This blog covers all topics related to handmade jewelry designs and American craft jewelry. We feature current trends in the bridge segment, new talent, business topics and more. This is a Jewelry making blog for artisans which includes findings, jewelry wire, chains, enameling supplies and jewelry tools.
We’ve collected a few money saving tips for bulk jewelry wire! With a fully functioning jewelry studio on-site, we now see the ins-and-outs of studio life in a more personal way. We’ve had wire tangle while working with it, we’ve had oodles of scrap piles lying around and have felt the frustration of not having enough stock on hand when it’s needed. But wait, before placing your next order of jewelry wire, first check and see if you can get by with the stock you have. Here are a few tips to help you save time and money.
Buy What You Need
Sterling Silver Jewelry Wire
We exist in an online world and just running down to the local supply store isn’t as simple as it once was. But take advantage of it, in just minutes you can compare identical items for the best prices on the market. This can save you money and that’s definitely worth the extra time you’ve spent shopping.
On the flip side, be sure to buy from a trusted jewelry supply company, there are a lot of people selling fake precious metals out there. If the price is too good, don’t purchase it. The daily price of precious metals is based on two factors:
Daily market value (DMV)
Manufacture Processing Costs
If the cost of the material is below the DMV then you know it’s fake and quickly run in the other direction. Just because silver is stamped .925 or .999 doesn’t mean that it’s accurate and I can’t repeat that sentence enough.
Many jewelry supply companies offer price breaks at certain quantities. While this may sound great in theory, it’s not worth the deal if it’s an item rarely used. Purchase what you need and when you need it. The extra money saved by not taking advantage of a deal could be spent toward other metal products that you use often, a much-needed tool or even investing in brand packaging. It seems wasteful to have unused stock lying around, especially if it may be a year or more before you come back to it.
Units of measure
Bulk Jewelry Wire Units of Measure
You would be surprised by how many people order bulk jewelry wire without knowing how much they actually need. Unfortunately, this occasionally leads to shortness of stock, which is frustrating if you’re in the middle of a piece or you need to fulfill a customer’s order. Even waiting a day can be critical in certain cases, so know the amount that you need and the units of measure (UOMs) that make sense for you before placing your next order.
One of the best ways to do this is to always sketch out your designs at 100%. It’s easy getting an actual reading this way by using a soft measuring device (string or paper rulers can be used). For certain jewelry wires that are sold by the inch, this measurement can be crucial, however, don’t underestimate wire sold by the ounce, because a 10 gauge sterling silver wire is less than 22 inches per ounce. So be sure to always check the conversion of feet to ounces, so you’re aware of the amount you’re receiving.
By understanding the UOM’s, you can make a more informed decision on whether to buy what you need or stock up on it. Let’s say for instance that you are making a ring and the wire is sold by the inch. You need a piece that is 2.25 inches long, but you have to buy 3 inches. Rather than scrap 3/4 of an inch, buy the two additional inches to make two rings down the road. That would be a worthwhile item to stock up on.
Here at Halstead, we sell our bulk jewelry wire by the ounce, with the exception of 14kt solid gold, bezels and fancy wires which are sold by the inch.
Minimize Jewelry Wire Waste
Avoid and fix wire tarnish with good storage
Unfortunately, we’ve all had to deal with tarnished items. It’s a pain, but you can really help curb the tarnish with just a couple of items and most importantly, improve your storage practices to minimize waste.
Anti-Tarnish Tabs for Sterling Silver Jewelry
Leave your jewelry wire in coils, place them in a sealed zip seal storage bag with an anti-tarnish tab inside. These tabs will not hurt gemstones or metal plus they are environmentally safe.
Have you tried Ultra Polish Pads? If your item already has tarnish on it, use these pads to wipe it off. These are perfect for bulk jewelry wire, and finished pieces. I love these!
Avoid and fix wire tangles and kinks
Bent, tangled wire is not the end of the world. Yes, it’s annoying, but it’s also fairly easy to fix. Almost everyone here who has worked with wire has had a spool of 26 or 28 gauge wire spring loose or had a coil drop to the floor where it instantly becomes a tangled ball of wire. If that’s happened to you, then you know how easy it is to bend and kink while you untangle it. We carry two tools here that I recommend for straightening the wire when this occurs.
Flat Nose Nylon Jaw Pliers for Jewelry Making
The first is nylon jaw flat pliers, these work really well for straightening wire, plus they won’t damage your wire at all. You do need to buy replacement nylon jaws fairly regularly though because they will wear down.
Jewelry Wire Straightener Tool
The second straightener I recommend is the Wire Straightener Tool. This looks a little complicated but it’s easy to use, and you can straighten wire quickly once you get the hang of it. This is limited to 14 gauge or thinner, however, I’ve personally only used it on 20 gauge and thinner.
Reuse and Recycle Jewelry Wire
Keep wire scrap lengths organized
Cutting the exact lengths that you need can really help cut back on waste, however, since that’s not always possible, store all of those cut pieces of wire to use later. Use clearly marked sealed bags for all of those remaining pieces, with a dedicated bag for each gauge. Later on, when you need shorter pieces, they are there and quickly available. You can use these snippets of bulk jewelry wire for granules, headpins, loops, wire decorations… etc.
Recycle with ingots and your rolling mill
Economy Rolling Mill for Jewelry Making
Roll out the gauge you need with a rolling mill. One of the best ways to save money on bulk jewelry wire is by melting your scrap down into ingots. With ingots, you can saw off thin slices and roll them into sheets on a rolling mill. You can also run the scrap wire through the rolling mill, turning a thicker gauged wire into a much thinner one. This process will stretch out the scrap bulk jewelry wire and turn it into a much thinner, longer piece.
How to Use and Maintain a Rolling Mill in Your Jewelry Studio - YouTube
When you first start your jewelry business, chances are you’ll have to DIY a lot of things to save money. Jewelry photography will be one of those things. We’ve got a lot of great tips for you to keep in mind while you photograph your own jewelry. But at what point should you consider hiring a professional jewelry photographer?
Photographing Jewelry is Different
Photo by Sara Rey
Photographing jewelry is no easy task and not just any photographer can do it well. If you’re going to spend the money to professionally photograph your jewelry, be sure you have looked through a photographer’s portfolio for other jewelry photography. Photographer Sara Rey has found that many clients come to her after hiring an inexperienced photographer to save money. So what about hiring a professional wedding or portrait photographer? They’re very skilled at capturing beautiful moments, people, and even the occasional piece of wedding jewelry. But most are still not specialists at jewelry photography. Sara says, “jewelry is one of the most difficult things in the world to photograph, so working with someone who doesn’t specialize will most likely not yield the results you’re looking for.”
Why is Jewelry Photography so Different?
Photo by Cole Rodger, Jewelry by Laurel Karnecki
Getting your lighting right, avoiding bad shadows or blowouts, capturing minute detail…most photographers can speak to these challenges, according to Cole Rodger. However, add in the challenge of working with metal, which is often like a tiny mirror with its reflectiveness, and jewelry photography becomes a unique specialty. As Sara Rey says, the photographer wants “to show the reflectiveness of it, without actually seeing the reflection” of anything in the studio.
If your jewelry has gems or diamonds, the setup can be very different than a purely metal piece. Special lighting and camera techniques are required to capture the color and translucence of stones. Jewelry photography is also, by nature, considered macro photography. This means a small object becomes larger than life in a photo. Any minor flaw can look much more prominent than it actually is, according to Sara.
Additionally, as a jewelry artist, you’ve probably thought long and hard about how you want your piece to look. From the design itself to how customers see it, makers are “as intimate with their piece as they are with their own reflection and have acquired very distinct thoughts on how they’d prefer to be viewed” according to Cole Rodger. Many portrait photographers are not necessarily accustomed to working with a fellow artist. So they may not be able to pick up on what Cole describes as the “maker’s language.” Professional jewelry photographers have become accustomed to working with other artists and have a better sense of how you might want your piece shown to the world.
The Jewelry Photography Process
Don’t assume a jewelry photographer will simply click a picture and send it to you! You’re not paying them for the simple picture, but for the work that goes into setting the piece up and digital editing as well. All photographers will have their own process depending on their styles, but generally, they’ll follow a similar path as Sara Rey:
After shooting the pieces, the first step is to clip the images in Photoshop. Clipping separates the subject from its background. This alone can take quite a bit of work so it doesn’t lead to the “clumsy scissor cut-out effect” as Cole Rodger notes. The photographer then places the image of the jewelry piece onto a pure white background (or a scenic background if that’s the look you’ve chosen). The photographer will then retouch the image. This may include removing minor flaws such as dust or scratches, color correcting any metal and stones to bring out the true color, and adjusting brightness, tones, etc. as needed.
