A chain for you and a question…

I thought I’d share with you one of my chains.

It’s very simple, and like most things creative, not unique to me, but if you’ve not tried making your own chains yet and fancy having a go, read on…

You will need about 4 ft of 19 gauge wire for this 18″ chain and simple soldering skills.


I used sterling silver because that’s all I had available in 19 gauge.

Of course you can use any gauge and ring diameter, but you will have to adjust for the amount of links, etc., accordingly. You can use copper if you prefer, but note that the solder tends to show more.


When making calculations for a different chain design or gauge I like to make a 4 or 5 link sample chain. This way I can measure how long that small piece of chain is and then multiply it for the actual amount of links I would need for the chain length I want.

I can also see at this time if I like the chain design and the gauge.

For this reason I’ve started making different sample chains out of copper for quick reference.

To calculate the length of wire needed for each chain I’ve found this handy interactive chart.

how to work out the circumference of a circle

and for calculating millimeters into inches,

how to convert mm to inches


Jump ring sizes are measured using the inside diameter. To be sure that I actually have enough silver to complete the chain I measured the jump ring I want to use by the outside diameter.

Now for the chain…

Make 24 x 9.5mm jump rings.


Wrap them with tape.


And saw them apart trying not to slice your finger open – because it hurts.



After much experimenting I find it easiest to use long blade passes through the rings holding the rings just proud of the edge of a wooden block. Start sawing at an angle and once you’ve got a good purchase straighten up the blade so that it runs more or less perpendicular to the outside of the rings.

With practice it becomes easier and that’s actually the first time I’ve cut myself.

Must not have been paying attention.

Always pay attention…

Now make 26 x 3mm jump rings and do the same.

Beware as this is more fiddly and swear worthy.

Now solder the small jump rings together.

Note: I like the whole chain soldered, but you can skip soldering the small jump rings if you wish and just join the completed larger links together at the end.

For a completely soldered chain, however, I find it easiest to solder the small jump rings first.


For joining the jump rings I like to use chips of solder which I buy from Contenti.



I sprinkle a small batch directly onto my soldering board and use my pick to take them one at a time to the links.


You do not need flux or solder to join fine silver together.


You really only need one of these tiny chips to solder the 19 gauge jump ring together. The key, as always, is to make sure that the ends of your jump ring fit tight together.

There shouldn’t be much of a gap at all otherwise the solder will not flow across the two ends to join them.

Now they are all soldered you can slip two of them onto a larger jump ring and prepare to solder that closed also.



 Always point the joins you want to solder in the same direction. This way takes the guess-work out of finding the join, especially if you’ve done a good job preparing them and they’re so tight you can’t find the join at all.


Now take two of the soldered links and join them together with a third, large link.

Solder these also.


Now you’ll have groups of three.


Which you’ll join together with another large link.


Although at this point it becomes easier to solder the whole chain together at once.


Continue in this way until you have used up all of your jump rings.

Now you could stop right here and you’d have a nice, large loop chain to clean up and buff.

You could leave the rings round or hammer them slightly to give them more character.


But I took a pair of round-nosed pliers and opened up the links.


If you do every other link in this way you’d once again have a nice, large loop chain to wear.


If you then took the oval links and squeezed them together so that their middles touched, you’d have yet another design of chain.


But I was going for the figure 8, which is achieved by holding a pair of flat nosed pliers at each end of the oval link and twisting it 180 degrees, making sure that you twist each link in the same direction.


So here’s another chain design.

You could also change it up by using a different size joining ring.

Your options are limitless…


If you continue to stretch the rest of the 9.5mm links you can go through the same process, making a different style of chain at each stage.


But, like I said, I was going for the figure 8 all the way…


Here it is after the pickle.


And once it has been dunked into the Black Max, or Liver of Sulphur. and buffed.


All ready and waiting to go.

You can see here that I also hammered the ends of the figure 8’s.

Now for the question.

How much would you charge for this chain?

Bear in mind that you have to accommodate for your experience. For example it’s not fair to set a price when it’s taken you all day to make something which, in fact, it should only take you 2 hours.

I’ve made quite a lot of them now and each time this particular chain takes me 1 hour 50 mins from start to finish.

No breaks. No daydreaming. Just exact timing carefully watching the clock.

