Forget the “Investment Grade” Hype Before diving into the world of gemstone investments, it’s essential to understand that the term “investment grade” is overly broad and often misused. This label lacks a clear definition and is frequently applied to gems that may not provide a significant return on investment. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission discourages the use of this term due to its misuse in the industry. As a savvy investor, avoid using this term, as it could harm your credibility.
Rule #1: Control your costs : Always aim to buy low
The key to profitable gemstone investments is buying at the right price. Your cost basis for each gem should allow for an immediate profit. Paying the right price is the most critical factor in ensuring a successful return on your investment. To achieve this, you need knowledge, caution, and common sense.
Wholesale sources are where you’ll find the best deals. Primary “Tier 1” dealers who mine and cut their own gems offer competitive prices. Secondary dealers, who purchase from primary dealers, can also provide favorable rates. Buying gems in lots rather than individual stones can lead to better prices. Nowadays, many reliable sources can be found online, but you can also explore local gem wholesalers and seek opportunities at flea markets, pawnshops, and estate sales.
Building relationships with jewelers can lead to incredible deals, as they may wish to sell gems they come across at a lower price than their current value. However, this approach requires expertise in gem identification and a willingness to put in the effort. Developing a network of reliable sources can be a rewarding strategy for investors who enjoy the thrill of the hunt.
Consider this real-life example of a wise investment. A jeweler offered a 6.42-carat spinel for $155, which was described as having an unusual gray/green/purple color. The gem appeared to be an unheated zoisite (tanzanite) rather than a spinel. After purchasing it, it turned out to be a sapphire, significantly increasing its value.
Rule #2: Avoid bad buys
Gems typically appreciate at the rate of inflation, meaning a bad deal today is likely to remain a poor investment in the future. While some investors can recover from bad purchases, it’s not a reliable strategy. It’s better to acknowledge your mistake and move on quickly to find the next opportunity.
Rule #3: Identify reliable buyers
To sell your gems at a profit, you need buyers who can sell them at retail prices. Your potential buyers may include jewelry stores, auction houses, and online auctions. While you won’t receive full retail prices unless you have a business, building connections with these potential buyers is essential. Finding buyers is not as simple as calling a broker, so be prepared to take charge of this aspect of your investment.
Successful gem dealers maintain a wide selection of high-quality material and have strong relationships with retailers. Retailers, like jewelers, often receive memo shipments of gems, from which they select and purchase stones. This level of trust and business relationship-building requires sales skills. If your sales skills are lacking, gemstone investment may not be the right path for you.
Rule #4: Calculate Your Markup Carefully
Lower-priced gems often receive higher markups, frequently five times or more, compared to expensive gems. For instance, jewelers may set a minimum price for stones regardless of their actual cost. Markups tend to decrease as gem prices rise. Therefore, understanding the pricing dynamics is vital for making informed investment decisions.
The wider the gap between wholesale and retail prices, the better your chance of making a profit. It’s also easier to find buyers for lower-priced gems. However, it’s essential to strike the right balance. While it may be easier to find buyers for $200 stones than $5,000 ones, finding 5,000 buyers for $1 stones can be a different challenge. Your choice depends on your business goals.
Rule #5: Add Value to Your Gems
Enhancing the value of your gem investments is a wise strategy. Processes like recutting, repairing, polishing, setting in jewelry, and effective marketing can significantly increase your gemstones’ appeal and, in turn, their value.
A skilled lapidary can transform low-value rough gems into high-value finished gems with proper cutting. The key is to buy rough gems at a price that allows for a sufficient markup to justify the effort. If you lack the skills, you can outsource this work. Taking a gem from rough to cut is a direct way to add value to your gems.
Setting gems in jewelry also adds value and typically requires less labor than cutting. Finished gemstone jewelry has a broader market than loose gems, providing you with an advantage when selling your investments.
Expert lapidaries can recut existing gems to improve their optical properties and desirability. This process can substantially increase a gem’s value and offers a great opportunity for investors.
In summary, gemstone investments can be profitable if you adhere to these essential rules. Avoid falling for the “investment grade” hype, control your costs, build relationships with buyers, and consider adding value to your gems to maximize your returns. By following these guidelines, you can navigate the gem market successfully and make money investing in gems.