How Much Does It Cost for Handmade Jewelry, Really

Studio Notes

The Case of the $75 Earrings

I have a digital timer. So I decided to time myself while making a pair of $75 earrings for a customer. Make that $48.75 earrings. The consignment gallery takes a 35 percent commission on my handmade jewelry.

Here’s what I needed:

Stuff: jeweler’s bench, paper pattern printouts, paste, three 0/4 saw blades and jeweler’s saw,  bench pin, bench block, stamps and hammer, eight sanding disks in three grades and mandrel, Flex shaft with handpiece, soldering station, air acetylene torch, used bench polisher, buffs…. Get the idea? About $1,200 worth of tools.

Materials: 7 grams of 20 gauge sterling silver sheet, 4 inches of 20 gauge sterling silver wire, two snips of hard solder, worth about $4.44. Add another $2 for chemicals, heat and lights for the studio, property taxes.

Time:  two hours and 24 minutes

Hourly pay: $17.62

Solve the Handmade Jewelry Mystery

Circle the number that applies:

  1. You should feel good about this, Betsy. That’s good pay for nine years of silversmithing. Are you having self-esteem issues again?
  2. Who would pay $75 for those earrings? They gotta be crazy. I could make ’em in 5 minutes.
  3. Um, excuse me, but if you had to take out a loan to pay for all that equipment, you’d have to deduct the cost of that from your profit, too. And what about all those expensive silversmithing and metal carving classes you took? You should pay yourself back for those, too.
  4. Lose 50 pounds, get a better haircut, and buy some stylish clothes. Then charge more.
  5. Make these earrings part of a cohesive collection. Get into a high-end gallery, raise the wholesale price of the earrings to $100, (triple key $250). Earn $25 an hour for your labor and put $31.06 back into your business to restock, replace worn out tools, hire a marketing consultant or plan a trip to Tucson.
  6. Make a whole bunch of earrings at the same time, like a production line, until your hands wear out.
  7. How much do you want to make a month? Start there and work backwards.
  8. Have them machine-made in China. People are always looking for $10 earrings.
  9. Like, dude. Pray for prosperity.
  10. Quit.
  11. Stop sniveling. At least you get to be creative.  Most artists starve, anyway.

Silversmith Betsy Lehndorff lives in Northern Michigan and has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. To see her work go to

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