© Saxonchik | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock PhotosNothing sells a piece of jewellery like the sparkle of a radiant gemstone.  The presence of the stone conveys a feeling of luxury and desirability. Making the choice to include gemstones in your work and then choosing the stones are something that should be given thought and consideration. There are hundreds of bead and stone suppliers out there. The trick is to find the one that gives you what you need. For me, the most important factor is being sure that the stone is genuine and of the quality that I desire. That can be the tricky part.

I recently posted a question in a group discussion on a professional networking site. The question was, in essence, how do you assure yourself and your customers that your stones are genuine. I didn’t receive one answer. That made me question just what sort of processes designers and makers are using when choosing their stones. And it gave me reason to feel some concern.

As the popularity of jewellery design and making increases, and there appear to be hundreds more designers – both hobbyist and professionals - making their debut every day, the day may come that official standards will be imposed. We may well find that our stones will have to be verified or that there are certain regulations regarding the use of gemstone names in our marketing.  Even if that doesn’t come to pass, with the economy as it is, customers are going to want reassurance that what they are being told they are buying is, indeed, what they are buying.

My advice is to find one or two UK-based suppliers and limit your purchases to them (perhaps one for your A-AAA grade stones and another for your B/C/D stones). Find out what their processes are for sourcing their stones. One of my suppliers randomly spot checks her stones by having them checked by a gemologist. This way both she and her customers are assured that they are buying - and selling - genuine, high quality stones. I am limited as to what I can say regarding popular auction sites, but I will simply say that the clue is in the price. Genuine stones don’t come cheap and, if in doubt, walk away. And if you don’t recognise the name of a stone, look it up. There are many stones that are now entirely lab created and have names that are similar to those of natural stones. If you choose to use manmade stones, let your customers know. (Opalite is a good example of a very popular but entirely synthetic stone.)

Your expense when buying these stones is going to be greater. That goes without saying. But genuine stones can command a higher price at market. The fact is this: most customers know and accept this. When I first started selling, I was afraid I wouldn’t get sales if my prices were too high. So, I kept them at a level where I was barely covering my costs and not even factoring in my time and all the ancillary costs of my business.  My sales were embarrassingly low. Taking advice from a well-respected silver/goldsmith, I raised my prices to reflect the true value of the components, the finished piece and my time as a designer. Pieces started selling quickly and frequently and people spent more time at my table at fairs and markets. What I was afraid would put buyers off actually attracted them.

Bottom line - learn about your stones. Learn about their natural appearance or how their colours may be enhanced. Many stones are dyed to enhance their colour - while perfectly acceptable, in most cases this process does not add value to the natural stone and my policy is to use as few dyed stones as possible and never in my higher-priced collection.  Some stones come by their colour through heating - this is a long-standing and completely acceptable gemstone enhancement and the colours achieved often add rather than detract from the value of the natural stone. Investigate  the actual availability of certain stones. Turquoise, for example, is actually quite rare and much of what we see on the market is dyed howlite or stabilised chalk turquoise. Some turquoise isn’t turquoise at all – just a name given to a jasper or agate. Fact - only three percent of the turquoise available is pure, untreated turquoise. Does it come with a hefty price tag? Of course it does. Is it highly desirable and will customers pay a fair price for it? Absolutely.

It is a pleasure to work with and design around stunning gemstones and the resulting work is a joy to behold. As designers, we are in the business of creating sparkling little pieces of art. Do your homework and make sure that your little dazzlers are worth your time and your customers’ hard-earned money.

Martha Mawson
Ailleas Designs

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