After college, I designed textile necklaces as a side gig to my creativity-sapping day job. Jewelry making was good busy work for idle hands. But when my handcrafted masterpieces started to garner repeated compliments from friends, I wondered, “Could my hobby become a legitimate jewelry business?”
Jewelry making is a viable low investment business for hands-on creatives, but crafting skills aren’t required—making jewelry one of the most popular things to make and sell online. Perhaps you’re DIY-challenged but have an incredible online business idea and an existing audience and are looking for a creative way to make money.
It’s a saturated market but there’s still room for newcomers who can fit into an untapped niche or bring a fresh perspective to traditional craft.
Whatever your motivation or skill level, starting a jewelry making business comes with its own set of considerations and complications. For one thing: it’s crowded out there. The global jewelry market was worth $348 billion in 2018, with fashion jewelry bringing in the lion’s share. It’s a saturated market, but there’s still room for newcomers who can fit into an untapped niche or bring a fresh perspective to traditional craft.
How to start a jewelry making business
If you want to know how to turn jewelry into a profitable small business, this post is for you. We’ll explore jewelry making businesses from conception and design to production and marketing. This go-to guide includes advice from the pros, tactical takeaways, and inspiration from established designers and business owners.
We consulted two jewelry designers and asked them to share their own personal experiences in building a brand from scratch. Here, you’ll meet:
Starting a jewelry business: first steps
One of the first questions to ask yourself is: fine or fashion? Or maybe your interest lies somewhere in between. Each category has its own materials, production process, price point, and customer profile:
💍 Fine jewelry
- Made with precious and semi-precious metals and gems
- A higher price point
- Made with excellent craftsmanship, usually not mass produced
- For the luxury/wedding/special occasion customer
📿 Fashion or costume jewelry
- Usually trendy
- Made of inexpensive or less expensive metals and materials (beads, wire, plated metal, plastic, synthetic gems, etc.)
- A lower price point
- Can be mass produced
- For the everyday customer
👑 Other/in between
- This category covers everything else, from jewelry made with mid-range materials (textile, metals, semi-precious gems, wood, 3D printing, etc.) to jewelry defined as art (collectible, made to order, one of a kind) or highly skilled craftsmanship
- Emphasis on design and uniqueness
- Price point varies but usually mid-range
- Occasion/statement, design-savvy/collector/gift-giving customer
Once you’ve narrowed down the broad category for your jewelry business, it’s time to carve out a niche for your products. Start by defining your ideal customer (classic, trendy, brides, socially conscious consumers, etc.) and decide whether your products are occasion specific (wedding, party, everyday, etc.). This will determine how you market them to your audience.
Researching trends is one way to determine (and validate) your chosen direction. Read fashion and jewelry blogs and publications and follow influencers in the space to stay on top of trends for each upcoming season. Using Google Trends, you can also see broad global search volume for a particular term.
Alternately, you might look into adjacent trends or consumer habits, such as the appetite for customizable experiences (engraving, etc.) or ethically sourced materials.
But you don’t have to just follow trends—you could also use your jewelry business to start your own. That’s what Biko founder and designer Corrine Anestopoulos did, launching her collection based on personal style. “Somehow I felt like, just by fluke, I found a market for something new without meaning to,” she says. “But it was just my taste.”
When she launched, Corinne was working with a brassy finish. “Nobody else was doing that,” she says, noting that shiny silver was the trend at the time. Now, though her collections evolve with trends in the industry every year, the common thread is a recognizable look that defines her brand and secures repeat business.
Finding jewelry design inspiration
Success as a newbie in any facet of the fashion industry depends on strong aesthetic, unique design, and consistent branding. Before working with a designer to develop your branding and before designing individual pieces, run through a few exercises to define your overall signature style.
Depending on how you like to get inspired, you may set up Pinterest boards, design your own digital mood boards, use a jewelry design mobile app, or even assemble inspiration physically on a bulletin board or in a sketchbook.
I’m always drawing inspiration and collecting inspirational images, no matter where I am.Corinne Anestopoulos, Biko
Collect images, colors, and textures from nature, architecture, fashion, or travel, and then identify themes that emerge. Never stop being inspired, says Corinne. “I’m always drawing inspiration and collecting inspirational images, no matter where I am.”
Building your jewelry brand
Remember, brand is different than branding. Brand is your voice, mission, vision, and your brand story. It tells your customers how to feel about your products. Fashion purchases are often emotional, and emerging brands can win customers by connecting on a personal level. Tell your story through your About page, inject yourself into your social media posts, and share the process and inspiration behind your designs.