Right now silver is $15.79 and so this piece has $4 worth of silver in it.

If you have a scale you can easily weigh the finished piece in troy ounces and then calculate the silver content.

You can find the current silver prices at the top of Rio Grande’s site.

I have a scale similar to this one.


So, what is your formula for pricing?

I used to just guesstimate, but as time has gone by I’ve begun to see how important my time is and how, in the past, I was almost giving my jewelry away.

This had always been o.k. with me insofar I was learning my craft as I went along, but if you are serious about making and selling your jewelry there comes a time when you should start to look into the real value of your work, if not you are not only underestimating your worth, but also undercutting the worth of other artists.

This is a simple formula that I like to use.

labor + materials + overhead + profit = wholesale price

wholesale price x 2 (minimum) = retail price

At the end of the calculation I then look at the figure and see if I think it’s fair and if I think the piece will actually sell for that.

I would be interest in your opinions about this and how you work out your prices


25 thoughts on “A chain for you and a question…

  1. wiredweirdly

    I find pricing, inventory, and all of that necessary nonsense swear worthy.

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      Too true blue!

  2. I price to market (location, intended customer, comparable in market) and make sure I engineer the piece to make a profit given the intended market price.

    • coldfeetstudioblog


  3. Anonymous

    I probably cheat myself a lot! What do you consider a value for “profit” in your formula? I usually use a speadsheet and list all my materials and then double that and then adjust a little here and there. That doesn’t consider things like the cost of the shows I participate in, wear and tear on tools, etc….I think there is a real need for some sort of program to do this for us!

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      Well I read somewhere that a rough guide is that overheads are 15% of the labour and materials, this includes tool wear and tear and shows etc, and then the 20% on top of that figure, i.e. materials, labour, and the overhead figure together, is for profit. I think it’s tricky when you make one of a kind pieces. I think the formula serves the jewelry designers that make lines for wholesale better.

  4. Carol Dekle-Foss over at Love My Art Jewelry just posted this link to Rio’s pricing software–http://www.riogrande.com/Product/Jewelry-Designer-MANAGER-DELUXE-411/550087. I think it’s all hocus-pocus, but Paulette summed up perfectly what needs to be figured out.

    And BTW, thanks for that Contenti tip. It takes me as long as you with that chain just to cut up solder chips! Finding ways to save time is something we one-of-a-kinders need to learn from wholesale designers.

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      Thanks Gale, going now to check it out.

  5. coldfeetstudioblog

    Wow. $260! I think I’ll keep guessing 😉 Like her boxes though.

  6. I like the chain. I love the look of a handmade chain but it will increase the price of an item by a lot. I think chains are very time consuming and fiddly . Those price formulas always get me down. If I am a slow worker, I can’t penalize customers for that. Following those formulas I would never sell anything. It would be so over priced no one would want it. If you do really high end shows you can find more customers who are able and willing to spend money. Also name recognition counts. I do more medium level shows and people are not interested in spending hundreds of dollars.
    I usually look at the finished piece, the market I’m in, my visual assessment and finally what I would pay for it. I’m not wealthy but comfortable. I do spend some money at art shows. Then I price it. If nothing sells I’m probably too high for my market. If things sell too quickly, I’m probably too low for my market. That’s just my fumbly way. Does not work for everyone.

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      I agree with all you’ve said. I love making the chains, but I think only some people will appreciate the effort put into them and be willing to pay for the work. I think I’ve decided that I’m just going to make things that I love and just put them out there. I often like to think that each piece I make has an owner that just hasn’t found it yet 🙂

  7. Anonymous

    Thanks for the tutorial on the chain, I always pick up new tips, like the ready cut chips of solder. Got to get myself some of that! I am very interested in your clasps or hooks for your chains, I had someone lose a necklace the other day and she was devastated, and I wonder how secure certain kinds of hooks really are. I do have a little system to calculate my prices, normally cost of materials x 2 plus hourly labour calculated at minimum labour costs in our country (to compensate for the fact that I probably work slower than a more experienced person) and then I adjust the price according to what I think it is worth. It all depends really at what your market is like and what people are prepared to pay, it is no use if nobody buys anything! It is also sad that some people think jewellery should be cheaper because it is handmade, than what they pay in the stores. I notice that our price for silver is double what you pay! I also notice that some of my comments on your blog fall under “Anonymous”, so I will put my name in future. 🙂 Keep up the good work, Cecilia Robinson

