Periodically, I get an email from someone asking when do I put jewelry pieces on sale. Or someone telling me that my work is too expensive... I get that. Everyone wants a deal, don't they? Chatbooks recently sent a newsletter mentioning their twice a year sale. They explain that they don't do sales more often because they believe in the French style of doing business which is to offer items or products at their true value. Only when they need to clear out inventory do they offer a sale. Often, people charge inflated prices and then put things on sale so it looks like people are getting a deal.
Really? Do we need to be superficial in our pricing to "cut" prices, attract customers, and garner more sales? Good grief, I hope not. Instead, I'd rather price pieces according to their quality and value. And hope that customers realize both of these.
Let's take quality first. What is the quality of the raw materials being used to make the art? For this example, I'll use jewelry (although I've seen paint peeling off of canvases or fading when low quality materials have been used). I've seen time and again when friends have brought me some other kind of jewelry and asked if I can "fix" it. Either the piece broke, the metal turned in color, or the dyed stone faded or bled onto their clothes. Sure, the price might have been great, but if you can only wear it a few times, is the great price worth it? As a jewelry artist, I've worked hard for 17 years to establish relationships with gem dealers and vendors who buy their stones ethically, use responsibly mined metals, and are as green as possible. One of my favorite vendors provides micro loans to women in developing countries to start or expand their own businesses. And sources their leather from deer in the US whose herds are culled due to overpopulation. Wow! Talk about responsible.
What about the Argentium silver and 14K goldfill metal we use in most of our custom jewelry? The US company I use refines more metal than they sell (with US labor) which means they are reducing the need for new metals mined out of the ground. When they do need new materials, they use two companies whose metal is conflict-free, "Fairmined," and adheres to strict standards for development in the miners' community and environmental protection. Basically, they are reducing their footprint by refining metal and recycling it using US labor and safe practices. Our metals are high-quality and aren't going to "turn" in a few months. Using a high quality alloy like Argentium silver (higher quality than just regular sterling silver) and 14K goldfill or 18K gold costs more to me to produce. It's the same with the stones and gems I use. When I buy gemstones, I pick up each strand by hand to see the quality of the faceting, the depth of color, and to make sure they aren't fractured or chipped. Because who wants a chipped labradorite without any shimmer?! Sure, I could buy cheaper stones, but it wouldn't be the same quality that I would want in my own jewelry.
Second, what about the creativity, originality, and actual craftspersonship (is that a word? should be!) that goes into each piece? Does that have value? Before jewelry, I used to handcraft soap. Perhaps, I just made it seem too easy because I had 2 friends decide they could make it, too. One blew up her microwave and caught her kitchen on fire and the other flooded her kitchen with bubbles coming from the dishwasher trying to clean the soap making pieces. It clearly wasn't as easy as it seemed! Over the years, I have had another jewelry artist from time to time copy my designs. One person (when caught) even said, "Oh, I call this my English Norman design." She apologized a few years later for blatantly copying me. Collections like The Name Collection are truly original and each piece is handcrafted in our studio. Crafting art by hand is something that has taken me years to develop. I certainly don't think that my work is the latest, greatest design, but the training I've had shows in the quality of each piece I handcraft. People may or may not notice the clothes you wear, but your jewelry makes a statement about you. You can buy something inexpensive and put together overseas. Or you can be the person who appreciates fine craft and likes to be original.
So, instead of putting things artificially "on sale," I offer pieces at reasonable prices in the first place. Case in point, I just uploaded the "Sourced from ESN Studio" collection on Etsy with pieces made from gemstones and silver pieces I've had in the studio. And I put ridiculously low prices on them. I could have marked them up and then put them "on sale." But that would be silly. Instead, I hope that customers realize the quality and thought that goes into each piece of handcrafted jewelry. Because it is fun finding art in unexpected places and carrying a bit of it with you.
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