For Sara, this retouching work can often take just as long, if not longer, than actually photographing the jewelry pieces. Have you ever seen an image that doesn’t look right because the shadow is crazy? You shouldn’t get that from a professional jewelry photographer.
On left is a photo as shot by Sara Rey. On right is the same image after re-touching.
And this is the reason you pay a professional jewelry photographer: Anyone can snap a picture, but not everyone can figure out the lighting needs and digital editing tools to make your jewelry look its best.
Don’t be Nervous About Shipping
Unless you’re willing to pay extra for on-location photo shoots, you’ll most likely be shipping your jewelry to the photographer. This might make you nervous, but if you follow Sara and Cole’s tips it’ll be easy!
Send the parcel by 2 day or overnight shipping. UPS, FedEx, and USPS all offer these options. The less time your piece is in transit, the less likely it will get damaged.
Use a third party shipping company that specializes in jewelry such as ParcelPro.com or IFS Inforsure. Since they specialize in jewelry shipping, they can help you out the most if the worst should happen. They may even be able to save you some money!
Add insurance and a signature requirement. The signature lets you know it’s arrived at its destination and who received it. That way if there’s ever a question, you have that information. Insuring any high-value item is always a smart idea to protect you in case of damage or loss.
Get a receipt when you drop off the package so you have the proof of you handing the item over to the shipper.
Follow any packaging requirements such as double boxing or inner shipping labels.
Just remember it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you’re wondering if you should do or request something, just do it.
When to Hire a Professional Jewelry Photographer
Cole Rodger believes it’s great for jewelers to start out photographing their own jewelry. It will help you see “how the view from a camera lens differs from the perspective of an eye” and give you an idea of how your pieces can be shot. If you find yourself enjoying the photography process and are able to produce the images you need, that’s great! If, however, you find yourself pulling your hair out it is definitely time to consider a professional.
Photo by Sara Rey
Julie Sanford has been taking her own jewelry photos for years. However, when she needs absolutely amazing and high-quality photos in specific formats she turns to a pro. This is usually for jury photos, gallery shows, and the occasional booth shot. If you hope to put your jewelry pieces in a juried show, they may require specific image formatting – which a professional can easily give you. They’ll also give you high-resolution shots that can be used for many different things.
When your business takes off though, do you really want to put more work into your photos and less time into your studio? “You hire me when you’re not one of those…overachievers [who can handle every one of their own needs], you can’t be bothered, you suck at Photoshop, and you need your work to look at its best,” as Cole puts it. Let’s face it, Photoshop isn’t the easiest program to learn inside and out and if your business is taking off you won’t want to take too much time away from precious studio time. And, as Sara Rey points out, “since most people will be seeing your designs for the first time in photos rather than in person, it’s critical that those photos are the highest quality possible.”
You’ll most likely feel it when you’re ready for a professional photographer. Don’t get overstressed at setting up the perfect shot or editing the possibly 100s of images to get a few good ones. Photography is really one of the first things you should outsource when you have the capital available. Julie Sanford was nervous the first time she invested in a photographer. At $50-$100 per image (and do you need multiple images of a piece?) it can make you wonder if it’s worth it. But once she saw her images and put them to work for her she said, “I knew it was worth it.”
Tips to Find a Good Jewelry Photographer
Photo by Cole Rodger Jewelry by Emily Shaffer
Talk to your personal network for recommendations – someone you know has probably worked with a photographer they loved (or maybe they have ideas of who not to use)
Look in jewelry books and magazines for photos you like, then look for a photo credit
Do some Google research. Find photographer’s websites and portfolios to see their jewelry photos.
Make sure any photographer you pick is comfortable with shipping and handling high-value items. Maybe they even have a safe to store your jewelry in.
Be detailed in what you want from your photographer, but also understand they’re the professional. Be open to their ideas on how to photograph your jewelry. You just might find they make it look better than you ever imagined.
Sara Rey is a professional photographer specializing exclusively in jewelry and gem photography. She has over 10 years experience and is based in San Diego, CA.
Cole Rodger is a product photographer who specializes in jewelry photography. She has over 25 years experience and is based in Oxford, NC.
Until you’re able to hire a magnificent pro, use some of these tips to keep your DIY jewelry photography looking good:
Whether building a brand, connecting with customers on social media, or writing artist statements for exhibitions most jewelers already employ descriptive and technical writing skills. However, for some it can be seen as a grueling task that one only slogs through when required. What if writing doesn’t have to be such a struggle? What if I said the field needs jewelers who are also capable writers to contribute their ideas to blogs just like this one? Guest writing for a jewelry publication is easier than you think.
Some of you may be asking, “What would I even write about?” Are you an expert in a technique? Have you developed a unique or clever way to streamline or troubleshoot a process? Have you maintained a successful business for many years by adapting to changing markets? Do you have a collection of archival materials or ephemera that might be of interest to others? Are you interested in preserving and expanding the history of the field? If you answered yes, or even maybe, to any of these questions you should consider writing for a publication, journal, or blog.
Improve Your Writing To Be A Jewelry Guest Writer
If right now you are thinking, “Well, I’m just not great at writing.” I encourage you think back to the first jewelry projects you created. As a new jeweler you likely experienced the frustration of repeatedly breaking saw blades and solder flowing where you hadn’t intended. However, with diligence and practice, you learned to control your tools to achieve your desired results. With practice, your writing skills will improve and develop much like the muscle memory you already employ at your workbench.
Here are a few ways to improve your writing skills:
Set aside time to write daily, even if only for ten minutes.
Not sure what to write about? Give yourself an assignment! Here is one to get you started: Pick an object, place, or piece of jewelry and spend 5 minutes writing a detailed visual description.
Read what you’ve written aloud. This is a great way to catch grammatical and typographical errors.
Ask a friend or colleague to read your text. Be open to edits and feedback!
Read! Read about topics that interest you, read fiction, read magazines, and blogs, and poetry. Studies show reading improves vocabulary and language skills. This means you will improve as a writer simply by reading more.
Ready. Set. Write!
Guest writing for a jewelry publication requires some pre-planning. Once you are ready to start crafting a pitch, you should consider the following:
Who is the Audience for the Piece?
The answer to this question will help you determine which outlet is appropriate for your pitch.
Who is the audience of the publication? Read the publication you plan to pitch!
What is the submission processes for the outlet you plan to pitch? Some publications accept submissions on a rolling basis; others have limited windows for submission with specific deadlines. This information is usually on the website.
What have others written on the topic? How is your piece different? What new angles do you explore?
Can you follow through on your proposal? If you plan to pitch an artist profile, did you establish contact with the artist? Have they agreed to an interview? Similarly, don’t pitch a 5,000 word deep dive on a topic if you don’t have the time, or the research experience to follow through.
Make it Timely and Appropriate
Editors will have personal preferences about what is timely and appropriate for an outlet, but all pitches should contain at least these things:
A couple concisely written paragraphs describing the subject of your proposed article. Explain how your pitch fills a need or presents a new angle readers will be interested in. Technical articles might not have a “story” per se, but your pitch should be clear about what readers will come away with. For artist profiles, historical research, and other topics be sure to convey the story and not only the topic.
Three to four images that illustrate your topic.
A piece of advice: even if the piece is already written, don’t attach a full draft unsolicited. Once you successfully pitch, go back to your draft and reframe it accordingly.
Now that you have tips for building your writing skills and submitting pitches, I hope you will consider pitching me at email@example.com For more information, guidelines, and the variety of content we accept visit the SNAG Metalsmith website.
Adriane Dalton is editor for Metalsmith magazine, a publication of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG), as well as a maker, writer, curator, and educator based in Richmond, VA. She holds an MA in the history of decorative arts and design from Parsons The New School for Design (2014), and a BFA in craft and material studies from the University of the Arts (2004). Adriane has exhibited nationally and internationally at The Greater Denton Arts Council (Denton, TX), Contemporary Craft (Pittsburgh, PA), Snyderman-Works Gallery (Philadelphia, PA), A CASA Museu de Object Brasileiro (Sao Paulo, Brazil), and the National Ornamental Metal Museum (Memphis, TN).
Subscribe now for the latest jewelry business tips.
Continue reading for tips on how to grow your jewelry business:
Maybe it was because my mom had a retail store when I was growing up or maybe it was because I worked in stores for many years, but I really love wholesale and the vendor-buyer relationship. Here’s the thing: if a store doesn’t have products, they don’t have a business. And if you are not selling to them, someone else is. But how do you stand out in a crowded marketplace? Well, I am going to share with you 5 jewelry wholesale strategies that will make wholesale so much more fun and profitable!
