Sunday, June 12, 2011

Business Ethics?

What do we do?

The price of sterling silver is at an all-time high - (needless to say I can find no logical reason for this jump in price - have to admire greed, don't you?), and silver is a major component in the jewelry we produce.

Because of the high price of silver, it makes it very hard, if not impossible, to price our jewelry competitively. We cannot compete with the $5.00, inexpensively made, produced overseas buy/sell jewelry. And there are customers who do not want to pay for quality handmade jewelry, who will walk right past our booth being drawn in by the “sale” signs at other jewelry booths. I don’t want to discount the customers who come to craft fairs because they are looking to buy handmade jewelry – they are the ones who make it all worth it.

Sometimes it feels like a struggle to get us energized for a show. Even the ones that have juried us in seem to be allowing poor quality jewelry to be sold at booths all around us. Sitting home, creating jewelry, or watching NCIS reruns seems so much more emotionally rewarding. How sad is that?

The ethical business dilemma (you know this had to tie into the blog title somehow) for us becomes how do we price jewelry we have made using sterling silver we bought when it was less expensive to purchase? Now a gas station raises the prices at the pump the moment there's a rumor of an increase in the price of crude oil. If we followed suit, we could charge at current prices -- but do we want to base our business model after people we all consider to be gouging the consumer?

Do we figure the selling price based on current prices to offset the fewer sales we've been having because of the economy drop, and the competition from the buy/sellers?

Do we sell at prices based on what we paid in the past and make a real price jump on the pieces made with current priced silver? This creates another dilemma. If we use up the "stash" of sterling purchased before the price jump, to restock will be more difficult because we won't have made the money from our sales which is needed to replenish our sterling and will have to use less in our pieces - which will be difficult as we love the look of sterling silver with gemstones, freshwater pearls and Swarovski Crystal.

We don't have the answers - but am hoping some of you can offer suggestions, or get us all into a discussion of this.

Business ethics! Is that an oxymoron?


  1. For items that I get in regularly eg. some standard clasps or wire, that I may have pre-price rise stock for, I use the price I last paid. But I don't charge at "replacement cost" if I use silver that I bought ages ago and am unlikely to replace.

    I haven't raised my prices for stock made pre price rise and doubt I will ... someone will get a bargain! But I don't think we should be worried about raising some of our prices - I go to town and am totally shocked at the prices I have to pay for food, for clothing, shoes, nothing is "cheap" anymore. After all, we are using gems, precious metals and offer things like guarantees! I did a show recently (with buy/sell albeit some very nice buy/sell) and was absolutely gobsmacked at the prices they were charging for what essentially were cheaply made imported items - but they were presented well, the seller had a professional 'look' and people wanted to be near her and share her treasure trove. So people ARE making $ selling expensive things - we just have to find a way to make ourselves and our booths more attractive to those buyers!

    And avoid those shows where people are only after a bargain (easier said than done, I know!).

  2. I agree Annette that the prices we are currently paying for things are so high. I know that our prices for jewelry are not as high as many others. I think I've become too sensitive to people's reactions when they look at a price, smirk, put it down and leave. Of course this isn't true for all, not even most, but it does challenge me. We haven't raised the prices on any of our older pieces either. For those who know what the current silver price is, they are pleased to find the bargains.

    Thanks for your response - appreciated.

  3. It's a tough nut. I'm not nearly as energized about my shows as I used to be. It's caused me to really take a look at what I create and how I create it. I've actually gone to buying a more expensive, more beautiful clasp in lieu of using more silver beads in the piece, and instead, using the clasp as the "wow" and being more creative about the rest of the piece -- using other beads instead of silver.

    One thing I won't do is go to plated. But I'm just as confused and worried as everyone is, I think.

  4. Me too Lori, shows have become less exciting than in the past. Not sure if it's because there are now so many jewelers, or I've gotten too old for all the lifting etc. The setup and take-down for outdoor shows pretty much seems to take it all out of me. Sheryl and I no longer book outdoor shows in the summer because of the heat, and the unpredictability of the weather.

    I love what you are doing by using special clasps and relying less on sterling beads in your pieces. You seem to make and sell lots of bracelets and bracelets are our slowest sellers - funny how that works.

    I am enjoying this discussion and wish more would get involved. It must be a familiar story to many, if not most jewelry artists these days.

    Thanks for posting.