Etsymetal Blog Carnival: What are the Pros and Cons of selling jewelry online

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New month, new topic for Etsymetal team bloggers. March topic is: What are the Pros and Cons of selling your jewelry online?

For me selling online has definitely more advantages than disadvantages. In the beginning of my jewelry selling career I attempted to sell at a couple local craft shows and sale events. They were good as a marketing opportunity to gain local recognition, but I lost money on most of them. It was great to see in person what people liked, the first piece the took from the table, rings they tried on and showed to their friends. Seeing their faces when the start to react to my work or hearing their comments. Priceless!
I never sold much at shows. I am a pretty bad sales person to begin with, so that did surely not help. Since I only make rings and don't keep multiple of the same kind in different sizes in stock, I lost sales simply by not having their size with me. At shows buyers want instant gratification and take the product with them. Offering to custom make something only ever let to one sale. Shows cost lot's of money to attend. There is a pretty hefty booth fee, fees for electricity & advertising, one needs tables, decorations, packaging, travel and parking cost.

Show table
Being 2 days at a show is time I can't spend making new designs or finish orders. The days leading up to a show take lot's of time to polish all rings, label them with price tags etc. It was too much stress for basically no return of investment. I stopped doing shows in 2010 after a last attempt to try a wholesale trade show, which turned out to be total fiasco. Since then I concentrated all my energy on my online presence and I believe it has paid off.

Nodeform Booth at California Gift Show 2010

I love selling online. I like that customers from all over the world can see my creations and purchase from me. It always makes me happy to send something to Europe, Australia, Asia or every imaginable part of the US and Canada. Hearing their positive feedback is the best one can hope for. It always makes my day when I get thank you emails from a happy customer. I do like the direct contact I have with my customers. They ask questions, sometimes tell me a story. There is always some forth and back communication. This is something I would miss if I would sell my rings at a gallery or store.  I do like that I can work my own schedule and don't have to adhere to standard business hours. I am not much of a morning person and work often until late at night. I still have a schedule as I have to organize my work load, finish my orders in time and get them to the post office.

It takes a long time and lot's of hard work to built up an online presence that can lead to actual sales. There is so much competition online and it's hard to stand out among the crowd. Apart from having a great and unique product, good photos are the key in getting attention. They have to entice, catch one's attention, tell a story or work with a mood.  I take all my own photos and got a lot better over the years. It takes a lots of trial and error in getting them perfect to fit the overall brand and the design of the art piece itself. When I am done with my work at the bench I spend hours at night photographing new rings, selecting the best shots and reworking them in Photoshop to bring out the colors and textures in the most realistic way. Every online listing needs a good and clear description, little stories sometimes help too. 

Selling online helps me to keep my inventory low. All I need to sell a design is basically good photos. Once I sold the first piece and it's a design that I can reproduce, I just re-list it again. When an order comes in I start making it to match those photos. It allows me to offer more customization options as I can then make it to specific sizes, width, different metals or stones depending on customer preferences. All I need to keep at hand are the raw materials.

Rough diamond options for customizable engagement ring

Start up cost are often lower in selling online than doing shows or selling through a Brick and Mortar store. But there are still fees involved as all selling venues and payment processing companies want their cut too. Not to forget that advertising costs can get out of hand pretty fast. There are lot's of free advertising possibilities through social media but they can eat up valuable time very fast.

Overall I am pretty happy with my online experience and will keep it as my sole income stream for now. I am not planning on selling through any galleries or store in the next couple month.
The focus over the last couple years allowed me finally to quit my day job and do my art business full time. I am looking forward to see what the next few month and years will bring.

Please check out what other Etsymetal artist have to say:

Inbar Bareket:
Evelyn Markasky:
Rebecca Bogan:


Etsymetal Charm Swap

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I am participating in the EtsyMetal Charm Swap for the first time. 20 members of the Etsymetal team create 22 charms each for trading with each other. Each participant receives at the end 20 different charms to create their own bracelet or charm collection. It's a great way to collect art work from so many amazing artist. 20 different charms (one from each artist) will be used to create the EtsyMetal Charm Swap bracelet. The other 20 will be available for sale individually in the EtsyMetal team store along with the completed bracelet. Half of the proceeds from the sale of the bracelet goes towards the EtsyMetal Youth Outreach Program.

I typically don't create charms as all I do are rings. Charms require a totally different design mind set from me. It took me a while to come up with an idea. I knew I wanted to do a design in CAD and have it 3D printed. I played around with many shapes and techniques and finally developed a charm design that reminds me of a cocoon.

Rendering of charm from different angles

Rhino Screen Shot from front

It was modeled in Rhino4 with T-splines plugin. I mostly used commands TSPipe and TSBridge to create the organic shape and connections and then just modified it by pulling and pushing the faces and edges. The charm will attach to the bracelet with a 16ga jump ring threaded trough the top hole. It took some adjusting to get the thickness of the connections right so it would be possible to print it without being to bulky and therefore too expensive.

I did send the stl file out to Shapeways for printing in Stainless Steel. It took about 3 weeks to complete and came back on Monday.

Stainless Steel 3D printed Cocoon charm
The charm is 21.5mm x 9.5 mm. I need to make a few minor adjustments before sending it out for final printing of all 22 charms. The hole for the jump ring needs to be a bit larger as the 16ga wire does not fit right now. I also want to make it a bit puffier and give it more volume by stretching the connections a bit out to both sides.
I do like the printing texture a lot and actually wish they would not polish it so much. The Stainless Steel has a bit of a yellow tint to it unlike normal stainless steel. Maybe that comes from the added bronze in the mix.

Stainless Steel 3D printed Cocoon charm
I also tried some other printing materials. Below in the image the middle is a print in White Strong Flexible plastic. It has the most texture from the printing process. The Frosted Ultra Detail Plastic on the right is the finest print with only very fine printing lines. I will try to cast that in Sterling Silver to really see the potential of this printing material for other design projects. It is not suitable as a material for the charm as it would not hold up to wear and tear. But I think it can be burned out during the lost wax casting process in a similar fashion as the white plastic I used for some of my RAW rings.

Stainless Steel , White Strong Flexible plastic and Frosted Ultra Detail plastic 3D prints by Shapeways
Stainless Steel , White Strong Flexible plastic and Frosted Ultra Detail plastic 3D prints by Shapeways

I have to make all changes this weekend and get it out before Monday. The charms will have to be back before the end of the month to be able to make the deadline for the swap.
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