Ornamentation: The Payoff

Hope Diamond, By David Bjorgen

Hope Diamond, By David Bjorgen

Finally, time for the article whose idea prompted this entire series.

This is much more detailed than the core “plus 1,200 gp worth of jewelry” entries in the treasure tables… but not particularly different.

Wearable jewelry is typically fairly light, all things considered. ‘Heavy earrings’, according to a bit of research, might each weigh about the same as a Canadian quarter (~4.4gm), and often less than that. Given that I’ve got a man’s ring at nominally one coin’s weight (1/50 of a pound) this might be 1/100 of a pound for the pair, and potentially only a fraction of that.

Because the base value of crafted jewelry is five times the weight of the metal, I’m going to say that the smallest unit of measure, a pennyweight (pw), will be 1/5 of a coin’s weight (1/250 of a pound avoirdupois, slightly less than 2 grams). This means the smallest gold earring (1 pw) is worth 1 gp, before considering quality and whatnot. Larger items will be measured in coin weight (cw), and then into pounds.

From here the process is mostly pretty simple. Chose the base item and metal, add gems if you want, then total everything up.

Choosing the Base Item

This whole thing was prompted by describing ornamented weapons, so that’s where I’ll start.

I think for weapons and armor, a quality bonus will still increase the market value of the whole (i.e. it increases the base item value as well), but crudely decorated armor and weapons are still usable armor and weapons, so penalties don’t apply to the base item. With normal gems and jewelry the value can be hidden fairly easily, but a sound breastplate is still a sound breastplate.


Assume that weapons can have up to one-fifth of their weight as ‘jewelry’ and ornamentation without adversely affecting their use. I’m leaving off simple ornamentation such as enameling, instead I’m looking at inlays and accoutrements, decorated hilts and guards, and so on.

A simple dagger (2 gp weapon, weighs 1 pound) could thus have up to 1/5 of a pound (10 cw) of jewelry. Let’s say it’s a silver chasing on the blade, gilt on the guard and a gold pommel. I’ll say this is 30% silver (3 cw, 15pw) and 70% gold (7 cw, 35pw). Assuming this is adequately crafted there are no other modifiers, so the total value of the ornamented dagger is 2 gp (dagger) + 35 gp (gold) + 1.5 gp (silver) = 38.5 gp.

The same weapon that is more finely crafted (exquisitely so, +3 quality) and with a pair of 50 gp bloodstones in the guard would be rather more valuable: the same 38.5 gp as above, plus 100 gp for the bloodstones is 138.5 gp, plus 30% for the sheer artistry of it, for a total of 180 gp (180.05… close enough).

The matching sheathe doesn’t have the same weight limitations, so let’s say there is a highly-decorative sheathe that comes with it that itself weighs a full pound, and is made of silver with gold filigree that is sort of the ‘countercharge’ of the chasing on the blade. There are two more bloodstones here, one near the opening of the sheathe and one at the end. It is as well-made as the dagger, so we end up with: 75 pw of gold, 175 pw of silver, and 100 gp of bloodstones (75 + 17.5 + 100 gp = 192.5 gp), plus 30% is a total of 250 gp (250.25). Together the dagger and sheathe are worth 430 gp.

I specifically do not include the value of masterwork components or enchantment in these calculations. They do not change with the base value of the item, so they don’t change due to ornamentation.


Armor is quite a bit heavier, and subject to a fair amount of abuse. I would not expect to find fine ornamentation on armor, unless the armor is intended for ceremonial purposes. As a result, I’ll say that armor intended for use will have only up to 1/10 of its weight in inlays and the like, while ceremonial can go up to 1/5, or even higher (though that would be very ostentatiously impractical).

This breastplate (200 gp armor, weighs 30 pounds) could have up to 6 pounds (300 cw) of jewelry. That’ll add an unpleasant amount to its encumbrance, so I’ll say it is decorated with only 3 pounds of silver (150 cw). It was once quite fine (+1 quality), but has seen some abuse in the field (-2 quality). The original value was 200 gp (armor) + 75 gp (silver), +10% (quality), for a total of 300 gp (302.5). In its current state it is not worth as much (200 gp + 60 gp) = 600 gp. (If the same penalty applied to the base armor value it would be a total of 220 gp.)

I specifically do not include the value of masterwork components or enchantment in these calculations. They do not change with the base value of the item, so they don’t change due to ornamentation.


Earrings, pins, and the like are probably measured in pennyweights, 1/250 of a pound. If they have much value at all it is probably because they are enchanted or have gems.

Item Weight (pw) Example Value Actual
Earring (each) 1d6 Fine (+1) silver earring (3 pw) with a tiny (-2) but good (+1) garnet (100 gp)  100 gp 99 gp
Pin 1d10 Impure (-1) but good (+2) gold pin (7 pw) 8 gp 7.7 gp
Ring 2d10 Impure (-1) and poor (-1) gold and platinum (25/75) ring (7 pw @ 7.75 gp) 45 gp 43.4 gp

Many other items are a bit heavier, but still not too heavy. lockets, and so on are probably measured in coin weights, 1/50 of a pound. Instead of providing a random weight for each of these, I suspect it’s more likely to have a weight and need an item, so I inverted it: find the weight you want, then select an item from the table below.

Item Low High
clasp 5 5
bangle 5 10
anklet 5 20
medal 5 20
necklace 5 20
brooch 10 10
buckle 10 25
collar 10 25
comb 10 25
headband 10 25
chain 10 40
seal 10 40
bracelet 15 20
diadem 15 30
goblet 15 30
knife 15 30
locket 15 30
medallion 15 30
pendant 15 30
armband 25 40
chalice 25 40
tiara 25 40
belt 25 50
choker 25 50
coffer 25 50
idol 25 70
orb 25 75
coronet 35 50
decanter 45 70
statuette 50 200
box (small) 55 100
crown 55 100
scepter 100 250

Closing Comments

This rounds off the “how to create and calculate” portion of this series. In the next post in the series I’ll explore what do with the results, and how to bend them to your use — beyond simply providing gold value to the PCs.

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