It's no secret that Murex techelet is pricey. But we make every effort to keep it as affordable as possible. Last week we received an insightful inquiry from a customer:
I'd like to buy the Wool Comfort, size large, thick Murex strings, tied Rambam 7. Is it possible to receive a lower price seeing as the tying method is Rambam 7? I can see if that I select Rambam 7 when ordering individual strings from your website, the price is $45, versus $70 for Rambam 13 (a $35 difference). But when ordering the "Wool Comfort" Rambam 7 is only $5 cheaper than Rambam 13 (a price difference that I assume simply reflects the longer time it takes to tie Rambam 13). Is it possible my final price can reflect the fact that Rambam 7 strings are significantly less expensive than the other methods? Thanks, Jack P.
Jack is entirely right. Rambam 7 strings do save you a whole lot of money. Why the huge price differential?
White tzitzit strings don't cost a whole lot of money. We sell standard hand-spun strings for just $10-$12 (depending on the thickness). Ptil Tekhelet strings are just those same white strings, except that of the 16 strings one-eighth (Rambam) or one-fourth (Raavad) or half (Tosafot) have been dyed with Murex dye. That bit of dye costs a whole lot of money.
And since it's really the dye that you're paying for (i.e. the labor and transport costs involved in producing the dye as well as the dyeing process), if there's more dye, the production cost goes up significantly. Simple math.
To help keep their products affordable, the Ptil Tekhelet Association decided to price the short strings as low as possible.
For those who are not so familiar with techelet tying, here's a bit of background: Some tying customs use up much more of the length of the blue strings than others. For example, Arizal (a.k.a. Chabad or Radzyn) tying involves winding the blue strings around the seven other strings a total of 37 times, whereas on the other extreme, there are some uncommon methods that require winding the blue strings around as few as 9 times! (Most methods are somewhere in between.)
If you were to use regular length strings and just wind the blue around 9 times, when you're finished tying you'll wind up (no pun intended) with a whole lot of extra blue string length which you might just snip off and toss out.
So Ptil Tekhelet makes certain sets (which most sellers don't carry at all) that have short blue strings to save consumers money.
They offer string sets marked"Raavad - Chinuch/Gra." That means they follow the Raavad's approach of a 1:3 ratio, and the blue strings are long enough to tie according to Sefer HaChinuch, the Vilna Gaon (Gra), the Raavad and some other methods.
They also have string sets that are even shorter, marked "Raavad 7." Again, these have the Raavad ratio, and the blue strings are long enough to tie according to what you might call an abbreviated version of Vilna Gaon or Amram Gaon tying, with just 7 chulyot. These are very affordable.
Ptil Tekhelet also makes string sets marked "Rambam 7" designed to be used to do Yemenite/Rambam tying with 7 chulyot, which is actually a fairly common tying method. Again, these sets are not so expensive at all.
So based on the above, on our website you could save quite a lot of money on techelet if you select "I don't need tzitzit" when you add any tallit or tallit katan to your cart, then add a set of short strings to your cart.