To me, this is one of the most critical decisions for a jewelry manufacturer- probably any manufacturer. I am glad that I have spent the last five years doing torturous research across the Internet in the search for gem suppliers, metal suppliers, tool suppliers & findings suppliers. It really taught me something. You can waste a tremendous amount of time trying to save a few dollars on an item. And if the supplier is from overseas, then one must look at the shipping costs & time. Reliability is a huge issue when buying from overseas- quality can vary tremendously from one shipment to the next. Some suppliers provide huge, cheap inventories of one gem, but not others- which can lead you to using so many suppliers that you need a book-keeper (or many weekends) just trying to manage them. What if they go out of business? Visiting their company would cost too much money. What if one of them raises prices? Will you react to that quickly enough? Will you find another supplier quickly?
Another issue I have been thinking about is the manufacturing angle. Some companies will provide the gems & metal, will cast the pieces and even finish them. But what are their prices like? Some companies will only do one part of the manufacturing and not the others- adding shipping cost & time to my overall production schedule & budget. I need to KNOW exactly what my production strategy is BEFORE I can price- as this will determine who is or is not supplying the gems & metal for the collection!
A lot to think about. But I have made a decision concerning my supplies: I plan on pricing my collection by using one American company’s catalog & inventory. They do not offer the gems in all the sizes I need- but I have decided to change my designs in ArtCAM rather than flail around looking for companies who do provide them. This company is huge, American and 100% reliable. It’s been around and looks to stay around for a good while. I believe it is safe to assume that this company only supplies readily available components and that their pricing is mainstream. It will save me time, in the end, to use the calibrated stones they offer (I hope!). I have learned through the design of computer systems that the greatest errors (in time & cost) are errors in the original designs. Better to get them ‘right’ than to regret the implementation later. Also, I think it wise to develop a strong relationship with the companies who will be supplying me and manufacturing for me. Less is more in this case..(I hope!)
Although I will use this company’s catalog to price my pieces, the reality is that the company that sets and finishes the pieces will probably provide the gems as well. Ultimately, I will probably just buy the gems & metal from them. I must be cautious to ensure that their pricing matches mine. Based on the prices of this American company, I can probably negotiate the prices I need as they will be familiar with the company as well. If not, then I will need to provide them with the materials. But remember, this will mean I need to order them & get them mailed- a week’s turn around time. Probably not worth it. But in a pinch, I can order from this American company and KNOW I can get exactly what I need at the price I need it to be. Another good reason to not use overseas suppliers…
As for my production, I believe I will need to break it up. I will use one company to ‘print’ my designs in wax and to do the initial casting. I will use another to set & finish the pieces. If the piece is two toned, I will need to use a third company to do the plating. I simply can’t find one company who will do the entire manufacturing process. Luckily, I have already found these companies. I can only pray that I can work the kinks out for my first order with some level of satisfaction to my customer & to me. *gulp*.
I am hoping that because I have thought of these things before entering the sales phase that I will be able to out-compete other new jewelers releasing new lines…wish me luck!