Are you ready to sell your cut gemstones? There are many ways to do it. Here are some basic rules for selling gems to local jewelers.
By Jeff R. Graham 10 minute read
amethyst - selling gems to jewelers

Oval-cut, Brazilian amethyst, 19.12 cts. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Jasper52.

Dress Appropriately

This depends on your area. Here in Tucson, it usually means a nice pair of dress shorts, shirt, and shoes. Arizona is very hot and casual, but more formal attire may be needed depending on where you live.

Bathed sounds obvious, right? You’d be surprised at what I’ve seen. Brush your teeth. No garlic and onions at lunch.

Target Your Jeweler Customers

Scout ahead. Take a look at their store and see if faceted stones are something they even use. Don’t try selling gems to them when you’re scouting, unless it just happens to come up.

If they don’t sell faceted stones, don’t be discouraged. Maybe they don’t have a supplier. Maybe they’re actually interested but just haven’t started carrying them yet. Go ahead and contact them later. Just realize that faceted stones may not be their thing. It could be a long shot.

Call First

After determining your most likely prospects, call them.

Don’t be pushy. Just say you’re a local gemstone cutter (some won’t know what a faceter is) and that you’d like to show them some stones at their convenience. You want to make an appointment with them if possible.

Be prepared to rearrange your schedule. Don’t get in an argument over the best time to meet. The best time is when they want to see you.

By calling first and making an appointment, you’ll make sure you’re talking to whoever makes the buying decisions. You also won’t be interrupting them when they’re busy.

If You’re Cold Calling…

Keep a few things in mind. You’re taking a chance as far as catching someone who can actually do the buying. If you do catch them, they may be busy and not want to talk.

Try to cold call at times during the day and week when the jewelers might have a break. Don’t interrupt lunch. (That’s always a hard time in any retail shop). Late and early in the day are usually busy times. Late in the day, people just want to go home. Early in the day, they’re just getting to what they didn’t do yesterday.

Before lunch, usually mid-morning, is the best time. The middle of the week is better, too. Mondays, people are trying to catch up. Friday, they’re thinking about the weekend.

Be on Time

If you have an appointment, don’t be late or early. Remember, they scheduled you. (Hopefully. Not all jewelers are organized).

Don’t rush. In retail stores, things come up and schedules change. If they cancel, ask politely when you can reschedule.

Know the Local Business Cycle

What’s business like in your area at different times of the year?

For example, here in Tucson, the summers are usually very slow, if not dead, for local stores. It’s 100º +, most people are on vacation, the snowbirds (tourists) have left for home, and business is just bad. People aren’t moving any more than they have to. The odds of selling gems to jewelers aren’t high at this time.

However, this is a time when jewelers may be interested in looking (since they’re not busy). They might say, “I’m not buying now,” and warn you not to waste your time. You should respond: “That’s all right, I just wanted to introduce myself and show you what I have.” They’ll often reply, “Call me in a month or in September.” (That’s when things pick up in Tucson). In that case, ask when. What part of the month? Is it OK to just drop in? Should you call first? What’s the best time of day for them?

Follow Up and Always Keep Appointments

If they say, ”See me in September,” put it in your calendar and keep that appointment. If you have to cancel, always talk to the person you had the appointment with and explain why. Try to reschedule. Don’t leave a message with their assistants. The person may not get the message. If a prospective customer waits for you and you don’t show, you likely won’t be able to sell them anything.

Offer a Large Selection

Easier said than done. However, the bottom line is the more you have to sell, the more likely you will sell something.

I wouldn’t call on jewelers without at least a tray of cut stones (20 to 30 or more). Remember, you made an appointment. If you just show them one or two stones, you’re wasting your time and your customer’s time. Having a decent selection indicates you’re a professional, not a hobbyist. If you want to be taken seriously, this is important.

Show them some inexpensive stones as well as some with prices that will make their eyes water. You’ll seldom sell an expensive gem right off, but it does send the message that you’re not an amateur. Some jewelers know what they’re looking at and will buy an expensive stone right off. God bless them. Jewelers will often buy a small stone to see how things go. So, that inexpensive material may be a foot in the door.

Present Your Stones Professionally

Don’t use cheap plastic containers for your stones. They really look bad. You’re not selling factory-cut gems at cheap prices. Use a good quality case, like a Bates case.

Clean your gemstones. Fingerprints can really dull them. Arrange them so they’re easy to identify or at least distinguish. For example, don’t put pink/red tourmaline next to rhodolite.

