Wholesale Pricing Tips for Your Polymer Clay Beads [Spotlight]

Polymer Clay Beads “I’m just so
excited and
scared and excited
and confused… did I say
excited?” ~Melinda-H

These “Spot” features are for you guys to display your accomplishments, share stories of inspiration and even ask for assistance with challenges that you may be experiencing. The projects are based on techniques learned from articles here at the blog, as well as from tutorials at the Polymer Clay Video Library. My hope is for these “Show and Tell” features to help everyone get to know each other a bit better, thanks to this wonderfully artistic medium of polymer clay. And… there’s prizes too!

Assorted Polymer Clay Beads by Melinda Herron


First of all I want you to know, I run to you because your teaching has helped me grow enough for this. I can’t even begin to thank you for your tutoring and all you have done for me! I love you and I’m so glad your April Fools prank was just that… a prank. Thankfully my story below, is not!

I went to a local bead store in town this week, and asked if I could show her my beads. I wanted to know if they were up to a level to where I could sell them as simply beads and if there would be a market locally. Before this I had only shown my beads at work, to friends, and a very small craft fair so it was a leap for me. Well, she loved them and wants to buy all the beads I showed her, after the middle of this month… plus she wants to see all my beads and she seemed so excited!

She wants me to figure out how much I want for wholesale on the beads. I’ve looked through Etsy and the prices are all so different plus I’m looking for wholesale which is not what Esty is about. I know she needs to be able to mark them up… it is after all her shop and she is taking the risk on this (or making the profit). I don’t want to go too low and I don’t want to go too high. Any advise on this matter would be most appreciated.

I’m just so excited and scared and excited and confused… did I say excited?

BTW… with the faux bone beads, I had to convince them they weren’t actually bone but polymer clay and they loved those!

Thank you so much again for your teaching and for the opportunity to ramble to you about the little excitements in my life and knowledge that you (and others here in the community) will read this.

With lots of love and thanks,


If you are interested in sharing pictures of your polymer clay projects with the community, please follow these 2 simple steps:

1) Email several of your photos to me as attachments. My email address is shown in the “From” line of the weekly Polymer Clay Newsletter that gets sent out each and every Friday morning.

2) Include a description and/or story about your pieces, being sure to reference the tutorial(s) or blog article(s) that provided at least some level of inspiration for your work.

Don’t be shy. Everyone is VERY friendly here.

In the comment section below, please do compliment each other; Offer encouragement; Ask questions about the techniques used; And in general… be social. This is your community! It’s up to you to make it a fun and supportive place to hang out. All of you are amazing and it’s wonderful to have everyone here!

This is a wonderful article… Valuing Polymer Clay Beads. And I love the video about She Beads. I can see that perception and “telling a story” really does help sell beads; I’ve seen this in action on Etsy. I am gathering all of this info, with the hope that I can put it to good use when I’m up and claying again. Thanks again, Cindy, for all of the amazing, informative things you throw at us day after day! You are one tireless teacher (and we love you for it!) ~Phaedrakat

** Did You Know… Members with current subscriptions to the weekly tutorial videos are always entitled to a 10% discount when purchasing 6 or more back issue packages in a single transaction. If you are interested, let me know which back issues you would like and I will send further instructions on how to complete your order.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Silverleaf, 05 April, 2010

    They are awesome! Well done on your sales. :)

    I have a couple of formulae for working out prices:

    Simple one is, wholesale price = hours the beads took to make x your hourly wage + cost of materials + 25%. Retail = wholesale x 2.

    The other is more complicated and takes into consideration things like how much you want to make in a year and how many hours you work, depreciation of equipment, electricity and all the other costs. I have a program that works it out for me. beading-software.com/blog/free-stuff/jewelry-pricing-calculator-software/

    I’m afraid I can’t help to give you an idea how much your beads would actually sell for as I’m not familiar with the market, living in the UK!

  2. Phaedrakat, 05 April, 2010

    Melinda, congratulations! Your beads are fantastic, and I’m so happy that someone else has acknowledged that — and is willing to pay for them! The pricing thing is pretty scary, but you’re right that it’s exciting, too! I wish I had some good, first-hand advice here, but someone else will have some US sales info that will help. Silverleaf’s formula can help you, too. At the very least it will get you in the ball-park. Then you can adjust up or down as more info comes in.

