From ethical wages to wasted metal: Five things which determine the making charge on gold jewellery


When was the last time you shopped for jewellery? Whether it was a chic white gold charm bracelet or a Mother’s Day gift for your mum with an element of filigree gold design, your purchase is bound to have involved a making charge. Every piece of jewellery you buy comes with making charge which is the price you pay for the specialised labour and design that is signature to the jewellery house.

While the concept is fairly straightforward, how do you know if the making charge on gold jewellery you bought is a reasonable one? How is the making charge of gold jewellery calculated? There’s a reason why shopping for precious, fine jewellery makes the youngsters anxious. Sure, your parents make it look like a cakewalk, but how do you know if the jewellery front is exploiting you or putting up a justified price tag?

Besides the quality of the metal and the clarity and cut of the gemstone, there are several aspects you need to be vigilant about, the making charge of gold jewellery being the biggest one.

Millennial buying culture is all about tracing a purchase back to its origins, be it an up-cycled saree or a piece of stunning traditional jewellery. Since there’s no measured rate chart in place for calculating making charges of gold jewellery, you must know how to determine the valid making charge on gold jewellery.

Unfortunately, there is no fixed system or methodology which can help you figure out if you’re being charged right.  But it is actually rather very open-ended and stands tall on 5 strong pillars. Here they are:

Judging by Design exclusivity

Recognizing the art form of jewellery

Every piece of jewellery is a piece of art, and the jewellery house charges you for the cache of the artist’s expertise or the accumulated experience of their highly trained and professionally qualified designers. With making charge you are actually paying the jeweller a fee for the designer’s creation; it’s exactly like how you buy a piece of art collectible – you are not really paying for the oil and canvas but for the artist’s point-of-view and creativity. The more ingenious and exclusive the design, the higher the jewellery making charge on gold jewellery.

Be Discerning

It’s your responsibility to check if the price levied on the uniqueness of the signature design justified – if it’s something you’ve seen a hundred times before and there’s no innovation involved, then don’t settle for a higher charge. The design charge is not explicitly mentioned in the bill, but it’s factored into the cost. So a jeweller can rightfully demand a higher making charge on gold jewellery if he offers an exclusive and statement design.  Read on here’s why.

Crafted by hand

For a piece of design to be crafted into a physical piece, it involves several skilled people, processes and infrastructural faculties. Every shade of versatility, when attached to the design blueprint, makes for a unique ornament. Whether it is an elaborate gold bangle or a diamond choker, craftsmanship can make or break the design language of the jewellery, and that’s precisely what the making charge of gold jewellery is for.

Value the expertise and time invested

Know that each piece of hand-crafted jewellery is one-of-a-kind.  In the case of hand-made jewellery, the varying making charge of gold jewellery is primarily decided based on the level of the expertise of karigars deployed. If a hand-made piece features intricate and region-specific craftsmanship be it Jaipuri borla or katla work, or meenakari, it’s more niche and the making charges on gold jewellery goes up.

When it comes to erstwhile jewellery houses, they usually stick to a mode of design; if a jewellery house has its workshop in Rajasthan or specialises in polki or minakari, you are essentially paying for the cache of craftsmanship that’s solely exclusive to them.

The making charge of gold jewellery obviously goes up for hand-crafted pieces, depending upon how immaculately finished the piece is and the time taken to make it. Sample this: certain pieces can take even up to 400 man-hours to finish.

Know the lineage

Also, there are various kinds of craftsmanship which are patronized by only certain kind of craftsmen.  This could lead to higher making charges of gold jewellery, but it brings the guarantee of premium craftsmanship. Take for example, pink minakari which is patronized by one small group of karigars from the hinterland in Varanasi. You may find several version of pink minakari in India, but the original craftsmanship from Varanasi will surely come at a premium.

Mass produced by Machines

But if the design is machine made the cost goes down substantially because mass-produced pieces are more economical. For example, the making charge of a basic machine-made chain in gold can be as low as Rs.150 to Rs.200 per gram and the same can go up to Rs.1,000- 1500 per gram in case of intricately designed jewellery. That’s because the machine can churn out hundreds of the same designed piece in a matter of a few hours. Unlike a handcrafted piece which may be one of a kind ever to be made! The making charge on gold jewellery produced in volumes will always be a fraction of any handcrafted piece.

However, some Italian jewellery though machine-made also cost upwards of Rs 1000 per gram, because they deploy special technology that brings forth the “Big Look Yet Light Weight” aesthetic.

Why Wastage matters

When you’re buying jewellery you are also paying for the material that has been wasted during the making process, especially since there’s a lot of welding and cutting involved, which essentially leads to wastage of precious metals. This takes a toll on the making charge on gold jewellery as well.

Basic calculation

Crafting jewellery by hand requires dexterity, precision, and finesse. The wastage charge, expressed as a percentage of the cost of the metal, may vary from 3% to 35%. So, if you are buying 10 gm gold at the rate of 3000 per gram. 3% wastage will be (10*3000) = 30,000 * 3/100= Rs. 900.

In olden days, there was a possibility of the wastage going even higher but now owing to better techniques, tools and machinery, the wastage is low and measured. However low the % of wastage is, let’s not forget there is gold that’s going away into thin air while it’s being processed into jewellery.

To combat that, now there are smart ways to recover the wasted gold thereby minimizing the actual wastage and cost for consumers. Besides that, as a thumb rule, in case of intricate pieces and handmade jewels, the loss is always more as compared to machine-made pieces. That’s why the making charge on gold jewellery made by machine will almost always be lower than of a handmade design.

Gemstone wastage

Besides gold loss (a trade term for wastage), wastage is added on account of breakage of a gemstone during setting it in jewellery. This wastage cost also gets accounted into the total cost. It would only be fair to assume that a hand-setter would, in his process of setting 300 stones daily, by additional pressure or a fracture in the stone accidentally crack around 5 stones. Additionally, if the jewellery has many special cut gemstones, it is likely that the cost of manufacturing the gemstones is also high and will impact the making charge on gold jewellery.

Manufacturing efficiency

The overhead costs and wastage in jewellery design vary according to the infrastructure and machines a jeweller uses in order to craft jewellery. So, the making charge on gold jewellery also depends on the efficiency of the making process. The more sophisticated and high-end the jewellery manufacturing set up, the more they can charge for their manufacturing.

In the age of fair wage

It is extremely important to millennials that their jewellery is sourced responsibly, and under ethical circumstances, which is why so many jewellery houses are keeping things transparent and divulging details about their fair wage systems, the working conditions, benefit schemes etc. Besides the quality of the craftsmanship or labour employed to craft the jewellery, the workers’ salaries or welfare benefits also have an impact on the making charge of gold jewellery.

There are jewellery houses which invest in employee benefit schemes, pay the karigars not only minimum wages, but also offer them medical and other expenses. Your contribution in the form of a making charge on gold jewellery goes a long way to fuel these efforts and in paying labourers the hygienic work environment and basic facilities that improve their lifestyle and health.

To sum up, you pay a making charge on gold jewellery over and above the actual cost of metals, stones, and other embellishment used in the jewellery you are buying to honour the craftsmanship of the karigar and the design a jeweller brings to the table involving stringent operational processes.  So next time when you bargain to reduce the making charge on your gold jewellery, think about all the precious metal, expensive gemstones and seasoned manpower and hours on labour that has been invested beyond what is visible to you in the luxury confines of the store. Pay generously and wisely.

Important note: Although the above text is in the context of gold jewellery, the making charge principles discussed apply to all other kinds of jewellery as well including diamond and gemstones.





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