Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why Don’t All Gems Come in Any Cut?

I got the following question from two customers just this week: can I supply a matched pair of Merelani mint garnets, elongated pear shape.  The answer – and I don’t even have to look – is “no.”  (I actually did find one pair, so I was wrong, but you’ll see the astronomical price tag on my Etsy site!)

So why doesn’t any gem come in any cut?  The answer is really simple.  Gems are cut to maximize the rough.  Take, for instance, tourmaline rough, which is cylindrical and long.  That’s great for elongated pear shapes.  So is aqua and emerald sometimes (all three are beryl so the rough is very similar).  But most garnet rough is more roundish, pebble like.  That’s why it gets cut into ovals, some rounds, cushions, and anything else that accommodates that shape. 

Also, certain cuts bring out the beauty of the material, hence the famous “emerald” cut.  Emeralds are more sleepy than crisp, so an emerald cut, which has fewer facets, can bring out the color over the clarity.  Ceylon sapphires, by contrast, are usually cut into cushions and ovals, with step facets in the back.  Step cuts are bulkier but for Ceylon sapphires this is important because the color is sometimes just in the culet, and that cutting will create the illusion of an even tone when the gem is viewed from the front.  This explains the famous “zoning” that you can often see from the back (so it’s ok if you see it) but not the front (so it’s not ok if you see it).  Tourmalines that have watermelon coloring (pink inside, green at the rim) are often sliced or carved so that this effect is preserved.

Dravite Tourmaline Rough and Cut (Ovals are Best)

Diopside Rough
Some gems, i.e. amethyst, come in just about any shape.  That’s because amethyst is so cheap it can be bought by the kilo.  It then doesn’t matter how much you waste, most of the cost is in the cutting anyway.  The material is (nearly enough) free.  In other cases, i.e. tourmaline these days, the rough is very expensive.  And of course, when you buy and re-sell, your calculations are based on your cost.  If a customer wants you to do a special cut that wastes the material, your cost is still the same and so you will charge more for a smaller gem.

This also explains why despite what is commonly claimed, a retail customer does not necessarily lose out when she buys a stone that is cut to preserve weight.  Because if the seller marks up based on the cost of the rough, the buyer can get the most amount of weight – and hence value - out of her purchase.  Of course many sellers do not have a straightforward markup policy, they charge what the market will bear.   In that case the customer can lose out if she hasn’t looked at the prices of the gem she wants to buy (comparison shopping really pays in these cases).  That’s why it always pays for you as a customer to have some idea of the current market, of the most common cuts for gems, and for what is and isn’t possible based on the rough.  A few minutes of internet browsing of some of the common gem sites is usually enough to get a basic idea.
Burma Spinel Rough Crystal

Kyanite Rough, Just Shaved Around the Edges
Here are some of the most common cuts for popular gems:
Amethyst: cheap rough, any cut.
Alexandrite: elongated cushion, oval.  Round costs extra.
Aqua: any cut really, the rough is a nice size.
Citrine: cheap rough, any cut.
Emerald: Emerald cut and oval, some pears, rounds are at a premium.
Rhodolite garnet: any cut.
Ruby: Elongated cushions, ovals, then rounds (same as sapphire)
Sapphire: Elongated ushions, ovals, then rounds. Very few pears.  Step cuts for Ceylon.
Sphene: Ovals and Elongated cushions, then pears. Very few rounds.
Spinel: Cushion (square and elongated), oval, then round and pear.
Tanzanite: Lots of ovals and rounds, some cushions.  The rough is a bit bigger so more shapes are possible.
Tourmaline: Lots of longish cuts including emerald cut and pear shapes, not many rounds.
Tsavorite and Mint Garnet: Ovals, then all the other cuts.

A good rule of thumb is that oval is the cheapest and most common cut in most stones. Round is the most expensive.  

Watermelon Tourmaline Slices

Sunday, June 8, 2014

My New Website

As many of you probably know, I will not be going back to Felician College in the fall.  It will be jewelry full time for me for now, or at least for the next year or two, as I build up the company.  (I’ll probably apply for another academic position at that point.  I do love academia but I love this too.)

I’ve had to think long and hard about the direction I want to go in, and I’ve decided it’s time to build my own website, which will run alongside with Etsy – I have no plans on forsaking Etsy anytime soon, I had a very productive meeting with part of their crew a couple of weeks ago and I’ll be visiting their offices in the next month. 

As I build my own site, however, I would love your feedback and ideas.  I have built my entire shop around my customers, their ideas, interests, and feedback.  I find this process very enriching and as I grow, I want to continue keeping you all involved! 

I am signing up with Squarespace to host my site, they have fully built e-commerce platforms where you can create multiple collections for sale, hook up your blog, do shipping, sales, credit card and PayPal processing, analytics, mailing lists and more.  It looks very exciting. 

I’m still in the very early stages of design, but of course these are the most crucial because that’s where you do the basic organization of the site.  Below are my main ideas.  If you have any thoughts, please convo me via Etsy, email me, or use the comment box below.  I will send out a questionnaire at some point but I’m not at that stage yet.

1. I’d like my site to concentrate on the high end items, so gold jewelry only, and nicer gems.  Why?  Because Etsy is better for the low end stuff so there’s no reason to duplicate.  The average Etsy customer doesn’t spend as much (my average sale used to be about $80, now it is $300, but I have many items that cost more and that don’t sell that well on Etsy).  I also want to do more high end custom work.  This will be a slow process because I’m not willing to take out a loan - rumor has it those have to be paid back!  So as the sales increase, I will start creating high end pieces one at a time.

2. Instead of using the standard Etsy categories (ring, pendant, necklace, earring…), I want to sort by collection.  But there will be a “search” button as well so people can search within the shop for just rings for instance.  I have to rename some of the collections, and I need ideas for those.  Right now the collections I have are Hexagon (this will include the kite settings), Gotham (already named), Petal (all the Victorian flower pieces), and Scroll (the earrings with the scroll design and the matching eternity band, plus simple pendants using the scroll settings).  I may start with the most complete collections (Hex and Petal).  Then later I will add the rest, and eventually another line or two.  There are some items that I don’t know where to put: the daisy ring, the pillow pendant.  And there are items that will not make it to the site and stay on Etsy only – the rest will be cross listed since I don’t have funds to make two of each.

3. Gems: after my initial jewelry lines are up, I will add a gem section for outright purchase or custom work.  For matched pairs, there will be options to purchase the setting from my scroll and hex lines, or others as relevant (i.e. I can add an option to make a dangly petal earring).  For single stones, I will also offer setting options as applicable.  And I will add some sort of custom form where people can make other requests for the stone they buy.  I will also offer the option to source a loose stone but I may need a minimum price point because finding a stone can take time.  Also, as custom work is extremely time consuming, I want to put more visual emphasis on using my existing designs.  That way they will be the first choice a customer makes, and a custom piece from scratch will be the second choice only.  Offering custom pricing using my existing settings will also allow a customer to calculate a combined design (i.e. adding a dangly or using a pendant for an earring).  Squarespace has a lot of listing variations, and this will come in handy.

4. For the pull down menus, right now this is what I have:
About:  Shop Mission, Shop Owner (members), Resources
Shop:  Pull down menu by collection
Blog:  links to my blog
Where to buy: My local shop, Etsy (and of course the website)
Custom: TBA
Gallery: Past orders and photos

This is what I have so far. I assume you won’t be seeing the site until late Summer, but I can use the blog to keep you updated, and to send you layout ideas (I’m hoping a friend of mine will help me with this but I’m not sure yet).  Right now I’m working on the back end part.  I don’t know diddly about building a website, so this is going to be interesting!