    Anyway, congrat’s again. I just love your beads! (Your jewelry’s fabulous too, from what I’ve seen you do in the past.) You’ve shown such a lovely variety, with an explosion of luscious colors! Hurray for you!

  3. Lisa Whitham, 05 April, 2010

    Melinda, when you do figure out what you’re going to charge for them will you let us know? I’ve been thinking about taking some of my beads to our local bead shop, but I’ve not got the courage up yet…and I haven’t a clue what I would charge! You inspire me though, so maybe I’ll get over there pretty soon.

    ~Lisa :)

  4. Freda K, 05 April, 2010

    It is hard to know what to charge for beads or for our jewelry for that matter. I’ve seen the formula that Silverleaf showed and I know that in my area people would laugh if I tried to sell something I made using that kind of price. I’ve set my price low so the store can add 40% to it and make a profit. You will probably just have to look at prices at bead stores in your area and find a price that will suit you. That isn’t easy either.
    I know the feeling when a store likes your beads enough to want to buy them. I sold eight pieces of jewelry to a local store and was on cloud nine for days. Even prouder when I saw one of my pendants on a classy lady.

  5. Joyce M, 05 April, 2010

    Melinda, I’m not able to help with the pricing but wanted to say how lovely I think your beads are. Love the color combinations you selected as well as the style beads. You should do well. Good luck.

  6. Ken H, 05 April, 2010

    Beautiful beads, just beautiful.
    Start with what the materials cost and then your time. I actually use what I make at my day job (which is way less that a professional artist could make [I’m a file clerk by day]), that is the “cost” to make the bead then figure out how much you would like to make out of the transaction. For one of my necklaces I sell [independently], final cost works out to about a dollar an inch, and believe me It’s a good profit on one necklace, even considering the findings. Congrats on your sales, and doesn’t it feel good when a hobby becomes self sufficient.

  7. carolyn, 05 April, 2010

    @Ken H: Ken, I was tickled when I read your ‘dollar an inch’ statement. I have a gemstone and magnetic bead necklace that I make in various lengths. You guessed it, I set the price at a dollar an inch. Maybe that is a good rule of thumb.

  8. Ken H, 06 April, 2010

    @carolyn: That just might be, since my price came about from, how many beads do I get out of a pack of clay, time rolling the beads, findings, and assembly.
    Are you still planning to come east, and if so when, there is a big bead show out in Valley Forge in August, if you are, you might want to try to get here for that.

  9. carolyn, 06 April, 2010

    @Ken H: Yes, I’m still planning on heading east to Philadelphia and only God knows where else. I was planning on leaving next week, but since we just got another 8″ of snow dumped on us, and the temps are still freezing, I won’t be leaving for a few more weeks. I have lots of stops I want to make on the way, but I don’t think I’ll be in your area in August. I expect I’ll be back home by then. Thanks for the suggestion though.

  10. Bonnie, 05 April, 2010

    Melinda, your beads are gorgeous. As far as pricing, did you look at any of the other beads in her store? Ask her what her mark up is on the ones she already has for sale. Ask if she buys in bulk or by single bead. Try to compare your’s to the single beads and subtract her mark up. You might want to ask her what she thinks would be fair and that you would like a long term contract or verbal comitment from her to buy your beads and if she would do that, the two of you could negotiate the bead prices on a monthly or 6 month basis. With the economy the way it is now you have to have many options and so does she so it’s best you work together to come to a price instead of making something up and having her drop you. If she’s been in business a while, she should be fair. Also tell her you will do special orders and take pictures of your work for her to show people since she probably won’t be able to display everything. I did that with my polymer clay nail files and it worked well until the gallery went out of business. Make sure you have some cards made with your email address and your website if you have one, put your phone number on it and make sure it says you will do a special order. Leave a bunch of them with her or ask her to put them by your beads in case someone would like to ask you a question about a different color bead. Make some jewelry out of the some of the beads you are giving her and ask her to display it by the beads to give people ideas of how to use your beads. Ask her if you can come in one day and sit at a table and make beads or do clay so people can see where they come from or how they are made. This would be good for her business too. It’s like an writer coming in to sign a book. People love to see how things are made.