In order for the 5 wholesale strategies to work for you, it is best to have these things already in place:
Know your Dream Client (this makes finding your Dream Stores easier)
Wholesale Terms & Conditions
Now, let’s dive into the 5 jewelry wholesale strategies –
Selling jewelry wholesale is all about creating and building a relationship with the store. Communication is something you do – right? Now take it further by researching, asking questions and being proactive.
Research. The goal is to have a great partnership with the store so do your research. Check out their website, read their Yelp reviews, physically go into the store (if possible), check out their social media (follow them) and Google them. The more you know about them the easier it will be to approach them. When you approach them, do so with sincere interest and a desire to get to know them. It is about them and how you can help them. Keep in mind they need products for their store, and you can help them!
Ask questions. Get to know the buyer by asking questions and listening. Questions like: What do you love about your business? When do you do your store buys? What trade shows do you attend? What is your magic price point? The more you get to know the buyer the better partnership you will have.
Be proactive. Make it very clear that you will be following up with them. Ask how they would like for you to stay in touch – by email, phone, snail mail, text or in person?
Keep in mind that buyers are busy, and they will not always respond. Even when you are in the final stages of closing a sale, the buyer may not return your calls for weeks. Do not make yourself crazy with assuming the worst or trying to figure out what happened. Keep on it and continue to reach out and follow up.
Send postcards. Want a guarantee that a buyer will see your work? Send a postcard. Emails can be missed or looked over and calls can go to voicemail, but people will always go through their mail. I recommend sending postcards a minimum of twice a year. The best times are early January and early August.
#2 Sales/Make it easy for them:
Store buyers are busy, so the easier you make it for them the better. Here are a few things you can do.
Create pre-packaged offerings: By offering a package you are helping a buyer take out the guesswork. A few different packages you can create are – best seller package, new collection package, all sterling silver package, all gold package, mixture of silver and gold package, and/or special holiday assortment package. Don’t go overboard with packages, 1 – 3 is great!
Take pictures (nicely merchandised) of the different packages so you can show the buyer. Great pictures can make an impression and a sale!
Create an order for the store: For your existing wholesale accounts ask the store buyer for their current sales reports plus review what they have ordered in the past. Take that information and create an order for them. Send it to the buyer to review, letting them know that they can make any changes.
Make 1 order into 2: When working with the store buyer on an order, suggest putting together a 2nd order to ship a few months later. Let the buyer know that they can make adjustments to the second order by a certain date then call them a week before that date to confirm the order. This is especially great for the holiday season.
#3 Building the Experience:
We are living in the experience economy, and what better way to bring your brand to a store than offering to do a trunk show… with a twist.
The twist could be a talk on the properties of gemstones, maybe partner with a local stylist and have them style the customers with your jewelry or you could bring in your tools and do a demonstration. Get creative with what you do.
Trunk shows are a wonderful way to test your product at a new account or strengthen your relationship with an existing account! They are also a great way to get to know and educate the store associates on your brand. The more they know about you and your jewelry, the better they can sell it! By creating an experience for the customers, you provide something truly memorable.
A great example of this is when a designer did a trunk show where she offered a mother-daughter bracelet making class for the first 20 people who RSVP. She used materials that were no longer part of her line and the class was only 30 minutes. The event was a big success!
It is important to note that videos are the “it” marketing tool right now and they are a fantastic way to share your story. Other ways to use video is to show the making of a piece of jewelry, share customer testimonials, provide the meaning of different stones, etc. These are also awesome to post on social media.
Don’t hide behind your bench or your computer, get out there and make connections.
Attending industry events, such as Flourish & Thrive Live as shown here, are great networking opportunities.
Networking is one of the most powerful things you can do for your business. The goal is to expand your existing reach. Actively network by attending one to two networking events a month. I suggest one business event and one fun event. For example, a chamber of commerce meeting and a gallery opening. Wear your jewelry to the event, bring business cards with you and always ask for business cards. Add them to your CRM (customer relationship management) system and follow up with everyone you meet.
Networking is not just about growing your business. It is also about you giving back to your community and helping others to grow their businesses. Even if the people you meet don’t need your services, chances are they know others who do—and will happily recommend you!
#5 Personal Touch:
Don’t just meet expectations, exceed them by surprising and delighting your buyers!
A simple gesture can go a long way toward gaining customer loyalty in this competitive marketplace. Handwritten notes, a quick phone call, sending a birthday or anniversary card, sending flowers or homemade cookies can do more to earn your buyers’ long-term trust than any discount or special price. Being kind and considerate are also important. We are living in a fast-paced world and these personal touches will make the buyer feel appreciated. People want to work with people they like and trust. Be personable and present yourself in a way that best represents your brand and your vision.
If you are serious about wholesaling your jewelry, these strategies will help to build relationships with prospective and existing accounts, keep your business top of mind, and ensure that they won’t forget about you!
About Robin Kramer
Robin Kramer is a brand marketing maven, natural business nurturer, master of relationships and a sales expert who has an impressive history with leaders in the retail industry that have built their brands on innovative merchandising and strong service cultures. For the past 18 plus years, she has worked with primarily small, upscale wholesale brands and designers to bring their products to market, position these niche brands for maximum exposure to their target customers and build relationships with national and international retailers.
She is the Owner and Director of Fun at Red Boot Consulting and the Co-Founder of Flourish & Thrive Academy. She has a passion for helping creatives go after their dreams. And for red boots! She divides her time between Sausalito, CA and Dallas, TX.
Robin will be hosting a wholesale boot camp in Raleigh, NC on September 14 & 15, 2019 along with Kelly Hedgpeth of Grace & Co Solutions. If you can’t be in Raleigh, fill out the form and put in a request for another city! They are hoping to host boot camps in Dallas, TX, Nashville, TN, and the San Francisco area depending on the demand.
For more great jewelry business tips, subscribe to Halstead blog articles now and continue reading from our archives:
Why photograph your jewelry on a white background? White backgrounds are a standard in today’s competitive jewelry market. They are the most versatile and timeless background you can have for your jewelry photography. White does not interfere with the color of your items and presents your jewelry with the least distraction. It is essential in giving your jewelry photos a clean, consistent look on your social media or website. Having good, consistent jewelry photography is critical to bringing and keeping traffic on your website.
Choosing a White Jewelry Photography Background
When choosing white backgrounds for photos, it is most important to consider the scale at which you will be taking photos. If your jewelry photography will all be in close range, it will not be necessary to purchase a large background. You should also consider the angle at which you will be photographing your jewelry. If you will be photographing at a flat or a very slight angle, it will not be necessary to acquire a large background. A smaller white piece of poster board, ironed cloth or paper will work.
However, if you want more flexibility or will be shooting at different angles, it may be better to get a larger “infinite” type of background. Using a sheet of white background material creates an infinity effect so you don’t see a background crease or edge in your images. A roll of pure white paper (sized according to your needs) makes a fantastic seamless background, which can be cut and advanced when it gets dirty. You can also purchase some wrinkle-resistant cloth. Either can be suspended from a mounted dowel rod or dispenser arm.
One final option would be a photography light tent. These offer a wider angle of white background. Ultimately, your decision will be based on what works best for your setup and budget.
Challenges with Photographing the Color White
Photographing jewelry on a white background can pose some challenges, but there are simple solutions.
First, it may be difficult to find the shade of white and texture you desire. It is best to buy as pure a white as possible, which could mean spending a little more money. Buying a clean, smooth, bright white background will save you more editing time and effort in the long run.
Second, white can get dirty fast. It is important to keep your background clean and clear of debris and dust. Wrinkles and creases also show up as darker lines on your photos. A good work around however would be to buy a roll of white paper that can be unrolled with the excess cut off if the paper gets dirty or creased.
Third, shadows can affect the look of your jewelry in images. Shadows can be used artistically, and can keep your jewelry from looking like it is floating on the page. You can even shoot your items on a reflective surface to add a little detail as well. Having consistent shadow areas for your jewelry photos is most important. Your product spread (on your website or social media) will look strange if the shadows are all going in different directions.
Lastly, when you start photographing your jewelry on a white background you’ll discover something that may shock you at first: white backgrounds don’t look white when shot. Instead they generally look gray or pick up the tones of the light in the room. Lighting your backdrop can brighten the white; however you can also make the adjustments in your photo editing software.
Consider Clipping Your Jewelry Photos
Clipping removes the background from your photo as shown here.
