Behind the Scenes: Collectible Ball Chain Necklaces & Items Not Shown At Actual Size

silver ball chain charm necklace jewelrypersonalized, interchangeable, and collectible sterling bead ball chain
Beth Hemmila (Hint Jewelry):
sterling beadball chain, gemstones, and silver charms

Last month I got busy! While Hint Jewelry was chugging away unattended, I was doing a lot of clean up on my Etsy shop photos and adding to my build a charm necklace component section.

One of the the top customer suggestions over the last year has been to include a chain option that will allow people to mix-and-match Hint Jewelry charms and gems. I procrastinated on this decision for quite awhile because I had a hard time making up my mind how it would work and choosing the right materials. I finally settled on a 2mm sterling silver bead ball chain that will allow people to collect both my charms and gems with the possibility of building a new story necklace every day to match their mood. Utilizing the concepts of both interchangeable and collectible leads to infinite possibilities when designing a necklace and puts the customer in the driver's seat.

I had been tracking this design concept by watching other key jewelry designers in the industry such as Jewelry by Cari, Christy Lea Payne for Sundance, and Heather Moore. As a small business owner, pausing to watch trends in jewelry design before investing money and time worked out for best for me. When Sundance launched Christy Lea Payne's personalized charm and birthstone collection last fall, many people on Etsy had already been exposed to my similar Your Story listing and let me know that they were choosing Hint Jewelry for quality of design and affordability.

modeling ball chain charm necklace jewelrymodeling a Hint Jewelry necklace

Another major project I've been working on is modeling Hint Jewelry for photos. Oh, there have been a bunch of excuses like I don't know what to wear, the lighting is bad, background stinks, and I lost my smile, but really I've just been a horrible procrastinator. I know these photos have been the missing link to a lot of potential connections, because honestly people want to know what Hint Jewelry looks like being worn. Also, adding a live person to my Hint Jewelry listings makes the place feel a bit more comfy cosy like adding a plant to my cyber shop!

measurement gems photorelative size photo for add-a-gem listing: Beth Hemmila (Hint Jewelry)

Lastly, one of the biggest drawbacks to selling online is effectively communicating size to customers. Written descriptions or measurements don't seem to capture the smallness of Hint Jewelry charms and gems. On Etsy it is customary to photograph jewelry using macro mode so people can see the details up close; however, this distorts one's perception of size.

measurement gems photorelative size photo for add-a-gem listing: Beth Hemmila (Hint Jewelry)

I could just put a note "items not shown at actual size" on every photo, but I decided to try different ways of photographing gems to demonstrate relative size using a pencil, ruler, and a dime.

measurement gems photorelative size photo for add-a-gem listing: Beth Hemmila (Hint Jewelry)

It's hard for me to figure out which photos work best. So if you have some thoughts on the matter, please let me know which photograph seems to give you the best sense of size.

measurement gems photorelative size photo for add-a-gem listing: Beth Hemmila (Hint Jewelry)

I thought this one was fun because it reminded me of a color wheel :)

birthstone gemstone chart jewelry charm necklacebirthstone chart for add-a-gem listing: Beth Hemmila (Hint Jewelry)

I snagged Sundance catalog's cool idea and created
a chart of birthstones for my add-a-gem listing.

gemstone chart red orange yellow greengemstone colors for add-a-gem listing: Beth Hemmila (Hint Jewelry)

I decided to wire-wrap every gemstone that I offer in my shop so as to create lists based on color. Above is my red-orange-yellow-green photo.

gemstone chart blue violetgemstone colors for add-a-gem listing: Beth Hemmila (Hint Jewelry)

These are my blue to violet options.

gemstone chart brown grey whitegemstone colors for add-a-gem listing: Beth Hemmila (Hint Jewelry)

Here are my offerings in neutral colors.

