Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jewellery Sales in an Economic Downturn

Recently, I've been asked by a number of customers about how our sales have been at Stones and Findings. They've wondered if the economic downturn has affected the sales of our jewellery components. Some have mentioned that their sales have been affected, and a number of component suppliers have also seen their sales plummet. Stones and Findings' year over year monthly and tradeshow sales have, in fact, increased dramatically. It is an interesting, and a happy, situation and I've spent a bit more time looking into the reasons behind this. I want to do more of what we're doing right, and if there are any formulae or secrets that can be transferred from the jewellery component wholesale business to jewellery designing and sales business, I'd like to share them with our customers.


I realize the economy has been tough recently, and may continue to be so for a while. Jewellery purchase is a discretionary spending for the most part. However, historically, when the economy has been poor, we find that sales of certain things that beautify our world increases. They are pick-me-ups, and help remind us that we're still going to be okay. I do believe that jewellery is one of these things, and I know some people who swear by it. I've spoken to many boutique owners and chain store buyers, some of whom carry other categories of merchandise such as clothing and giftware. They are finding that instead of buying entire wardrobes, customers are buying pieces of jewellery that accent and update their current wardrobe. It is less expensive and more fun.


However, if you look at it more closely, the items that get squeezed out are mainly the very low end, disposable pieces, and the very expensive. Customers are buying fewer jewellery pieces than before. However, they're buying items that represent something, that resonate with sense of well being. As a result, boutiques that are carrying the unique, locally made (representing Canadian jobs), and pretty things are faring better than chain stores that import the mass production jewellery designs. People already have the mundane. They're certainly not going to spend further limited dollars on buying what they already have. They will, however, spend on jewellery pieces that are different and make them feel good about themselves and about wearing them. They are still cautious about prices, and they won't stock up huge quantities, but they will purchase the right things. This said, as jewellery designers, our customers are right to monitor the situation carefully, and make their selections wisely. Their designs must be unique, and priced well. The components they choose must be different and also priced competitively. And I think that is why our jewellery component wholesale business has been almost doubling.

New customers do test orders with us even though they don't want to bother switching from their current suppliers for a few cents less. However, they have never seen many of our jewellery components elsewhere. We create a number of our own jewellery findings, and we are making more and more of these because of how popular they've proven to be. Customers come back and place ever increasing orders because they realize how easy it is to make different and elegant jewellery designs when they have the right components to begin with. We are finding more and more customers switching a greater percentage, if not entirely, to Stones and Findings. And this is very satisfying. We know we have unique components that are well made and well priced. Our quickly expanding

Gold and Silver in the 21st Century Economy...

...and what it Means to the Accessories Industry

by: Damien Zielinski

Precious metals have always commanded the attention of both stock market traders and jewelry aficionados alike, but until recently the two have been mutually exclusive. As we bear witness to a continuing surge in the market value of gold and sterling silver and prices that are at an all-time high, it seems that exchanges normally confined to trading floors will be the topic of conversation at showrooms and boutiques… whether the jewelry community likes it or not.

Never insulated from concepts of money and riches, gold and silver have been symbols of wealth, prestige, and beauty since antiquity. Instantly recognizable and culturally transcendent, these precious metals seem to epitomize luxury. While it could be possible that the most beautiful minerals happen to be the most rare and expensive, the truth is that interest in precious metals is also caused, quite simply, by their scarcity: they are, by definition, precious in this world, and occur in limited quantity. If one should wear a gold chain around his neck, they are not only making a stylistic statement with the highly reflective and tantalizingly coloured element, but are also to some degree aligning their image with the kings, queens, pharaohs, and emperors who have been adorned by gold in the past. To wear gold is to say 'I can afford to wear gold.' However, the high market worth of pure gold only means so much when low karat alloys, plating, and gold vermeil enter the picture: one can look like royalty without necessarily footing a royal bill. With such innovations, it is difficult to assess whether or not gold still bears any meaningful imperial association with monarchs of old, but surely these impressions still linger, to some degree, in the subconscious of modern jewelry wearers, designers, and observers. The history and culture of the metal is simply so long and so rich that such connotations will always be ingrained in the collective mind.

