Friday, November 20, 2009

Jewelry Blog Carnival -- The Soaring Cost of Fine Metals

Have you noticed the prices of metals are soaring? A check yesterday showed the price of silver to be $18.41 per ounce. Even so, silver is a bargain compared to gold at $1135.50 and platinum at $1435.00.

The topic for the blog carnival today is how the rising price of metal has affected my work. I have to say that it really has not changed my approach in any way, probably because my predominate metal is silver.

Yes, earlier in the year, I toyed with bronze clay, which is substantially less expensive than silver. Many metal clay artists are moving to bronze to reduce costs. However, the work required in making jewelry from bronze clay is just as extensive, if not even more so, than when making silver clay jewelry. Truthfully, the labor in my work is the more substantial part of the cost. I like the look of bronze for some purposes, but with my high labor investment, the cost of materials is less significant than if I were making simple pieces.

I suppose it depends on how I define my target market. Since I don't do a lot of shows where lower end jewelry would be in high demand, I don't focus on that type of work. I make what I love to make, which is technically challenging and time intensive, and then I let it find its appropriate home. My buyers are typically those with an appreciation of the skill and artistic abilities involved and a willingness to pay for something beautiful, handmade and one-of-a-kind.

My long term aims are to market my jewelry to the very high end jewelry galleries and markets, so if anything I'm tending to drive my work in the direction of increasing prices by adding such distinctions as gorgeous stones, 22K gold, and enamel. If cost cutting were a serious issue for me at this time, I'd move toward using more conventional silver rather than the doubly expensive metal clay.

Of course, I have the luxury of having financial support from my husband so that I can make this choice. Life constraints might make this choice different for others, in which case cost savings might steer such an artist toward simplification rather than intricacy. If money were my goal though, I'd still be working as a scientist, since it paid a lot better than art!

Shown above: a simple silver clay window piece, with fun 3D effects due to attaching prefired fine silver balls to the flat window. Shrinkage curved the edges with the balls out of the plane. This piece is waiting for a hand-painted enamel on glass tile and a box assembly to hold that tile, plus some larger structure or added embellishment to give the piece more heft, since it turned out to be too small in scale. Such is my work: a long process.

Read the views of other members of the Jewelry Blog Carnival on this topic at these links:
Angela Baduel-Crispin
Andes Cruz
Tonya Davidson
Marco Fleseri
Tamra Gentry
Elaine Luther