Another option for premium white backgrounds would be to have the image clipped with a photo clipping service. Photo clipping is a service that many websites offer on a per-image basis. Clipping an image involves cutting out the subject from the background. This can be helpful if you want a pure white background for your subjects, as you can just have the item clipped then artificially add in a white background (a shadow can be added, but keep it subtle). Remember to still shoot the item on white if possible, as white offers the least interference. Many clipping services can also do light and color correction on your images. Photo clipping companies often offer free sample images, so it is a good idea to send a few representative images to several sites to find which company does the best job for the best price.
What Lens is Best for Jewelry Photography?
Which lens you decide to use for your jewelry photography will depend on your budget and photographing needs. In general, if you have a DSLR camera, the kit zoom lens the camera came with will suffice (generally 18-55mm zoom). When shooting theme shoots, where I will be switching out a lot of different setups and jewelry, I prefer the versatility of the zoom lens. A zoom lens is a great starting lens and will generally suit your needs for most of your jewelry photography. If you have a lot of smaller items to photograph (for example earrings, or small pendants with detail) and you have the budget, I would recommend a 100mm macro lens. This will allow you to get a clearer close-up without setting the camera/lens too close to your items (which will add shadows/reflections on your jewelry).
Lighting for Jewelry Photography
There are several lighting options to choose from for your white background photography setup. Three of the most common are using natural light, using a soft box or using a light tent. Which you choose will depend on your personal preferences and setup; you can also utilize all three (though it is recommended to stick with one for more consistent photos). For more information on each of these lighting options, read our Jewelry Photography Lighting blog.
Tripod for Photography Stabilization
Tripods are a critical tool for your jewelry photography. It is the best way to keep your camera steady, giving you more flexibility with lighting and camera options. Read up on the best tripod for your studio setup in our article Jewelry Photography Tripods.
Tips on How to Photograph Jewelry on a White Background:
If space allows, always keep your photography station set up for shooting your jewelry. It takes a surprising amount of time to position all the equipment to prepare for a shoot. Or, you can even use tape on your floors to help remember tripod and light placement.
Write down/document your photography setup and camera/light settings so you can duplicate the look of your photos again and again.
Subscribe now for the latest jewelry business tips. You may also like these budget-friendly jewelry photography articles:
Many consumers are moving towards a preference for handmade jewelry vs mass-produced jewelry. But what is handmade jewelry and why is it becoming so popular? There are many different jewelry making techniques in use today and we will explore the different types here.
What is Handmade Jewelry?
Handmade jewelry is made by an artist without the use of mass-manufacturing machines. There is no standard “look” for handmade jewelry. It can range from simple hand-assembled pendants and bracelets to intricate designs that take hours or days and skilled techniques to finish. What they all have in common though is that a jewelry artist makes each individual piece using only their hands and simple tools.
Why Choose Handmade Jewelry?
When you choose to purchase a piece of handmade jewelry, you’re going to get a unique keepsake each time. There is almost always a little variation between each individual piece of the same style, due to the nature of handmaking anything. There may be slight imperfections – maybe a cut line isn’t 100% straight – but there is also much more character to a piece of handmade jewelry. There’s a story behind not only the design of the jewelry piece but the artist you’re buying from.
Emily Shaffer Studio – A Handmade Jewelry Business
You’re helping a small business owner to pursue their passion when you buy handmade jewelry. Some of these businesses are as small as a stay-at-home mom working from home and selling items on Etsy. Most are small business owners who are active in their local community beyond just the economy. They also often source from other small business suppliers for their materials and stones. Even if you’re not in their local community and purchase online, you’re supporting the small business backbone of our economy.
Handmade jewelry artists are also more likely to make pieces using ethically-sourced materials. They are usually a great source for anyone looking for ethical and sustainable jewelry. They tend to choose source companies with a reputation for recycling scrap metal or who can guarantee the conflict-free background of stones. Some jewelers will even go out to mining locations to witness the mining operations themselves. This ensures the origin of the diamonds and gemstones they buy line up with their own ethos. They may even dig around for their own stones!
Types of Handmade Jewelry
Assembled Jewelry Making
The simplest type of handmade jewelry is sometimes known as hand-assembled jewelry. It’s a great way to offer unique and personalized jewelry at an affordable price. This usually involves creating necklaces, earrings, and bracelets from pre-made charms, chain and jewelry findings. It is easy to learn simple assembly techniques in just a few days, so it is the perfect way to get started with jewelry making.
Wire Wrapped Jewelry
Wire Wrapped Bracelet
Handmade wire wrapped jewelry is easy to spot: It uses a lot of wire! Most jewelers use wire wrapping to create pendants or charms with stones and beads. At its simplest, wire wrapped jewelry is a decorative frame embellished with other ornaments that are attached with coils of wrapped wire. But some wire wrapping experts are able to create very intricate and delicate designs with wire weaving techniques that are quite labor-intensive. Wire wrapping takes time and practice to master.
Depending on the design, makers can use a few different gauges of wire. For simple framing designs, they may choose to use a thicker gauge while the intricate woven designs require thinner gauges. Makers will also need to take note of the wire’s temper for their project. For example, dead soft wire will be much easier to wrap many times than a full hard wire.
Fabricated Pendant by Erica Stice
Handmade fabricated jewelry covers a wide range of jewelry styles from traditional gemstone rings to wildly creative art jewelry. Fabricated jewelry uses metalsmithing techniques and jewelry bench skills. Jewelers use a metal saw to cut out the basic shape of the piece or to cut intricate details in the piece. Many jewelers use soldering to attach components to each other. This can be as simple as attaching two pieces or as complex as having a dozen solder joins. Fabrication takes time and dedication to learn. Studio classes at a community art center, vocational school, or university are recommended.
Once a jeweler knows a few basic concepts, they are able to manipulate the metal in a wide variety of ways. The first collection may be simple. But as they gain knowledge and practice over the years, their collections can become quite intricate and technically difficult. This is where a lot of the gritty and grimy jeweler’s hands come from!
Beaded Earrings by Nealay Patel
Handmade beaded jewelry can be some of the simplest or most intricate jewelry designs depending on which beads are used. Makers can use beads on a single strand of stringing material to create bracelets and necklaces. Some of these beads may include letters or numbers for personalization, fun shaped beads to show off interests, or a large statement bead with smaller ones framing it. However, with quite a bit of practice and some very tiny beads, makers can create larger and more intricate designs (pick up any issue of Beadwork magazine to see examples).
A Lampwork Glass Bead by Kris Schaible
The fun part about beads is that they can be incorporated into most types of jewelry as accent pieces. A beaded necklace is a fun alternative to simple chain for hanging your centerpiece creation. Beads are also available in a variety of materials. Halstead offers a wide selection of sterling silver, gold-filled and rose gold-filled beads. But makers can also find copper beads, gemstone beads, crystal beads, beads made from clay or wood or other natural materials. Glass beads are one of the most intricate and delicate handmade beads. Lampwork artists use glass rods to create colorful and patterned beads. They may also etch a design into the glass after forming it into a bead.
Hand Stamped/Engraved Jewelry
This is one of the most popular types of handmade jewelry today. Hand stamping allows a maker to easily create personalized custom jewelry for customers. It only requires simple tools and techniques, so it’s an easy craft to begin. Designs are created by hammering a metal stamp impression onto a metal blank with a heavy hammer. Most of these tools are readily available to hobbyists and professionals alike.
Since you can stamp most types of metals, you can choose how high of a price point you wish to be in. Aluminum or copper blanks are some of the least expensive options and available at many stores. Once a maker is confident in their skills, they can get higher quality sterling silver and 14k gold blanks. For these blanks, makers often buy from companies, such as Halstead, that specialize in jewelry findings. Stamps are available in many different designs including alphabet, animals, people, shapes, holiday themes and more.
Hand Stamped Pendants
Engraving handmade jewelry allows for more details in a design. However, it also requires greater skills and/or special equipment. When a jeweler hand engraves a piece, they must take a sharpened engraving tool and cut a hand-drawn design. This technique usually takes quite a bit of practice and time.
Laser engraving is another option – though this can come at quite a steep price for quality tools. The laser engraver uses a beam of light reflected through mirrors to create a design on a piece of metal. Using a software program, the maker can create or upload personalized designs to engrave. This technique allows for high precision and accuracy in tiny details and surfaces. You can also create more pieces with the same or similar designs in less time with the machine. But you need to be ready to invest in this sort of designing as machines can run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.
