Etsy's Jewelry Avalanche: How We Stand Out from the Crowd

Etsy's Jewelry Avalanche: How We Stand Out from the Crowd

Etsy has over two million sellers, and the category with the most sellers for handmade goods is – you guessed it - jewelry. Learning jewelry basics and beading is both simple and fun, and we all have a phone we can take photos with. So why not make a little money with your hobby?

Also, many of the newer and smaller sellers don’t charge much for their work to start with because they are hoping to compete against more established shops. The same is true for shops from Bangkok, India or Hong Kong, where manufacture is a fraction of what we pay people here or in Europe. As a result, we get a lot of comparison shoppers asking us to price out a ring or necklace to find the best price.

Surprise: we are not cheaper than other shops! In fact, we probably charge more than most Etsy sellers for a piece of jewelry. We make partly hand-fabricated fine jewelry on 47th Street in Manhattan so we are not going to charge less than a piece manufactured in Hong Kong! Besides that, a lot of detail is required to calculate an accurate quote, and if that is not provided, two vendors can give you vastly different numbers for the same idea. I often have to clarify that point even before I work up a quote, so that potential clients don’t end up with sticker shock and no idea why we cost more.

So: what is it that makes us more expensive then, other than perhaps just pure labor cost? Here are a few pointers. You can use these to help you select what kind of jewelry and price point you would like. Maybe you don’t need top quality diamonds, or a hand set piece with an unheated sapphire, to make yourself happy. Maybe you are fine with an engraving in a CAD, or a CAD that is a knock off of another piece of commercial jewelry. When you choose your jeweler, you can rank your own priorities based on these tips.

  1. We make our pieces in New York. All of our manufacturing is done here. New York jewelers charge up to $100 an hour, and five times the setting cost (if not more) than an overseas production team.
  2. We have a US based CAD designer and allow more than the one revision that is normally offered when you commission a CAD. We usually do two revisions and charge nothing for minor changes. Often, we also offer layout options before making the 3D piece. Some NY manufacturers charge up to $700 wholesale for CAD work. We are actually quite reasonable for CAD work in the US. But we cannot beat the price of CAD work done in countries where the hourly wages are $4-8.

  3. Our setters have worked for Cartier and Tiffany among others. They operate small, independent workshops; they don’t have employees, but hand set each piece themselves and they do not subcontract, so when they are out sick we have to wait until they are back. They have families to feed with their craft and we do not negotiate low pay with them. We respect their work and their time. For us, the setters are the most important contributors to our pieces. Setting colored gems requires additional skill, especially for pave setting of small gems, which means we have to work with setters who have a lot of experience.

  4. We usually pave set our melees. That means the seats are cut by hand and the setting beads are cut by the setter also (the setter does all this when he puts it together). The tiny prongs you see are not in the CAD, as is normally the standard. Our engraving is not done in the CAD either, it is hand applied before we make the mold. Our engraver is expensive, and has worked for companies like Buccellati, among others. We pay over $200 for a simple engraving on a shank. Our millgrain is also done by hand, with a millgrain tool. It is again, not in the CAD.
  5. We are AGTA members. This requires that we know and disclose origin and treatment on all of our gems. We can be held liable for this, not just in court (because we are US based), but also with the AGTA. We cannot sell synthetics at gem shows because the AGTA does not allow this. We stick to natural stones (not lab grown, not synthetic), and little to no treatment.
  6. We hand select all our gems and do the layouts for each and every piece separately. Nothing repeats. Even when we make two pieces that are the same, they really aren’t because natural gems aren’t like eggs. They are unique.

  7. We use Swiss Cut diamonds, VS GH. That’s the most expensive diamond your money can buy and you will not find it in any commercial jewelry. It’s just not standard. You will find it in fine quality designer jewelry, like Harry Winston. Not Zales. They will use SI quality mostly, or lower. Sometimes they use more greyish stones that we in the industry call ‘salt.’

So I think you can see that there are many details that factor into the cost, last but not least my company is located in the US, my employees are here and our shippers are here, so we pay US costs for everything. We have to pay taxes and cannot hire day or hourly laborers off the street, we have overhead, payroll, health care expenses etc.

Custom work is never cheap because the costs of design cannot be distributed over more than one piece, but it can still be done for less if you don’t mind employing some cost saving measures.

One final piece of information I want to impart is that when you source your own stones you will likely have to pay more for your piece, regardless of whether you saved on the stones or paid extra because you had a very specific thing in mind. The extra time it takes to make a setting to fit your gem and the extra risk employed using a client’s stone needs to be covered. Bringing your own materials, therefore, is not a cost-saving measure. Its purpose is for you to have more choices when it comes to gems, its purpose is not to save you money. At CRD we do not work with customer’s stones for liability reasons, and the extra cost is part of the reason why.