How To Operate a Successful Jewelry Business

How To Operate a Successful Jewelry Business

Turn your love for crafting jewelry into a successful home-based jewelry business.

I’ve always loved earrings, and this love has turned into my dream career. It has also led me to great experiences and personal growth, along with a nice income.

Several years ago, after two decades of buying earrings everywhere I went, I received the birthday gift that changed my life – a book called “You Can Make Your Own Earrings”.

I was electrified at the realization that I really could make earrings for myself!

Obsessed, I sent for dozens of jewelry supply catalogs, ordered jewelry making supplies and tools, and began turning out dozens of pairs of handcrafted earrings. I made far more earrings than I could ever wear myself, so I gave earrings to everyone I knew and kept on making more of them. It was the most addictive hobby I’d ever had!

Finally, when my earring supply reached critical mass, my husband said, “I think you’re going to have to either stop making those earrings or start selling them.” And so my jewelry business was born. It’s been an enjoyable process that has brought me experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything. Thanks to my jewelry business, I’ve learned new skills, created my own solutions to challenges, and met kindred spirits. (Almost) every step of the journey has been fun!

I started selling my earrings at small art and craft shows, and consigned my work to gift shops and galleries. I made a lot of mistakes, and also had some early successes.

One of my earliest lessons was that you have to make what people want to buy, not just what you like to make! I found that I could make a lot more sales by offering other pieces of jewelry to match my earrings, so I diversified and began designing bracelets, necklaces, and pendants too. And although custom orders are not my favorite work to do, they can be very profitable, so I began accepting them too.

After doing a few shows, I learned that a professional looking display can sell ten times more jewelry than just a scattering of earrings on a table cloth. In the process of making that discovery, I found out that elaborate displays are a pain to set up and take down, and require a lot of closet space to store at home! So gradually I evolved my displays to my current setup, which looks professional, is lightweight and compact to store and transport, and stays loaded with my inventory and ready to go at all times. It takes me only half an hour or so to set up and take down my booth when I do shows, and if a customer calls wanting to come to my house to look at jewelry, I can just whip out a nice display on the guest bed in only a few minutes.

Offering my customers free gift wrap increased my sales, so I provide a selection of different types of elegant pouches, boxes, and bags. This is an especially important selling point around the holidays, when people are so busy. They appreciate my beautiful complimentary gift wrap so they don’t have to go home and hunt for a tiny box and wrap the jewelry themselves. I even offer to ship the gift for them if the recipient lives out of town. Anything you can do to simplify your customer’s life will make them remember you the next time they need to purchase a gift! Other jewelry packaging is also important. I found that the earring cards and jewelry hang tags I designed myself give my pieces a much more professional appearance, and I print my contact info on them as well as specific information about the stones used in the jewelry.

Another crucial selling point is accepting credit cards. I found that was my ticket to really big jewelry sales and profits. People will buy more if they can put it on their Visa or MasterCard instead of shelling out the cash right then and there, and many customers don’t have their checkbook with them anyway. So if you’re serious about making money from your handcrafted jewelry, it’s essential to accept credit cards.

I dabbled in selling my jewelry on eBay, and had some spectacular flops along with some thrilling successes. Jewelry is a very competitive niche on eBay, and success in the online auction market takes time to develop. To be a successful eBay jewelry seller you need to have a constant presence there, with at least a couple of auctions up at all times for your repeat customers to find. Clear, closeup photos of your jewelry are also crucial for eBay success.

I learned through a great deal of trial and error how to get professional-looking photographs of my jewelry. I finally figured out that my cheap digital camera just isn’t designed for close, clear pictures of jewelry, so I’ve mastered jewelry photography with my computer’s flatbed scanner. You can get some beautifully artistic jewelry photos with a scanner, and it’s a quick and simple way to get great shots for your website, auction listings, or other literature.

Home jewelry parties are one of the most profitable ways to sell handcrafted jewelry, and I spent some time figuring out how to make parties rewarding for the hostess without cutting into my profits too much. I also found that an open-house type of party with just light snacks and no party games gets the highest attendance and sells the most jewelry. And the number-one way to increase your home jewelry party profits and attendance is to have the hostess call all guests a day or two before the party to remind them about it and secure their commitment to attend.

Customers and shop owners assumed that since I was in business, I would have a website. So I learned how to build and promote my own site, how to set up a shopping cart, and how to accept online payments. A simple website design is best, so that your jewelry stands out. Although neat, flashy website features are fun to play with, you should resist the temptation to put them on your site. At best they distract visitors from your jewelry, and at worst they slow down the page’s loading so that visitors on a slow Internet connection will give up and hit the back button. And most especially, do not use any background images. They make it very hard to see photos and read text. Just a plain, preferably light-colored background is best for your visitors!

I discovered that keeping my jewelry dazzlingly clean and shiny catches customers’ eyes and increases the perceived value of my work, so I bought an ionic jewelry cleaner and tarnish-prevention strips and devised a tarnish-free way of storing my jewelry inventory. Now all my pieces have that spectacular “jewelry-store” sparkle!

One of the opportunities my jewelry business has brought me is teaching jewelry making workshops, which is very rewarding. However, I learned the hard way that workshops are a lot easier for me if everyone works on the same type of project at the same time, instead of each person doing a totally different thing! From jewelry workshops I discovered the market niche of providing bracelet-making birthday parties for girls, which is a fun way to spend a few hours and make some good money for your time.

I have to attribute the biggest leap in my professional development to online jewelry-making forums, where I’ve been immeasurably enriched by the professional information exchange and friendships. If you have any interest in operating your own jewelry business, participating in jewelry-making forums is a fun and important element of your success!

For your own jewelry business success, I encourage you to follow your artistic heart and think with your business brain. I recommend that you study jewelry trends and styles, learn everything you can about jewelry making materials, set up your business recordkeeping so that you stay organized, and concentrate on providing solutions to your customers’ problems. Don’t try to make all jewelry for all people; focus on your own style or niche and build a client base.

Rena Klingenberg’s website, Jewelry Making Journal, has thousands of success tips and techniques for jewelry artists of all levels. Her site includes in-depth articles on jewelry packaging and display, photographing jewelry, home jewelry parties, building your jewelry business website, selling jewelry on eBay, and dozens of other topics.

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