How to Start a Business Making Jewellery
Whether you’re a hobby jewellery maker, a skilled artisan, or a jewellery lover with no experience making it yourself, you may have wondered if you have what it takes to start your own business making jewellery. While there is no shortage of competitors out there in the jewellery industry, the good news is that jewellery is a deeply personal item. Since it is often purchased as a reflection of personal style or for sentimental purposes and meaningful occasions, there is room for new niche players to capture some of the market if they have an appealing product that speaks to their target customer.
Before deciding if you’re ready to turn your side hustle or hobby making jewellery into a real business, it will be helpful to get a sense of what the market actually looks like today, what category or segment of the jewellery market you’d like to enter, the challenges you might encounter in this industry, and all the steps you’ll need to take to start your jewellery making business and market it to your target audience. We’ll cover all of these important considerations and more. By the end of this guide, you’ll be ready to take your first steps towards starting your new jewellery brand!
How much opportunity is there for a newcomer in the jewellery industry?
One of the first things any entrepreneur should consider when launching a new business is the current size and state of their target industry. There are pros and cons associated with entering a large, established and saturated market, and the same applies to entering a smaller, newer, less developed market.
Entering an established and saturated market means that you’ll have to work harder to differentiate your product from the rest of your competitors, and one of your major challenges will be convincing consumers who already buy products they like in your category to switch to your brand. However, it also means that you already know people are interested in your product and are willing to spend money on it.
Entering a small, new market means you have the opportunity to capture lots of new customers quickly, and you have less competition. You also might have to work harder to convince customers they should buy your new widget if it is something they have managed to live without until now.
Jewellery making, of course, falls in the first category: it is a supersaturated market, and there are already countless brands producing jewellery in many styles. In Canada, it is roughly a $3B market, while in the U.S., it is an impressive $70B market. While the majority of the market comes from the fine jewellery category, many brands are very successful in making fashion or costume jewellery, and there is an emerging in-between category that includes innovative new brands such as Mejuri. These new jewellery companies offer pieces made out of fine materials at more accessible prices than high-end brands by selling direct to consumers or finding other ways to bring savings to the end consumer. We’ll get into these different categories in more detail.
If you have a strong value proposition for your jewellery brand, there’s no reason you can’t capture your own piece of that huge market value.
How do I start my own business making jewellery?
The first step in getting started is making sure you understand the jewellery-making process, including different techniques, materials, and options for producing on a larger scale.
Next, you’ll want to think about the different market segments within the jewellery industry, and where your own brand will be situated. This will give you a chance to consider the different challenges you might encounter in your particular niche, and how to differentiate your brand so that it stands out in a crowded market.
Once your niche is defined, it’s finally time to think about where you will sell your product, and how you will market your brand to your target consumer.
Let’s go into each of these important steps, one by one.
Getting started with making jewellery
Jewellery making techniques
The methods used by jewellers to make their pieces depend on what kind of final product they are making.
1) Assembly. If you plan on starting a business making jewellery in the fashion or costume category, a common method is an assembly. If you are planning to use pre-made elements, such as chains, beads, and precast pendants, you will be assembling the various elements with tools like pliers and glue. This method requires the least amount of technical skill, but the results can still be impressive if you come up with an interesting, unique design and source high-quality elements.
2) Soldering. This is a very useful method for making jewellery, as it allows you to make more customized pieces. Soldering is a method that involves using a metal alloy with a low melting point to join different pieces of metal together. You can also solder around a stone to make a custom pendant. While soldering involves high heat and therefore, safety precautions should be taken, it is not a very complicated method, and it can really take your jewellery making to the next level.
3) Casting. This method for making jewellery involves creating a mould of the piece from wax, encasing it in plaster, then exposing the plaster to high heat so that the wax melts away. This is also sometimes called the lost wax method since the wax used to make the mould disappears. What’s left is a plaster cast that can then be used to cast the piece in metal. This technique requires specialized jewellery making supplies and a safe workspace, but the options for jewellery designs are endless.
4) Metalsmithing. Metalsmithing is a method that uses a wide range of jewellery making supplies to work metal into the desired shape. Metalsmithing includes softening the metal to make it workable, sawing or drilling desired parts of the metal, forming it into the desired shape, joining pieces of metal as required by your design, and finally finishing it so that it is smooth, shiny and attractive. Metalsmithing is a more advanced skill that is best learned through professional instruction.
5) Stone setting. As the name implies, stone setting is a method for setting semi-precious and precious stones. This is an essential skill for fine jewellery makers since expensive stones need to be set in a way that shows off as much of the stone as possible, while ensuring that the stone is secure and won’t fall out of its setting. Mastering stone setting takes some practice and is important if you plan to sell pieces that use valuable stones.
6) Textile techniques. If you plan to make jewellery using materials such as leather, fabric or embroidery threads, there are unique methods such as leather tooling and weaving that are used to work the material into your desired form.
7) High-tech techniques. In recent years, new methods that you can use when making jewellery, such as laser cutting and 3D printing, have been developed. This opens up the kinds of pieces you can make out of materials such as acetate and ceramics.
