Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Silver Suppliers

When I first started making jewelry, silver was at a really good price. I loved it. I didn't know it at the time so I just assumed it was always going to be at a reasonable price. I couldn't have been more wrong. Now silver closed at an all-time high of 13.75/oz on June 4, 2007. A month later, it closed at 12.62/oz on July 3, 2007.

Now, when I go to buy silver, I first check on www.kitco.com to see if it will be at a decent price. You are probably thinking, well $13.75 an ounce isn't a lot. It is and it isn't. You see, when I make a piece of silver jewelry or gemstone jewelry that has silver or any other precious metals components, I don't make it from a bar of silver or gold. I have to first find a supplier that has the particular findings that I'm looking for, good quality sterling silver findings, not plated and at a fair price. That's a tall order, you might be thinking. Yes, it is. I want my items to be of the highest quality. I don't want the pieces I make to look cheap. They shouldn't fall apart easily. If I wanted cheap, plated, poor quality items, I'd go to Wal-mart or Ebay.

Another thing that I must mention for those of you that don't know about the jewelry-making world, findings are not $13.75 per ounce or even $12.62 per ounce, for that matter. Findings are all those little pins, ear wires, clasps, jump rings etc. All the little things that a jewelry piece is put together with. If that were the price for those items, believe me, all the jewelry artists in the world would horde and give up their personal chocolate stash to acquire. Myself included.

No, these little bits of precious metal are sold by the gram at exorbitant prices. I have a supplier in Florida who doesn't gouge me too bad but is out of a lot of their supplies quite often. Not good when you have a bridal party that wants sterling silver and gemstone sets for 8 bridesmaids plus the bride. Not good when someone just called you up and says they need jewelry sets for a quinceanera party. 'Quince' (pronounced Keensay) in that word there means 15 in Spanish. Yep, 15 sets of whatever the celebrated teen and subject of the party chooses. More about that in another post. I promise.

I usually like to keep quite a few pieces of sterling silver components for this very reason. As I sit here and write this, my stash is at a few thousand grams of silver and a little bit less in the gold department (don't get me started on the gold prices) and a whole lot of semi-precious and precious stones. I love color. A quick note, silver sells more than gold. When my customers want gold but cannot afford it, they ask me to make jewelry with gold-filled so they still have the gold look without the gold price. Gold-filled lasts longer than 14k or 18k gold because it is a layer of gold bonded to a base metal and thus not as soft. It's easier on the pockets of my customers as well. I do quite a few of those pieces although not nearly as much as I make silver ones.

With the volatility of the precious metals market and the uncertainty of the global economy, it feels like every time I turn around the price of precious metals has gone up yet again. Since there is really nothing I can do to control that price, I do a lot of research. In my vendor contact list I have many suppliers; some of which will give me a price break depending on how many thousand grams of silver I purchase. The problem with that is that even they are now demanding bigger purchases in order to give me but a minimal price break.

On top of all that, I also have to watch out for less-than scrupulous suppliers. I've purchased some stones that I've had to throw away or go to the trouble of sending them back and cover the shipping out of my pocket in order to get a refund. Most of those unscrupulous, nasty, conniving dealers are on Ebay so I don't buy gemstones there unless I know the dealer. There are a couple on there that I do and have done business with in the past. They are not cheap, even though they are on Ebay. They have a following.

There is one dealer on Ebay that sells "sterling silver" pendants. I ordered like 20 of them. I paid promptly, as I always do on anything I purchase. A few days later I get a package with stuff so poorly made, all fake and made of copper with silver plating. To an untrained eye, they look to be sterling silver. I checked them and no hallmark. I contacted the dealer and was told in an email they are in fact copper (something I knew already). I told them they would be sent back and I wanted the total amount due plus ALL shipping expenses or I would file fraud with the authorities. They gave me the runaround for a couple days, I filed with the better business bureau, a complaint with Ebay and Paypal. They said it would take 30 days. I told them it took you one week to rip me off, I expect no later than a week to get refunded in full. The next day, the total amount plus all shipping charges were in my Paypal account. Amazing what a little bit of detective work can do.

The sad thing is that these people are still selling on Ebay, still taking advantage of innocent, unsuspecting customers who think they are buying a good quality product. If you buy on Ebay, make sure you know who you are dealing with. Even if they are powersellers, especially if they are powersellers...look at their feedback, if they have several negatives, go elsewhere. It's not worth the hassle. If you don't know your components, don't buy on Ebay.

There is a plethora of good, honest dealers out there. You just have to do your homework. Research is something I cannot stress enough. Google is a great tool, use it. Every day. If you go out there and purchase from the first dealer that promises you the moon or something that is too good to be true, you will find out in the end, the moon they promised you is a paper one and you get what you paid for.

I have different suppliers for Swarovski crystal, silver, gold, pearls, gemstones and even precious metals wire for wrapping. Nobody will hand you over a book on what to do and where to buy. You either figure it out, do the research or have a very nice friend that will share with you their trade secrets. That last one, I've yet to find that friend. In the jewelry-making business, there is A LOT of cattiness and petty jealousy. I don't know why it is like that. I'm the type that has always believed there is plenty for everyone to go around.

Greed - it's not a good thing. Share your information because you know what? We all have different likes and dislikes. We all have different talents. I have a friend who I gave all of my trade secrets to. She was surprised that I would do that. Turns out she wanted to make only those inexpensive stretchy bracelets with fire polish beads and silver plated charms. Totally different from what I make. She told me my components and findings were too expensive. She didn't want to have to spend a lot of money on supplies before turning a profit. I look at it from a different point of view. I want my pieces to look good and I'm not going to spare any expense in doing so. I like nice things made of good quality components. They cost a little bit more, yes, that's true. They also last a lot longer. In the end, we all get what we pay for.

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