In commerce, the word keystone, or keystone pricing means the retail price of an item is set at double the wholesale or production cost of that item. I have only really run into it when working in the jewelry industry. Does anyone know the origin of this terminology? Ideally I could find the earliest usage of it.

  • This morning there was an answer which gave an origin in the 1930s, having to do with a relationship to a keystone in masonry. Then there was a comment on that answer which found it being used in 1902, on google's N-gram. Later today the answer and the comment were deleted and I cannot find where they went. But it seemed we were on to something.
    – bhinojosa
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 4:38
  • 1
    Sorry, I chose to delete my answer, but here is the comment by @choster which I think should be turned into a full answer. - FWIW, I found reference to a "Keystone list" price from 1902, so it seems the term was in use in jewelers circles for some time, but keystone price, keystone markup, keystone rate, and so on are quite rare in the online corpora. I do observe that until the 1960s, Keystone was always capitalized in the Jeweler's Circular–Keystone, the leading industry journal, so maybe it had a proprietary origin. JCK still publishes today as, well, JCK. – choster 11 hours ago
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 6:32
  • 100% markup? I knew it! Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 13:45

1 Answer 1


According to this post, it is stated to be from the jewelers' magazine, as @choster stated in the comments:

I've received an answer from a reference librarian, so I thought I'd pass it along:

The term keystone, meaning that 50% of the stated price should be considered to be the wholesale price, comes from the jewelry trade. It was originated in 1896 by Keystone magazine, a predecessor of Jewelers' Circular-Keystone, after subscribers had complained about the showing of dealer costs in a publication that customers might see on jewelers' counters.

The name of the magazine, Keystone, probably comes from the keystone cut, a fancy diamond cut whose outline is that of a keystone. (A keystone is the central, wedge-shaped stone at the top of an arch that locks the arch together.)

The magazine is still published, but is now simply known as JCK. As a sidenote, this business page states that the two magazines were separate until the 1930s (so as mentioned above, would have still been so at the time that the name passed into usage):

Jewelers' Circular-Keystone (JCK) is the jewelry industry's leading trade publication. JCK's origins date back 131 years to the original Jewelers' Circular magazine, which merged with the Jewelers' Keystone in the early thirties.

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    Thank you! I wrote to JCK yesterday asking for the exact original creation of the term. Just got an answer this morning from their Editor-in-Chief. She is having someone look through their archives to see what they can find. Regarding the name of the magazine, she wrote this: But where the name of Keystone magazine came from, we are not 100% sure. We suspect it has something to do with Pennsylvania (the Keystone State – see the nickname explanation here: <statesymbolsusa.org/symbol-official-item/pennsylvania/…> @Josh61
    – bhinojosa
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 18:58
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    @choster - Just got word from JCK that the magazine "Keystone" was most likely named after the term "keystone"... Will keep you posted.
    – bhinojosa
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 2:22

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