  11. carolyn, 05 April, 2010

    @Bonnie: Bonnie – I think I am going print and frame this comment. It is the best encapsulated marketing plan I’ve ever run across. Thank you so much!

  12. Cara, 05 April, 2010

    Congratulations. I hope you manage to figure out a price that is fair and sensible – and yes do let us know what it is it would be very interesting to see.

  13. Elizabeth S., 05 April, 2010


    Your work is so beautiful-I can certainly understand why the proprietor wants to snap your beads up.

    My situation is slightly different in that the shop owner I work with allows me to place my beads on consignment. I had no idea what to charge and so needed to ask her what she felt the market would carry, given that I needed to make a little and so did she. We came up with a range of from three to five dollars a bead, depending on the size and properties of the bead (more for pendants, of course). Now, granted, I’m glad I don’t have to depend on this money to eat, but I’m just so glad to have some of them out there I don’t care. They tend to move well at this price. Of course to me, they are my babies and I think they should generate a lot more, but in my location (far west Texas), and with the economy etc., I am pleased.

    Now this info may turn out to be absolutely useless in helping you determine price for yours, but I thought I would throw it in the mix with the rest of the commentary just the same. Congratulations!!

    All the best,
    Elizabeth S.

  14. carolyn, 06 April, 2010

    @Elizabeth S.: Speaking of consignment … sometimes that is great – as it seems to be for you – but often if the retailer buys the items outright, they are more likely to work on selling them rather than having them just sit there.

  15. Anna Sabina, 05 April, 2010

    Congrats…this is so exciting. It is great she s going to buy them rather than consignment. I think Elizabeth has given you a good strategy. The shop owner has a pretty good idea of what customers will pay. I believe most retailers double the wholesale price, some triple it. Talk to the shop owner, this is a partnership.
    I have completed necklaces in shops on consignment and the owner marks them up 50%. This makes a difference in what I make for her.
    I had a sample of a really cool detailed bug necklace she wanted. They were really time consuming and and after I figured out my price I let her know my concern that the retail would be too high. She appreciated me letting her know why I was not making any.

  16. carolyn, 05 April, 2010

    Wonderful, Melinda! Your beads are spectacular … I can’t even come up with any suggestions for improvement. Are the photos showing the ones that she is buying? Bonnie gave you some very in depth suggestions on how to work out pricing. I don’t think I can improve on that. Jewelry stores usually want to be able to triple their wholesale price and other retailers usually go for doubling. If your gal really likes your beads, which it sure sounds like she does, she should be very happy to work with you on pricing. Best wishes on your new adventure!

  17. Lisa Whitham, 05 April, 2010

    Melinda, I forgot to mention how much I like your beads! They are spectacular..!! And way to go on finding a buyer, you truly are an inspiration!!!

    ~Lisa :)

  18. Ritzs, 06 April, 2010

    Melinda your beads are really nice,as for price I cant help their I have mine in a small craft shop and I don’t charge for my time just what i think it cost me to make them so i can buy more materials, I could never charge for my time as its a hobby that I could not live without,I don’t even no what sort of markup the shop owner puts on them, their was some talk of 30% but not sure as long as i sell them so i can buy more I don’t mind sorry thats not much help to you.

  19. Silverleaf, 06 April, 2010

    This is a difficult one – I know there’s a lot of talk in the Etsy forums about people underpricing their work.

    The trouble is, there are so many people who undervalue their pieces and charge just enough to cover their costs, and those people who depend on their sales to put food on the table can’t get a look-in, as customers think “why should I pay that price when I can get it cheaper somewhere else?” It’s like Walmart putting mom&pop stores out of business because their prices are so much cheaper – they still make enough money because they sell vast amounts (and make things so cheaply in the first place), and the little stores just can’t compete with that.