This necklace by Jill Tower uses different enameling techniques
Handmade enameled jewelry is a great way to add pops of color to your metal jewelry pieces. Enameling is basically fusing glass powder to the surface of metals to create a permanent bond. There are different ways to add enamel to handmade jewelry. The most popular technique today is torch-firing. This is considered a simpler, more affordable enameling technique as you can use your soldering torch to heat up the enamel on your metal.
Most enameling techniques require a kiln that heats the jewelry piece more gently than a soldering torch would. Cloisonne is a popular enameling technique with a long history. This technique uses wire to create little “compartments” to make a design with the enamel. One of the most difficult techniques to master is called plique-à-jour. This technique creates a stained glass-like effect since the enamel has no backing. Read more about these techniques here.
How To Start Making Handmade Jewelry
Are you ready to start making your own jewelry? Whether you’re looking to start a side business, make a career move or just take it up as a hobby there are a lot of ways to learn. Try searching YouTube for tips on what you need to get started and how to do some of the basic techniques. Starting your handmade jewelry journey at home is great, but you’ll really want to get out and go to a class or workshop. Getting the in-person training with the ability to ask questions and receive feedback from a highly skilled jewelry instructor is the best way to learn.
You can learn how to make simple beaded jewelry in an hour and spend a lifetime perfecting it! That’s why beading is so much fun, it’s easy to get started yet the different shapes and sizes of beads can keep you challenged in exciting ways as you develop your skills. Another reason to love beading is that it’s ageless, anyone from teens on up can enjoy this activity and learn this art form. In this article, we’ll cover the jewelry tools and components you’ll need to get started, but first, the most difficult part of beading for beginners is how to finish the ends. In fact, finishing beaded ends is the one question we get asked the most. How do you secure the beads? How do I add a lobster claw or jump ring? What is a crimp or crimping tool? Below is a video on finishing the ends of a beaded jewelry piece.
Halstead Jewelry Minute - Ep. 12 - Ways to Finish Ends of Beaded Jewelry - YouTube
What you need to start beading
Recommended budget for jewelry beading tools
I would recommend a $75-100 initial budget for jewelry tools and supplies. The pliers, cutters, and crimpers listed below are a one time only purchase and will last for years to come. Here is a list of the essential jewelry making tools and supplies that you’ll need when beginning beading:
Chain nose pliers = $5.00 each (you’ll need two pairs for opening and closing jump rings)
Ultra-fine Point Cutters (a.k.a. nippers) = $8.00
Crimpers = $15.00
Adhesives = $5 – $10
Stringing Wire (100 foot spools) = $20 – $40
Plier Kit for Jewelry Beading
Another option for the tools is a plier kit. These 4 piece kits come with chain, round and flat nose pliers, one side cutter and a carrying case. These are great kits, however, the side cutter isn’t ideal for beading and I’ll explain why later.
Basic Pliers Kit = $20.00
Premium Sonora Pliers Kit = $35.00
Shopping for beads is the fun part!
Let’s talk about shopping first! It’s exciting when you begin to build up your array of beads. You’ll find beads from all over the world, in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors and once you start planning out your designs you’ll be hooked. If you’re budgeting, get a general idea of what size beads you want prior to shopping. This will help keep you focused because you still have a few other things to purchase before you can finish your piece:
Closures (spring rings, lobster claws or toggles)
For every bracelet or necklace that you make you need 1 closure, 2 jump rings and 2 crimp beads. That’s the standard but as you become comfortable beading, there are lots of other beading supplies (including crimp covers, beads caps, and cones) that you’ll eventually add to your jewelry designs.
Organize your beading tool stash space
Organization is key when you’re beginning to bead. As these jewelry tools and small components accumulate, it will become important to find things quickly. Plastic compartmentalized containers work well keeping your items separated plus they’re inexpensive and easy to store on a shelf.
Separate the beading tools and precious metals. If it were me, I would separate the sterling silver items, like jump rings and closures, from the adhesives. Fumes from certain adhesives can make your sterling silver items tarnish quickly!
Tip: It’s always a good idea to store any sterling silver components in ziplock plastic bags with one anti-tarnish tab per bag. This simple step will help prevent tarnishing on your sterling silver items.
Breakdown of Beading Tools
Chain Nose Pliers
Spring Loaded Chain Nose Pliers for Jewelry Beading
Critical as a beading tool! Two chain nose pliers are handy when opening and closing sterling silver jump rings. When opening and closing a jump ring you do not pull the jump ring ends apart, instead, you twist them open and closed. This prevents the jump rings from getting misshapen plus it work hardens them so that they’re stronger and that’s a good thing!
Tip: When beading you use your pliers quite a bit, so be sure when you purchase pliers that they have spring handles. These types of handles allow the pliers to spring open on their own every time you close them. Spring-loaded handles are much easier on your wrists especially if you are beading a lot.
Note: If you purchase a kit of pliers, you can use the flat nose along with the chain nose pliers to open and close your jump rings, without the need to purchase a second set of chain nose pliers.
Beading requires cutting tight places. For instance, when snipping off the extra wire after crimping the end. This extra wire is snuggled up between the last bead and the crimp, so that’s one small space to work in. If you choose to go with the plier kit, those side cutters are fabulous for a variety of uses, however, having small nippers like this pair is also a good idea.
Ultra-fine Point Cutters for Beading
Jewelry Pliers for Crimp Tubes and Covers
This beading jewelry tool is a must! Close crimps with crimping pliers that are used at the end of necklaces to secure the beads on the stringing wire. Simple and easy to use they’re an essential tool for beaders. The video above shows you how to use these pliers with crimp tubes and covers.
Jewelers Glue – secure those knots!
Knots that tend to unravel over time can be secured with just a drop of GS Hypo Cement or Starbond adhesives. That extra support is vital to keeping your knots secure and strong and with shelf lives of a year or longer, this is a great purchase. One bottle or tube will truly go a long way!
Popular Adhesives Used in Jewelry Beading
Stringing Wire for Beading Projects
OK, not a tool. But, this simple beading supply item will get you underway! Stringing wire is a crucial component when planning out your projects. There are a lot of choices but two of the most important ones are the diameter of the wire and the strength. The diameter is important because bead holes can be extremely small and you need a beading wire that can fit through the hole size(s) that you are working with. Strength is just as important. You need a stringing wire that’s long-lasting and strong so it can handle the weight of the beads.
Here at Halstead, we carry two of the top names in stringing wire; Beadalon and Soft Flex. These are superior beading wires for their strength and flexibility.
Beadalon is made out of nylon coated stainless steel and although it is made from metal it feels like thread. Inside of this abrasion-resistant, nylon coatings are either 19 or 49 strands of twisted miniature wires. The more stainless steel wires it has, the more flexible it is. So although they are both super strong, the 49 strands of wire create a more flexible stringing wire than the 19 strand does. This is great for beaders! Sometimes you don’t want that much flexibility for say collars or choker length necklaces, however, you may want more flexibility in a longer beaded necklace.
Soft Flex is also a nylon coated stainless steel product. You have a choice between 21 or 49 micro woven stainless steel strands which are then braided together. It is a lead-free, hypoallergenic product.
Start beading today! Have fun on your beginning beading adventure and check out our learning section on wholesale beads for information on our sterling silver and gold-filled beads, caps, crimps and more!
Have you ever thought about wire wrapping before? Possibly you don’t know where to start or what tools you’ll need. Anytime you start anything new, it can be intimidating, I know. One of the appealing benefits of wire wrapping is that you don’t need a lot of tools. Another wonderful perk is that you can wrap all kinds of things: found objects, semi-precious stones (with or without holes) and of course, beads. In the article below, I’ve broken down the jewelry tools, work area, wire and materials and other important information to help you get started.
What You’ll Need to Start Wire Wrapping
Tips on Tables & Chairs
Studio set-up for wire wrapping
Don’t be overwhelmed! Setting up a studio or work area is simple. You’ll need a kitchen table, coffee table or desk to sit at plus have a comfortable chair to sit on. When you work with wire you move your arms a lot, so I chose a stool. Also, instead of working on the desktop, which I found too high for this jewelry adventure, I found myself wire wrapping on my lap. If you tend to do that, lay your piece of jewelry down occasionally and then walk around and stretch a bit. Hunching over is terrible for your neck and back!
Wire Wrapping Storage Space
I suggest, when you first start out that you place everything you need in a container with wheels. Store all of your supplies in there and wheel it everywhere you need too. But over time, your designated studio space will fill up with beads, stones, and jewelry wire. So plan to exchange that plastic storage container into shelves with bins or cabinets full of drawers as time goes by. But until that comes, a small storage container is perfectly fine.
