Sell through Jewelry Consignment

To sell through jewelry consignment simply means that the store will take your bead jewelry design, display it, promote it and try to sell it, but do not outright purchase your work from you as in wholesaling.

When you give your jewelry to a shop or gallery "on consignment", you agree that the shop or gallery will try to sell it on your behalf and payment is received only when your work has been sold. The retailer retains a percentage of the selling price as a commission or fee. That could be weeks, months, or never.

In this situation, you retain ownership of all the consigned goods until it is sold to the ultimate customer, and the retailer who will act as your sales representative is under no obligation to sell the goods and may return them to you at any time.

When you sell through jewelry consignment it is a kind of partnership agreement, You add to the shop's inventory, and they, in turn, advertise, pay insurance, salaries and other overhead, and give you an on-going weatherproof display.


Jewelry consignment can be beneficial to the jewelry designer and the shop owner alike. For the shop owner, this means that less capital is needed to get started, and the shop does not have to worry about risk of loss if the goods do not sell. He or she also eliminates much of the financial risks of carrying works of questionable market appeal; if the work does not sell, or sells poorly, the shop will generally not lose much money since it has made no direct investment by purchasing the piece.

The advantage to the jewelry designer is that this arrangement provides an opportunity to get a product into retail outlets where it might not otherwise be accepted. This is particularly true for the work of beginners or unknown jewelry designers.

Jewelry consignment provides needed exposure, the important first step toward outright selling and proof that their work will sell.

Perhaps the shop owner likes some of your items but is not sure that they will sell in his or her shop. He or she would not be willing to invest in them by buying them from you wholesale, but might be willing to give them a try on this type of arrangement.

Then, once you have established a reputation of quality work and your beaded handmade jewelry designs have proven to be good sellers, the shop may agree to wholesale terms. Another advantage to jewelry consignment is that the artisan generally gets a larger percentage of the retail price of each item (around 60 to 70 percent in consignment versus 50 percent in wholesaling).

Jewelry consignment also enables jewelry designers to sell expensive, one-of-a-kind items which cannot be sold at wholesale.


For the shop owner, disadvantages of jewelry consignment is the increased bookkeeping and paperwork involved. A new shop may begin with as few as ten or twenty consignors, but, as business grows, this number may increase to as many as a hundred or more people -- all of whom are bringing in dozens of items that must be specially coded, inventoried, priced, and displayed. Ledger sheets must be accurately maintained for each consignor in order to make monthly reports and payments, cheques must be written, envelopes addressed, etc.

Many jewelry artists are reluctant to engage in this type of arrangement, because after all, it is the jewelry designers who takes most of the risks in such arrangements. If your products are in a shop who also buys goods wholesale there is a chance your items may get poor display space because the shop owner is more anxious to sell the items they have money invested in.

If you get into jewelry consignment, some common hazards are shop owners' lack of concern for goods they do not own, which may be left to fade in sunny windows, become shop-worn or simply "lost" due to shoplifting, breakage, or mishandling.

Important questions jewelry designers must ask themselves before entering an agreement of jewelry consignment are:

  • How promptly does the shop owner pay after the work is sold?
  • Is the work insured while it is on the shop owners premises in case of theft, fire or other disaster?
  • Will unsold work be returned in good condition?
  • What happens if the shop goes bankrupt? Or what if the shop fails to pay debts to a creditor who has a security interest in all the shop's assets, including the consigned work?
The best way to protect yourself from these possibilities is to have a carefully drafted agreement signed by both you, the jewelry designer, and the shop owner/manager.

The GalleryThere are two kinds of galleries: one that sells fine art and one-of-a-kind pieces while the other sells both fine art and exceptionally fine handcrafted pieces and limited production works.

Emphasis on the word "exceptional" is important—just doing fine work is not enough. Fine works finds its place in quality craft shops and boutiques. Exceptional work, a piece that makes a statement, is unique in its own way. Whether you are a seasoned professional or an up-and-coming jewelry designer, your work must demonstrate excellence, a mastery of the medium's technique, effective use of materials, and must be true to its purpose, be it functional or non-functional.

