A $40,000 Diamond Tennis Bracelet

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Forum topic by cabinetman posted 04-03-2007 03:53 PM 2097 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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144 posts in 4170 days

04-03-2007 03:53 PM

That’s right. Years ago every Sunday, one of the large chain jewelry stores would have a full page ad with one item that was really high priced. One Sunday I saw this ad for a $40,000 diamond tennis bracelet, and a picture of it that was huge. At that point the ad taught me two things: First, that a simple offering but grandeur in nature establishes a sense of quality and sincerity. Second, that the advertiser is soliciting a specific clientele. Each week they would have a different piece for sale, but only one piece.

So, I thought to myself, why not design and build some extravagant piece of furniture with an exorbitant price and run an ad the same way. Maybe like a carved table, or some really detailed piece of furniture with different species of woods. Put a price like $40,000 on it and just wait for the one person that may buy it. They are definitely out there allright.

This whole thought process had me really going. I’ve always admired the timeless pieces that survived fad and fashion. Like all the Louie and Henry period furniture, and lets not forget Queen Ann. And then there are the pieces that became the “trendsetters”, like the Parsons table, the Eames chair, and styles attributed to Chippendale and Stickley brothers to name a few.

So there I was, working 6-7 days a week making cabinets and furniture as ordered. Being of sound mind (pretty much) and body (then) I thought why not come up with my own design in my spare time and promote the pieces just like the tennis bracelet. What a revelation that would be, to be remembered by a style, called by your own name. Well the “spare time” just doesn’t happen. There is a big difference in earning a living and making money.

And now, 35 years later, semi retired from the business end of the craft, and with some physical problems, I’m considering taking that stab into the market. It would take getting pieces to the furniture and design shows and exposure to the designers.

I don’t know what would have happened even if I did have the time, but making the attempt is what it’s all about. At this stage in my life maybe I would advertise a custom piece for $40,000, and be up for negotiation.

14 replies so far

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4340 days

#1 posted 04-03-2007 04:00 PM

Give it a shot…go play with the big boys. What I’ve seen of your work you stand a chance. Then again it is a really fickle world of fashion out there. Good luck.

View BassBully's profile


261 posts in 4123 days

#2 posted 04-03-2007 07:12 PM

I say, “Do It”. You’ll have to get a suit though. Maybe a pipe and a fancy watch and be confident while selling it. But what the heck. It’s worth a shot. It’s all about marketing. If someone bought it they would invite friends over and stand around it bragging about their $40,000 purchase and you might get some word of mouth buyers too.

A friend of mine where I used to work brought a furniture catalog to work that markets their merchandise to CEOs. He was by no means a CEO but his wife was a doctor so they could afford this stuff. He showed it to me and I laughed at the prices. I think I offended him. They were charging thousands of dollars for cherry furniture finished with shellac that had no design whatsoever. For example, a dresser looked like a box with drawers. No carvings, no curves, nothing. To make their goods look ritzy, they had their items pictured in an upscale penthouse overlooking a skyline.

Most woodworkers at this site could’ve made this furniture. He argued, “But this stuff is all hand-made”. I replied, “Yeah right, so is this wooden nickel I’ll sell ya! How do you know it’s hand made?”.

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4187 days

#3 posted 04-03-2007 07:17 PM

BB, you should have offered to make him the same furniture for 5% less than the prices in the catalog. That would have been interesting.

Cabinetman, I say now is the time to make your masterpiece. The years of practice are behind you, and now you are able to make such a piece. You are probably not rushed for time, so you can work on every little detail imaginable. And to think, when it is finished you might just get your $40K out of it. If not, I bet a family member or relative would appreciate such a gift.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4151 days

#4 posted 04-03-2007 07:51 PM

One of the projects coming down the pike fairly soon is a set of dining room chairs fitted “just for us”. Start with two chairs, one for her, one for me, with everything the right dimension for our wildly disparate bodies.

Obviously on the way there I’ll have to build an adjustable chair so that we can try out some of the basics, have a quick method to change seat height and angle, setback, and back angle, and have an easily changeable back and seat system so that I can build mockups of seat shape and back shape out of cheap fir ‘til we get the right patterns.

So come next holiday season we should have two really nice chairs, and a system for trying out lots of chair geometries quickly.

Holiday seasons are when silent auctions happen.

