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About to import Jewelry & Accessories from suppliers in China? Keep reading, and learn more about how the industry works – and what really matters when selecting a Jewelry manufacturer.
In this article, we explain what you must know about heavy metals regulations, design customization, molds and product packaging. We also give you insights into quality management, and the different categories of Jewelry suppliers.
Manufacturers, Trading Companies and Wholesalers in the Jewelry Industry
There are three main categories of suppliers in the Jewelry and Accessories industry:
2. Trading Companies
The general wisdom is to only work with the first category. In many cases, that makes a lot of sense. By working directly with a manufacturer, you will have more control over the design process – and have better insights into their ability to ensure compliance with relevant standards.
However, many of the leading suppliers in the industry belong to the second category, Trading Companies. These trading houses can often showcase international brands, such as H&M and Zara, on their list of customers.
Even though they are legally considered as Trading Companies, they own multiple Jewelry factories, and can offer a wide range of products.
Then, there are smaller traders, that belong to the third category. Wholesalers. Buying from a Jewelry wholesaler in China is rarely an option, at least not for American and European importers. This is despite the fact that wholesalers can offer lower MOQs.
Keep reading and you’ll learn why.
Product Scope, Materials and Components
There’s no real product quality difference between manufacturers. This can be explained by the fact that Jewelry and Accessories manufacturers procure materials from subcontractors.
As such, they can essentially produce any ‘quality’ that is available on the market. That said, Jewelry manufacturers still tend to be highly specialized in a certain category of Jewelry and accessories. A few examples of subsections within the industry follow below:
- Stainless Steel Jewelry
- Pearl Jewelry
- Plastic Jewelry and Accessories
- Leather Accessories
- Gold and Silver Jewelry
- Children’s Jewelry
Suppliers that offer a wider range of products tend to be trading companies, or (at the other end of the spectrum) larger groups that operate multiple factories.
Product Safety, Restricted Heavy Metals and Chemicals
a. Regulations applicable to all Jewelry and Accessories
b. Regulations applicable only to Children’s Jewelry & Accessories
These regulations, such as REACH and CPSIA, sets strict limits on Nickel, Lead, Mercury and other substances.
Products that contain amounts above the limits are illegal to place on the market. Hence, it is critical to ensure that the products you purchase are compliant.
Many Chinese suppliers in the Jewelry and Accessory industry cannot ensure compliance with overseas regulations. There are multiple reasons for this:
a. The supplier is not primarily focused on developed markets. Thus, they have limited experience with ensuring compliance, and may not even be able to procure the right materials from its base of subcontractors.
b. The supplier is a small trader or agent, that have little experience with – or is simply unaware of – American and European regulations.
A supplier without the right experience, and without access to the right material suppliers, is a liability.
To weed them out, you need to obtain documentation that proves that the supplier has some sort of track record with manufacturing Jewelry and Accessories in compliance with EU and US standards.
The best way to do that, is by only dealing with suppliers that can provide test reports. You may, for example, request the following documentation:
- Heavy metals test report
- REACH SVHC test report
- ASTM / CPSIA test Report
- CA Prop 65 test report
Based on our experience, this simple document check excludes around 75% of the suppliers on the market. As such, it is the most critical factor when selecting a manufacturer.
Still, a test report only shows that the supplier, at some point in time, produced a compliant batch of jewelry. It is not, however, a guarantee for future product compliance. Neither can an old test report be used as a verification for future orders.
Jewelry Gift Boxes and Packaging
Jewelry and Accessory manufacturers procure product packaging from specialized subcontractors. Buyers tend to have two packaging options:
a. Standard product packaging
Most suppliers can offer a limited range of standard product packaging. Standard packaging (i.e., gift boxes) cannot be design and material customized.
It can, however, be purchased in lower volumes – often from 300 to 500 pcs. Standard jewelry packing can also be branded, with the buyer’s logo.
b. Custom designed packaging
Most suppliers can, via their subcontractors, offer custom designed packaging for their buyers. However, the MOQ for OEM packaging is often set at 3000 to 5000 pcs. Roughly ten times as the MOQ of factory standard packaging.
Design Capabilities and Product Customization
Jewelry and Accessory manufacturers are generally assembly manufacturers. They don’t produce tooling and components.
Jewelry parts are procured by highly specialized materials and component manufacturers. Many Jewelry factories work with more than 50 different subcontractors.
Most suppliers are equal in their capability to offer their buyers custom designed products. In the Jewelry industry, there are two ways to customize products:
a. Customization using standard components. A necklace, for example, can be an entirely unique design, even if made of standardized components.
b. Customized parts: You can also create entirely new Jewelry components, such as connectors and beads. This is offered by all manufacturers, via their mold subcontractors.
Many Jewelry brands apply both strategies, as they use both standardized and custom designed components. Only using custom components is both slow and expensive, as new tooling must be made for each new custom part.
Another thing Jewelry and Accessory factories have in common is their extremely limited design support to their customers. They expect their buyers to know a thing or two about the product, and don’t like spending time educating inexperienced buyers.
Don’t expect to get free design services, or even feedback on your designs, unless you are an established customer.
A Quality Management System (i.e., ISO 9001:2008) is implemented to track, manage and prevent quality issues during the manufacturing process.
In the Jewelry and Accessories industry, a quality management procedure can look like this:
– Step 1: Check incoming components from subcontractors (i.e., design, materials and dimensions)
– Step 2: Quality checkpoints on the assembly line
– Step 3: Final pre-packaging quality check
For Jewelry importers, the biggest risk is defective components provided by subcontractors. Hence, the factory must have a standardized control procedure for all incoming Jewelry parts and materials.
Throughout the assembly lines, the supplier must also have checkpoints, to ensure that the assembled units contain the right components and in the right quantity.
Proper instructions (i.e., Design drawings and component lists for each SKU) must be present for the workers to see.
That said, internal quality management procedures are never a substitute for third party pre-shipment quality inspections.
Notice that the vast majority of Jewelry and Accessories suppliers are not ISO 9001 certified. That doesn’t mean they don’t apply some sort of basic quality management process – but it shall not be taken for granted.
Regardless of whether the supplier is QMS certified, you should request records of previous internal quality checks.
Social Compliance / Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
While many buyers assume that child labor is widespread in China, it is not. That being said, child labor is not the only point of interest in social compliance.
There are various social compliance organizations, that issue certification for suppliers that pass their inspections. BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) is one such organization.
Only the largest and most established Jewelry and Accessories suppliers are BSCI certified. It is, however, a sign of quality – in terms of organization. BSCI certified suppliers tend to have top brand clients from around the world.
Big brand names might can be a double edged sword for smaller buyers, but it’s generally a good thing.
Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)
Jewelry manufacturers tend to have more than one MOQ requirement. One is set on a ‘per order’ basis, and reflects the minimum number of units the supplier wants to assemble.
The second is set on a ‘per design’ or ‘per component’ basis. This MOQ requirement is not set by the supplier, but by the component subcontractor.
The latter is harder to negotiate down, but can be managed by using as many standardized jewelry parts as possible.
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