business for Town & Country, Art & Antiques, Washington Post, and her own site, The Jewelry Loupe. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

NET PROFITS is a regular feature about using the Internet for jewelry selling of special interest to those with a home-based jewelry business that appears in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Learn more in “Avoid Jewelry Theft” in the January/February 2018 issue. Don’t miss a single Net Profits column. Subscribe to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.


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