Multi-drawer cabinet space for wire wrapping supplies
Choosing your tools can be daunting, however, below I have listed the basic jewelry tools you’ll need to get started. Our 14 piece Advanced Wire Wrapping Kit includes all of the basic supplies, a step-by-step book: Moods in Wire, plus some of the additional suggestions I’ve listed a little later.
Basic Wire Wrapping Supplies
Jewelry Making Pliers: Round, bent nose and chain (use these to tuck in wire ends and shape your wire)
Gauge (measures the inside of holes for beads and the width of the wire for gauging)
Needle Nose Flat File (for filing the wire ends)
Rawhide or nylon hammer (these won’t mar your metal when flattening)
Suggested Wire Jewelry Tools
The first five suggested items listed below are already included in the kit shown above. They’re not critical when starting out, but helpful, unless you are going to make finger rings, then the ring mandrel should be under the basic wire wrapping supply list.
Ring Mandrel (for gauging ring sizes)
Pin Vise (Use it to make twisted wire)
Tiered Mandrels (for making circular shapes)
Wire gauge (unless you mark your wires really well, this will identify the wire gauges quickly)
Steel Bench Block for jewelry stamping, forming or texturing
Always hammer on a steel bench block. Unless your bench block is scratched or has deep marks in it, the steel face along with a rawhide hammer will keep your piece from marring.
Hammering can be very loud. Prevent this by using a sound dampening leather sandbag! Place your steel bench block on the sandbag before hammering.
Round Leather Bench Sandbag for the Jewelers Bench
Small Metal Vise for a Jewelry Bench
A bench vise has many uses, but when twisting wire with a pin vise, hold the other two wire ends in these jaws for stability.
The metal jaws on pliers tend to mar wire, so I use nylon tipped pliers. Yes, the nylon will get dented and lose their shape over time but it will never scratch up a piece you’ve spent hours on. It’s worth spending $2-5 dollars on replacement jaws than ruin a beautiful finish to me.
Here are the 5 pliers we use in the studio the most.
Another tool I found extremely helpful was this Wire Straightener Tool by Artistic Wire. I used it on the 26 and 28 gauge wires, which tend to curl and bend a lot as you wire wrap. This was an extremely helpful tool for straightening wire when using the thinner jewelry wire gauges.
Wire Wrapping Straightener Tool: XW28
Copper & Sterling Silver Wire
There are a variety of wire gauges you will need and/or want as you advance in wire wrapping. I can’t stress this enough when you’re first learning practice with copper before moving on to sterling silver wire. It’s cheap, therefore its easier to make mistakes than it would be using a more expensive material. Also, keep your wire as straight as possible before you start bending it. Wrapping wire will work harden it. When it becomes too hard to work with, it will break in half, so take care not to bend it unnecessarily.
Although it will ultimately be your choice, here are some suggestions when choosing wire gauges.
Frames: 16-20 gauge
Wrapping: 26-28 gauge
Weaving: 28-30 gauge
Beads, Stones and Other Fun Materials
Objects to wrap are completely up to you! You can find semi-precious stones with or without holes, sterling silver beads, copper beads, crystals, cabochons, found objects… etc. The list goes on and on. You will love searching for materials to wrap and your studio will probably start filling up with all kinds of fun objects.
How to Learn Wire Wrapping
For a few days, I played in the studio learning how to wire wrap with copper and sterling silver wires. We had a new wire wrapping kit that came in and I wanted to look at the book: “Moods in Wire” by Ellsworth “Ed” Sinclair that was included and check out the tools. So for those two or three days, I watched tutorials online, browsed through the book, and played with different wire gauges, beads, and stones. I honestly wasn’t sure how I would like it, but I really ended up loving this craft!
First of all, there aren’t a lot of jewelry tools that you need. Many of these jewelry making tools you probably already own. Secondly, you can enjoy this art doing it almost anywhere. Wrap a stone or bead while watching T.V. or, even better, while sitting in a booth at a jewelry show. There are no soldering supplies or a torch to lug around. It’s just a few tools, copper or sterling silver wire and whatever materials you want to wrap. And the last thing, which was the most surprising to me, is that it was not only fun but it was also super relaxing.
Don’t get me wrong, metalsmithing will always be my favorite thing to do. I love working with a torch! I daydream about jewelry designs constantly. While I’m writing articles at my desk, I catch myself staring down into the studio longing to work at the jewelry bench instead. Having said that, when you metalsmith you cut, drill, solder, pickle, finish and tumble your jewelry pieces, seemingly all at the same time. Yet, when you wrap a gorgeous stone, it becomes meditative. I found that this experience was completely different than what I was accustomed too and the change of pace was nice. Have fun, I sure did!
Practicing wire wrapped loops, bails and frames
I played around with wire wrapping in stages. I tackled it by first learning the basics. There were online tutorials on covering basic techniques that guided me along the way. I began by learning about frames. Frames give strength and structure to a piece, and so they’re very important when wrapping wire. They’re made with thicker gauged wire, while the thinner gauges are used for more intricate details. I practiced this on a couple of copper pieces and played with sterling silver wire to make wire bails and tight loops.
Playtime! As you can see, I used a lot of thick gauges to make textured u-shaped bars during this stage. I merged that with a basic wire wrapping technique, holding the stone tightly in place and finishing with a swirl in the front. This adds a nice decorative touch while also using the end of the wire to finish the piece.
Framing techniques using multiple copper and sterling silver wire gauges
Practicing detailed wire wrapping with jewelry making wire
During every stage, I practiced with copper wire first and then refined my sterling silver pieces by using the copper models. Wire weaving is definitely a more advanced technique that takes patience and practice. It also requires a lot more bulk jewelry wire material for each piece of jewelry. The thinnest gauge I had for the copper leaves was 22 gauge, but when I re-designed the earrings using sterling silver I used 26 gauge for the detailed work. I also added in some sterling silver beads, ear wires and moonstones as finishing touches. These were seriously fun to make!
The video below covers the kit and tools plus I browse through the pages of the book. It also covers some of the jewelry pieces that I made including the wire gauges used for each piece. Last, but not least, I’ll show you how to make jump rings and earwire hoops.
Learn Wire Wrapping With This Advanced Wire Wrapping Kit From Halstead - YouTube
If you’re hiring your first assistant or intern for your jewelry business, there are a few things to keep in mind. You’re bringing someone into your inner most design circle and trusting them to represent your brand and style as if they’re you. This may seem daunting, but with some preparation you can make the rest of the process go well.
When you’re thinking about the hiring process, break it down into 5 phases. Each phase is most successful when you prepare ahead of time before you start hiring.
Phase 1: Prepare Your Studio
The first thing you want to do when hiring your first jewelry studio assistant is get your studio ready. Transitioning from working on everything by yourself to splitting the work with another person can get tricky.
Sit down to figure out which tasks you’d like them to do. You likely won’t be assigning them your unique technique-based tasks at first. What routine assignments will they do to make your day easier? Maybe cutting some wire or finishing. They can probably help with organization tasks as well. If you create a list of day-to-day tasks, they won’t have to constantly interrupt you while you’re working to ask, “what do I do next?”
Julia Mancarella in the Studio
Along with the tasks list, write down your jewelry making processes or create a sample set. Many people are visual learners, so simply being told what to do won’t help. Perhaps you can photograph each step as you make jewelry pieces and compile a notebook with photos and written instructions (Emily Shaffer has a great notebook setup as seen in her studio tour video). Creating a sample set of your pieces will allow the employee to ensure they’re work is on par with your product standards.
Also, think about your weekly schedule. If you’re the type to have a highly variable schedule and work on anything at any given time, this may be hard to continue. Now that your assistant will be handling certain tasks, you need to make sure those tasks are done in time for your work. You won’t be able to assign your assistant wire cutting, for example, on a Tuesday afternoon then decide you want to work with it on Tuesday morning. Your studio routine will need to become more predictable once your first employee starts.
And finally, make sure to create a work space for the new employee. Depending on what tasks you’ll expect the employee to do, the setup will look different for everyone. Will they need tools? Be sure to get any duplicates before they start so you can both get work done. If they’ll need their own bench, Julia Mancarella suggests making sure it’s all at the right height (once you know who you’re hiring). Neck and back pain are real! This may seem obvious, but when things get hectic it can be forgotten.
Phase 2: Hiring & Interviewing
This next phase will most likely require a lot of research on your part. Most importantly, you need to research the pay rate in your area for similar job descriptions. Search online to find out what the market pay rate is for a jeweler’s assistant and make sure the pay rate is fair for your city’s cost of living. Look around for other assistant job descriptions for ideas. If you want to hire someone who does more of the administrative side of the business than jewelry making, the job description will be very different. It’s very important to keep this part of the process market-based. You don’t want to get too personal with pay or job descriptions. Take Tracy Matthew’s advice: hire someone who is right for the job, not someone you want to be friends with.