Another complicating factor in the unfolding stories of gold and silver is that of their use as currency in the premodern era. With the establishment of Lydian mints in 700 BC, the precedent was set, and the association of silver with monetary value was inherited by countless civilizations. The words 'silver' and 'money' are synonymous in at least 14 different languages, and the contemporary stock exchange still uses gold as a benchmark litmus indicator for the market as a whole. Banks still carry gold bullion, and your grandparents probably have at least one silver dollar lying around somewhere. While it seems preposterous to actually wear money, no one is bothered by the time-honoured duality of gold and silver as fashion accessories and units of currency both. Yet, there is a kind of tension in this double nature: while the cultural appreciation of gold and silver has remained relatively unchanged, enjoying what seems to be permanent appreciation in the jewelry industry throughout transient fads and passing fashions, the market value of both metals is notoriously unstable.

Investors and traders are used to sitting on edge as numbers rise and fall, but there is less awareness of gold and silver's market worth for ground-level jewelry consumers. The reason for this is that global market-level fluctuations in value are not reflected in the prices of wholesale jewelry components at a rate that expresses the actual speed of market changes. In other words, while silver prices change daily, a jewelry designer may only buy silver components monthly. Something like gasoline, for example, is constantly priced based on market value, keeping the everyday consumer in touch with stock exchange realities, but precious metals have the effect of incremental increases and decreases that correspond with the rate of wholesale purchases. So, while wholesalers of components tend to buy silver and gold at prices directly dictated by market worth, a desire to remain competitive and shock repeat customers as little as possible causes more sporadic price increases than are actually representative of silver's true value at any given time.

As the bull market keeps rising, precious metals grow even more expensive, and wholesalers are unable to break even without raising prices. Having to shell out more for the same metal goodies may frustrate small businesses and amateur designers, and can come at some consternation if the market forces aren't understood. 'If silver and gold prices have always been changing, and the price hasn't significantly affected the consumer,' one might ask, 'why should prices go up so much now? And after all, couldn't market values go back down just as suddenly?'

It is always possible, and the stock exchange is naturally defined by unpredictability, but recent trends seem to suggest otherwise: since the spring of 2000, gold and silver have both more than doubled in worth, standing in contrast to a long period of relative stability since the last big spike in 1980. The central cause of the increase has been widely credited to a huge surge in demand associated with new and expanding markets in parts of the world that, previously, did not account for nearly as much jewelry consumption.


India and China, especially, have recently witnessed a tremendous growth of the middle class, and a proportionate demand for things that such families crave, like travel, services, and luxury commodities. In attempting to explain the impact of this rising consumerist presence on the prices of gold and silver, some have pointed, for example, to gold's historic prominence in Chinese culture, and the resulting love of it that courses through the veins of Chinese people and transcends visual appeal. It is also said that Indian culture is even more reverent to precious metals, and that certain Indian ceremonies like weddings tend to spur gold purchase on such a large scale that stock market spikes can actually be mapped on a calendar. Whether or not investigations into localized histories and cultural stereotypes are even necessary, truthfully, is debatable at best. The simple reality is that enormous populations of jewelry wearers have exploded onto the scene, and their demand for gold and silver don't need any 'deeper' explanation. Statistics also show that demand for silver is actually going down in other fields, such as photography, which due to increasing digitization relies less and less on silver nitrate.

This rise in demand is occurring against the backdrop of an actual increase in the production of precious metals- 2005 saw, for example, an all time high in silver output. It has been recorded that 50% of all gold produced in history has been mined after 1960. Both of these figures demonstrate that increasing scarcity is not the issue; these things have never been more readily available. Almost all 'scrap' silver and gold is melted down and reused, so not only are we producing more, but we tend to lose almost none. With such extraordinary abundance, it seems as though prices should be going down. Unfortunately, the wealth in supply is met by an even greater presence of global demand, and therein lies the rub.

