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Selling semi-precious cabs by the carat?


#1

I’m wondering how common it is to find semi-precious cabs (such as
labradorite) sold by the carat instead of priced individually or by
the ounce or gram, for example. I was just at a gem and mineral show
where a dealer had a lot of gorgeous material that was all sold by
the carat. To me it felt like a way to disguise the price of the
items while using the carat measurement to imply that the stones were
inherently more valuable than they are. Someone picks out a couple of
pretty stones, has them weighed out and is too embarrassed, once
they’re rung up, to decline when s/he finds they come to sixty or
seventy dollars. (I wouldn’t be.)

Then again, what do I know. I hardly ever buy cabs, and I don’t make
any. Can someone enlighten me?

Courtney Hipp
Courtney Graham Hipp
cgHipp Jewelry Designs


#2

Courtney;

Actually it is quite common to sell semiprecious cabochons by the
carat, Most rough gem material is sold by the Ton, Pound, Ounce, Gram
or Carat, Most cutting is priced by the carat (in most places). So if
you aren’t selling on eBay or the like where you are going to sell
one 18x13 cabochon in a sale it is quite common. Exceptionally common
stones such as black Onyx (dyed agate Carnelian (also sometimes dyed
agate) and very small-calibrated stones are not sold by the carat
to the end user. However along the chain of dealers it was sold some
where in that chain by weight.

If you are used to buying bags of 10 stones for $x.xx then I can see
where this could get confusing, this is why it is good to understand
the Gem trade.

To aid the less knowledgeable buyer many catalogues price their
calibrated stones per piece or per bag containing this or that many.
How would you recommend pricing a geometrically shaped or
asymmetrically shaped stones Per piece? OK then on what criteria do
you decide how much to sell each stone for given that they all are of
different weights.

Kenneth Ferrell


#3
I'm wondering how common it is to find semi-precious cabs (such as
labradorite) 

I hate to keep repeating myself on this forum, but until jewelers
start recognizing what they are doing to themselves when they misuse
terms I’m going to keep on doing it. The use of the term
"semi-precious" should have been banned from use long ago. There are
$5.00 rubies and $500.00 labradorites (or moonstones, or tourmalines,
etc.). Which of these is semi-precious? Neither!! They are all
just gem materials. Some are expensive, some are inexpensive. Come
on people, this is a term that helps you not to sell a piece. That’s
all a customer wants to hear: the piece they are buying from you is
only “semi” precious.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
617-491-6000
@spirersomes
www.spirersomes.com


#4

Courtney,

When I buy high quality cabs of semi-precious stones, I almost
always buy them by carat. The exceptions to that are generally
stones that are either matched cabs or slabs in specialty shapes,
items that are carved, and lower-quality “training” or “commercial
grade” materials. In those cases, I buy at a per-piece or, for
commercial-grade, per-hundred price. Items that aren’t necessarily
"stone" (like bone, shell, slag, glass, etc.) are also usually priced
per item or per set.

Even in the per-piece or per-hundred pricing, though, it can be good
to know the carat-weight, so that you can do an apples-to-apples
comparison of price… sort of like the price/unit conversions you
see on the grocery store shelf that always show price/oz or price/lb,
regardless of the package label or size.

Hope this helps!
Karen Goeller
@Karen_Goeller


#5

Karen -

Thanks for the helpful and thorough response! I’d never bought cabs
in person in the past, and had only bought “per piece,” so I had no
idea whether this was standard practice. This dealer was the only one
selling cabs in any quantity at the show, so I had little basis for
comparison.

Courtney
Courtney Graham Hipp
cgHipp Jewelry Designs


#6
    I hate to keep repeating myself on this forum, but until
jewelers start recognizing what they are doing to themselves when
they misuse terms I'm going to keep on doing it.  The use of the
term "semi-precious" should have been banned from use long ago. 

Hi Daniel…List…

I agree with you entirely, and I believe GIA has this posistion on
the term “semi-precious” also…

I personally never use the term…

I’ll also note that the term “semi-precious” is mentioned in the
FTC Guidelines…in the section concerning gemstone description
(23.24)…

So…I suspect we’ll be seeing it in the nomenclature for some time
yet…

Regards…
Gary W. Bourbonais
AJP (GIA)


#7

That’s funny Daniel; I wish you would quit repeating yourself too.
Perhaps you do have a point; maybe we should just start calling them
cheep stones, which would sell so much better. The term
"semiprecious" is more commonly used today to categorize a class of
stone, more so then its value. Yes they are all just gem materials
however; it is obvious when you say “precious” or “semiprecious” what
you are talking about. Maybe you thought the question was about
semiprecious diamonds? Good thing they mentioned specifics for you.