Jewellery making supplies
As you can tell from this list of methods, the range of potential jewellery making supplies is quite large and depends on which method you plan to use to make jewellery for your business.
If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the five most indispensable basic jewellery-making tools that every jeweller should have at their workstation. From there, you can build your toolkit depending on which direction you plan to go in and what specific methods you choose to use to make your pieces.
The tools a beginner jewellery maker should include:
- Wire cutters, which you will reach for frequently to cut not only wires but also the pins that are used in making many jewellery pieces.
- Chain nose pliers, which allow you to grip jewellery without denting the metal and to open and close jump rings.
- Round nose pliers, which allow you to create loops in your wire.
- Flat nose pliers, which are ideal for gripping jewellery while you manipulate it with another set of pliers.
- A crimping tool, which allows you to crimp specialized crimp beads into position. These beads are used in place of knots to finish beaded jewellery.
If you plan on making more advanced jewellery, your jewellery making supplies and tools may include:
- Soldering tools
- Etching and engraving tools
- Metal polisher
- Jeweler’s saw
- Specialized files
- Hammers and mallets for metalforming
- Ring mandrel
- Casting equipment
- A dedicated work bench with appropriate lighting
It all depends on which method you use to make your jewellery! Once you know what kind of pieces you’d like to make for your business, you can determine the best method and then purchase the supplies needed for that particular method.
Your jewellery-making toolkit should also include safety equipment, especially if you are soldering or metalsmithing. This includes goggles, gloves, and a proper ventilation system.
Jewellery making materials
While there is a wide range of materials that can be used for making jewellery, and this list is always expanding as new technologies are developed, such as 3D printing, the most common materials are metals, beads, wire, glass, and clay.
The most common metal used is silver, particularly sterling silver. It is relatively affordable, durable, and can be polished to remove tarnish.
Gold is frequently used because of its beautiful colour, improved hardness compared to silver, and durability. There are different types of gold, such as yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold. These refer to the different shades created through alloying the gold with other metals.
Platinum and titanium can also be used, but these are very expensive options. They are also durable, hard and resistant to tarnishing, making them popular for certain jewellery applications.
Base metals such as copper and brass are affordable options, although they do tarnish and can cause irritation when they come in contact with the skin for some people.
Educational tools for making jewellery
Nowadays, there are some excellent online tutorials and resources to learn even advanced jewellery making skills. Many universities’ art departments have jewellery making courses that can be accessed online. The top ranking online jewellery making programs include those offered at the University of Kansas and the California College of the arts.
There are also free videos on YouTube and platforms such as Skillshare.
If in-person learning is more your style, check out jewellery making classes at your local college or local independent studios.
How to design jewellery
Ready to design your first piece? There are quite a few ways you can go about this. If you just need a simple design or template that you can use yourself, you might find that sketching out your design is all you have to do. There are also jewellery design templates you can purchase, and bead design boards if you plan to make primarily beaded pieces.
If you need a more sophisticated way to design your pieces and know your way around Adobe Creative Suite, Photoshop and Illustrator (or their free open source alternatives) can be used to create a design in advance of producing your piece. If budget is not a huge issue and you’ll be producing higher end jewellery, there are also specific programs you can purchase, such as RhinoGold or 3Design.
Your choice of jewellery design software might depend on how you produce your jewellery. For example, if you will be making it all yourself, you just need a system that works for you. If you employ people to help you, your design templates have to be very clear and legible to other people. If you’re outsourcing your production, your manufacturer might require templates created by specific programs.
Jewellery manufacturing and production
That’s right: starting a jewellery business does not necessarily mean you will be making all of the pieces yourself. You can hire people to help with production, but you should take into account the cost of paying an employee and make sure you build that into your product price.
Another option is to outsource production. Depending on where you live, you might be able to find local jewellery manufacturing in your area. This won’t necessarily be the cheapest option, but it’s nice to be able to visit the place where your pieces are made and to indicate that your pieces are made locally.
Many jewellery businesses manufacture their pieces overseas. You can find manufacturers on platforms like Alibaba. Make sure you spend some time getting to know your manufacturer and having them send you samples before you commit to using them. You will likely find major cost savings by working with an overseas manufacturer.
How do I choose which industry segment to enter?
When you start your new business making jewellery, you will have to decide if you want to position your brand as a fashion, or costume, jewellery brand, or a fine jewellery brand. While fine jewellery makes up the largest market share due to the higher price tag, fashion jewellery represents a growing market, especially as precious metal prices surge. There is no right answer, and it really depends on what type of pieces you enjoy making, are skilled enough to make, or can outsource.
It also depends on who your target customer is and where you plan to sell. We’ll get into more detail on these variables, but it is important to consider what your vision for your business is. Do you plan to sell in local boutiques in your area? If so, what price range are their items? How much are their customers willing to spend? If their typical spend is in the $50 range, you probably won’t be able to sell a $300 piece in that shop.
Another factor that may guide your decision making is how much you are willing to invest in your business upfront. Fashion jewellery requires much lower cost materials, so the startup cost is much lower than fine jewellery. In either case, you can run a successful home based business making jewellery, which is a great aspect of this business.