There is just no way around the fact that everyone loves to adorn themselves with gold and silver, and with record-breaking demographic transitions, millions more are suddenly able to afford it. The results are a stubborn bull market offering no sign of relent, and sweeping price changes that can no longer sit under the radar of designers and artists who would rather focus on fashion trends than those of the stock market.

Back to School Sale! July 28-August 31!

For those students out there, here's a sale just for you!
With a valid student ID, you can purchase from Stones and Findings with NO WHOLESALE MINIMUMS!

And for those of you who still want in on the sale, we're giving 5% off of all regular priced Pearls, Crystals and Stones with every purchase of $150 or more!

Wow your teachers with your bedazzling jewellery!
Stock up now!

Sterling Silver Chains Buying Decision Making

There are many things to consider when buying sterling silver chains , or any chains for that matter: unit cost, estimated possible uses, conduciveness to either short or long designs, my total budget, where we are in the season sales cycle, ease of reorder.

Unit cost of the Sterling Silver Chain

This is pretty basic. If the sterling silver chain is inexpensive, I can afford to buy more. Chances are, shipping or travel cost to get more will cost more than the sterling silver chain itself. I buy more just in case. If it is more expensive, then I defer the decision to other considerations.

Estimated Possible Uses

The more possible designs you can think of on the spot for the sterling silver chain , the more you should buy. However, as we all know, design ideas come to you after you've worked with bits of it. Sometimes ideas evolve. Some people say they can create designs in their head and then go back to buy the component. This ability, if it really exists to the extent some give themselves credit for, is rare. Most designers, like me, are tactile. They need to handle the sterling silver chain , and even link it up in different places. There is no perfect estimate. You don't want to go overboard, but there are some guidelines. If it is a staple like a sterling silver cable extension chain , you know you’ll use it up. Buy more. If the sterling silver chain can be used for obviously many things, like the sterling silver beading chain , buy more. If thesterling silver chain is more expensive, but you think you can cut it into sections for earrings, blend with cheaper chain for something long, works well as bracelet, like the hammered link buy more. You should always estimate your possible uses and then multiply with some rule of thumb, which I'll share later.

Short Chain or Long Chain

If the sterling silver chain looks like it would best be, or can be, used for a long necklace, I always buy more. One metre of sterling silver chain will just be long enough for one long necklace. There are some sterling silver chains that are obvious candidates for long designs such as this long oval sterling silver chain. Others aren't as obvious. If the sterling silver chain selection is in the grey area, buy slightly more you would otherwise.

Total Budget Considerations

I always have to think about this, though I don't always follow it when I am at a show or if I find some very exciting things. However, if I'm tight on budget, I defer this to the following two considerations below.

Position in the Season Sales Cycle

If it is at the beginning, I use up my budget on variety, but keeping in mind the number of samples and designs I will need to make. Also, I have to see if I am willing to take reorders for my work, and the lead time. So, if you have sale representatives or are sending samples out to boutiques, you will have to see how many simultaneous sets you need at the beginning of the season. If the lead time is small, you have to take into consideration of possible orders and accommodate. At the beginning of the season, buy more to accommodate the above and also note what possible designs you can make left over sterling silver chains into if your initial designs don't fly off the shelves. If it is at the end of the cycle and you are just filling in orders, buy less, keeping in mind how fast your delivery needs to be for your customers and from suppliers. If it is short for customers, but your supplier is far away or has a long lead time, you will have to buy more and hold stock.

Ease of Reorder


I always ask the supplier if they are carrying certain components forward. If yes, I can buy less. If no, or it is a close-out item, I buy a lot more, or will buy everything and if the quantity is high, I will see if I can get further discount if I buy everything. If you like something and it is being discontinued, you can shift your budget a little. The item can be used later. If it is being carried forward by the supplier, but they are far, hold more stock. Again, sometimes shipping is more costly than the merchandise.