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      I’ve noticed that for a few people. Half way through reading I began to think it was you though 🙂

      The clasps are tricky. I like the one on this necklace because it has a little curl at the end and if the jump ring is tight enough it hooks onto the ring rather than slipping through. But I don’t know if it’s the best. A lot of people, including me, don’t like the lobster claws because they’re so fiddly, and the larger ones can cost between $6 to $13 each. I think I also prefer the hook and eye to the toggle. I lost a bracelet that had a toggle on it and have been worried ever since. Bracelets are the worse for me. I feel that they can come undone far more easily. If I do ever use a lobster claw it is on a bracelet. I have also put safety chains on some of them, but don’t like the look of it. Sometimes I give the buyer the option for the clasp, and might do that more often.

      By the way, I loved the photographs in your last post. The beach was beautiful. It would scare the bejesus out of me to go into the bush though. I’m such a city girl! Chicken’s miss out on all the fun, but you’d have to drug me…lol

  8. KJ

    My experience is mostly with bead weaving- you know those tiny itty-bitty pieces of glass with a hole in the center connected one bead at a time by needle and thread. It is all very time consuming and then people look at what you have done, because it is beautiful, and then look at the price and blanch because it is just glass and thread with no inherent value if you melt it all down. So…

    I generally do not calculate the price of the beads and thread, they are usually deminimis, but I will add in a round figure plus the cost of any fancy beads. I cannot capture the cost of shopping- I have beads in my inventory that I have had for decades. I do not capture the cost of overhead. I only capture the “design” costs as a guesstimate. I charge $10/hour for my labor, which is insufficient. However, on a necklace that took 40 hours of design and labor + $20 to $30 of beads, I will round up to $500.00. I love bead weaving and it is hard to price any higher than that.

    I have also found that if I charge $5 for a pair of earrings (simple not woven) that doubles my content costs and takes me 3 minutes to make I cannot sell anything else for a reasonable price because obviously that $5 represents the value of my work. If I sell only $5 earrings I make a lot of money because they are nice and fly off the shelf.

    If I want to sell art, I have to have an inventory priced as art. Or, more simply, no beaded earrings, no inexpensive bracelets.

    It is not quite a guess but there is a lot of adjustment after I calculate a simple price.

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      I can’t imagine pricing for bead weaving. I’ve done some of that and know how long it takes and what people perceive the value to be. Nice daybed cover 🙂

  9. Yup, hocus pocus is expensive! I do my own magic.

  10. Lauren

    About the copper chains.. I have one tip. You can use pickle and a piece of stainless steel to copper plate your solder so that it matches the rest of the copper piece.

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      Man! Of course! I only messed up once with the pickle when I wasn’t paying attention. Now if I could only put two and two together for the times when I can use my mistakes for good… Thanks!

  11. Lynn Vail

    Can you tell me where you got the coil silver? I’ve looked everywhere and am unable to find the 19 ga silver wire in a coil.

  12. I just want to give you a tip that I learned in a book. When sawing jump rings with the tape on the outside, put your sawblade on the inside of the rings and you will have an easier time of sawing! Just hold on firmly to the taped rings and put them up against the slot in your bench on top of the bench pin and saw away! This was a tip from a chain making book. Thank you for your lovely post!

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      Thanks Pamela. Since this post I’ve tried every which way including the inside sawing trick and have finally come up with a way that works best for me. I still put off as long as I can making jump rings, but they are far less annoying now. I found that balancing them just the right way on the edge of a wooden block works with the tape. Btw I’d love to live in Oregon, by the sea. I’ve always wondered if it would do the English coast thing for me and help me with the homesickness.

  13. coldfeetstudioblog

    Pamela, I hadn’t looked at the post again. That picture there of me cutting the rings is the technique that I always come back to. I really do find it the easiest and it saves unscrewing and screwing the blade.

  14. Linda

    Thanks for info. How do you buff it?

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      Wellllll, you shouldn’t do it this way, but I use my buffing machine. You have to be really careful and never have the chain clasped. It’s quite dangerous and I’ve hurt myself badly twice so I don’t recommend it. I hold the chain tightly and only have about an inch and a half of it exposed to the machine.

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