New tutorial: What to do with pretty pebbles

My father in law loves to collect rocks. He brings them from his trips and tumbles them into a shiny polish, painstakingly changing the water and grit for many weeks. When they finally come out of the tumbler, they feel just marvelous, so smooth and shiny. I love that he spends so much time working on them, and to me they are more precious than gemstones, they are priceless. However, one of the problems with these tumbled pebbles is that other than profound sentimental value, they have little other "perceived" monetary value. So I thought of a design for these pebble (which consequently became the "Broken Triangle" tutorial) which can greatly enhance a simple stone by converting it into a geometric shape, surrounded by tons of precious materials.

What is "Perceived Value"?

In marketing, the "Customer Perceived Value" is usually defined as the value the Customer feels an item has, and their evaluation of all the benefits they think an item or service might offer, in comparison to actual cost or in comparison with other alternatives.

In the industry of jewelry-making this is an important concept since Jewelry, by it's very definition, is almost always associated with a valuable and precious item. Most jewelry is passed down as heirloom or carefully collected, or even bought for the value of the materials.

Perceived Value depends largely on the type of customer you are selling to. If your audience is young and hip, their notion of what is valuable might include designs from the latest designers, while an older audience who might be interested in classics with more valuable materials.

Not only age affects the perceived value: a prospect buyer who has knowledge of jewelry making techniques will perceive a complex labor-intensive hand woven piece as being much more valuable and precious than a commercially produced piece.

Perceived Value is sometimes NOT the actual value

Your choice of materials will always have a huge influence on how valuable a piece is perceived. If two designs have similar kind of workmanship and design, then the material will play the ultimate defining role in increasing perceived value. For example, precious gemstones will always appear to have higher perceived value than glass beads or even crystal, even if the latter offers higher quality cut and cost more to acquire. Metal wire will always be valued higher than organic materials such as cord or leather. Silver wire will appear more valuable than copper or craft wire.

Even if the actual price of the lesser materials is actually HIGHER than the one perceived as more valuable, there is a certain "hierarchy" of perceived value when it comes to materials. "Perceived Value" is not about the ACTUAL cost of an item, it is just that, the PERCEIVED notion, which can vary depending on the person.

How to increase Perceived Value

If you understand your particular audience well, and you know what is valuable to them, then you will find the right way to increase the perceived value of your pieces.

Here are a few suggestions:

1) Increase the metal! As a general rule, pieces which have more metal will, most of the time, appear to be more precious than those which do not. Anything that you can do to increase the amount of metal around a piece will help. This includes findings, caps, frames and bezels around beads and stones.

2) Add some precious items to the mix If you are working with a focal item which does not have apparent perceived value such as these tumbled pebbles, then add some precious gemstones to the mix. Carefully added, precious materials will ENHANCE a lesser material, and bring the entire piece up to a higher perceived value.

3) Add more repetitive elements or beads A large number of small beads or other repetitive elements in a piece can increase the perceived value of an item. This has nothing to do with the amount of work put in, it is simply the fact that humans can count: when we see many elements or beads together -- more than can be counted easily -- we tend to bunch these groups together as "Oh, more than I can count, it's a large quantity", and naturally increase the perceived value.

4) Increase the apparent work done over Use extensive weaving, coiling, granulation or netting on a piece which lacks perceived value. These details will work in similar way as #3. When we see an enormous amount of repetition in the labor, our minds can admire the labor that was put into the piece.

All these ideas were incorporated into the design of the Broken triangle pendant design. A simple tumbled stone was first set in a netted bezel (suggestion #4), with some precious stones to fill in the fractured portion (suggestion #2), with a border of numerous tiny metallic beads (suggestion 3), this way increasing the amount of metal added (suggestion #1).

Here's a link to the Broken Triangle tutorial. Until May 2014 is available only for JL's Premium Members, but should be available to the general public shortly afterwards.

Another Example:

This is another example of a simple tumbled pebble greatly enhanced by the same type of work. In this example, extensive wire-wrapping was added on top of the pebble -- the the point where it almost hides the stone too much. Lots of metal, some precious stones and tons of tiny detail.