Selling Jewelry on Ebay
By Will Moats

What is Ebay? Ebay is a company that conducts auctions on the internet.
Although Ebay acts as the auction host, it does not get involved with the actual transaction between buyer and seller. This article will not address Ebay’s long list of rules and terms; the reader is directed to review such detailed information at Ebay’s web site (http://www.ebay.com/).
Ebay offers the advantage of 24 hour, every day service with a world-wide customer base of literally millions of people. Just about anything you can imagine has been offered for sale on Ebay. Although I am not one of them (yet), there are people who claim to make their living selling only on Ebay.
Selling Tips

On any given day, thousands of jewelry items are for sale on Ebay. That’s a lot of competition. What can a seller do to increase the odds of actually selling merchandise?
Pictures - First and foremost, you cannot sell jewelry on the internet without pictures of your product. Digital cameras, with macro mode capability, are convenient and fast. However, the downside is that they are terrible at faithfully reproducing the colors of your jewelry items. Especially for the more expensive pieces, it may be better to take standard photographs which can be scanned to create digital image files (the JPG or JPEG file format is best).

Title of Items - Try to write item titles such that potential customers doing searches will easily find them. Be careful. “Earring” and “earrings” are not the same thing when conducting a search. Spell all words correctly!
Category - Usually, I choose the category for fine jewelry, regardless of the price of the item being sold.
Item Descriptions - Tell your potential customers in detail what they will get, and be honest. Give dimensions and weights of stones and jewelry pieces, and the type or grade of metals. Disclose any gemstone treatment. Avoid excessive use of fancy HTML programming language, especially when it greatly increases the loading time of your item web page.

Timing - My experience is that most jewelry will sell, if its going to, on the last day of the auction. This happens regardless of how long your auction runs. Therefore, three to five days will generally be an adequate auction duration for inexpensive items. For expensive items, where the customer base is smaller, use the maximum time of ten days.

Keep in mind that most people cannot spend much time shopping on the internet during weekdays. Thus, it is important that the last day of the auction be a Sunday, giving most of your potential customers the maximum amount of time to find your product and bid on it. Try to make the auction end on Sunday night and not in the afternoon.

You will likely experience a big drop in internet sales during the summer months. This is because people spend less time surfing the web when the weather is good.
Pricing - This is an auction. Start your minimum bid low enough to encourage bidding. Unless you set a reserve price, you will be obligated to sell items in cases where only the minimum bid was met. Due to the large amounts of competition on Ebay for jewelry, it is common that you will get only one bid (the minimum) for most items.

Credit Cards - If you can accept credit cards, be sure and state so in the item description. If you plan to sell items costing more than $25.00, the ability to accept major credit cards is a big advantage. However, credit card services are not easy to get through traditional banking institutions for small, and, especially, for new businesses. The startup costs can easily be $1,000.00 to obtain such services from smaller credit card service providers.

The merchant bank accounts now being sold over the internet may be a more affordable solution. However, I have no experience with them and cannot report on their reliability. Competition on the internet will eventually drive the cost of credit card services downward to more affordable levels.
Terms - You need to provide selling terms as part of your description. For example, below are my usual terms:

Terms: Payment is required in advance, within fourteen days of closure of the auction. Payment must be made in U.S.A. currency. Personal checks, cashiers checks, and money orders are accepted. There is a five-day hold on personal checks to allow them to clear. Please add $2.00 for shipping/handing (postage will be adjusted for foreign buyers). For New Mexico residents only, please add 5% tax. We appreciate your business and want you to be happy with your purchases from us. We know it is not easy to judge color and other aspects of jewelry from a scanned image. If you are not 100% satisfied with your purchase, you have seven days from receipt to return the item for refund (less shipping & ebay fees; damaged or altered items will not be accepted).

