Jan 23

Jewelry Bids – a Necessary Step to Your Custom Project

By Calla Gold

From Drawing to Finished Ring

About Your Request for a Price for That Custom Ring

I regularly receive requests ranging from people asking for bids to size a ring, replace a gemstone or to make custom-designed wedding sets completely from scratch.

The more difficult the job, the more time I have to spend figuring out the cost of the job. Over the years as more and more people have found out about me, I’ve had to spend more and more time working out bids and what to charge.

Hmm, somehow in my rosey imaginings of being a jewelry designer I didn’t picture that part. If girls just wanna have fun, I just wanna design jewelry.

It’s Not Something I Dash Off in Two Seconds

Jewelry bid written notes

This is an Example of Drawings and Notes Using Two of My Designs as Examples of Design Details.

When you work on custom jewelry there are a lot of steps to it. Even if you like a design I have already made, chances are you want different sized gems or other alterations.

That means that I’ll start from scratch and make that ring to fit your finger, use your grandmother’s diamond or any other special request.

I’m just saying that time is spent on your design idea and the many steps to create it. And doing the bid is not a dead easy thing to do.

Happy New Year to You and Me

As a New Year’s present for 2017, I’ve decided to give myself the gift of time.

I’m seeing if I can’t lighten my time load by explaining a bit to you, the whole bid process.

Then you can help me by understanding this process. It’ll make it really nice for me to work with you on the bid step when  we’re both on the  same page.

George and the Free Bid

Bids should have lots of written detail of work to be done

This is a Bid Written up for Ring Restoration

When I’ve explained the design and bid process in the past I’ve found my clients to be more understanding. But not always to begin with.

I had a client, George, who wanted me to bid three different engagement ring styles with different center diamonds and to itemize each bid because he’s an engineer. I explained how I bid and the time it takes me.

“George, you are asking me to spend a couple hours per bid, doing drawings, searching for diamonds, itemizing pricing for gold, small diamonds, larger diamonds, CAD wax creation, casting, finishing, setting, hand engraving, labor, and like that. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you expect me to do all this for free to ‘win’ your business.”

An example of bids done simply

Simply Written Bid with Range of Pricing

“Oh, but I know I really want to work with you.”

“I’m afraid that I can’t block out all that free time for you. I have a lot of clients and custom jobs and it’s me, not a big huge business. I can give you basic guesstimates on the three styles and show you diamonds.  My other clients have expectations and deadlines and I have a husband who is my business partner and he doesn’t go for my giving away big chunks of time.”

“I’m an engineer, we like to know all the details. But I know I want you to design my ring.”

“You can pay for my time to do the bid work the way that you want it, or choose a diamond and pick one of the three styles I’ve sketched out and go with my bid range.”

“That bid range idea is suddenly more appealing.”

George chose a diamond and a style and his fiancé loved the ring he had created for her. And I stayed married. A big win all around.

This Would be Easier if I Was a Mathmetician

I am a designer first and foremost. Creating custom jewelry is my superpower! My joy! I love collaborating with clients to design and craft unique jewelry intended to complement their looks and lifestyles. Alas, this is not always an easy process and can take hours and hours.

Creating Jewelry Designs and Pricing are Intertwined

My Distance Client Eddbie Drew This Design.

When I start working with a client on a project, I have to sketch out the custom piece of jewelry, estimate how much gold it will take, and calculate the costs.

Among  other tasks I have to figure out how tall, how wide, how much curvature should be in each piece. I love  to figure out the textures and engraving and small details.

Some  of  my  time is spent with hours of looking at diamonds, gemstones, and pearls. I look at color, cut, clarity, dimension and weight. It’s necessary and enjoyable, to make sure each stone matches and fits each particular project.

How Much Time do I Spend?

Vintage Table Top Alarm Clock

Spending Too Much Time on a Bid Isn’t Great

Figuring out what to charge for a project is not easy and can take a lot of time. I can easily spend two or three hours designing and bidding a project only to have the customer never call me back! This happened more with distance clients whom I have never met.

I’ve been asked to design ten thousand dollar rings only to be told—after hours of work—that they can only afford two thousand. Or simply, “Thanks, I’ll think about it.”

That was back in the old days. I clearly wasn’t enthusiastically asking for people’s budget. And I do understand that sometimes you don’t really have a budget in mind.

Even with a budget in mind,  bidding still takes time.

