Where is the Jewelry Business Headed?

In recent years it has become common to see pieces of jewelry offered in metals such as tungsten, stainless steel and porcelain. I do not consider a titanium bracelet set with teeny tiny diamonds anything more than a novelty item. Except for the most basic of repairs, jewelry made from these “industrial” metals for the most part can not be serviced. Sure, I can purchase a $40,000 laser welder to make a spot weld here or there, but at what cost to the consumer? The entire item cost less than one tack weld. Sadly our disposable society has reached into the jewelry business.

We have hit a new low however. Recently I found out Rio Grande, a major jewelry findings supplier is now offering aluminum parts. Are you kidding me? Aluminum? Isn’t that the stuff they put cheap beer in? The current price of aluminum is $.85 per pound, hardly a precious metal.

Googling “aluminum jewelry findings” yields several Chinese manufacturers selling jewelry made in aluminum. I found finished wedding bands for $.45 each. That’s real commitment, spending the rest of your life with that one special person you love for forty five cents!

I understand it’s just a symbol and the monetary value should truly make no difference. The manufacturer describes them as: “aluminum rings jewelry are very economy but fashion enough”. A hundred years from now will a new bride consider wearing her great great grandmother’s “fashion enough” aluminum wedding ring?

When you consider the cost of the metal over the cost of the finished product it must be many hundreds or even thousands of times markup. Comparatively gold or platinum might be marked up two to three times. Generally the more expensive an item, the lower the markup. Silver jewelry might be marked up ten times. Stainless steel, titanium, or tungsten even higher as these metals are only a few dollars a pound. The same customer who will remark about the high markup on gold jewelry won’t even blink when paying $.45 for an aluminum wedding ring, forgetting that it’s probably marked up a thousand times over. Why? Because it’s only $.45!

And that friends, is the death knell for the jewelry business. If a customer browsing through the cases in a jewelry store is willing to buy a gold bracelet but purchases a silver bracelet, he or she has spent one twentieth the price. Do that too often and the shop owner can no longer make enough money to cover expenses. Now instead of selling a $90 silver chain, we are forced to offer aluminum at $2.

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