Feedback - You want your customers to be happy and to post positive feedback about you. This encourages other potential customers to trust you and buy your products. The best way to encourage a customer to post positive feedback for you IS FOR YOU TO POST POSITIVE FEEDBACK FIRST for your customer. Always post positive feedback for all customers that complete their business transactions. Never post negative feedback without trying very hard to reach resolutions with the customer.
If you sell frequently on Ebay, there will undoubtedly be customers who do not carry through with the transaction. That is why you should ask for payment in advance. Ebay has special refund rules in such cases for selling fees. I have found that the vast majority of the Ebay “community” are honest people who fulfill their obligations.

Shipping - No one likes to be gouged on shipping costs. Try to keep them as low as possible. For inexpensive items, I ship within a few days of receipt of payment (even when paid with personal checks). Customers love fast service, and they will give positive feedback for it.

Other Information and Tips

Sales - You will not likely sell everything that you list on Ebay. I usually sell about half of the jewelry items that I list. Most of my items are sold for less than $20.00 (I cannot take credit cards, which undoubtedly makes it more difficult for me to sell more expensive items).

Ebay Fees - As a seller, you will pay fees to Ebay. Again, the reader is directed to review detailed information about fees at Ebay’s web site. The most common fees are those for listing and those paid only when an item is sold. You pay the listing fee even if an item does not sell (for inexpensive items, these are generally a dollar or less). The fee paid after an item sells is a percentage of the sale price and varies, depending on the magnitude of the final sale price. The cheaper the final sale price, the higher the fee and vice-versa (the highest fee is 5%, automobiles and real estate have special fee schedules). In my experience, selling on Ebay is less expensive than selling at a jewelry show. Even if you only get the minimum bid for your jewelry items, your profit margin can still be larger for your Ebay sales compared to your jewelry show sales.

Ebay has an option to bill sellers monthly by automatically charging their credit cards. I find this works best for me. Ebay will mail you a statement of their charges so you can check for billing accuracy.
Gross Receipts Taxes - Although you must report your sales to out-of-State customers to the New Mexico Department of Revenue and Taxation, you do not need to charge such customers and do not need to pay gross receipts taxes on the items sold. This is not true for New Mexico customers, who must pay gross receipts taxes for the items they buy (the taxes must be figured with shipping costs included).

Record Keeping - I do all my record keeping in a dedicated notebook. If you sell numerous items at frequent schedules, it is nearly impossible to keep track without written records of who purchased what, who has paid, and when items were shipped.

Uploading Pictures - You will need to upload the digital image files of your jewelry to your Internet Service Provider's (ISP’s) computer. The most popular software to do this is called WS_FTP95. Your ISP website will likely have a link where you can download this software, as well as a link directing you to a webpage where you can obtain the necessary information to properly set up the software. You will have to specify where your image files are located (the “URL” address) on your ISP’s computer when you list your jewelry on Ebay. Ebay’s website has detailed information on how to do this. For example, mine is http://www.flash.net/~gemstone/ebay/filename.JPG.

Improving Digital Images - Whether you use standard or digital photography, once an image is converted to a digital file, it can be enhanced to improve color reproduction or sharpness using image processing software, such as PhotoStudio or Adobe PhotoDeluxe. Such software can also be used to reduce the size (transform) of images and make them fit better on the computer screen and make the image files smaller as well.

Scanning Images - When scanning photographs, there is no need to scan them at a resolution greater than 100 dpi, if the intended purpose is just to use the images to sell jewelry on the internet. Most computer monitors can only display at a resolution of about 70 dpi, so you might as well keep the image file size as small as possible. File size increases dramatically as resolution increases. Try to keep yours files to a size of 25,000 bytes or less.

Final Thoughts

For a small jewelry business, Ebay can be a cost effective method to market your products to a large customer base with disposable income. This is especially true for those of us residing in New Mexico, currently the poorest State in the union. I have been selling on Ebay for about two years. Out of the hundreds of jewelry items that I have sold on Ebay, only one (yes, one) item has been sold to a New Mexico customer.