To start a gem business, the first step is knowledge. You can make jewelry, but you can't make natural gemstones. You'll have to buy them, and if you don't know the gemstones business, you can waste your business capital on overpriced purchases. Before opening a store or selling gemstones online, learn to identify and appraise gems with a professional's eye.
Learn About Gems
To succeed in the gem business, you need to pay a good price for good gems. If you buy a bad or fake stone or pay too much, you're unlikely to break even, let alone turn a profit. While there are online courses available, you're better off with hands-on classes where you can see and handle real stones.
The Gemological Institute of America and other industry organizations offer classes, and some colleges also offer gemology courses. Training can teach you how to tell one gemstone from another, how to appraise cut gems and how to size up the potential value of a rough, uncut stone. You can even learn how to become a gem cutter or jewelry designer.
The exact training you need depends partly on the vision you have for your business.
Planning Your Gemstones Business
The 21st century gem business offers multiple options for making a living off precious and semiprecious stones. The path you follow will affect your startup costs, your business plan and the skills you need to learn.
- Will you open a brick-and-mortar store, or would you prefer selling gems online?
- Is your focus gemstone trading, where you buy stones cheap and resell them for more, or are you a jewelry designer who is incorporating gems into your own creations?
- Will you buy finished stones and jewelry or learn to cut rough stones? The latter allows you to buy cheaper and increase their value with your own effort. However, you'll have to learn the skills and spend money up front to buy gem-cutting equipment.
- In what kind of gems will you deal? Precious gems such as diamonds or rubies cost the most, so it might be smart to concentrate on cheaper semiprecious stones at the start. If you're making your own jewelry, you should prioritize gems that work with your style.
- Will your gem business focus on popular stones such as diamonds and rubies or on more obscure and rare items? Some rare stones such as musgravite or bixbite cost more than diamonds, but their beauty and novelty also lets you sell them for more.
A brick-and-mortar store will have the most upfront costs but even selling gems online won't be cheap. You'll need to start with a war chest that will allow you to buy good gems from reputable sellers or travel to gem-mining areas and buy rough stones directly from the source.
Document Your Gemstone Trading
In any business, you need a paper trail to keep track of your finances and your tax obligations. There's a thriving online market in stolen jewelry and "conflict gems" extracted by force from war-torn regions. If you don't know for sure from where the gems in which you're interested came, ask for documentation and certification. What kind of gems are they, what are they worth and from where did they come?
Dealing in stolen gems can lower your costs, but it's not easy to resell gems that don't have the right documentation. If word gets out that you buy stolen or conflict stones, even by accident, that can sink your gemstone-trading career.
Marketing Your Gemstones Business
The gem business of the 21st century is overflowing with players. You're competing not only with jewelry stores or flea market stands selling original designs but with countless eBay sellers and Etsy artisans pushing their wares. Even if your stones and designs are top quality, it will take serious marketing to stand out from the crowd.
Fraser Sherman has written about every aspect of business: how to start one, how to keep one in the black, the best business structure, the details of financial statements. He's also run a couple of small businesses of his own. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com