Some Rules of Thumb

There are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Short necklaces are about 18" (can make 2/m of chain), bracelets are about 7", long necklaces that you can wrap 2x around the neck are at least 34", if you want to wrap 3x you need min of 44"

  • If you’re a small designer, remember you need to make and wear pieces yourself. Some customers don’t like to buy items worn by someone else, or you might become attached to it. Always buy enough for make, at the very least, 2 sets.

  • A good designer knows colour variations are a great way to increase sales. Ideal colour selection is 3 to 4 colours. This is usually the case for clothing designers.

  • I bought components for samples in 6's when I was a smaller designer. This gives you 3 pairs of earrings or 2 complete necklace and earring sets. I’ve graduated to 48's when I started doing other colours. For single colour items, I buy 24 if the lead time is less than 3 weeks for delivery to my customers. For chains, I buy expensive samples in 5 metres, and inexpensive in 10 metres. If it is less than $5/m, much cheaper just to do 25m spools.

  • For items that go to my sales representatives, I take the above and multiply each by 1.5.

  • How to Take Care of Freshwater Pearls

    Most pearls today are cultured pearls. Stones and Findings carries a large variety of freshwater pearls , in many sizes, shapes and colours. To ensure that the high quality luster, and colour of the pearl remains unchanged, you should be aware of the risks in cleaning freshwater pearls. Below, you will find some tips on how to safely and gently clean, polish and take care of your freshwater pearl jewelry, to ensure durability and longevity.

    First, it is important to remember that unlike semi-precious stones, freshwater pearls are organic. Freshwater pearls are created when one inserts a bead into a clam or oyster. Since the clam or oyster sees this as a foreign object, it proceeds to coat it with nacre. This nacre is the patina that gives the freshwater pearl its beautiful luster. To maintain it you make sure you follow these guidelines:


    Maintaining your Pearls

  • Put your freshwater pearls on after you apply your makeup and perfume. This will ensure that no foreign substance will deposit on the pearls, dulling the shine.
  • Always remove any freshwater pearl jewellery before applying body or hand lotion
  • Always store your freshwater pearls individually in a soft cloth or pouch. This will ensure that they will not rub against each other, thus scratching the surface. If this is not possible, at least ensure they are not stored together with other gemstones or jewellery pieces, as these will definitely scratch your freshwater pearls.

  • credit:

    Cleaning your Pearls

  • Before you store your freshwater pearls, make sure you wipe them with a soft cloth. You should try to do this as soon as you remove them for the day.
  • For dirtier pearls, try cleaning with a damp cloth. If that is ineffective, feel free to apply some mild soap in lukewarm water, and try cleaning with a soft cloth. Make sure you let them dry thoroughly before storing.

  • Pearl Cleaning Don'ts

  • Do notput any of your freshwater pearl jewellery in ultrasonic cleaners. While this method will likely clean any sterling silver metal on your jewellery piece, it will damage the luster of the pearl completely.
  • Do not use any solutions that contain ammonia or other harsh chemicals around pearls.
  • Do not use abrasive cleaners on your freshwater pearls or rub any of your freshwater pearl jewellery with an abrasive cloth. This will rub and scratch the pearl, leaving it lackluster.

  • To view the wide selection of freshwater pearls that Stones and Findings carries, please click here .

    Friday, July 17, 2009

    Pictures of Our New Components!

    Stones and Findings just got a new shipment of silver!
    Included are some old favorites, some custom designed medallions and great magnetic wishboxes!

    For More, check out our website!


    Every 2 weeks, Stones and Findings gives our customers something special!

    This week, you can choose a strand of stones to take home with every purhcase of $150 or more!

    Click here for more!

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Gold Vermeille

    Gold vermeil (pronounced 'vermay') refers to metal that has been plated with a thin layer of gold. Usually the base metal is sterling silver, and if the item is to qualify as gold vermeil, it must have at least 10 karat layer of gold 1.5 micrometres thick. Stones and Findings carry gold vermeille chain and jewellery components with a plating of 22 to 24 karat gold.