Wise Blood


#8

This is an addendum to my earlier posting on the use of the term
"semi-precious". One of the most common complaints heard on Orchid
is that jewelers can’t compete with the big box stores (i.e.
Walmart, etc.) or mall stores in terms of price and therefore can’t
charge enough to make a decent living. What is critical to being
able to sell your product is that you need to differentiate
yourselves in some way or another. One of those ways is to take a
different approach than what everyone else is doing. So if you try
to sell “semi-precious” gemstones to the same people who just went
into Kay’s Jewelers (or some similar store) where the (usually)
completely unknowledgeable salespeople are selling "semi-precious"
stones, what exactly is your edge? You don’t have one. But if you
try to present what you are selling in a different light it allows
you to compete effectively without having to worry about the pricing
issue. I can guarantee you that if you present that nice pink
tourmaline sitting in your better made ring to a customer as a
beautiful gem material instead of as that “semi-precious” stone, you
can get a better price for it than all of those commercial jewelers
scrambling to take away your sales. And if you present it with
appropriate disclosure (i.e. show how much more knowledgeable you are
than everyone else) and a reasonable guarantee (i.e. show how much
more you stand behind your product), you should be able to charge
about whatever you need to in order to make a reasonable living.

It was recently asked how much someone would charge if they made up
a piece with $10 of materials and an hour of labor in it. Well, I
can’t say I’ve made anything in a long time with only $10 in
materials in it, but if it was a custom job for a customer we would
get $750.00 because we have presented ourselves to the public as
"the" place to go for custom work. And we have done it by setting
ourselves apart from the rest of the traditional jewelers by
educating our customers about things like gem materials and the use
of the term “semi-precious” (and yes, I tell customers who use the
term in my shop that we won’t use that term and then I show them
exactly why by pulling out some of those multi-thousand dollar
"semi-precious" stones). So, follow the crowd or stand apart from
it. It’s your choice. But if you choose to follow it, don’t expect
to make any more than you are today.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G. Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 617-491-6000
@spirersomes
www.spirersomes.com


#9

Wise Blood:

 Yes they are all just gem materials however; it is obvious when
you say "precious" or "semiprecious" what you are talking about. 

Well the problem is that those in the trade may think they know the
definition but the retail public doesn’t and when you are trying to
sell something to someone you are starting off with a completely
negative term to begin with. What you are saying to the customer is:
“Here, buy this stone that isn’t really worth anything because it is
only ‘semi’-precious.” The other real problem is that there are a
whole bunch of gem materials that are regularly referred to in the
trade as semi-precious but that in reality are far from it. Would
you call a para eiba tourmaline that sells for $10,000/ ct. a
semi-precious stone? Well according to the rather loose trade
definitions tourmaline is “semi-precious”. So try telling your
customer they should pay $10,000/ct for a “semi”-precious stone and
see how many of them you sell. If you are serious about selling your
product you have to present it honestly, but with the most positive
spin you can. In more than twenty years I have sold thousands and
thousands of disclosed treatments on them all and I have
never, during that time, sold anyone a “semi-precious” stone. And
incidentally, over those years, I have also seen quite a few diamonds
that, if I ever used the term semi-precious, would have more than
qualified for that term.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140
617-491-6000
@spirersomes
www.spirersomes.com


#10

I think that Daniel is correct in this matter of “precious” vs.
“semi-precious”. I think that these terms might have originated many
years ago in traditional jewelry stores where they only wanted to
sell diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, high profit stones.
Most of these jewelers didn’t want to be bothered with the rest,
which they usually knew little or nothing about. For them it was too
much trouble to learn about and appreciate the beauty of the world of
"other" gems. These “jewelers” wanted to separate what they were
selling from the rest, so they came up with the terms, “precious” &
“semi-precious”. This devalued stones that they were not selling and
elevated what they were. As Daniel is correct in pointing out, which
is more precious, a nasty looking J - SI2 diamond or a beautiful
amethyst, topaz, etc.? “Semi-precious” is such an innocuous term and
it is self defeating to use it when selling a stone. Just my opinion,
what do you think?

Joel Schwalb
@Joel_Schwalb
www.schwalbstudio.com


#11

I think if you are selling pricey tourmalines, spinels, opals, etc.
the term semi-precious should have no part in your description. But
what if you are selling “cheap cabs”, would then the term perhaps
lend a bit of value to the stone? And if so, just how far down the
scale should you go? Blue chalcedony, chrysoprase, Morisonite jasper,
maybe, in my eyes this stuff IS precious, but that’s because I cut.
But if you are selling commercially cut sodalites, carnelean, leopard
skin jaspers etc, and calling these semi-precious I think you run the
risk of loosing credibility with your customer. Again it depends on
quality. In the end, it is just a rock!