Breaking down a custom piece, fee by fee
Editor’s Note: Knowing how to price your work, especially when you’re just starting out, is never an easy feat. It’s a lesson that Cady Carlson Dill learned the hard way. Like many new designers, she faced the common combination of not being able to find information about pricing jewelry and being concerned that she might price her work too high, believing that lower prices would help build up her client base. This is evident in this custom 14k white gold and diamond pendant that Dill crafted in 2018, just four years into her career as a designer.
My client knew roughly what she wanted: a white metal pendant, roughly the size of a quarter that could be dressed up or down and that was comfortable to wear. I already knew her general style as a mixture of clean, organic shapes and neo-expressionism. I initially presented her with renderings of an amoeba-esque circle and flush-set diamonds upcycled from jewelry she no longer wore. Including a few minor alterations I made, it took me just under four hours to design a printable file in CAD. At the time, I charged $60 an hour for design time. After I had five years of ex-perience, I upped my price to $65 an hour. I’m currently toying with the idea of bringing my price up to $75 per hour. I don’t charge for the time consulting with clients. Total Fee: $225
Cady Carlson Dill
Cady Carlson Designs, Tulsa, Oklahoma
My client wished to use diamonds from jewelry pieces she owned. We discussed various white metals for the piece. I didn’t want to set her gorgeous diamonds in sterling silver, and she didn’t care for the bright white color of platinum, so white gold was a good middle ground. The cost for just over 3 pennyweights of gold was $125.93. When I was getting started, I added only a 50 percent markup on materials because I couldn’t find any comparative information. While I did know that it was low, I was trying to build up word-of-mouth to increase my clientele. Even though I had hardly any overhead, this was a risky move and I wouldn’t recommend it to others starting out. In hindsight, I should have tripled the metal cost and charged the customer $377.79, but I consider it a lesson learned. Total Fee: $188.90