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Author Topic: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products  (Read 307 times)

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R.U. Sirius

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I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« on: March 24, 2022, 08:46:38 PM »

First off, those are obviously not my creations, but the photograph is mine, so we are fine as far as copyright issues.

I stumbled upon this collection of drilled stones (I am not ready to call them cabs) in a large "craft" store in Canada. The retail price translates to about US$15 for a string of five to seven stones. There's howlite, lapis lazuli, tiger eye, various jaspers, and some dyed and reconstituted materials. Obviously mass-finished with poor polish, but still I cannot explain to myself just how it is possible to procure materials, slab and cut into preforms, drill holes, do quick-and-dirty grinding, and then run at least one or two grits in an industrial vibratory polisher (I guess).

There's packaging, shipping overseas, import/export paperwork, and of course the typically hefty profit margin of the Canadian retailer.

Cheap labor aside, there must be costs associated with abrasives and machinery. No matter how bad or good the quality is, there is some minimum of $ per cubic inch of rock ground away.

I would love to know what the production looks like... or maybe I should be scared to learn?
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peruano

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Re: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2022, 05:37:49 AM »

I agree.  Drilling is one thing; producing calibrated stones cheaply is another.  Seeing such mass produced material is the display case is both bewildering and "frankly" boring.  The handmade or individuality of the stones I work with holds appeal for me. 
Labor costs, equipment, volume, and softness of material are all factors. 
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lithicbeads

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Re: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2022, 06:00:01 PM »

Much of the stone cutting labor in China is coerced labor , in prisons or people being held in factory dormitories when not working. In India the caste system provides almost free labor and open slavery is not uncommon.

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R.U. Sirius

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Re: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2022, 08:57:16 AM »

Much of the stone cutting labor in China is coerced labor , in prisons or people being held in factory dormitories when not working. In India the caste system provides almost free labor and open slavery is not uncommon.

Sad, but true. We should promote ethical sourcing and production, and auditing available sources of materials and finished products.

I am just a hobbyist, but would love to hear more from those who mine, trade, and do lapidary/jewelry work professionally. Is ethical sourcing discussed or advertised in Tucson and at other big shows? I am specifically curious abut "semi-precious" stones, not diamonds, rubies, etc. where it's been talked about for years.

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irockhound

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Re: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2022, 10:52:43 PM »

Vendor at Quartzsite, Barrels of Indonesian Petrified Coral.  Material was $2. a lb but since I bought over a hundred lbs he gave me a discount to $1 a lb.  Same thing, how can they sell it so cheap?  Break it down so maybe .20 a lb to dig it, .20 to the owner of the mine or managing the diggers, .05 to drive it to the dock, .20 a lb to ship it across the world, .20 a lb to drive it to AZ and .15 a lb profit?  Still many more hands in that pie so how can they not lose money at that price?
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Phishisgroovin

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Re: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2022, 06:25:26 PM »

My coworker asked me to make a pendant for his grandaughter for Christmas one year, it was to be my first ever pendant.
He challenged me to make it and keep it under $200.

I i made a heart with self dug blue layered Agate i located here in Washington State.
I sliced the stone, shaped, polished, drilled and created it to his asking. Double hung with foliage vines on the clasps.

I made it exact, brought it to work three weeks ahead of his asking time.
At this moment he said he had already gone to the mall and gotten her a pendant in a shop, it said made in china on it.

I was completely flabbergasted when he told me this. all the effort and money i personally put into the creation.

It lasted 20-30 minutes on facebook and my cousin back east couldnt live without it.
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irockhound

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Re: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2022, 07:13:50 PM »

Yep I know that feeling.  I did a chefs knife for a lady.  I did it just to be nice and I told her it would be $250. and whatever material she wanted.  She choose Petrified Coral.  The Knife blank alone cost me $119. not including shipping and tax.  When I got the blank the front bolster on the 2 sides were very slightly off (maybe 30 thousandths) I told her just so she knew that it wasn't perfect but being hand made the metal bolsters are never perfect.  She asked for a discount.  I had to explain the cost of the knife, the cost of the material and so I was making maybe $5 an hour to make the knife?  $250 for that was a steal and to ask for a price drop!
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R.U. Sirius

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Re: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2022, 06:56:07 AM »

To each their own... If someone doesn't see how the heart pendant or the knife shown above are different from mass produced, affordable merchandise - so be it. Sure, you can try and educate people on the cost breakdown, on coerced labor, quality of workmanship, etc., but you can't educate them on aesthetics. They either see it, or they don't.
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vitzitziltecpatl

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Re: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2022, 07:01:23 AM »

Yeah, custom orders can go wrong like that more often than we'd like, right?

These days I like to ask for a non-refundable deposit on anything created entirely by us. Written quotes signed by both parties on repairs.

Clients are more likely to pay up to get their stuff back, but the quote eliminates the "renegotiation" after it's all done.

It can be an uncomfortable feeling at first, but not as uncomfortable as getting stiffed.

lithicbeads

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Re: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2022, 02:16:12 PM »

I am so happy to be done making money cutting stones. All craft in the US is denigrated and marginalized which if you think about it so is much of the work Americans do for a living. Our ability to think is gone in most cases when the word " deal" pops up. If I had to do my life over I would never try to cut stones for money just for the love of it .The system is now extremely abusive to artisans but it could be worse - you could be a home care worker.
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vitzitziltecpatl

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Re: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2022, 08:31:18 PM »

Yeah, Robin and I have always tried to keep this hobby from turning into a "job". It has worked most of the time.

Phishisgroovin

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Re: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2022, 10:30:59 AM »

Yeah, Robin and I have always tried to keep this hobby from turning into a "job". It has worked most of the time.
I have to reefrain from calling it a hobby.
I call it a "Mind Set".
I go to another place in this galaxy while i create things.
A QUIET PEACEFUL place.
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Windenzee

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Re: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2022, 12:23:20 AM »

For me it is an escape from all the care duties that I have looking after my daughter. Just do not seem to get enough time to enjoy working with the stones. But I love it when I do.
 
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Felicia

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Re: I am intrigued by the economics of low-end lapidary products
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2022, 07:23:08 PM »

Beautiful heart pendant, excellent work. The knife also. I've seen knives like that with factory or wooden handles for more than that.
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