People often tell me they don’t need a Gemstone Dealer as they have their own suppliers in the East and they go to Bangkok or Hong Kong to buy for themselves once or twice a year, or they buy from the shows and that’s enough. The assumption is that they can buy better and cheaper themselves. And in some cases this is true. There is however a very strong case for the opposite to be true. I call it the Waitrose paradox.
Waitrose is regarded as one of the highest quality supermarkets (grocers) in the UK. It is also one of the most expensive. It’s a bit like Whole Foods Market in the States. The assumption is that you are paying a higher price for everything you buy there when you can buy it cheaper at say, a discount provider. This is true for some things – cleaning products, standardised things like Coke and chips, water etc. but there are products where this is definitely not the case. Items like fresh produce, fruit and vegetables, fish and meat.
While you think you paid more, what you are actually buying of a superior quality and only what you want to use. No leftovers that end up in the bin/trash. This means there’s little or no wastage and your food tastes better. Better food makes you feel better and your outlook on life is more positive. You work better, you make better money and you enjoy life more (simplistic but you get the idea).
Think of the alternative. For your fresh produce you buy cheaper, and because it’s cheaper, you buy more. Maybe through choice, or maybe because you have to to get the discount. So your unit cost is less, sometimes way less, but your total spend is more.
Now you’ve got all this food, which firstly doesn’t last as long, and as it’s of an inferior quality, you throw some of it away (you had to buy more in the first place to get such a cheap price) it’s already costing you more than you paid for it. Then it doesn’t taste as nice. Your meal times become a disappointment, throwing food away upsets you, your quality of life deteriorates and you feel down (insert sad emoji).
What’s this got to do with gemstones?
As a third generation gemstone dealer my family have been supplying to jewellery manufacturers for over 70 years. During that time we have seen the industry change completely. 70 years ago, you had to be a real pioneer to source stones, today you just hop on a plane and you’re at the source.
The problem with being at the source, whether in their office or at a gem show, is that sometimes you don’t get to see things the way you would in your own environment. Fatigue, lighting, other pressures, start to magnify and will often push you to buy at the wrong price, or you buy to justify your expenses and not go home empty handed. So what you now have is more stones than you wanted, in a quality you’re not 100% sure about, at a price that, once you take out the stones you probably won’t sell, will end up costing you more than if your bought them in your own office.
With the right network of local gemstone dealers in your place of business, you can buy what you want, when you want it and invariably have a choice. Are you buying better and improving your jewellery? Yes! Did it cost you more? In real terms probably not! Have you got what you want? Yes! Otherwise you wouldn’t be buying it and most likely you’re selling soon after too.
When you go on your buying trips what you forget is that you can rarely buy one stone, you have to buy a few. The stones you do want to use sit in your safe for six months until you get round to using them. Inevitably some won’t be as good as you thought when you get home. They sit in your safe and tie up your money. A bit like the cheap groceries you buy because they’re cheap, but end up throwing away because they are rubbish, or in this case not using.
The bottom line here, is not to be afraid of buying and sourcing stones on your home turf. There is nothing wrong with getting a reputation for being a good local buyer. In fact, some of the customers I go to see, buy exceptionally well without leaving their office. Because they have everything they need at their fingertips when making a buying decision, including other stones to compare to and mounts to see if stones fit into, they are buying what they need. They’re also investing the relationship with a supplier/partner who will go out of their way to supply and support them.
So next time a friendly gem dealer knocks on your door, don’t be so hasty to shoo them away. They might have just the thing you’re looking for.
(This blog was first published in November 2008 – but still holds true)