As a shop owner I'm always looking for ways to improve how I communicate visually with a customer. Sometimes I need to rethink my photos, the layout of my shop, or the words that I use; however, the most important aspect is staying flexible and being willing to look at something in a new way.

Have you been working on new ways of organizing your shop or presenting your work? I'd love to hear what you've learned from your customers.

Check out my whole blog series Behind the Scenes, to learn more about running an online jewelry business.


  1. Hi Beth, I recently read about just the quandry you a tackling. (Sorry, I don't remember where.) While it is important to give a sense of scale to your photos, the piece I read said that using a coin "cheapens" the work: silver charm for a penny or dime. Perhaps photographing the charms with a key or some other item -- I like the pencil -- would work.


  2. I struggle with how to effectively portray size as well. I always like to see how things are modeled for finished jewelry. I also like the pencil idea and may snag that for myself. I just bought some cord that came in different sizes based on the cord being laid out next to a pencil. Inches, millimeters are quite inaccesible and not three dimensional in feeling. Pencils are pretty much universal in size. So I think that is especially good for international customers as well as ones her. Thanks for sharing your ideas. It helps me to assess where I am at.

  3. Whoa..you put a lot of work into this one. The picture with the dime and ruler best shows the size, but I personally like the color wheel. Maybe you can incorporate a ruler with that one.
    But I'm not a first time customer, so I know what I'm getting. And I love my necklace!

  4. wow! so organized! your product seems like it would be very easy for customers to order, and streamlined for you to provide. love that you've grouped the stones/pearls by color family. i don't normally like seeing people's fingers in photos, but for me that one seems to communicate the size best. I still have a hard time connecting to dimensions even when there's a ruler or a coin there.

  5. it's nice to see you as the model beth, your sweet spirit comes through in the photo.

    For the scale, I like the pencil top. It's a little arty, but a universal size. And the plus side, it doesn't matter what country, currency or measurement size you use everyone knows how big a pencil is!

    kudos on checking off things on your to-do list.

  6. Thanks everybody! Your comments have been really helpful. For some reason that I can't explain I seem to be drawn to understanding the gems next to the pencil too. I hadn't even considered how helpful this would be to international friends, so thanks for reminding me to keep it universal!

    Heather, you're too sweet! Thanks for encouraging me to take more photos of jewelry being worn :)

    Lunedreams, thanks for the feedback on getting organized. I wasn't sure if these groupings were more or less helpful.

    Rosanne, what fun that you like the color wheel too! I'm a little attached to it and have been wondering what to do with it :)

    Leann, that's encouraging that the pencil aided you while shopping for cord!

    Emanda, that's so interesting about the coins. Thanks for bringing this concept of coins not adding value to one's work to my attention. I guess it shows you how long I've been burrowed away looking at ancient coins and not seeing how other people view objects. When I look at a dime I don't see 10 cents I see this amazing intricate relief sculpture that some artist designed. Can you imagine being the person that digs up a dime a thousand years from now and romanticizes it so much that they become all the rage on necklaces? What fun, no?

  7. Beth, I see someone has already mentioned the "international" aspect. I live in Europe and just don't relate to your coins the same way, not being so familiar with their size. Ruler or pencil are better from my point of view.
    BTW, I love the photos of your trip!!

  8. i love the photos showing the colors of the stones you use. very clever and sweetly done. and yes, i agree that it is important to have an image of the jewelry worn. it really does give an idea of the size of the piece. i also like the set-up with the eraser (everyone knows the size of a #2 Ticonderoga pencil, right?) and the one with the ruler and dime. as someone who always has a ruler in hand, millimeters is a familiar measurement for me. but i don't think it is for most americans interested in buying jewelry. so it is helpful to see the stones against the ruler or an ordinary everyday object. and i enjoyed learning about your thought process on it. cheers!


I'd love for you to share your ideas and stories on my blog! Please know that I may not always be able to e-mail you a direct response, so be sure to check back to my blog and continue the dialogue. Many blessings for connecting with me through word and image :)