Relaxed Real: Prices and pendants

As the holiday craft show season roars into gear, a word to the already wise: you can end up paying quite a bit and essentially subsidizing someone else's bauble.

Rhodolite garnet pendant
 I accompanied Anne to one of these shows; she was shopping for "relaxed real" jewellery for herself, and small gifts. ("Relaxed real" means noble metals, genuine but not precious stones, and other non-synthetic elements.)

She found a selection of pendants simply-set in silver, all priced at $125. (All prices in this post are in $CDN.)
The selection of 5mm stones included amethyst, citrine, blue topaz, cubic zirconia, rhodolite garnet and white freshwater pearl.

Assuming the same quality, which pendant is actually the most valuableThe garnet, with the topaz second, but the garnet is a natural colour; the topaz is irradiated to get that swimming-pool hue.

Amethyst and citrine are inexpensive, as is the 5mm white pearl. The cz is a synthetic worth pennies.

More than ever before, I'm seeing craft-show artisans mixing Swarovski crystal, imitation pearl and cz into their assortment, and though that is their aesthetic decision, the equalizing of price in the same item made in different 'stones' means you are paying more and getting less.

Anne, drawn by the sparkle, chose the cz—the worst choice value-wise. I estimate the total material cost is $17-$20 (or less in bulk), and the labour is low: the craftsperson pops the stone into a manufactured prong cup. At this price point, that  kind of pendant is easy to find but I suspect in time it will end up at the bottom of the box.

Let's look at another option: the Sarracenia pendant by Montréal's Captv. (The Sarracenia is the floral emblem of Newfoundland and Labrador.)

Yes, eagle-eyed readers, it costs more. But it is hand-cast, so has far more presence and originality. A freshwater pearl nestles in the centre of the blossom, and the piece is accented with your choice of stone: tsavorite garnet ($260); amethyst ($230); orange or purple sapphire ($260); peridot ($235)—and priced accordingly.

Many craft show artisans price fairly and are more than willing to explain the relative value of various materials. But keep in mind the difference between hand-assembled and hand-made; this is one of the most important jewellery posts I've written.

I'm not suggesting you blow a bundle; you can find gorgeous pieces for under $100.  This Tasci Designs handmade glass bead-pendant on a sterling snake chain ($CDN 75), might make it onto your gift list.

It's here—in an assortment of delicious palettes—and at the One of a Kind Show in Toronto, which opens on Nov. 21.


LauraH said…
Well this is an eye opener. Craft show artisans using In a way I can't blame them. The cost for a booth at the big shows is quite high and many, maybe most, people don't want to spend all that much. This may be fallout from our Wal mart/Zara culture, many people just can't bring themselves to spend more to get a long lasting quality item (thrifters excepted:-). Oddly, this behaviour is not based on income. As they can't take it with you!
Laura J said…
With an artisan in the family and friends with several I totally agree with LauraH. As long as the crafts person is up front with materials used... many people see crafters as not needing to make a living.
Seattle Sews said…
I have been to many craft shows in upscale market regions, some hard to get to (as a buyer, you have to deliberately go there, endure bad parking and serious crowds) and others upscale/juried but essentially annual street markets. I also participated as a vendor in a local bi-annual market - once (during a time period when I could not otherwise work). (Photography and original art greeting cards).

I observed that people are drawn in to the high end, good design, well crafted, beautiful material items in the booth but few people will buy these items. The scaled down, less expensive materials, simpler (or easier to craft) items will be purchased as gifts for self or others: "impulse" buys. These items also serve as "marketing opportunities" for the more expensive items. (People use the artisan's contact information and buy the more expensive items or request custom orders months later.)

The cheap stuff pays the bills, especially for those who don't have an established reputation yet. If it is beautiful and well made, the reputation is not that they are cheap, but that they provide good design and craftsmanship.
Laura J said…
Many shoppers look for high quality but unreasonable low prices from artisans. As long as the product is clearly described there’s no reason crafters can’t have products at various price points.
Duchesse said…
All: The sole or small- business artisan has always had to make bread and butter designs that meet needs of her market, and show expenses can be very high. Some artisans I know could not even be in shows unless they can stay with friends, Many are struggling. I have worked big shows and after several days was exhausted (and some are two weeks long.) So, I have a lot of empathy, really, I do.

And from the buyer’s standpoint, it is good to know what you are getting. So, I do not like one price when there is a real cost disparity in materials. I have seen both underpriced and overpriced, and everything in between. It is always best to know the relative value of materials and the amount of labour that certain techniques represent.

Some people expect ( unrealistically) low prices because they think no storefront should make the price really low.
materfamilias said…
I'm probably too late to catch your eye and get a response, but this post made me think of the Servane Gaxotte doll pendants, the evening I almost bought one at the shop in St. Germain, and the way I was turned off by watching the Sales Assistant fill her waiting time there by hand-assembling dolls from the premade parts. Clones of these pendants have, of course, become ubiquitous now, at various price points, and perhaps thus lowered the value of the piece I might have chosen in that store. Still, a tiny part of me hankers . . . They are cleverly whimsical, those dolls, and they make a strong statement without (I like to think) being too kitschy. I'd love to know what you think of them or know of their history. And where you would place them in your hierarchy of jewelry -- Precious, Relaxed Real, and Whatever Category these might fit. . . (and the Thomas Szabo pieces, of which I did buy myself a French bulldog in lieu of the real, snuffling, snorting, bat-eared canine)
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: This is costume jewellery, of the fantasy variety. The metal is plated brass. It is just as you saw, assembled from production parts for that year’s assortment. There are dozens of similar Parisien jewellery stores like this who make not necessarily dolls, but other motifs that are vibrant, usually bold, and priced (in $CDN) from a few hundred to maybe $1,200. Women who love costume jewellery have a fantastic assortment. Some is vastly overpriced.

There are two separate issues re the dolls: a matter of taste, and the intrinsic value of the materials and workmanship. In Paris, it is very hard to find French artisanal jewellery I call “relaxed real” and others call “ studio”. Some boutiques will have a little case of it, almost as an afterthought. What they do have is heaps of costume, and then a leap up to “bijoux prècieux”.
materfamilias said…
Thanks K! If I had scads of money and oodles of storage room, I'd probably indulge because there is undoubtedly something in the Servane Gaxotte pendants (I believe they are the "original" that were quickly cloned at various price points) that appeals to my sense of whimsy. A grown-up version of illustrations for children. Or something. But they started around 400 euros and as soon as I twigged to the scale of the production/assembly. . . . Glad to have a little category to file it away in . . . "costume jewellery, of the fantasy variety." If done well and in materials with integrity, I'd be as happy with it as with pearls or chalcedony or rubies or diamonds. . . .

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