Thursday, February 19, 2009

Your ultimate guide to buying and pricing handmade jewelry. Part 1.

I have decided to write about buying and pricing handcrafted jewelry! Let me first assure you that there is nothing specific about pricing handmade jewelry or any other handmade crafts. So the title is misleading, but I stick with it nonetheless! I choose it intentionally to point out misconceptions associated with jewelry purchase. It is not intended to be a tutorial, nor it is intended to be full guide! However it will be a long series of blogposts, because I want make my point using a lot of examples, detailed description of work processes and critical analysis of my and other jewelers' pieces.

So what does the word misconception mean? According to Wikipedia: "A misconception happens when a person believes in a concept which is objectively false."

What kind of misconception many people have when buying jewelry? First and foremost is that they are buying precious metals and stones. The sad truth is hidden in the first sentence of this paragraph. When buying jewelry, people buying man created objects that are often made from precious metals and gemstones. So what is the difference? The difference is the the same as in buying 2000 pounds of steel, aluminum, plastic, glass and textile versus buying an automobile.

Before we plunge in the details I will summarize the most common measurements used the jewelry industry. This will help you tremendously later.

Density: Density is defined as an objects mass per unit volume.
Specific weight is defined as an objects weight per unit volume.
For detailed physics lessons the reader referred to other web sites and manuals.
In the future I will use density, acknowledging that specific weight may be more appropriate.

We need this definition to understand a few basic ideas about jewelry prices. The following example will show you the practical application of this definition:
You want to make a ring in platinum, 14K gold, 18K gold and sterling silver and would like to know how much metal you need to make this ring. If you say, well in my experience 3 grams of 18K gold is enough, therefore I will buy 3 grams of each of the other metals, then you are already screwed up on several fronts. Your 3 grams of platinum will not be nearly enough to make the ring, while you will have bought too much silver and generated a lot of scrap, that you will have to recycle.
How is this? Since the density of platinum is much higher than that of silver, equal weight of them will give you a longer silver wire, than platinum wire.Exactly how much longer? If you need 3 grams of sterling silver to make a ring, then you will need 6.21 grams of platinum, 4.38 g of 18K gold, 3.75 g of 14K gold to make that ring.

Now I will show you this information translated into materials costs. Today's spot (market or cash price. This is the current price in the physical market for immediate delivery of gold) prices for gold: ~$941/troy ounce, silver ~$13.07/troy ounce, platinum ~$1047/troy ounce.
Hey wait a minute! You were talking about 3 grams of silver, now you are giving me the prices on WHAT ounce! Troy ounce. This is the traditional weight unit used by precious metal markets. Is it confusing? Yes, but if we would like to understand the Chinese, we gotta speak Chinese, right?

So allow me to continue. The market price of gold is given for "pure" gold. As we mostly make jewelry from gold alloys, we need to translate these prices into karat gold prices. Gold is alloyed mostly with copper,zink and silver, but their prices are negligible in this case, so don't bother.

Definition: karat: means how many parts (by weighth) of gold you have in the alloy if by tradition we say that fine gold contains 24 parts of gold in 24 parts of the metal (5 grams of 24K gold contains 5 grams of gold). For example 14 K contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts of other metals. It means that the gold content of 14 K alloy is 100*14/24% or 58.33333.%. 18 K gold has 100*18/24 or 75% of gold in it.

That's it for today, I gotta do some work now. We will continue soon. Hey, why dont you sign up for updates?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My artists statement - explained, but not finished.

I am currently trying to define myself as jewelry artist. I have been (mostly intuitively) making pieces that show - maybe too much - diversity. I keep telling myself: this no good, because people will have a hard time to identify you. But maybe that is exactly what it is, and more. I have been studying little cells and tiny molecules - all part of the great wonder life - for a long time. And one thing always amuses me: how is it possible, when everything in the universe is governed by strict physical and chemical laws, the manifestations and movements of matter and life are ever so varied. Let's see it through an example. The branching of trees (blood vessels, bronchy, kidneys, glands...) are governed by apparently strict rules and a few very simple (haha) fundamental mechanisms. Do not worry, I am not going to elaborate on these, at least not now. The result are however strikingly varied: from tree to tree, from my vasculature to yours. More than that the results are really amazingly random. Oh yes, we sometimes clearly see ( tree) and other times may not have a clue (kidneys)about the orchestrating force behind these fractal structures, but the result is always different, individual, unrepeatable.
In conclusion, I believe that trough my jewelry i would like to create a synthesis and deeper understanding of of this duality of the universe.

As one example I post this photo that I took of one of my latest creations. The shank of the ring is very regular, geometric. It's cross section is a section of a circle. The shank is split along the lines of two exponential curves. The surface is mirror finished. Two gold nuggets made by melting some scrap gold ( resulting in forms that would be excruciatingly difficult if not impossible to define by any functions currently known to humankind)are of randomly different sizes. They therefore can be fit between the shanks in different positions, one sticking out slightly more than the other. A (green)diamond (a geometric shape!) is set in each of the gold blobs. Note, that none of them are perfectly centered, because the highest point of the blobs are not centered as well. This way the irregularity of the gold nuggets resulted in a creations that is impossible to recreate if we follow the simple rules: make a ring shank from a low dome wire 10 mm wide,2 mm high. Split the shanks along the lines that are defined by x=a*y2(squared)+b. Form two blobs by melting some gold and solder the between the shanks. Set a diamond into each on the highest point of the gold blobs. Finish.

The picture is interesting because the reflection on the ring is that of a sculptured tree, forged iron. Circle is complete, next.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hey We have made the front page on Etsy!
Thank you Deelind, and Gulinoartware.