One of the projects I’m working on this summer is stepping up my jewelry hobby from just making gifts into an actual business. This is going to be an opportunity to test a theory of mine that I’ve always had, that if you take the customer service and business knowledge learned in one industry, it can be applied to another and greatly speed up and improve your success. It is too early to say whether or not I will succeed, but I can already tell that my approach is different than most people…
First, I have made a half dozens necklaces in the past week, but I did so with specific goals in mind, testing different methods for cutting the rock, shaping the rock, different timings and motions of polishing, etc. I’m narrowing in on a reliable, repeatable process for making my necklaces that will let me produce a consistent product. I’ve also taken a hard look at what I am actually doing at each step, and realized some process improvements, but also come across some early roadblocks. I’ve always had a knack for improving a process, and this lapidary work is no exception – I’ve devised ways to improve things, but find the need for specialized tools to brings these ideas to fruition. I’ve been in and out of the rock shops, hardware store, and industrial supply stores in my area, with nobody having quite what I need, so I have delved into the world of ordering obscure parts from China.
Now, for a family who loves Amazon prime, ordering parts direct from Chinese Manufacturers is so very different. You find heaps of products, with varying amounts of information, not a ton of information to know if the vendor on the other end is trustworthy or not, and questionable English skills. You also may get free shipping, but it comes with time frames of weeks, not days. But with enough searching, I can eventually find what I want. And I frequently can even find the root source of most of the supplies that I see other people re-selling on etsy.
The other interesting bit of logistics I’m discovering is that of finding the raw rock materials to make the jewelry. This hobby started from rock collecting on my own outdoor adventures. But I’m dong the math, and finding that buying rock from hobbyists or professionals whoa re selling at rock and gems shows is more cost effective and efficient than collecting my own. (With the exception of a few specific types of rock, where I have some good collecting spots nearby.) I’m also finding that when I want to buy rock from people, permanent storefronts such as rock shops in the tourist towns aren’t as good as weekend shows, or even guys selling stuff on the side of the road. Because the rock people who really have interesting stuff are the people who travel around, exploring, talking to each other, trading rocks with each other. And they travel to attend shows, and sell their excess. And that is where I’m finding the stuff that works for me.
Finally, I’m already realizing that I’m in a bit of a middle ground. I’m not just spitting out lots of cabochons and trying to sell them for cheap. But I’m also not producing gem-quality work that you’d find in a retail store. I’m trying to hit the middle ground of nicer than average… better than you’d find for 40 bucks on etsy, but lower than you’ll find for 300 bucks at the mall. And other people don’t seem to be targeting that range. They may know something I don’t. I’m aiming for that range for math reasons… it seems to have the best return on efforts, without getting into high-end materials which will also invoke high-end expectations of craftsmanship which I am not yet ready to meet.
So I may still have a number of lessons yet to learn here. I kind of hope I do. Lessons learned means more success in the long run. But I’m also now at a point where I’m waiting on some new tools to arrive from China, which may stall my progress for a few weeks. And while I have acquired some really promising rock to cut, I want to do it with the right tools, so the next few weeks may be filled more with coding mobile apps.