Manufacturing jewelry isn’t as hard as you think. You just need to know the in’s and out’s of the process.
First of all, here’s a little secret: You don’t have to know how to sketch or draw to create jewelry.
Yes, it does help but it’s not crucial. Drawing out the design is just the process of putting your thoughts onto paper so the manufacturers can understand your vision. All you have to do is have the visualisation of the jewelry design in your mind and then you’ll be able to go from there.
After you pass your drawings over to a designer or an artisan, they will review the various details and look closely at the dimensions and materials. From there, they may advise you of any risks that go with the design. For example, the usage of certain materials might not go with certain stones or the jewelry pieces as a whole may not sit well on a particular body part. They will tell you all of that. As the creator of the jewelry, you’ll have to work with them to come up with the best way to create the jewelry piece.
Once you get to the manufacturing stage, you should determine who your target market is as this will determine whether you go with a large manufacturer or an artisan producer. If you go with the larger manufacturer, they’ll ask you what your target price is per piece. From there, they will give you a minimum order that you’ll need to fulfill. Usually, this comes to about $2,000 to $3,000 U.S. dollars for the total order. If you’re making more than one style of jewelry, you’ll need as much clarification during this part of the process as possible. Sometimes, this minimum order is only limited to one style so you’ll have to ask the manufacturer how many styles this quote pertains to. Artisan producers charge by piece so the cost per item will be much higher.
By using a larger factory as opposed to an artisan, you’ll be asked for a higher minimum order but you’ll most likely be able to get a one-stop shop for all your manufacturing needs. For example, if you want to use precious metals, insert stones, engrave letters, or add a coating, they’ll be able to add that in as part of their service. Smaller workshops and artisans will most likely not be able to do the same. They might have a cheaper price per gram of silver or gold but they’ll only tend to focus on one area of expertise. For example, they’ll be able to only help you with crafting the silver, providing the stones, or adding the coatings- rarely all three. Even if the main workshop can help you with all these services they will most likely be outsourcing it to other workshops and the lead-time will take much longer since the other workshops will probably place your piece at the back of the queue.
So how do you find these manufacturers in Asia? A quick search on the Internet or a visit to any trade show will show you that there is no shortage of manufacturers in this part of the world. After narrowing down those that fit your needs, you’ll have to go and visit the factories personally to see what they are all about. If you and the manufacturer end up getting along, there is a good chance that they may waive their preconditions.
Usually, a reputable manufacturer will welcome you to visit their factory and won’t mind signing any confidentiality agreements with you. They’ll also have policies in place to prevent their workers from taking away their customers’ designs. Logically, it is always in the factory’s best interest to safeguard their clients’ designs. However, don’t be surprised if there are no formally written contracts presented to you. Usually a formally written contract should come from your side.
In terms of product consistency, don’t be surprised if you get small variations between different batches of production. It happens. However, if there are any large differences or something is not done to specification, a reputable manufacturer will take ownership and reproduce that particular batch as those who don’t won’t survive very long. Jewelry manufacturers all need to protect their reputation to get more customers like you.
Co-written by Michelle Yuan and Alison Tam, founder of Pretty Dangerous