Sunday, September 25, 2011
"Why does it cost so much?"
It doesn't matter if you're selling a hand-forged, solid sterling silver, acid-etched cuff for $300 or a ceramic pendant on a cotton cord for $10. You are eventually going to hear the question. And judging by my experiences, and the experiences of my friends in the Triangle Jewelry Makers, you're going to hear it more than once.
Your initial reaction might be to lower all of your prices, question your skills, or become critical of your work. Don't do that. Because there will also come a time when you will hear, "You don't charge enough." It's all a matter of perspective.
You may feel compelled to reply with a defensive justification. "I spent five hours working on this...! You'd understand if you knew anything about making jewelry...! When you buy jewelry in the store, it's cheap because some 14-year-old in China got paid ten-cents to make it, and it probably contains lead...!"
Um... don't do that, either. As tempting as it is.
Understand that patrons don't always think before they say things. They might not even realize that the maker of the jewelry is sitting right there and overhearing them. They see a price tag, and they have a gut reaction -- they imagine how many groceries they could buy with $40, or the doctor bill they need to pay, or the gas they could put in their car. How in the world could a bracelet be as important as these things?
Many people may not realize that your jewelry is handmade, by YOU, even if you are at an arts and crafts festival where everything else is made by hand, and even if you have a big shiny sign saying "Handmade Jewelry by ME." They might be assuming that you are only reselling the same items they see all the time at KMart for half the price.
Which is another point to consider -- a lot of people don't know the difference between a handmade piece of jewelry and something mass-produced. Would you know the difference between a hand-sewn quilt and one from Target? A loaf of homemade banana bread and one from Whole Foods? A German-engineered 8-cylinder engine and a transmission from a 1976 Pinto? At a glance? Really?
As a jewelry maker, and a lover of sparkly things, are you taking for granted your ability to spot the difference between sterling silver and pewter, gold plate and base metal, faceted garnets and plastic, well-made wire loops and ones that are destined to fall apart? Remember that most people do not possess these skills.
It also helps to remember that not everyone has extra money to spend, and that fact has nothing at all to do with your skills or the value of your jewelry. The median household income in the US is $50K. In North Carolina, it's even lower, $44K. That's for an entire household, possibly containing children and elderly relatives. The per capita income -- that is, the average income earned by each individual in the US -- is only $27K. (Source) In North Carolina, it's $20K. (Source)
So, when someone says, "Why does it cost so much?" what they are really asking is, "Why should I spend my hard-earned money on your jewelry?"
Answer the second question, not the first, when you reply. Depending on who you are and what you'd like to say about yourself, responses might include:
- "I put a great deal time and creativity into my jewelry, every piece is handmade and unique. No one else in the world will have one like it."
- "It's made in the USA, and I use beads and charms that are made by local artisans."
- "I've taken several jewelry classes at Pullen Art Center, Ornamentea and the local university, and every piece is made with not only beauty but durability in mind."
- "I am happy to make one for you in red or purple. I also take custom orders, and can re-size any item for you right here while you wait."
- "This is made of sterling silver, and these are iolite gemstone briolettes. There's no plastic, lead or nickel in my pieces."
And if they still don't get it, just let it go. They're not your target audience. But if you find you are being asked that question A LOT, you might want to re-examine your choice of marketing venue, or expand your range of price points.
Jen Hilton makes one-of-a-kind jewelry sold through her website JLHJewelry.com. She is the founder of the Triangle Jewelry Makers and is featured in the books "Steampunk Style Jewelry: Victorian, Fantasy, and Mechanical Necklaces, Bracelets, and Earrings" and "1000 Steampunk Creations: Neo-Victorian Fashion, Gear, and Art" available at Amazon and other booksellers.