📚 Essential reading:
Branding: packaging, logo, and website design for your jewelry brand
Branding refers to the more tactical elements that represent your brand visually—logo, packaging, website. Once you’ve established your products’ aesthetic and nailed your customer profile, it should be easier to identify an overall look that will define your brand. This is an essential step, even for a small business, so don’t rush it.
On the low-cost end, you can set up a basic Shopify store with a free theme and develop the logo yourself using a free online logo maker. Keep in mind that you’ll still want to reserve some of your budget for professional product photos. We’ll discuss the importance of photography for jewelry later in this post.
For larger budgets, work with a designer to translate your vision into a full branding package for your business—from the logo and website to packaging and marketing materials. Peruse the portfolios of Shopify Design Experts to find a designer whose work resonates with your tastes.
Writing a business plan for your jewelry brand
A formal business plan may not be necessary if you don’t plan to pitch your idea to investors or seek other forms of outside funding at the start. However, it may be a good exercise to help you understand your target customer, goals, business model, costs, and growth plan.
📚 Essential reading:
- Business Plan Template: A Framework to Streamline Your Next Business Plan
- Here’s How to Write a Business Plan You’ll Actually Use
Ready to create your own jewelry business? Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify—no credit card required.
Production: How to make jewelry
What do you need to make your own jewelry? How you’ll develop your products—by hand or in a factory, at home or outsourced—depends on the complexity of the design, price point, materials, and required skill level. In this section, we’ll discuss how to make jewelry in four ways:
- Handcrafted jewelry production: fine and one of a kind
- Handmade jewelry production: fashion and costume
- Jewelry production: factory outsourced
- Jewelry production: print on demand
1. Handcrafted jewelry production: fine and one of a kind
Handcrafting fine and one-of-a-kind (OOAK) jewelry can be one of the most involved yet personal and versatile of the production methods. Depending on materials and design, some methods of fine and OOAK jewelry production require specialized training/certification and expensive equipment. These methods include:
- 3D printing
- Laser cutting
- Leather tooling
- Gemstone setting
If you’re not sure the route you want to go, consider starting with free online tutorials. Once you know which area you want to study, you can invest in paid classes or apprentice under an experienced craftsperson to expand your skill set.
2. Handmade jewelry production: fashion and costume
Handmade costume jewelry often involves the assembly of existing elements—chain, wire, beads, cast pendants, etc.—and doesn’t require special training or equipment beyond basic hand tools.
This type of business is easier to scale, as you can purchase elements in bulk and create templates for assembly by hired production staff.
If design and production are the elements of your business that bring you joy, outsource or hire for other roles to help you scale the creative work. Biko founder Corrine reaches out to local universities with renowned fashion communication programs to find her interns. “I don’t ever look for anyone who’s interested in design,” she says. “What I need is someone to help me free up my time so that I can be designing more.”
3. Jewelry production: factory outsourced
Rather than making the jewelry with your own hands, you can have your designs manufactured by someone else. This isn’t ideal for fine, custom, or OOAK jewelry, but it can be cost-effective for fashion jewelry produced in larger quantities. There are two main options for outsourcing:
- “Made local” appeal
- Possibly faster/more reliable shipping
- Easier to verify reputation and build relationships
- More opportunity for oversight (visit to factory)
- Higher cost
- Less choice (fewer manufacturers, limited materials)
- Possible limit in production volumes
- Lower cost
- Usually more options regarding materials and process
- Ability to scale to larger volumes
- Communication barriers (cultural, language, time zones)
- Less oversight and control
- Minimums may be high
- Manufacturing and ethical standards may differ by country
Accurate sketches or 3D renderings of your designs are necessary if you’re outsourcing to a manufacturer. There are several options, depending on your skill level and budget:
- Manual design tools: pencils, sketch paper, jewelry design templates ($)
- 2D or 3D general design software: Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketchup ($$)
- Jewelry-specific design software (best for fine jewelry): RhinoGold, MatrixGold, ($$$)
4. Jewelry production: Print on demand
The most hands-off production method involves uploading your designs to a print-on-demand app. Your original designs are 3D printed or recreated in stainless steel, wood, plastic, gold, or silver and shipped directly to your customers.
Setting up your jewelry studio or workspace
If you elect to make the jewelry in-house, you’ll need a workshop space for you and your team. When setting up this space, consider the following:
- Maneuverability. Consider the flow of the space, especially if the assembly has multiple steps—do you move from one station to the next in a logical sequence?