I’m thinking that we’ll donate a custom chair to one of these silent auctions. Maybe even a pair of custom chairs. Take one of our finished products and our mockup system, and let people experience what a chair that really fits is like, and while the opening bid would be fairly low, say the chair has a value of a several thousand dollars.

Figure that the first one or pair gets bought at a bargain price, the worthy cause makes a few hundred bucks, we make a chair or two… but then…

Then we have a family that has two chairs that fit perfectly, and four or six more chairs that don’t. And if we choose our charity fundraiser right, we’ve got just the demographic that’d pay a premium for really nice chairs that fit.

I see it both as a way to justify spending all of this money on good tools, and maybe recoup some of the costs of this hobby, but also as a way to show people that it’s worth looking for and paying extra for real craftspmanship rather than just going down to the local furniture store and getting something that was slapped together in Thailand and will make the dining room table something to escape, rather than a family bonding experience that isn’t physically painful.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1809 posts in 4112 days

#5 posted 04-03-2007 07:53 PM

Take the shot….If nothing else building a masterpiece will be an interesting journey. The buyers are out there. The hardest part will be getting their attention. I’ll ask my brother and sister-in-law about innovative ways to get known by the rich. They are amongst the wealthy and are marketing geniuses.

-- Bob

View Drew1House's profile


425 posts in 4114 days

#6 posted 04-03-2007 09:04 PM

you know what is crazy though… I bet most women buy dining sets that match because they match… different sizes for different bodies is a great idea but my wife wants her set out of a catalog that are all the same as she wants the uniformity. I actually told her buy 2 more chairs now before they change them or adjust the finish…. weird how custom is what they are looking for but they want uniformity within what they finally choose. I think it also interesting how few people go to look for someone to build desks or tables or whatever… instead they go to RC Willey (furniture retailer out here Warren Buffet bought) and pick something and take it home. It was made in Indonesia or China and poorly done at that and many times costs more than if it were custom made. There is a reason Berkshire Hathaway bought them…


-- Drew, Pleasant Grove, Utah

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4151 days

#7 posted 04-03-2007 09:39 PM

Yeah, Drew, one of the things I’ve been puzzling over is the nature of value. I start out with the observation that you can buy the parts to make bookshelves at Home Despot, or you can buy the bookshelves, and the bookshelves might actually be cheaper. So the labor to build the shelves has a negative value…

Yeah, there’s some fallacy in that statement, but if you follow the reasoning out a bit you can kind of see where there are peaks and valleys in the process of transforming product from materials into product, and that economies of scale in distribution can make mass market products cheaper than their raw materials, but that a perfectly customized chair, for instance, has value only to one person, because it’ll be uncomfortable for other people.

So much of our lives, and our homes, aren’t built for regular living, they’re built to show off to other people. Is it more economical to have a bigger home, or to go small and rent out the local hall when we want to throw a party? You can run your own numbers, but my belief is that most people pay a huge premium for house space (or automobile capability, or whatever) that they rarely use, while giving up on things that could actually make their lives more comfortable.

But in those two spaces, in the perfectly customized chair and the desire for conspicuous consumption, there are markets on both ends for luxury goods. And if we swing it right, maybe we can be building customized products for the conspicuous consumption market and win all the way around.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Drew1House's profile


425 posts in 4114 days

#8 posted 04-03-2007 10:14 PM

I agree with you in most areas… I love the size of my large home… However I plan to have a large family and bought it 5 years ago with the intent of never moving and filling the thing up eventually… The other thing is I have a big pick up truck 2500 HD GMC which is a Duramax Diesel. 60 percent of the mileage is just me in there… But my family really enjoys camping with a big fifth wheel. I could buy a Honda but it could not pull the trailer which only accounts for 10% of my mileage. Nor could I carry the lumber for my construction projects or remodeling or landscaping/gardening. The interesting thing is how often people buy a standard vehicle (especially big pick up trucks) and then spend thousands in after market stuff personalizing them. You don’t see that much in furniture… but you do see it in homes. However are people doing it for others or their own benefit… I think both… I think some of the reason conspicuous consumption items cost what they do is that an extreme amount of exposure is necessary to find the right guy who sees that kind of value in whatever you are selling… See to a guy who makes $10M per year buying a $40K bracelet takes less thought than for you or I would put into a power tool purchase… After our basic needs are covered moneys power and value drops exponentially to how much you have I think. (For most people)


-- Drew, Pleasant Grove, Utah

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4151 days

#9 posted 04-04-2007 04:32 PM

In saying those things I don’t exclude myself from either of those categories either, although I’m doing a pretty good job of paring down my life to the things I’ll accomplish in the foreseeable future, and compressing my living down to a pretty small space, but… you could also rent a truck for those instances, and I could probably get away without a car at all right now, just using my bike to get in and out of town and renting a car for long trips, I just point out those two things as a part of the continuum of places where we buy ourselves luxuries, and of ways that we may find analogues as we search for other ways to sell our projects.

