Unique Beaded Jewelry
One-of-a-kind Vs Production Pieces
There are two main categories of unique beaded jewelry: One-of-a-kind and production items.
One-of-a-kind means exactly that. There is no other jewelry piece like it, not even a copy by the same designer.
Many jewelry designers feel that they are true "artists" if they only produce one-of-a-kind items. Sure they may feel like they are true artists but they are probably also "starving artists" as well.
It is much more difficult to sell one-of-a-kind items. Because they are very expensive to produce, you must charge a high ticket price to recover your costs. Therefore, you will find that the market for one-of-a-kind items is small and very competitive.
The high cost of one-of-a-kind products stems not only from the cost of materials used (because its hard to justify the purchasing of bulk materials when you are only making one item from it), but also the cost of the designing time involved. As you already know, your time spent in creating an item makes up the majority of the cost in producing it. The time necessary for planning, experimentation and the development of your idea are all part of your designing costs.
For example, say it took you a total of 10 hours to plan, experiment and develop an idea, in other words designing time. If you charge $15 an hour for labor you would calculate your designing time at $150 (10 x $15). If you were to use this time to produce only one item, then you would have to add $150 to the cost of making it, plus any materials used, the labor in finishing it, and of course your overhead. Let's break this down into your pricing formula to see how much it would cost for you to make only one item.
design time $150
labor (it took you three
hours to actually make and
finish the item, 3 x $15) $45
Total cost $233
Your one-of-a-kind unique beaded jewelry item is now valued at over $230, and that's only your wholesale price.
For a production item, the designing cost can be spread over a number of pieces keeping the per-item cost lower. Using the same example above lets see how much the cost would be if your were to use that same design to produce say 50 production items. First you divide your designing time by the amount of items you plan to produce $150 divide 50 = $3.00. Each item will cost you $3.00 in designing time.
design time $3.00
labour (2 x $15) $30.00
Total Cost $59.50
Notice that your material costs are less because you are now able to order the materials needed in quantity at a lower cost. And because you are producing in quantity (in an assembly line style) your labor is also lower cutting your time down to two hours. The total cost of this same design produced 50 times is now only $59.50. A price which a larger market can absorb.
While many jewelry designers prefer to do one-of-a-kind unique beaded jewelry, you can now see why the majority find that they must produce in quantity — a business must make constant sales in order to survive.
Although many still produce some one-of-a-kind unique beaded jewelry items, they will also design production items and produce in quantity, also known as "bread and butter" items, in order to support themselves between their one-of-a-kind sales. It's these "bread and butter" items that make their home jewelry business economically feasible.
It is good to have some one-of-a-kind pieces in your inventory. Many collectors purchase only one-of-a-kind work and are prepared to pay for it. Also having an elaborate one-of-a-kind object on display in your booth or studio will show what you are capable of doing, and act as a center piece amongst your line of production items. It can act as a drawing card to bring customers into your booth, thus helping sell your production work even if the one-of-a-kind piece itself is not sold.
Many jewelry designers at first feel that production items lose their uniqueness and handcrafted appeal. But this is not so because each item is still handmade unique beaded jewelry whether fifty at a time or one by one.
Although production items are all made of the same material with the same design, and they essentially all look the same, you will still not be able to find two handmade production items exactly the same. Not like with factory mass produced items where each one is stamped out of the same mold by machines.
So, although they are called production jewelry, they each still differ in some detail, however slightly, and they each have their own unique characteristics which customers can appreciate—especially if they can purchase them at an affordable price. If your designs are unique, then your production items are still considered unique beaded jewelry.
To see how easy it is to design and make production pieces see the following article on Making Jewelry - Producing in Quantity.
Producing Limited Numbered Editions
Although when producing in quantity each piece is a little different, you are still using the same design for many items and your prices will naturally reflect this.
Producing limited numbered editions of unique beaded jewelry is an excellent way to demand a higher price for your work then in producing in large quantities.
People like one-of-a-kind objects but many cannot afford the prices charged for these, thus buying limited numbered editions is the next best thing.
In pricing your work for limited numbered editions you would use the same formula as in producing in quantity except that your designing costs are only divided by the limited number of items made with that design.
For example, lets say that your designing costs for a particular style of a bead jewelry necklace is $500. You have decided to only produce 25 using the same design. Thus your designing costs for each bead jewelry necklace would be $20 (500 divide 25 = 20) which would be added to the labour, materials, and overhead costs of producing the necklaces.
Each item in your line of limited numbered editions should be numbered and signed. Along with the number you should put the total number that were produced, i.e.: 8/25. This will allow the customer to know exactly how many items with that particular design were made. If you cannot put the number and your signature on the item itself, then be sure to write it on a card attached to the object with a little explanation about the design or history of the craft.
Whether you produce one-of-a-kind or limited editions always be sure to let the customers know. Having this information attached to your products is a great selling point and can increase your sales substantially.
Many collectors will only purchase one-of-a-kinds or limited editions of unique beaded jewelry — if they don't realize that your piece falls in this category then you could possibly lose a sale. So use this information to your advantage and include it with every piece. But be sure that if you say you only produced 25 in that design, then only produce 25.
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