    Gold vermeil was originally produced in France in the mid-18th century through a process called fire gilding. However, a key component of the fire gilding process was mercury, and so much of it was needed to plate the base metal (about twice as much as gold, by weight), that it was an incredibly dangerous process, frequently resulting in blindness or other injuries. Unsurprisingly, fire gilding of this sort was eventually banned by the French government.

    A century later in England, George and Henry Elkington were able to develop and patent a new way of plating metals known as electroplating. Electroplating is an electrochemical process that applies positive and negative charges to metals, causing them to associate favourably. The process is, thankfully, totally safe and mercury free. As a result, we have continued using the same process pioneered by the brothers Elkington up until the present day, with only minor modifications and refinements.

    Modern electroplating deposits some 120 layers of gold onto the base metal, creating affordable, tarnish-resistant gold vermeil jewellery that can last for decades with proper care.

    To look at various examples of brushed and shiny gold vermeille, click here.

    For other examples of gold vermeille,click here.

    Sterling Silver Togggles

    Sterling Silver Toggles

    One of the most interesting and timeless closures is the sterling silver toggle. Since the beginning of time, humans have found that by wedging a piece of bone or wood through a smaller loop, you can create a secure wedge from which you can pull hard without the bone or stick coming through. The toggle lock has since evolved into many fancier forms, but the idea remains the same. Sterling silver toggles have essentially a toggle, which is the loop part of the lock, and a bar, the stylized stick part of the lock. Stones and Findings carries many different toggles . We have brushed toggles , leaf toggles and round toggles .
    We pride ourselves on our uniqueness and the cleverness of some of our sterling silver toggles.

    We sell toggles separately from our bars because they are interchangeable. You can wear some of the sterling silver toggles as pendants. One of the examples if our leaf toggle . We create a number of varieties of leaves like this. At the same time, we also make other shapes of hearts and free-forms. Also, we have toggles where the loop is not obviously a loop, but rather it is blended as part of the design of the leaf or branch.

    You can use the bars of the sterling silver toggle locks only if you are using chains with suitably sized link holes. We have some sticks that are extraordinarily long to accommodate larger chain loops. For example . Sometimes, designers might want to use stone pendants with large holes as the toggle part and buy only the stick part to create toggle effect. Conversely, designers might want to use our fancy toggles with a biwa (or stick pearl) as the stick part. Possibilities are endless. And we've created a plethora of designs for different purposes.

    *credit - queenbjewelry*

    I am fond of designing with the toggle in the front, which allows for other charms and stones to be easily hung from the toggle. However, my favorite is putting the sterling silver toggles to the side. You can make it stay in that position by anchoring a heavy pendant to the necklace.

    Toggles have a shortcoming of not being readily adjustable in length, unlike a lobster clasp with an extension chain. However, that can sometimes be remedied. You can position a loop, for example a large soldered ring on the same side of the chain as the stick part. Then, you can pull the stick and chain through the toggle and use the loop as a second toggle loop, thus shortening the chain. This method will give you two possible lengths for the necklace.

    Well made sterling silver toggles will be very secure. You hear horror stories of the necklace or bracelet falling off and of losing them on the street. That often happens when the stick is too short. Stones and Findings made their sterling silver toggles extra long for their sets. You should always test the length and security of the toggle clasp by taking two sets and inserting the bar of one into the toggle of the other and working it to see them to see their security. However, if a second set is not available, you should measure the half length of the bar. It should be at least 20% longer than the widest part of the toggle.

    Sterling silver toggles are fun and they can be very clever. I highly recommend you try designing with them outside of the traditional round shape and get creative with how you position them.

    Sterling Silver Beads

    Silver Beads

    Silver Beads allow for great accents to Jewellery Making. They come in all shapes, sizes and forms, and from different countries. Silver Beads make great accompaniment for Semi-precious Stone Beads , Fresh Water Pearls and crystals, because of the contrast in lustre and texture. Silver Beads is an effective and inexpensive way to add accent to earrings.