And, yeah, I agree, when the money’s flowing the $40k for a bracelet gets lost in the noise, and I probably couldn’t tell it from a hundred dollar cubic zirconium one, so part of the value is the very notion that it is a $40k anything.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4187 days

#10 posted 04-04-2007 04:43 PM

I find it interesting like Drew said, that people do not look for someone to build their furniture, but head to the local catalog instead. Whenever they head to the furniture stores, they see a display, but their items have to be ordered with an 8 week lead time. Many of the same items could be built by someone nearby, at a similar price, and yet be a much better product.

This would support the local economies, and also give them the individuality they want. For example, Dusty has his 12 step mission finish process down. If someone likes that color, he is able to apply it straight away. However, being made overseas, they may not use quite the same color you were looking for.

Maybe it is to allow them bragging rights, that they bought that $40K necklace. Oh well, I just need to find a few people that understand and appreciate quality work and are willing to pay for it.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View PhilosopherSteve's profile


43 posts in 4111 days

#11 posted 04-04-2007 07:21 PM

Dan, you raise some interesting points. My wife and I are looking at paring down what we do and how (within reason). We consider most purchases very closely before going forward. We’re also looking at what we have and estimating how much we use something. We’ve done the rental vs buy comparison quite a bit. Running a hobby farm, we’ve opted the buy path more often because it isn’t economical to buy. However, some things just don’t work out owning, especially when you factor in maintenance costs, storage space, etc. I “inherited” some equipment and now I have to look at building a shed to hold it, and I’ve already asked the question how much use we expect to get out of the equipment.

I’ve started closely monitoring my woodworking purchases. I only do a limited amount of work on commission, so there isn’t a great need to ramp up the equipment quickly. Do I really need a band saw? I think yes, but I haven’t bought one yet and I’m still considering it (buying one would mean running more power to the garage – even more money)

Not owning everything you need does mean that you have to plan a bit better. You can’t just decide to start chipping branches one afternoon if you didn’t reserve a rental. However, planning is easy to learn and can often save a lot of money.

I think Drew is right though, the value of something is often comparable to the value of the purchaser. I treat my Lee Valley and Lie Nielsen tools like gold, others consider them mediocre next to a Holtey. Yet others say I could have saved more with flea market Stanleys. It’s a factor of our time, money and commitment to something. I’m trapped in the state of being rich in neither time or money, so I have to balance the 2.

View PhilosopherSteve's profile


43 posts in 4111 days

#12 posted 04-04-2007 07:30 PM

So this wouldn’t get lost in my other post, I think you should take a shot at building a masterpiece cabinetman. If you already enjoy the design and construction process, you’ll love what you do, what you make, and maybe someone will spend lots of money on it and your name will be assigned to something. Seems kinda like a win win scenario. If the piece doesn’t sell, you get to keep your own masterpiece – also not a bad thing.

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4337 days

#13 posted 04-05-2007 05:47 AM

Most of us are millionaires that never took the chance of being millionaires because we needed something sure and secure. You’ll never know if you don’t try and that would be a waste. Follow your dream and enjoy the journey.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4353 days

#14 posted 04-05-2007 06:01 AM

An art director told me once (when neither of us were rich, working in mass media) that you can work hard for a little money, or just as hard for a lot more money. Its all about perceived value, which I think was already mentioned here. I could make something and say it’s $100 or $1000. It all depends if someone is willing to buy it. What we think is expensive isn’t so much to somebody else. I saw a suit of chainmail armor once with a ridiculously high price tag (for me) but when I heard how long it took the artisan to make it, he was hardly charging more than minimum wage, if it sold.

Make some great stuff, and see what happens. Maybe it will sell. Maybe you’ll have a stellar collection that you’re grandkids will get a boatload for at auction someday. Maybe your $40,000 piece will lead to a couple “cheaper” $25,000 dollar commissions loosely based on what you’ve already made.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

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