Know Your Stock

When you’re selling gems, be prepared to answer your customer’s questions about your wares. Sounds easy, right? You’d be surprised. You’ll get questions like the following:

  • How much does this stone cost?
  • What’s its color and clarity grade?
  • What kind of cut does it have?
  • What treatments has it received? 
  • Will this stone present any setting problems?

Nothing slows a sale down like saying, “Uhhh, I don’t know.” However, if you don’t know, it’s better to be honest than to wing it. (See below).

Have the Proper Tools at Hand

Take a scale, tweezers, loupe, stone papers, calculator, and a sales receipts book to your appointments. I keep my stones in a presentation case but usually have a stone paper with the weight, dimensions, price, and type noted for each gem. When I sell it, I just put the stone in the corresponding paper and hand it to my customer. I also have my business name on the paper, so my customers know where they bought it.

If needed in your area, have the proper tax exempt form for your customers to complete. You can be liable for the tax if you don’t have the proper forms completed and signed.

Carry Professional Business Cards

Nothing says amateur louder than cheap business cards you print at home. Nowadays, good, professionally printed business cards aren’t expensive.

Turn Off Anything That Can Interrupt Your Meeting

Nothing irritates me more than being interrupted by a cell phone in the middle of a business deal. If you answer that call in the middle of a deal, you’re saying that whatever it’s about is more important than selling gems to your customer. Bad message to send, isn’t it?

On the other hand, if you’re in your customer’s retail store, remember that they don’t always have the option to turn things off. Be patient.

If They Say “I Can Get it Cheaper…”

Politely point out to your customers the quality differences between your gems and cheap stones. (The loupe comes in handy here). Explain why your gems are worth more and that, in fact, they can’t get them anywhere else — and certainly not cheaper.

However, don’t beat a dead horse. If the jeweler is one of those “cheaper is better types,” thank them for their time and move on. You’re never selling gems to them. Don’t waste your time.

Have Clear Business Policies

Be ready to answer your customer’s business questions. The following are just some of the questions they might ask:

  • Do you leave things on memo? If so, how do you arrange it?
  • How do you want payment?
  • What are your guarantees, if any?
  • Do you custom cut? If so, have a clear pricing structure.
  • Do you do repair work? How much do you charge?

Stay on Your Promised Price and Schedule

If you say, “I’ll have that done on Friday,” then do it. No excuses. Treat your customers the way you want to be treated.

If you quote a price, that’s the price. If you screw up, don’t whine. Honor your price. Of course, you should make clear what the real price is but that you’ll still honor your quote. That way, they’ll realize what happened and won’t expect the same price next time.

Listen to What Jewelers Tell You

Pay attention! If they tell you they like cushion cuts, for example, make a note of it. Next time you cut a nice cushion, call them. If they tell you they sell a lot of amethyst, ask them what type (Brazilian, Siberian, Rose de France), what shape, what size.

Find out what’s hot in your area. Even if you just learn what a particular jeweler likes, you’re half way to selling them a stone.

Visit with Jewelers and Ask Questions

Make a little small talk with your customers, but also ask them about their business. What types of stones and jewelry do they like? What stones do they wish they could have more of?

For example, many jewelers would probably like to find quality matching sets of gemstones for earrings, particularly not very expensive ones. Finding good matches in color, depth, and proportions for sets is very tough among commercial stones.

Never Try to Sell Anything to a Jeweler’s Customer in Their Store

Let’s say you’re in someone else’s store and a customer approaches you and asks, “That’s beautiful! How much is it?” What do you do?

You refer them to the jeweler for a price.

If you try selling gems directly to a jeweler’s customer in their store, you’ve made a huge mistake. If you do, you’ve likely lost that jeweler as a customer forever — and with good reason. You’ve demonstrated you can’t be trusted. The jeweler pays for that store’s overhead and the customers that a retail shop brings. It’s their store and their customer. Period.

Be Honest

You should be prepared to answer your customer’s questions. However, you can’t prepare for every question. If you don’t know the answer, just say so. If you don’t know what something will cost, don’t quote a price. Tell them you’ll need to check and get back to them. Then, find out and get back to them in a timely manner.

If a customer asks your opinion on something, either tell the truth or keep your mouth shut. If you don’t feel comfortable saying what you think, you’re better off keeping quiet. Say you just don’t know.

Don’t Give Up

Sales is hard work. It often seems you’re not getting anywhere. Just keep in mind that many sales calls aren’t immediately beneficial. I often hear from jewelers I called on a year or more ago. People do remember. They will call you if they liked you and thought they could do business with you. It takes time.