    As far as I’m concerned, as an artist you should take into consideration the time you take to make things, and also factor in the time you spend learning and researching and practicing. Someone who’s been claying for 20 years should be pretty good, and should charge more than someone like me who’s been claying for a couple of years. You have to think as well, if your business was to take off and you wanted to expand and take on staff (say you made the beads and they wired up necklaces for example), you’d have to pay them a fair wage for their time – why not pay yourself a fair wage from the beginning?

    And finally, when you’re selling a handmade product, underpricing is dangerous because if something’s cheap people assume it’s rubbish. I have read so many articles about how sellers got many more sales by actually INCREASING their prices. I don’t mean make everything so expensive that no one can afford it, but make it so that customers know it’s special and unique and a luxury purchase, because they’ll feel good about buying it – it’s good customer psychology. After all, what would you prefer – one £1000 diamond ring or ten £100 ones?

  20. Ken H, 06 April, 2010

    @Silverleaf: I agree with you, but one thing I want to add, taken from my background as a performer is you need to play to your audience, a $1000 Diamond Ring in NYC doesn’t seem unreasonable, but in say Erie or Scranton PA that might be over the top for some folks. It’s a balancing act to be sure.

  21. Elizabeth S., 06 April, 2010


    As Carolyn plans to frame Bonnie’s marketing plan (which I, too thought was excellent by the way), I need to print and frame your last posting and hang it in my craft room. It’s an excellent reminder to all of us to value our work. I’ll admit that I’m one of those who feels that if I earn just enough to cover my costs that I am doing well. As I read each point of your commentary I recognize that I need to change my mind set completely and I appreciate your taking the time to write such a thoughtful piece. No, I am not a Cindy Lietz or a Lisa Pavelka , and probably never will be, but more and more often now I end up with pieces that I am proud of, and as I put them out there (probably the scariest part for me), pricing needs to reflect just a little of that pride and a bit more than just cost. Thanks again, Silverleaf.

    Elizabeth S.

  22. carolyn, 06 April, 2010

    @Silverleaf: You would have gotten along really well with my dear husband, Don! He was always telling me to raise my prices. Then I visited a wire artist friend near Denver, CO, and she looked over my work. She pulled out many of the pieces (especially my link bracelets) and said, ‘Raise this price to …’. She’s been selling for quite a while so I trust her opinion. Now Don died before I started on PC so I don’t have him any more telling me how to price things. I’m really taking to heart all the comments here. Thanks to all of you for your input!

  23. Melinda Herron, 06 April, 2010

    Thank you all for the lovely comments, the time and the help. I will take every bit of advise into consideration and think some more on my prices. I will let you know what we finally decided on!

    @ Carolyn, Silverleaf, Ken and Bonnie a special thanks. Your interactions on this have help immeasurably! I’m sorry I haven’t commented until now. I had errands in the morning yesterday, then the power was out when I got home, then had to go to my real job.

    @ Ken… I often look at my “real job” when figuring out how much I want to be payed… however I am blessed to have a fabulous nursing career and my hourly pay is higher than what most people make where I live…. so I feel a little guilty about that already.

    So I will research more. I will look into the bead stores and see was kind of prices they have out there and then I think some more and I will let you all know how it goes! THANK YOU SO MUCH EVERYONE!!!!

  24. Maria, 06 April, 2010

    @Melinda – Hi Melinda – I too am a nurse, albeit unemployed.

    To everyone: I am struggling with the desire of making money selling my jewelry and never having a “real” nursing job again. The only way to do this is to work at my passion, the jewelry, for 8-10 hrs a day as in a “real” job. Even then, I believe I could never make as much as I could as an RN. The guilt feelings appear: I should be out there looking for a nursing job again and not “playing” with my clay and supporting the family. I wonder if anyone else has a similar problem to mine? I’d love any advice from my polymer “brothers and sisters” :)

  25. Ken H, 06 April, 2010

    @Maria: There is NO reason you should feel guilty about doing something you love, how do you know you won’t make good money selling jewelry, you could be the next coco channel or harry winston, it has to start somewhere, and why not in such a forgiving medium as PC, then graduate to PMC, and then who knows. Life is way too short to have what if’s interfearing with dreams. If I have a successful outcome for the audition I spoke of earlier in the comments, I could actually cut my hours serving as a peon to someone else for the first time in my life, and actually end up with more time to play in the clay on top of it. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with but a step”