When you’re done researching, write an accurate and clear job description. Talk about your office culture – do you have a studio dog? It might help to include that. If you want to make sure your assistant isn’t too laid back, put in that it’s a “fast paced environment” or something similar. Always include any physical demands of the job. If it will involve sitting at the bench for 4 hours per day, include that. If there may be heavy lifting or travel involved, include that. The most important thing to remember is to write your job description to attract the best-fit candidates. The less clear or concise, the more likely it is you’ll be wasting time screening applications that are definitely “nos.”
Finally, before the interview, make sure you know which questions you can legally ask. Generally, any questions that may come off as discriminatory are not allowed. This includes race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, age and many more. Check out this information from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for full details. As long as your questions are centered on being qualified for the job, you shouldn’t have a problem.
Niki Grandics suggests reaching out to your network. Chances are you know someone who has gone through hiring their first jewelry assistant before. They’ll be able to help you with questions you should and shouldn’t ask and may even have a few potential candidates in mind. Even if you hire through personal contacts, it is important to provide a written job description that sets clear expectations for your new employee. Don’t skip that step!
During the Interview
The interview is important as a first impression for both you and the potential assistant. Make sure you establish your professional boundaries from the start. Emma Hoekstra recommends laying out what you are and are not looking for right away, “maybe hand them a sheet of paper with a list clearly laid out for them to look over.” Remember that list you created during phase 1 of the tasks? This would be a good time to bring it out. Emma also points out that it can be scary to be vulnerable with your technique secrets. If you want to go beyond a simple handshake, let them know you would want them to sign a non-compete agreement.
Some of Tracy’s Sketches
Belle Brooke Barer recommends setting a trial period. During the interview, make it clear that there is a trial period (whether it’s 30 day, 90 day, etc.) and at the end you will discuss if the employee is a right fit for the job. Be sure to know your local laws regarding at-will employment or if contracts are necessary.
Also make sure the interviewee knows that they will need to document their workflows and/or create training guides for future new hires. If this isn’t something you thought about yet, we highly recommend it. No one will know how the studio employee’s job works better than them. And hopefully you’ll be looking to expand to even more employees in the future. If you set this expectation from the beginning, the employee will not feel like your trying to get rid of them if you ask for process documentation after they have been on the job for a while.
Phase 3: Training & Setting Expectations
Now that you’ve hired your first jewelry assistant, the real work begins! Many assistants have not worked in a professional jewelry studio yet. Although they probably have the skills, you may need to do some training on how to perform those skills in a style that works for your jewelry collection. Lisette Fee suggests providing guidelines and procedures from the beginning on how your studio runs. This includes, she suggests, pointing out that being on time is essential to making the day productive.
Rings by Kristen Baird
It helps to have checkpoint meetings at regular intervals. Figure out the timing that works best for you, but starting them off weekly may be best. As you and your assistant grow more comfortable in your roles, you can move them further apart (i.e. monthly or quarterly). Start these meetings off with questions about the work processes or whether studio set-up works for them. Getting feedback from your assistant can help stop problems from arising down the road. And this way, you get to problem solve together rather than playing the blame game. Tracy Matthews suggests setting clear performance indicators early. During these meetings, be sure to give any kudos if the employee is hitting these indicators!
Emma Hoekstra points out that encouragement is huge. From her time as an assistant with two different jewelers, she felt that they wanted her to succeed, even if they knew she would eventually be starting her own career. If there’s something your assistant is doing wrong, let them know in a constructive way. Keep the vocabulary about “skills” and “quality standards” rather than “I like this” or “I don’t like that.” Make sure you’re also assessing yourself during these meetings. If there’s a problem with your assistant’s skill, did you clearly explain how to do something? Don’t be afraid to ask your employee “Is there anything you need from me?” so you can be sure you’re providing all the information they need.
Establish Professional Boundaries
Kristen Baird Jewelry
Becoming too friendly with employees was a common challenge for all the jewelers we talked to. It’s important to set boundaries of what can be discussed during work time or off time, especially when hiring your first jewelry assistant. If you start off strong, you’re more likely to be consistent as you hire more employees. Also be sure to establish whether you are okay with socializing during off time. If you want to keep it a work-only relationship, make sure your assistant understands that.
Setting professional boundaries can be one of the hardest aspects of being a good boss. Kristen Baird says, “It can be hard to draw the line between friend and boss. A good balance is key. I’ve found that listening and being compassionate like a friend goes a long way in earning respect and loyalty. At the same time, establishing the fact that you run a tight ship and that you want the best out of your people at all times is imperative for keeping the business running like a boss.”
If you don’t set these professional boundaries right away, you run the risk of being too much of a friend. It’s great if you and your employee can talk freely and enjoy each other’s company. But they need to understand that at the end of the day you are their boss and running a jewelry business. Therefore you will need to make any decisions and provide feedback in the best interest of that business.
Keep Track of Workflow
Your first assistant won’t be with you forever and they won’t be your last, so have them help you establish workflows and production standards for future new hires. They’ll know what works best from their end of the job and you’ll be able to add in the expectations. Working together on this will help you feel more like a team and feel more prepared for your business growth.
Phase 4: Troubleshooting Problems
Rings by Tracy Matthews
We always hope that our employees will work out and have no problems. However, as you go through the steps of hiring your first jewelry assistant, prepare yourself for any problems that can arise. Your checkpoint meetings should include constructive criticism to stop bad habits before they become ingrained. Belle Brooke Barer says that she allowed too many mistakes because she was too afraid to step up and tell her assistant when she wasn’t completely satisfied with the work. Remember that you are the boss and this jewelry collection is your legacy. If your assistant is not following through on something, don’t be afraid to speak up! Just be sure to do it in a constructive manner.
These problems can make great training opportunities. They may show a weakness in your explanations/guidelines. They may show the assistant that they’re not as strong in a certain skill as they may have thought. Working together to solve the problem is your best option. Create a checklist to see where improvements can be made and set clear expectations for a resolution to the problem.
Most importantly, be sure to follow up on any problems. For a set period of time – however long you think is appropriate – review each piece or work to provide more feedback. If the problem persists, set a deadline for fixing the issue. Also outline any consequences for not achieving the deadline. Then put it on your calendar and keep yourself, and the employee, accountable to that date.
This is the time to be a boss, not a friend. If your employee can’t keep up with the quality you expect for your brand, don’t be afraid to stand firm and tell them what’s wrong. If you do this constructively, as a team and keep everyone accountable your employee and business will be able to succeed.
Phase 5: Settling In
Emma Hoekstra at a Show
Your workdays will most likely be chaotic for a little while after hiring your first jewelry assistant. Once the initial hiccups are dealt with and your assistant is starting to get into their groove, assign them deadlines for the workflow documentation. Better to start early than have them move on to new things and forget a step or two. Continue having your check-in meetings as well. They probably don’t need to be as frequent, but at least twice a year take the opportunity to sit down and speak candidly about the work relationship. If nothing else, it’s a great time to say “thanks for doing great work” since this can be so easy to forget during the daily grind.
Our 2018 Halstead Grant winner, Emily Shaffer, recently hired her first assistant. On our recent studio tour with Emily, we met her assistant, Olivia, and found out a little bit about some of her tasks in the studio.
There will be growing pains as you learn to hand off work to your first assistant and they learn your expectations. Eventually, everyone will settle into their roles and you may find your workdays even more enjoyable with a studio mate. This is the time to enjoy your role as a mentor! Your assistant has chosen you to be the one to help their professional development, embrace this. Pass on some of the skills your mentors showed to you. Help them learn from your own early mistakes. Enjoy watching them grow in their passion – and maybe even learn something new from them!
Top Tips for Hiring Your First Jewelry Studio Assistant:
Set clear boundaries, expectations and guidelines from the beginning.
Don’t hope to become friends. Be friendly, but remember you’re their boss.
Have confidence in yourself as a boss and in your jewelry collection quality.
Try to have a working interview or a trial period (where allowed) to allow a showing of skills.
Reach out to your network. Others have done this before and some may even have a candidate for you to look at.
Learn to delegate. Giving up control is hard, but start with small tasks and work your way up to delegating bigger ones.
Continually raise the bar and give your employees challenges and encourage them along the way.
Reward successes with celebrations – something as simple as surprise cookies in the studio or a lunch out goes a long way.
Give your new assistant time to learn – don’t hire someone 2 days before leaving for a show (as Niki Grandics learned).