- Safety. Some chemicals or tools involved in jewelry making require proper ventilation and safety precautions. Check with local laws governing use of these substances and processes.
- Storage. Well-organized multi-compartment storage is essential for small parts.
“A jeweler’s bench, a flex shaft, and your safety would be the most important considerations,” says Gillian, founder of Canadian jewelry brand Hawkly. “The flex shaft is a wonderful and versatile tool that you can use for drilling, finishing, and polishing your pieces.” She also advises using a face mask and safety goggles—and for those with long hair to pull it back so it doesn’t get caught.
If your production team is larger or your requirements are a little more complex—as with metal work or silversmithing workshops—consider commercial space outside of the home. If it’s out of your budget at launch, look into co-op studio space or share the costs of space and equipment with other creatives. Gillian splits her studio with two other businesses.
Space sharing also helps combat entrepreneur loneliness, something Corrine is familiar with herself. “After doing Biko full time for a while, I ended up working at a retail clothing store once a week just to not be lonely at home in my studio.”
Jewelry equipment and tools
There are several online resources for wholesale jewelry making equipment, tools, and supplies, including precious gemstones and raw metals.
Gillian relies heavily on word of mouth when it comes to her wholesale suppliers. “Don’t be afraid to ask other designers where they find their supplies," she says.
She also attends trade shows and industry events to continue to expand her network and discover new materials. “My favorite place to source the newest stones and silver findings is the Tucson Gem and Jewelry Show,” Gillian says. “There are thousands of vendors from all over the world.”
Photography for jewelry brands
We’ve said it many times before: product photography can make or break your online store. In many cases, with a very simple lighting setup, you can achieve great DIY photos of your products, even with your smartphone. Jewelry, however, can be a little more challenging, due to the tiny details and reflective surfaces.
Don’t skimp on photography.Corinne Anestopoulos, Biko
“Don’t skimp on photography," Corrine says, even if you're on a budget. A professional photographer is skilled at making models feel comfortable and setting up complicated lighting. Other additions to your photoshoot team include stylists, makeup artists, and assistants.
Hiring models doesn’t have to break the bank. “There are always people who are looking to build their book or willing to work for product,” she says. “It’s not about taking advantage of people—you’re all new to the game. If you get a group together and join forces, you can create magic together.”
When shooting your photos, it’s also important to offer several different views and angles of your products within these two categories:
- Detail/product photos shot on a clean background minimize distraction and highlight the details and different angles of the piece. These photos can create a clutter-free, consistent look on collection pages.
- Lifestyle photos shot on a model show scale on the body and suggest styling ideas to customers (often great for upselling—you can nudge customers to combine multiple pieces into one look). These shots can work on product pages or in a lookbook and are generally better for social media posts.
Looking for more ways to cut costs? Partner with complementary apparel brands to reduce photography expenses or lend your pieces to fashion editors for photoshoots in return for product photos and exposure.
📚 Essential reading:
- 10 Common Jewelry Product Photography Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)
- The Beginner’s Guide to Beautiful DIY Product Photography
- DIY Natural Lighting for Product Photography: 6 Steps to Better Photos
How to sell jewelry online: building your website
Now that you have your production, brand, and photography nailed down, let’s put it all together. In a matter of hours, you can set up a functioning online store on Shopify. But first, sign up for a free trial so you can play around with the features.
Ready to create your own jewelry business? Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify—no credit card required.
Choose a theme that complements jewelry, putting the photography first. Here are a few theme suggestions for jewelry businesses:
Clean themes are designed to let your products and brand shine and most options allow you to easily customize the experience, even if you’re not a designer or developer. Have a little more budget? A Shopify Design Expert can help you tweak any theme even more, customizing it to your specific needs.
Website copy should reflect your brand voice and inspire emotion (what do you want the customer to feel?) while also being detailed and helpful. Product descriptions should reflect your brand story and include details like sizing, materials (important for metal allergies), and, if applicable, material sources. Your About page is a dedicated place where you can tell your brand story and talk about your process—but your personality should shine wherever you write copy on your site.
📚 Essential reading:
- 9 Ways to Write Product Descriptions that Inform and Persuade Your Customers
- Best Ecommerce Sites: 100+ Best Website Designs
- Building a Beautiful Online Store: 15 Design Experts Share Their Tips and Advice
Apps for jewelry businesses
There are several apps in the Shopify App Store you can add to your site to improve the customer experience, reduce returns, and increase conversions. Here are a couple examples recommended for jewelry businesses:
- Jewelfie. Allow customers to “try on” jewelry by uploading photos of themselves.