  26. Melinda Herron, 06 April, 2010

    @ Maria, I agree with Ken. Do not feel guilty about not working as a nurse and wanting to do what you love! I love being a nurse and I love making beads but I feel guilty charging my nursing hourly wages for my beads because in the area I live and the social circles I’m in I make make more money than most of the people around me and I want to be able to market to the people in my social circle as well (to the lower-middle class that need art in their lives too) I would love to make a living with my art and then have nursing as a hobby…. cut the stress in my life. I would LOVE that and perhaps someday that will happen…. BUT, working from experience…. if your heart is not in nursing no amount of money is worth going to work every day and dealing with what nurses deal with. I completely feel for you. Don’t feel guilty if it’s not for you… follow your passions. I feel truly blessed because I have a passion for nursing and art and it just so happens nursing pays the bills right now… perhaps someday art will pay the bills and nursing will become my hobby because I can not imagine not being a nurse or an artist!

  27. Bonnie, 06 April, 2010

    @Melinda Herron: Melinda, I looked at you stuff on Flickr and it’s awesome. I think you should open a shop on Artfire.com and sell some of your stuff on there. The other thing I suggest to people who are good at a craft, is TEACH. We have all learned a ton from Cindy and I have every polymer clay book and DVD ever made. When I teach a class I hand out a sheet with websites that I think are pertinent to learning polymer clay. I usually put Cindy’s on the top. If you have craft stores or those little stores where you can go in to paint your own ceramics or bead stores that teach classes you should approach them and offer to do a demo and then set up classes to teach. If you can get 5 to 7 people in a class and charge $35 per person it works out good. More than 7 at a time will wear you out. I supply the clay and maybe a piece of leafing for the first class and teach something simple like Mokume Gane and then I have them make beads and cut out a pendant. You would be surprised at how excited they get and want more, more, more. From the looks of your stuff, you could teach easily. It’s a great way to pick up a couple extra dollars.

  28. carolyn, 06 April, 2010

    @Bonnie: Bonnie, When you teach, how long are the sessions for $35? I totally agree about limiting the number in the class. I’ve held wire art workshops and one of them had 15 people – and let me tell you, I truly was exhausted when it was over … actually exhausted about half way through, to be totally honest. I held a series of workshops in Loveland, CO, last year and, yes, they do want more. A couple of the folks came to all five sessions. Each day I taught a different technique, but held two classes, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. I did it this way because I knew I’d only be in the area a short while, but holding two sessions a day was too much. Live and learn.

    When you teach PC classes … what do you do about the baking? Do you take a craft oven? Do you send them home to bake on their own?

  29. Bonnie, 06 April, 2010

    @carolyn: Carolyn, I usually have the class for 3 hours, can’t do much in less. I have two polymer clay ovens and I usually take them with if I’m teaching outside the house.

    What kind of wire wrapping do you teach?

  30. Brenda, 21 April, 2010

    @Melinda Herron: I love your work. So beautiful. Let us know how it goes with selling it. I kind of do a flat rate thing. I have sold some of my pendants for $20. Bracelets for $15. and Earrings for $10. I haven’t thought of selling beads.

    @carolyn: Hi Carolyn’ I love your wire work. I have learned a couple of ways to wrap. I haven’t leaped out to do real silver yet. I am not sure what type to purchase, hard, half hard, soft, half soft, etc.. Who do you take lessons from I really want to learn more. Do you teach???????

  31. carolyn, 28 May, 2010

    @Brenda: WOW! This question about my teaching was asked on the day I went into the hospital. Anyway, I’m so glad to be ‘out’ even though the energy still is not where it was before. To answer your question … yes, I do teach … and it is something that I dearly love to do. I was a grade school teacher in my ‘former’ (earlier) life and was not too keen on large groups of kids so I went into educational research instead. Then I found out how much I enjoy teaching adults! Now, all I need is to find the adults to teach.