Here’s my New Way to Bid for You

Personal Jeweler showing client to use a loupe

Personal Jeweler Going Over Details With Lisa.

My new rule for myself is to give you an idea of cost based on past projects I’ve done. This will be a range price. I might say to you, “It’ll be between $2500.00 and $2800.00 or something like that.”

This way you know the price range we are in. You’ll know right off the bat if you are talking to the right designer about the right design, as far as your budget goes.

From an artistic point of view you have clearly found the right jewelry designer. I want to help each person and not put someone off because I ran out of time because I was writing bids for eight hours.

I Want to Design Your Jewelry

Wide Sapphire and Diamond Wedding Ring

Delivering a Finished Design to My Happy Client is My Joy

Truly I didn’t become a jewelry designer because I love writing bids. I want to design your jewelry. I want to dive into the details.

If that first design idea and bid range is out of your price comfort zone, let’s go for a plan B. Or a plan C. Let’s focus on finding the right design and (talking to myself here) not spend so much time writing up pretty bids. (Ooh, I really love the sound of that.)

What do Other Jewelers Do?

Thanks to Generous Diamond Goddess Aleah Arundale and Jewelers Helping Jewelers For Help Answer My Questions About How Jewelers Elsewhere Deal With Bidding

I became curious how other jeweler friends of mine dealt with the time they take to create bids, estimates or whatever term they use. If you’re curious here’s what I heard.

My thanks to these kind and excellent jewelers for their time in answering how they deal with bids and the time it takes to do them.

The Jewelry Industry Speaks!

Shane Krugman-kadi, says “I get $500 deposit and let them know that will go towards my time and include the CAD. If they decide they don’t want to move forward, I still get paid for my time. I’ve never had anyone serious say no.”

Mark Grosser says, “We would never charge to try and make a sale, it seems snobbish and creates a sense to the customer that you’re going to charge too much. It starts the design discussion with negative undertones. We can spend an hour and close 95% of our custom consultations. What is a bid? We quote prices at our shop. We don’t bid on jobs. We also get a 50% down payment. It was always the standard right?”

Joseph Candella says, “I charge them a set price for the design work. Whether they proceed from that point is on them. Tell them you need to create the design to produce a Bill of Materials to determine the total cost. If they can’t live with that, they have no intention of moving forward.”

Mark Grosser says, “I work by appointment in our store or at events …. I design and draw by hand at the first meeting … then figure out all my costs markups and give the customer a firm price. No matter if it’s CAD, hand carved, out of a catalog, hand fabricated, using their old gold for credit or their gems.”

“Whatever is needed to do the job the best way. I include all material I supply, deduct scrap gold and add labor…price is firm, no estimates. I get 50% of the whole price right then… then go make it and get the balance when delivered. It takes anytime from 2-8 weeks depending on the job. I’m always busy. This is my 40th year as a bench jeweler.”

Jessica Ioerger says, “I work by appointment for custom jobs. It’s $50.00 for the appointment. That goes towards their item and if they don’t do it then I’m not out my time. It helps put an air of their ownership on the item before it’s even made.”

Dan Dement says, “We charge a $500 Deposit for CAD design and wax model. It’s not refundable, but it applies to cost of their ring. We give a ballpark price up front and unless they add a lot to the design ideas or diamond weight, it sticks. No deposit, no work!”

Ashley Gordin Linden says, “I try and scare them away a bit up front to weed out the ones that can’t afford it by telling them custom rings start at about $1500 and go up from there. After they approve a sketch I get half down.”

Do I Do Free Bids?

This is an Example of a Project That Took Crazy Hours to Lay Groundwork Designwise and Bid-Wise. It Came out Great.                  Purple Heart Ring

I do sketches, verbal quick guesstimates in a 20 to 45 minute free consultation. From there I offer paid research, consultation, drawings and write ups when more in depth information is needed to do a more complicated design and bid.

Leading up to our free consultation I’ll send you information to help you get the homework done so our first meeting is productive. This has proven to be quite satisfying and effective.

I have also gathered all of my blogs about the various steps of getting a wonderful custom design done in one place. This big blog was created so you could pick and choose what you’d like know more about. It’s kind of enormous and just intended to give you the opportunity to cherry pick only what you’d like.

Like a big cake on a platter, here it is:

Jewelry Design Series – Breaking Down Homework for  Your Design Idea

May your custom designed piece of jewelry exceed your expectations and make you so happy that you want to design more jewelry!

Your Personal Jeweler,





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