I started designing jewelry for fun about 12 years ago and was lucky to have found a niche market with artisan lampwork when there weren't many doing handmade artisan jewelry. Above is one of my earlier pieces. One of the things I was particular about was using the best quality components--sterling and hilltribe silver, gold filled and gold vermeil, swarovski crystals, designer clasps and beads. There were two reasons for that---I love nice things and good quality and I also realized that I could not compete with the cheap imports.
After several years at my workbench, I took an extended time off and just recently returned to jewelry design. I have been really enjoying getting back to working my way thru my stash, but find major sticker shock when needing to replace components.
When I started, the first Bali sterling silver I purchased was 35 cents a gram and Hilltribe silver was 45 cents a gram. Vermeil and gold filled findings were just a pinch higher. That was for clasps, beads, jump rings, everything. Then a few years later when I started buying designer findings, I thought it was sky high to pay 85 cents a gram for special toggles and connectors, that no one else had. I think most of my last purchases for the really great findings was in the neighborhood of $1.10 per gram sterling and maybe $2.10 for gold vermeil and gold filled. You can imagine my surprise when I returned this past spring to jewelry design and I finally computed how much it would cost me to replinish my supply of precious metal findings as I worked down thru my stash! At a recent show production line Bali sterling silver was $2 a gram and the prices went up from there to around $4.00 a gram and more--wholesale. Other materials have gone up too, but not by the same proportion. Is it any wonder that copper, bronze and brass have replaced the metals used in jewelry design?
Last week I wanted a handful of 4mm jump rings, didn't want to wait to order them so I went to my local retail jewelry store. They wanted 30 cent each for sterling silver 4mm jump rings. They were 22 guage and by my calculations that would mean sterling jump rings were going for close to $300 an ounce. Whaaaaaat?!? If you bought 100 you got a 25% discount--now that's a deal! That was a retail store, but wow! I think I'm going into the jump ring business!!!
So, going with the trend, because taste has followed right along,--the once snubbed copper and brass, are now the fashion followers new 'must haves', I went in search of some new findings with those metals. Ack!!!! Findings in pure copper and quality antiqued brass or bronze are more than I last paid for sterling silver, just three or four years ago! I do understand the pricing for sterling and gold filled/vermeil findings due to the market prices for those metals, but I really do not understand copper. It is currently trading for around $3.40 a pound...not an ounce, a pound...so how did copper findings get so expensive? I look at my boxes of sterling silver and realize I have to pay the same or more for copper and that is sticker shock. Then I look at my sterling silver and fine silver and gold vermeil findings and realized that if I use them and want to replace them, it prices my jewelry designs in the pricy range. So I try to split the difference--use a little, price things fairly. I think I may just save my silver for scrap--it's an investment hedge and using it in jewelry I'm looking old school and costing too much, lol. Of course, the real conundrum comes--replace it with base metals components that require a substantial investment at current prices and they don't really have much actual value compared to precious metals. What to do, what to do!
An example---this Saki Silver sterling and gold vermeil clasp is 28mm, retails around $85, I'm offering it for $60--about a 30% discount.
Some Saki silver sterling connectors that currently retail for $18 apiece I'm destashing for less....
and it goes on. Some of these things have become almost impossible to find, As I get them photographed I have lots more to share... and possibly whittle down my stash...or not. Otherwise my surplus will just end up as an inflation hedge. It's likely on the way, so maybe silver will be the new gold standard!