  32. Linda K., 06 April, 2010

    @Melinda: Your beads are beautiful and it must be very exciting for you that they are going to be sold in a shop. Best of luck with that endeavor.

    Thanks to all of you who filled this thread with excellent advice and information about selling your art.

  33. DJ, 08 April, 2010

    Melinda your beads are all gorgeous, I like how diverse they are as well! Thanks too for starting a really good discussion here… some great insights that are helpful to new and experienced alike. Thanks everyone for the input!

  34. Cheryl Hodges, 09 April, 2010

    Melinda, your beads are fabulous. I love the green lentil ones with the pink flowers. did you use a flower cane and swirl it? The roses are beautiful too ;looks like it’s ceramic. I love roses and I’m going to try doing some in soon. What technique did yo udo fo the square beads below the roses? I love the design and colors there. Looks really cool. And your faux bone is beautiful too.
    I have been selling jewelry for about a year , mostly friends and their friends and teachers at the school where I help out with the choir, semiprecious and beaded stuff but I’m always afraid of pricing them too high or two low. It’s really difficult. I haven’t yet done polymer clay jewelry to sell; I plan to do a couple of necklaces and earrings with the polymer clay beads I made. Yes, please do let us know when you figure out the pricing. Also how much stuff – jewelry or beadswould you have to approach shops?

  35. Maria, 09 April, 2010

    @Ken and @Melinda: Thank you folks for encouraging me. Melinda, the nurses in my area (San Francisco Bay Area) are probably the highest paid in the country so it is very difficult for me to be so selfish and wish to pursue my passion solely when we have a huge mortgage to pay and 2/3 kids attending college this fall. But oh how I love polymer and wire! I keep dreaming up new patterns and colors constantly! I burnt out of nursing a few years ago and was a stay at home mom. Now my husband says we need a nurse’s income to help with the expenses. It’s so hard for me!

  36. Ken H., 12 April, 2010

    @Maria: well if your full hourly seems too much try half or a third, I work as an hourly file clerk so my full hourly seems about right. I need about three neurons to do my job as opposed to your “skilled” profession.

  37. Peggy Barnes, 11 April, 2010

    Melinda I agree with all the others your art is magnificent. Such beautiful colors and technique in your beads. I also would like to know what kind of technique you used on your square beads. They are so neat looking. If I missed where you said above I apologize. But I really would love to know how you made them. Good luck with your pricing. You have stirred up quite an excellent column of comments here. Hats off to everyone with your wonderful advice.

    I have never had enough time to make the amount of beads it would take to sell them. My family takes them faster than I can make them already. I love making them for my family though so I will not complain. I have so much fun with my pc that is the main goal for me. It is what I call my out patient physical therapy. Very much medially and mentally needed!! Once again congratulations on your beautiful pieces and much happiness with you future sales.
    Many Uuuuuuuugggs, Peggy

  38. Melinda Herron, 11 April, 2010

    @Peggy Barnes: Thank you so much for the compliments. The square beads are made using some techniques from Eugena Topina’s Faux Lampwork bead tutorial. They are not exactly like hers because I had to do it my own way but they are fabulously fun! I love Eugena’s work along with a number of PC artists out there.

  39. Peggy Barnes, 11 April, 2010

    OOOOps I think I need therapy in spelling also medically – sorry I’m sure if I looked closer there are even more mis – spelled words to be found. Like my word Uuuuuuugggs the painless hug. Oh well thats me.

  40. Melinda Herron, 22 April, 2010

    Today I sold several sets of beads (my sets range from 5-12 beads a piece) including the faux bone beads…. it went well. I feel great because my beads will be “out there” being used and loved. We settled on prices easily. I definitely settled on a lower “hourly rate” then I make at my “real job” but I figured right now it’s all good. If I can just make enough to keep my hobby going then that’s good enough. After all, I don’t have years of experience, yet. All in all, I’m happy with the sale of my beads today. Thank you all for your help and your generous and kind words.

  41. Cindy Lietz, 22 April, 2010

    @Melinda Herron: Congratulations Melinda!! That is SO awesome. I am very, very proud of you! Knowing that others value your work is such a great reward. Thanks for the update!

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