Galleries generally specialize in works of unusual or innovative design and technique and appeal more to the collector who is interested in buying one-of-a-kind aesthetic objects.

They do not depend primarily on walk-in customers who are attracted by a window display or a big ad in the papers but, rather, on a carefully developed list of clients who respond to invitations and to an exhibition. To build such response, a gallery owner must offer customers something that in unusually artistic, unique, or innovative.

A gallery show includes many benefits beyond the possibility of selling the work. Since competition for gallery acceptance is keen, a great deal of prestige attaches to having such a show, even at a non-selling gallery in a museum.

Many gallery exhibitions are reviewed in the press, and this can become an important asset in the jewelry artist's portfolio when trying to sell to retail stores, obtaining special commissions or assignments, or qualifying for a teach position—not to mention what it does for the ego.

When it comes to selling work with a high price tag, gallery selling often is the most effective way to find the customer who has both the appreciation for fine work and the money to spend on it. Once a good gallery connection has been established, it is easier for a jewelry artist to find customers for important works in the future.

The competition to be accepted by a gallery is very keen. Of the many artists and craftspeople who try to have their work sold in a gallery, only a handful succeed. Although selling your bead jewelry designs through a gallery can bring lots of prestige (and with it a recognition and acceptance of you as a jewelry designer or an artist), it won't in most cases, (because of such high priced pieces), bring you much money on a regular basis unless you have an established reputation in your medium.

Special exhibitions and sales are often held in galleries to promote the work of the artists and designers they represent. Commissions from architects and interior designers, as well as custom orders from private collectors, are just some of the special benefits connected with gallery exhibitions.

Because galleries are usually interested in work where the value and profit margins are relatively high, jewelry consignment selling is their primary method of operation; paying you if and when your work is sold. A gallery's commission can range from 50 to 60 percent of the selling price.

The Consignment Agreement

This agreement is a contract. It provides clear information about what is expected of both parties and can be upheld in small claims court, if necessary.

Your agreement should include the following:

  • date, name and address of both parties
  • statement to the effect that 'the following listed and described items are left on consignment...'
  • retail price of those items
  • percentage to be paid to the jewelry designer (shops and galleries take from 40 to 60 percent)
  • pay period: 30 days after sale or 30 days after the end of the month in which sale occurs
  • statement of who is responsible for insurance in the case of fire, theft, or damage. This is normally assumed by the shop or gallery
  • statement that the work remains the property of the jewelry designer until sold or paid in full
  • statement of minimum and maximum amount of time work will be left on consignment; upon expiry, agreement will either be rewritten or work returned to craftsperson
  • statement that jewelry designer is willing to replace existing work with other choices of initial work not appropriate to shop
  • statement that any work which cannot be returned to the jewelry designer in the same condition as when initially brought to the shop at the termination of this agreement will be considered sold and the jewelry designer will receive his or hers share of the purchase price for it.

Tips for Success

  1. Never consign bead jewelry designs without a formal agreement. If the shop does not provide a consignment form then be sure to prepare one yourself, and have both you and the shop sign and date it. Do not let the shop tell you that everything will be okay, or that they will fill out a form later. Do not leave any merchandise without a signed agreement.
  2. Be careful of shops that normally buy most of their merchandise at wholesale. Such shops who offer to take your work only on consignment may believe that your products are unsaleable for one reason or another, and they will not work very had to sell them for you.
  3. Until you have developed a satisfactory relationship with a new or unknown shop, or are truly convinced that it is well managed, never consign more than a few items at a time.
  4. Always regularly check up on any shops that are consigning your work to be sure that all merchandise is being properly taken care of and properly displayed. Also to see if anything is selling and if they need any more.
  5. As when wholesaling your work, never compete with a shop by selling the same pieces it carries at a price lower than what the shop offers. For example, don't wholesale a $30 item to a shop for $15, then go to a local crafts fair and sell that same item to consumers for $20.
  6. If you are approaching a new shop, do not be afraid to consign your first order (with a written agreement of course), to prove that you are providing a salable product. Once you have proven that your work sells, be sure to have your future orders sold to them wholesale.

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