- Loox - Photo Reviews. Collect and add customer photo reviews to your site.
- Instagram shop by SNPT. Create a shoppable gallery from your Instagram feed.
- Kiwi Size Chart & Recommender. Build custom size charts to help customers make informed purchases.
📚 Essential reading: Learn how apps and tools can help you replicate an in-store personalized shopping experience online, and take the quiz to find out which tools are best for your store.
Marketing for online jewelry businesses
Fashion and jewelry are heavily saturated industries. How will customers hear your voice above the noise? Where to spend your marketing dollars will depend on your product, audience, and budget and may require some trial and error.
Noticing heightened competition in 2011, Corinne invested in a rebrand of Biko and then hired a PR firm to get the word out. “It’s expensive to work with PR but really, really valuable,” she says. “It led to the best press I had to date. I sold $5,000 of one particular bracelet after it was featured.”"
Corinne has also had success with Instagram influencers, bartering product for a dedicated post. Before reaching out, she says, be sure your curation and hashtags for Instagram are strong so influencers can see if your brand aligns with their own. “Creating a lifestyle around what you do is worth more than anything,” she says. She recommends filling the gaps between product-focused posts with inspirational content. “After a while, you’ll realize that you’re inspired by a similar stream of things and it tells its own story.”
📚 Essential reading:
- Customer Acquisition: Definition + 7 Strategies to Gain Customers
- Social Proof: Your Most Influential Marketing Asset and How to Use It
- 21 Must-Read Marketing Articles for Every Stage of Business Growth
Pop-up retail, wholesale, and artist markets
Note: In 2020, finding opportunities to connect your online brand with in-person experiences may be challenging, to say the least. If markets and pop-ups are not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions, jump to wholesale.
Corinne’s career began when she was invited to share a booth at a local clothing show. At the time, jewelry was simply a hobby. She sold out on day one of a two-day show, validating her idea and helping to turn her passion into a business.
Markets offer the opportunity to get out and see customers in person and get feedback directly.Corinne Anestopoulos, Biko
Artist markets are not only a great way for emerging brands to gain exposure to built-in audiences and validate an idea—they’re also important for established online businesses, Corinne says: “Markets offer the opportunity to get out and see customers in person and get feedback directly.”
An alternative to participating in markets is to host events in your own studio. “Sample sales are a good way to liquidate older merchandise and also invite people into your space and process,” Corinne says. Or, if your own space isn’t conducive to visiting, host a pop-up in another retailer’s store.
Corinne also grew her business initially through consignment and wholesale agreements, which she gained by approaching local retailers in person. Cold calling has a high rejection risk, but you just need one “yes” to get started, she says.
Wholesale still accounts for the bulk of Biko’s overall business, and she has worked with large retailers like Nordstrom, Simons, and Hudson’s Bay Company. For new businesses, start small by pitching your designs to small, local boutiques.
The silver lining
Taking the plunge might be scary at first, especially in a market as saturated as jewelry. But it’s also an industry you can enter gradually—many successful jewelry designers debuted their brand as a side gig or launched businesses from a kitchen table.
The best way to stand out is to be authentic, trust your design instincts, and listen to your customers.Gillian Johnson, Hawkly
Small-scale production means you can get designing from your own home. And, there’s still room for emerging designers to make their mark. “The best way to stand out is to be authentic, trust your design instincts, and listen to your customers,” says Gillian. Go for gold!
Jewelry making business FAQs
Do I need a business license to sell jewelry?
It’s important that you consult local regulations governing small businesses. In many cases, though, you do not require a business license to set up an online store to sell your jewelry. In some regions, you may need a tax number, but this also may depend on how much income you are generating. Consult an accountant and/or business lawyer while in the process of establishing your business.
What are the basic tools for jewelry making?
This is dependent on the type of jewelry you plan to produce. You can start a jewelry business with almost no upfront cost or equipment if you take the print-on-demand approach. Fashion jewelry that involves mostly assembly of pre-made components may require simple hand tools like pliers. However, if you plan to start a fine jewelry business, you may require expensive and highly specific equipment.
How much does it cost to start a jewelry business?
Again, this cost is relative to the complexity of the production model you choose. You can start a business with a couple hundred dollars to cover basic supplies and make jewelry from your kitchen table. Or, you can invest tens of thousands in equipment and expensive raw materials and start a fine jewelry business from a dedicated studio.
Feature illustration by Pete Ryan