The Ten Things I Learned in 2010

It is snowing outside, and the wind is howling.  So long as you don’t look down at the cars, Jersey City feels a tiny bit like a Winter Wonderland.  The year is drawing to a close.  This is when we reflect on what was good, or bad, about the year that has gone by, and make New Year’s resolutions.  I’m not the reflective type, however, not in that sense anyway, and I make resolutions whenever they occur to me.  My new year begins in September.  But taxes have to be filed, which means I have to sort through tons of receipts in the coming weeks.  And all those pieces of paper yield a picture of sorts, from which I can draw conclusions.
1. Tie bars are back in style.  Alternatively: I am one of very few people who still makes them.  In philosopher’s lingo, these two hypotheses are empirically equivalent: I sold over 250 tie bars this year.  240 of them (or something like that) were plain, which is too bad given how much I love gems.
2. December is not the busiest time of the year on Etsy.  I have to count this out, but I don’t even think I sold more tie bars.  I just sold them individually, as opposed to 5 or 10 at a time to a summer wedding.  In terms of other jewelry, business was about the same.  November, in fact, was better.
3. Sales do not slow down after the holidays.  Ok, it is a bit early to tell.  But I still have 10 custom orders pending.  And I’ve had six sales since December 24.
4. Etsy success tips don’t work.  I tried the gift certificate, I changed my shipping options, and I did a few other things that the Etsy success emails suggested.  Nobody bought the gift certificate, nor did sales increase from any of the other tips.  This makes sense: send a good tip around to everyone, a large number of people follow it, thereby diluting its success.  That’s why business success secrets are, well, secrets.
5. Craft shows are a two edged sword.  You get up early, pull out your shoulder from carrying your stuff, set up for an hour or two, and then you hope that someone comes by and wants your items, and not those of the other dozes of competing jewelery tables.  If you get busy, that’s awesome, if not, you feel that you've totally wasted your day.  Time does not grow on trees, and the German in me hates nothing more than to throw it away.  I may have to rethink some of these shows.
6. Etsy sales and craft show sales don’t overlap.  I’ve sold perhaps 50 pairs of wire-wrapped briolette earrings this year.  Only one pair was sold on Etsy (to a local customer).  It was the same with wire-wrapped and beaded necklaces: the ratio was perhaps 1 in 5, Etsy to craft show.  I think that stuff just gets drowned on Etsy.  Everyone and their mother knows how to string, and anyone can now buy beads at wholesale price from India over the internet.  On Etsy, meanwhile, I sell post earrings and rings with hard to find gemstones.  And - yes - tie bars.
7. I have too many beads.  That’s definitely a lesson learned.  I’m going to have to join Bead Hoarders Anonymous.  Or sell down, which is the plan.  So the wire wrapped and beaded stuff I will make in coming weeks will be more opulent and “wasteful”.  I plan to keep prices low and just sell sell sell.
*** And now for my top three – what I've gleaned from a year in the diamond district ***
8. The guys there told me this in the beginning.  If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll get cheated.  I didn’t believe it.  Not in America, with all those consumer protection laws.  I take it back.  The Street may be one of the easiest places to get cheated in America.  Now this lesson should take up an entire blog entry, so you’re going to have to wait.  I had to analyze why this is, and I’ve come up with what I think are some good hypotheses.
9. The Street is dying.  Slowly.  Two reasons come to mind.  The obvious one is the economic downturn, and jewelry, after all, is not an everyday use item like food or clothing.  The second reason is the internet.  Companies like Blue Nile are killing the diamond trade, and other companies offer beads and gems to the public at near wholesale prices (about double the wholesale prices is my estimate, where retail is 3-5 times the wholesale price).  Gem sales on TV are doing their own bit to pretend to the public that they are getting good deals (hint) when buying gems direct.  I personally don’t think there are very good deals to be had that way, but evidently enough other people believe it.
10. This last lesson follows from the previous two: once you get past the steep learning curve with high end gems – and it is steeper than I had thought – and once you have made some trustworthy connections, you can get great stuff at a great price.  Sometimes you have to buy parcels, mostly you pay cash by way of making the deal immediate and non-refundable, and very often you have to take your time to sift through unsorted material.  But it pays off.  I had a hunch about this before, and I am certain now that the emeralds I have, to give just one example, can’t be gotten anywhere else, or at anything like the price that I paid. 

A little selection from my Columbian Emerald Parcel