I went to a business networking event last week. The person who was leading the meeting was a structural engineer. I wasn’t sure what that was so I plucked up the courage, and I asked:
“Are you like a surveyor who checks the materials in a building?”
He was a little taken back. ‘Should I know what a structural engineer is?’ ‘Does everyone else here know?’ I started to doubt myself. As my cheeks burned red with embarrassment, he paused for what felt like 17 years to me. I felt exposed.
Peter was friendly about it although he didn’t need to be and explained to me in layman’s terms what he does (he supports architects and construction workers with engineering design and analysis to make sure building structures are viable and well supported). In my vulnerable state, I would probably have taken it hard and become a bit less likely to pipe up in the future if he wasn’t so gracious.
I always try to push myself to ask though. My mum used to tell me in her Jamaican patois
“Don’t feel no way ‘bout finding out information [in-fah-may-SHAAN]”.
I read a similar Chinese proverb along the way I’ve found to be a constant helpful reminder:
“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever”.
But I also wonder, ‘why feel like a fool?’ ‘Where does this come from?’
As grown adults, we’re all of a sudden expected to know all these things, and it can become hard to admit when you don’t know. It sets you up for failure if you can’t jump the hurdle of shame to ask a question and sets the stage for feeling regret if you duck the challenge.
I am telling you this because I have developed a lot of empathy over the years for people when they ask me about jewellery. People ask me anywhere: on the street, at business events, coffee shops, on a plane, in Marks and Spencer’s, at parties etc. but I’m always happy to answer their questions.
In a way, I admire their curiosity and not feeling foolish. Or in some cases, feeling stupid but asking anyway.
Jewellery information can seem to be a lot of smoke and mirrors, but it doesn’t have to be. All the cloudiness can fade away and be crystal clear when you have a friendly, open conversation with an expert about those things you don’t know.
I found that conversations can be a bit tricky when talking about the price of fine jewellery. A typical response I get once people find out I work in precious metals is
“I bet you’re expensive!”
I understand how they feel. Naturally, a product made of gold and encrusted with diamonds you’d assume is expensive, and it is! Especially if you compare it to mass-produced, lower quality material, high street alternatives that to a casual observer look similar.
We’re all casual observers in somethings (probably most things). And let’s say being British is a condition that makes’s it more likely that talking about price will be an awkward experience for everyone involved.
However, I have found that more informed people are far better at judging value. To be sure there are two types of value here, to my mind. There’s subjective value, and there’s no accounting for that, and there’s value measured by cost.
The more people understand what goes into the production process (what things cost) – the materials, the design, the crafting, etc. – the more often they feel they get good value for money. And since it’s usually for bespoke work they end up very pleased they got exactly what they wanted (subjective).
What I’ve found useful with some people in my jewellery consultations is rather than talking about price, we work backwards from their budget to through their options to design and craft the best possible piece given what they’re after.
Sometimes it’s just easier to discuss the budget first in a jewellery consultation to get it out of the way. Then we can breathe, go through the options within budget and design some beautiful jewellery that you’ll keep and wear forever.
After creating loads of different pieces, I now know that pieces priced below the following cost too much to produce profitably:
Wedding rings start at £500
Engagement rings start at £1500
Other bespoke jewellery work begins around £1000
This shorthand has helped me as a ‘creative type’ as I love the process of producing the item and it’s easy to forget the commercial side, especially after building a personal relationship with a client.
Let me leave you with two tips from the jeweller’s perspective if you ever find yourself on the way to a bespoke jewellery consultation. This will help you get the most out of me or any jeweller:
Firstly, Pinterest is your best friend when looking for inspiration or a visual way to explain what you want even if you don’t have the words. How can you get the ideal bespoke jewellery for yourself or as a gift if you can’t communicate what you want?
Secondly, always ask about the time frame. Some processes can take time so having a consultation a long time before you need the final piece is still a good idea. Too long before does not exist. Creating bespoke jewellery is not an easy thing to rush.
OK, one more thing: there are no stupid questions.