Frank O. Hill appeared with his acrylic-encased quail poop creations on the Tonight Show over 30 years ago. Since then, artists have followed his lead with similar excremental fashions. For example, Alicia Merritt sells parrot poop jewelry online. Alas, she uses fake bird droppings, but the fact that she’s been successfully selling her creations for years suggests you can make good money creating and selling unique jewelry.
What Else Can You Sell?
You can make your own unique jewelry without copying others, but looking at what’s been done can help inspire themes that sell. My short investigation online led me to a wire-and-diamond creation that’s worn across one’s face, along with the following jewelry items for sale:
- Human tooth necklace (real teeth)
- Zip-tie earrings
- Bracelet made of tiny plastic hands
- Eyeball pendant
- Plastic fetus necklace
- Beetle brooch (real beetle)
- House fly earrings
- Chicken feather jewelry
- Beach glass earrings
Perhaps one of the more interesting niches is cremation jewelry. More than one company will turn the ashes of your loved ones into earrings and necklaces!
But you don’t have to aim for morbid to arrive at unique. Maybe nobody has made earrings from lighters or incense burners yet — though on second thought, those sound a little too dangerous…
I can’t paint, draw, knit, sculpt or even coordinate my clothing without help, but I’ve made and sold jewelry, and you can too. I just drilled holes in interesting coins, sea shells, and other objects and ran string through them to make pendants. My wife and I sold these for a couple dollars each at flea markets and craft shows. That’s how simple it can be, although you might want to aim for a bit more craftsmanship.
There are plenty of online videos on how to make jewelry. Find the tutorials that help you learn the basics of how to use wire, attach clasps to chains, which glues to use, and so on. Then dream up some new designs, use new materials, or both.
Jewelry made from natural materials is popular. I’ve made woven bracelets out of cedar roots — another example of what can be done without skill, since I just braided them into a circle.
And you don’t necessarily have to collect your own materials. We sold a lot of handmade fish scale earrings that we had brought back from Ecuador (prettier than they sound), and the colorfully-dyed fish scales could have easily been used to make necklaces as well.
Where to Sell Your Creations
Unless your product line has already been proven to sell well, avoid craft shows and other expensive venues. You could sell a lot of jewelry and still not cover the booth fees. Putting your jewelry in stores on consignment is safer.
Keep a display case full of your work with you at all times so you can make sales to friends and co-workers, or at least get their feedback.
Selling online is perhaps the best way to go. You might eventually want a website to showcase your work, but you can start by selling your jewelry on Etsy. It costs just 20 cents to list an item and another 3.5% of the selling price if and when it sells. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it!)
How Much Can You Make?
Small business owners (especially those with cash businesses) don’t talk about their numbers too much, but I found several members of a craft forum who say they pay the bills with their creations (one does it with moose-antler jewelry). Being able to start with a few materials and no overhead makes this a low-risk enterprise in any case.
Rena Klingenberg, founder of JewelryMakingJournal.com, thinks it’s a big mistake to price your items too low. She says “When jewelry artists set themselves up to work harder while earning less, it’s not a sustainable way to run a business.” When you price too low, you grow a customer base that expects low prices. Then, with only a small profit per piece, you’ll struggle to make and sell your creations quickly enough to make a decent wage.
You have to sell your pieces at a price that covers materials and other expenses, plus pays you well for your time. And keep in mind that making the jewelry is just part of the time you’ll spend on business activities. You’ll be ordering materials, marketing, setting up displays, traveling (if you do shows), shipping products to customers, and so on.
Make unique high-quality jewelry, price it well, and learn how to market it. Do those three things and you might have a fun and profitable little (or big) business selling computer-chip earrings or cockroach pendants, or… who knows?
Your Turn: Do you have some ideas for unique jewelry you could make and sell?