Enjoy your time and role as a mentor!
Special thank you to all of the jewelers who contributed with their amazing advice.
As a curator, I have always seen my role as the messenger, the one who carries the artists’ voices to a larger audience. From the very beginning of my career, I tried to put that message forth either by publishing articles, then later, creating Platforma through which I co-curated jewelry exhibitions, then as the director of a contemporary jewelry gallery in New York where, from 2014 to 2018, I organized 23 exhibitions. Now, finally, I have co-founded New York City Jewelry Week. Certainly my most ambitious project to date! If staging a city-wide festival dedicated to jewelry and flooding the city with 100 events doesn’t create a large enough platform for artists to exhibit their work, doesn’t spread my mission, then I am not sure what will.
Galleries Are Great, But You Need More
As a curator I pay attention to themes in the field, similarities or contrasts in practices, and strong voices who are louder and more innovative then their contemporaries. Each show is meant to cast a light on a body of work that is pushing us to reconsider a topic or simply dive deeper. My role is to invite artists to participate in these discussions, give them space, both physically and figuratively, to speak their truth.
JV Collective at Munich Jewelry Week
However, as an artist, how do you make these opportunities for yourself? How do you find ways to exhibit your work so that you can advance your career? There are many different types of exhibitions and all of them are vital to an artist’s livelihood. One thing is very clear, each jewelry exhibition is hard work, and a huge risk on the artist’s part. There are juried craft fairs, like the American Crafts Council Shows, the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, the Smithsonian Craft Show; fundraisers like LOOT! MAD About Jewelry at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, or BIJOUX! at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida; international jewelry fairs like JOYA in Barcelona or SIERAAD in Amsterdam, jewelry weeks in Paris, Athens, Munich, and now New York; and of course, galleries and museums.
However, with few galleries around the country, and most of them not keeping regular hours, artists need to figure out ways to sell their own work independently from these establishments, especially since there are more artists than there are galleries to represent them.
Look for New Jewelry Exhibition Options
Raleigh-based artist Tara Locklear travels extensively around the country participating in craft shows, museum fundraisers, and has built relationships with galleries like Pistachios in Chicago and Ombré gallery in Cincinnati. Locklear says that she is constantly searching for new exhibition opportunities. “It is part of my work schedule yearly planning. In particular, I look for new types of events in cities that the work has not been shown in before, to continually grow the audience for my work.” She also uses websites, such as callforentry.org, zapplication.org, or artfaircalendar.com to find new projects. “I do find that doing craft shows also lead to other opportunities such as group exhibitions or possible museum collaborative work pop-ups. I believe that ‘showing up’ at all of my work events aide in multiple connections for growing my business in multiple facets beyond just sales.”
Find Artist-Sponsored Events
Some artists have begun to create opportunities for other artists. Kat Cole and Laura Wood founded Jewelry Edition (JE) in 2012 out of a “desire to find new methods of sharing work without relying on preexisting template.” Cole and Wood told me that “in the beginning our focus was to seek new opportunities for early career artists and it has evolved to provide support for artists in the various stages of an art practice.” JE puts out an annual call for work, their last one for JE5, recently closed.
JE V4 Display
The project also pushes artists to think about their practice a bit differently, “Jewelry Edition has provided a challenge for some artists to build out a collection featuring limited edition production in addition to one-of-a-kind work and has also been a launching point for artists to see the impact of avant-garde work with unexpected clients.” Cole and Wood wear many hats themselves but they have really carved out a much needed space for JE. “The feedback from JE participants has been exceptionally positive: increased interest in work from a larger audience, new gallery representation, and a sense of community.”
Finding venues for JE exhibitions is also a good lesson for other artist’s who want to be more independent and needs ideas on how to do it. “We have secured venues in a variety of ways: through existing gallery relationships we both have from our individual practices, cold calls to spaces we see as exciting opportunities, and making relationships at conferences and large gatherings where these conversations happen naturally. We also include one or two experimental spaces each year. For example, we teamed up with a culinary artist in Atlanta to share clients lists and an event space for an evening of jewelry, music and hors d’oeuvres. We welcome any ideas or collaborative opportunities and we stay open-minded about how each year will develop. Jewelry Edition is an extension of our creative practices and so we are continually re-examining how it can evolve.”
In the end, Cole and Wood agree that “the landscape of being an independent artist is challenging and working together and with our network of artists and collaborators has allowed us to be creative.”
Try a Collective
A newer phenomenon in our field is the collective. Essentially this is a group of jewelers who either share a common workspace and exhibit together or all pitch-in financially to support a space where they can all exhibit their work. One such group is the JV Collective. Leslie Boyd, Emily Cobb, Marie Eife, Melanie Bilenker, and Mallory Weston, founded the collective and it has grown to include Sarah Rachel Brown and Luci Jockel. The collective originally formed due to economics, “several of us needed a studio space to make jewelry in, and we all happened to live in South Philadelphia at the time. We realized splitting the rent and putting all of our tools/resources together into one space would be more advantageous then trying to have individual spaces” says Cobb.
JV Collective at NYCJW Photo Credit: Stephen Payne
However, they have now curated three jewelry exhibitions together in Munich, Baltimore, and New York and, Jockel, says “there is strength in numbers.” Speaking with some of the members separately they all agreed that it is important to apply to everything. “Earlier in my career, I sought out and applied for every “call for entries” that seemed to suit my work. I found it a very helpful way to jump start my career, gain exposure, have my work seen by the public as well as by jurors and curators (even if I didn’t get selected)” says Bilenker.
Jockel has even been included in shows because jurors for one exhibition would approach her for other shows that she didn’t even know about. “Galerie Handwerk in Munich actually saw my work from when I had applied to Talente and invited me to be a part of their exhibition ” Bienengold/Bee-Gold (which was on view from September 7th- October 6th 2018). The more you put your work out there, the more opportunities will arise.”
And finally, what if you are not part of a collective, or feel comfortable in the crafts landscape, like so many artists do. How do you get your work out in the world? Lauren Tickle-Tietje, a recent transplant to New Orleans exhibited her work during Munich Jewelry Week, agrees that you have to be open to new opportunities as they may lead to connections you would have never anticipated. “When you are first starting whether you are in a city with lots of opportunities or a smaller town, continue to surround yourself with other artists.
Munich Jewelry Week Exhibition
Whether it is taking a workshop somewhere or a residency, all of these things will enable you to make connections while not necessarily living in a big city. Since moving I continue to maintain and gain connections by never saying no to an opportunity. Partaking in the numerous jewelry weeks around the world is a great way to reconnect with old contacts while also making new ones. I was asked to be a part of the exhibition, Allotropic, because one of the curators, Johanna Zellmer has seen a piece of mine in the Dowse Art Museum, in New Zealand, last year.”
There are also a growing number of Artist Residency programs out there. Sarah Rachel Brown, the originator of the Perceived Value podcast told me that “50% of my past exhibition opportunities were a result of me applying to do so and the other 50% were presented through positions I held such as an artist-in-residence or I was invited to participate.”
Exposure is Key
Many of the artists I spoke with also said that even if sales at a show are not stellar, the exposure always makes up for all of the hard work that went into getting ready for an exhibition. And everyone agrees that, if participating in a jewelry exhibition or crafts show does not happen right away, do not rule out the power of social media. Having visibility on Facebook or Instagram is paramount for shows to notice and invite you for an exhibition. I can certainly vouch for that. As a curator, I spent many hours looking at work on social media before I contacted the artists and requested to see the work.
Perhaps the best advice came from Cobb, who tells her students at Humboldt State University, that it’s not enough to just apply. You need to make sure your application is not missing anything, “Read all of the directions, three times. Check that you’ve followed them, two times. Submit everything correctly, one time.”
Display at NYCJW Photo Credit: Stephen Payne
About The Author
Bella Neyman is the co-founder of New York City Jewelry Week, an annual city-wide celebration of jewelry in November. She is also an independent curator and writer specializing in contemporary art jewelry. Exhibitions organized by Bella have been on view in the United States and Europe. She is currently working on an exhibition, 45 Stories in Jewelry, which will open at the Museum of Arts and Design in February 2020. Bella’s articles on decorative arts, fashion and jewelry have appeared in the New York Times, MODERN Magazine, Metalsmith, American Craft and The Magazine Antiques amongst others. From 2014-2018, she was the director of the Gallery at Reinstein|Ross, a New York-based contemporary jewelry gallery. Bella has been on the Board of the Art Jewelry Forum since 2013. She lives with her husband and daughter in Brooklyn, NY.