Quality: We make designs of high-quality components, not cheap plastic and mass produced pieces. When you buy from the designer, you will know exactly what you are getting, because we can tell you. And we will. Any reputable designer is going to tell you up front if it is a reconstituted stone, if it is man-made and the story behind the stones/beads if there is any. We may even know the lamp worker who made the beads, and some of us kiln them ourselves. We can talk about how the wire was wrapped to create the bail it hangs from.
If it is a piece with lesser quality items, or perhaps some of our early pieces when we were learning a new technique, we will be very honest about that, too. Designers have nothing to hide, we want you to know. Yes, initially, some designers start using somewhat less expensive pieces as they are learning and building their inventory (yes, inventory—you should see the bead stashes we have!). Then, as they work with pieces and learn more about stones and find better suppliers, their quality improves. It doesn’t mean that the early pieces you buy aren’t “worth” the cost, they are. If anything, most designers underestimate the value of their work, so “newbies” are typically giving everyone great deals.
You may also learn about the inspiration that first gave us the idea to create the piece, and what we hoped the piece accomplished or “said” to the wearer, if any. I try to learn about stones, where they come from, how they are mined or found, and any other particular “tidbit” so I can let my customer—you—know what you are getting.
Fit, Color, and More: A designer can adjust the length to be exactly what you need, so it falls exactly where it needs to on the neckline of a certain dress, or because you don’t want the earrings to be quite that long. We can add stones, extenders, lengthen toggle clasps, and really, literally, remake a piece to fit you (or even small girls, I made bracelets and necklaces for my three-and five-year-old nieces, with five inch wrists and about twelve inch necklaces).
We can make something similar to a design we already have in another color, just ask. If you hate green but love a certain necklace, ask us, we can usually design something similar in the color you want.
Or, maybe you really like the necklace you see, but it’s just not “flashy” enough, ask us. We can remake that, adding more crystals and glass, rhinestones, or metal so it glints in light. We can add strands to make it bolder and more dramatic. Or we can tone down a piece so it isn’t as “blingy” if you prefer.
Exclusivity and Distinctiveness: Designers don’t mass produce anything. First, we can’t; none of us maintain an inventory that allows for making 200 bracelets in exactly the same colors and stones, unless that’s simply the only bracelet we make, period. Second, that’s not part of the designer’s creative nature. We may buy enough beads to make several pieces from that set of stones, but it won’t be the exact same thing. So, when you purchase from a designer, you are getting that one-of-a-kind, unique design that no one else will have. A customer once told me that she and three other friends, at different events, all purchased the same necklace from one of the network public jewelry companies, where you buy from someone hosting a jewelry party, generally in their home or from a catalog. She talked about how she didn’t like the fact that two of them might show up at the same event with the same piece on, or that they all knew exactly how much was paid for that piece. A designer’s piece is generally unique, unless you order something or want to purchase several for gifts. And, if a piece is designed especially to order by you, no one will make more than that to resell; special orders are, well, special.
I’ve been asked to make earrings to match a pendant someone purchased from someone else. Definitely it was a custom piece, I made a few different pairs for her to choose from and she selected the ones she wanted. We’ve also been asked to take a strand that is old or broken and use the beads to remake it into something the customer would wear (maybe an old strand that belonged to their grandmother or mother). We can rework old stones into new, current designs that you will proudly wear and tell others about.
Individuality: No, not us—you, the customer. You get to talk to the designer and can even have a private showing if you like. We can bring a selection of pieces to your home, work, or you can come to our homes and see what we have. You can pick out a certain gemstone and ask us to design a piece around that, or even bring us one you purchased while travelling. You can have our undivided attention as long as needed so we get an accurate idea of what you like and what you want. You don’t have to pick only from what you see, you can ask for this or that or even the other thing.
Price: Okay, I could kid myself and not put this first, but let’s be honest; we are all watching our money more closely these days. Designer prices tend to come in well under retail. We aren’t marking up our costs for three or four layers of “middle men and women” who also make a profit. Compare our pieces to similar ones in the better department stores or from most network resale public jewelry lines. Our prices are almost always lower. Designers can also offer discounts for multiple purchases, or add earrings for free, when you buy more than one or two pieces—you won’t see that in a department store. In addition, designers stand behind their work and their pieces, if something breaks, unravels, etc., we will fix it or replace it. And if you lose an earring—what store is going to help you get a replacement? Many designers can.
Customer Satisfaction: Well, I really touched on that in the price piece, but I think it’s worth expanding on. Someone who buys from a designer forms a one-on-one business relationship that is more intimate and personal than buying from a catalog or store clerk. We tend to bend over backwards to satisfy you, our customer. Yet, we all know we won’t get the same repeat business as those who make beauty products, soaps, candles, or food. Since jewelry isn’t consumable (well, except for those candy necklaces that were always on stretchy cord), you will have a piece for years. We do strive to make you a satisfied, happy customer who will remember us the next time you are shopping for jewelry. If we do really well, we hope you will tell your friends and we might get some referrals. Of course, all of that depends on us making you happy first. Perhaps going a step beyond what a commercial store can do or what a sales representative can offer.
Local, Handmade, Made in America: Finally, when you purchase from a designer, with his or her business in the home and possibly in your community, you are keeping dollars in your area, locally. Whatever your country, buying from the designer/individual means keeping money in your economy, and not supporting foreign business. There is no sweat shop where people are working all week for $1 in wages making the pieces.
No, designers can’t compete with $1 earrings from a discount store rack. First, we won’t even have components that are that cheap. Second, we pride ourselves on quality so we take great care with our work. Third, even if we can “whip out” a pair of earrings in ten minutes, that’s six pair an hour, for $6 per hour for our time. Finally, those ten minutes aren’t exaggerating if you include getting supplies, tools, making them, putting them on earring cards, pricing them, and then storing them. So, no, we’re not making “tons” of profit, but you won’t get quality at rock bottom cheap discount prices either.
Well, I hope some of the reasons “why” made some sense to you as the buyer. I also hoped I helped you understand a bit more about what a designer does. Any artisan, in any medium, can relate to these items, even if you sew, paint, or work with creative papers. You aren’t one customer pushing the revolving door, you are an individual we want to know and make happy with everything you purchase, or even if you don’t purchase anything at all!