What are some successful jewellery businesses in each industry segment?
Fashion jewellery brand: 8 Other Reasons
8 Other Reasons create fashion-forward pieces that are stylish and affordable. Part of their success comes from keeping up with the latest trends and having a system in place to manufacture them at a more affordable price point using lower-cost materials quickly.
Fine jewellery brand: Blu Boho
Ontario-based BluBoho creates fine jewellery pieces for special occasions, such as engagements. However, they also offer some more affordable fine pieces that cost in the hundreds rather than in the thousands. This is a good strategy because it allows customers a chance to familiarize themselves with the brand and their quality before committing to a big-ticket purchase from them.
Affordable fine jewellery brand: Mejuri
There is an emerging category that falls in between fashion jewellery and fine jewellery, which takes advantage of direct-to-consumer sales channels such as Instagram and ecommerce platforms. Mejuri is a Canadian success story that has grown rapidly by offering fine pieces made out of gold, silver and precious stones, at a more affordable price point. This success was a result of selling online only and avoiding the cost of setting up brick and mortar shops.
Are there any major challenges to starting a business making jewellery?
As is the case with any new business, it takes a lot of hard work to get your brand off the ground. There are many interesting jewellery brands out there that your potential customers may already be loyal to, making it harder to convince them that your products are worth trying.
If you plan to use a third-party manufacturer for your products, another challenge may be finding a manufacturer you can partner with whose quality and workmanship you trust. Manufacturers may also have MOQs that are too high for your startup requirements. This may take some trial and error, but it is certainly not an insurmountable challenge.
The good news is that the start-up costs for making jewellery isn’t as high as those for many other new businesses. You can set up a workstation in your home, so you don’t necessarily have to rent office space to get started. As long as you can make a product that is differentiated from others in the market, there is a chance for your jewellery business to do very well.
So, how can I differentiate my jewellery business?
Maybe your designs are so unique that they are automatically differentiated from all of the other styles available on the market. However, even for many very successful brands, there are usually at least a few others out there producing very similar products. How do these brands get customers to shop from them, instead of from their competitors? This is where having a strong brand and visual identity becomes very important. Having a strong, memorable brand story can help too.
Think about who your target customer is. It helps to get very specific about this. If you are making jewellery for women, how old is your target customer? Where does she live? Where does she work, and how much does she earn? What are her hobbies and interests? What is her favourite season? Creating detailed customer profiles like this is very powerful because it allows you to target all of your messaging and even your mission statement to this ideal customer.
This way, you can make sure that all of your communications such as newsletters, Instagram captions, and email correspondence with customers and even your business name are in a consistent voice. Your visual communication, such as campaign photos and branded packaging will also align with this voice, which is designed to appeal to that target customer. Having a strong brand will help you differentiate your product since consumers will be interested in buying into the idea of the brand, not just the product itself.
Where can I sell my jewellery?
Ecommerce is an important channel for jewellery businesses since so many customers are active on Instagram and other social platforms. It’s easier than ever to set up your own ecommerce site using a website builder or even to sell directly through Instagram. There are lots of great shipping software options out there that make fulfillment more manageable even as your business grows. Since jewellery is light and small, shipping is generally simple and inexpensive.
Another option is to partner with other online retailers and list your product on their sites. While the retailer will take a cut of your profit, you get the benefit of their existing customer base being introduced to your product. You may even be included in their marketing efforts, at no additional cost to you.
Selling on a platform like Etsy also comes with a built-in audience, although certain types of jewellery will likely sell better on Etsy than others. For example, it might not be the first place customers go for a high-end fine piece. There are also tons of competition on platforms like this, making it extra important to have a clear voice and eye-catching visuals.
Of course, there is also the option of brick and mortar retail. With jewellery, customers love to be able to try on pieces before buying them. However, even if your goal is to sell primarily in retail stores, having an online presence and an ecommerce presence is increasingly critical. With so much competition, you want to make sure you meet your customers where they are.
Trade shows can be an effective way to sell your pieces wholesale to retailers, so you might want to look into gift shows in your area.
How can I market my jewellery making business?
There are many low- or no-cost ways to market to your target customer without breaking the bank. In addition to maintaining the social media profiles that are best suited to reaching your target customer, developing a newsletter strategy is a powerful marketing technique that can result in converting fans into paying customers.
A strong SEO strategy can be very effective in driving traffic to your site. Maintaining a blog that discusses topics of interest to your target customer, such as new jewellery trends or jewellery care guides, will allow you to use keywords that will drive more traffic to your site while giving customers a reason to keep visiting. Use this SEO checklist to make your content extra search engine friendly.
Contests and giveaways can be an effective way to grow your following, especially if you partner with other complementary brands.
Of course, in addition to these techniques, paid advertising can also be effective. Figuring out the channel with the greatest ROI might take some trial and error, but incorporating paid advertising into your strategy can get more interested eyes on your product.
If starting a new business making jewellery interests you, you now have the tools to get started!
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