    Shiny Silver Beads

    Some of the best shiny Silver Beads come from Italy. They are machine made, and are seamless. Italians are known for their laser cut Silver Beads. They reflect light like a funky disco ball. Satin Silver Beads add a feeling of luxury. However, satin Silver Beads are difficult to clean once they have tarnished. Most Italian silver is plated or coated for anti-tarnish. Chinese factories produce excellent Silver Beads, but usually they are not coated in lacquer and tarnish faster than Italian Silver Beads.

    Antique Silver Beads

    Some of the best antique Silver Beads come from Bali. This style of antique and intricate Silver Beads is famously known as Bali Beads. However, many similar Silver Beads are made in India, but some still call them Bali Beads, when they are in fact, not made in Bali at all. You can tell the difference between Silver Beads made in India from those made in Bali. Bali silver is generally better quality, and more intricate. Generations of Indonesians have been making Silver Beads in their homes. The craft has been passed from generation to generation. Indian Silver Beads have come on the market in the past decade as a cheaper alternative, however, their quality has been improving and they are gaining a larger share of the Silver Beads market.

    Shiny Brushed Silver Beads

    Indians have been making brushed hollow Silver Beads, which have become very popular with the North American Jewellery Making crowd. They are modern, and lend an update look to the venerableSilver Bead. These Silver Beads work very well with Silver Chains and crystals and stones. They lend a clean look to balance colours and unusual shapes.

    Hollow-form Silver Beads

    Some of the most interesting hollow-form Silver Beads from Isreal. Stones and Findings carries a large variety of Isreali hollow Silver Beads, to see a sample: Sterling Hollow Bead. Instead of casting from a rubber mould, Silver Beads is made in was, lightly painted in a conductive paint, and sat in the plating tank for hours. A heavy layer of Silver is formed on top of the wax shape. The wax is then melted and dripped out of a hole in the Silver Beads. What you're left with is just the Silver in the Silver Bead. It is a much more labour intensive process, and will cost more per gram then solid Silver Beads. However, the bead requires a lot less silver. Hollow Silver Beads are less expensive, thus cost effective for larger shapes.

    Silver Earring Components

    Silver Earring Components
    by C.S.

    There are limitless possible earring designs. However, popular Earrings have certain Jewellery Components in common. These Jewellery Components fall under the general categories of: Earring Hook component, and Findings, and sometimes Chains for longer earrings.

    Earring Hook Component

    This is the Earring Component that attaches the earring to the ear. It can be in the form of a Earring Hook, Earring Stud, Clip-On Backing. Stones And Findings carry a number of Silver Earring Hooks, Silver Leverbacks, and Silver Earring Studs. Sterling Silver Earring Findings, as well as Gold-Filled Earring Hooks and Gold-filled Leverbacks, and Gold Filled Earring Studs Gold Filled Findings.

    Open ended Sterling Silver Earring Componentsallow for Semi-precious stone beads crystals to be inserted, and then a loop to be made for additional Earring Drops to be added. This allows for rather unusual accents for your Earring Designs.

    Leverback Earring Components

    Leverback Earring Components are wonderful and preferred by many Jewellery Designers because they don’t fall off the ear no matter how active the wearer is, and no matter how much their ear piercing has been stretched. The best Silver Leverback Earring Components come from Italian and Chinese factories, using Italian machines. Stay away from Silver Leverback Earring Components made in India, Thailand, and Bali. The spring mechanisms are not as strong, and don't spring back the way Italian machine made ones do. The price difference for Silver Leverback Earring Components is negligible, but the quality is highly noticeable.

    Earring Studs

    Earrings Studs are sometimes preferred to Earring Hooks, especially for those whose ear piercings have been stretched. The Earring Stud hides the stretched holes, which Earring Hooks do not. Silver Earring Studs and Gold-Filled Earring Studs are better than base metal because they come into contact with the skin. Some people are allergic to base metals, and even if there is a protective plating, the inside metal will leech out, sometimes changing the colour of a person’s skin. Earring Studs have more contact area with the skin.