Gem Business and Gem Show Etiquettes


Good manners are essential in most business’s and they are particularly important in the gem business.

Note: I have had several friends in the business contribute and read this article. They all said to me “How true all of this is, but do you think people will listen?” My answer is… No the guilty parties will probably not listen, but there are new people wanting to get into the business and maybe, just maybe, some of them will.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been at a gem show or some where doing business and had people unintentionally and some times intentionally interrupt business. People can be clueless, or worse some times just rude and obnoxious. I am not talking about people just being friendly and saying “Hi” on the way by, nothing wrong with that.

Note: Nobody is perfect, so keep in mind that everyone needs a free pass once and a while. But try for good manners and you will go a lot farther, a lot easier in any business.

Think bad behavior will not catch up to you? You are wrong, it will get you. Bad behavior will cost you money, connections, favors (you will not get) and you may never know it.

Here is a story. A few years ago I was doing business with a friend of mine at a show. We were in the middle of discussing pricing and shipment of some lapidary equipment that my friend manufactures.

There is this guy that basically was trying at the time to get into the lapidary business. He came up to my friend and me, like I was his long lost buddy, and basically horned in on our conversation. This bottom feeder knew I was probably getting a better price than most other dealers because I was the manufacturer’s friend and I do a lot of volume business. So this uninvited “bottom feeder” did his best to get into the middle of our business and find out what and how I was buying this manufacturer’s equipment.

I spotted what was going on and just told the manufacturer I would be back a little later. It was obvious to me what this bottom feeder was trying to do. I came back later and my friend the manufacturer told me that this bottom feeder had told him after I left… that he (the bottom feeder) and I were buddies. The bottom feeder told my friend the manufacturer that I said the manufacturer should “give him” my pricing on the equipment. Needless to say the manufacturer was not born yesterday and knew a rat when he smelled one. The manufacturer told this “bottom feeder” he would let him know and send him the papers to become a dealer when he got the chance. Of course, the manufacturer talked to me and this bottom feeder is not an authorized dealer for my friends equipment and never will be. Plus both the manufacturer and I spread the word about this incident and, well lets say the bottom feeder is still on the bottom.

This guy, by trying to pull a fast one made two enemies, me and the manufacturer. This is the way this guy does business… I have heard similar stories from other manufacturers and dealers I know about this same guy. Also this bottom feeder has told other suppliers of mine that he should get my price because he knew me. So he has not learned anything from past experiences. How many other people has this bottom feeder pissed off? How much is it costing him? The answer is. His lack of morals and ethics is costing him a bundle, he just probably does not know it. There are quite a few people keeping an eye out for him and basically not doing business with him, because of his behavior.

Do not want to have this problem? OK, here are some basics to keep in mind. Never Interrupt. If you see some one doing business, or trying to any way. Wait politely until they are done (out of hearing, if it is a private conversation). You would not want other people to disrupt your business deal(s), so use some common sense and manners. Extend the courtesy of not interrupting business to other people. Interrupting is just stupid and is more than likely going to piss off the people you are interrupting. Making people, especially some one you may want to do business with mad is beyond stupid, it is self destructive.

Note: It is OK to wave and say I will be back later, or ask “How long will you guys be?” Then move on. Or if you have an appointment set up ahead of time say… “I have an appointment, but no hurry I can wait a few minutes while you guys finish…”

Never Reach. If some one is looking at some rough at a booth, store, what ever. Wait until the person looking at the rough (or merchandise) in particular is done. Reaching over some one’s shoulder to look at some rough is a good way to pull back a bloody stump of an arm, at least if it is me they are reach over (I might even beat them with the stump too). Do not ever reach into some ones else’s work area, do not do it. If you really want to look at the rough, ask the person that was looking at the rough first politely if it is OK with them for you to look too. Some people will say yes, some will say no. Respect their decision. Remember if you were in their place you would not want some one reaching over your shoulder either. If the person says no, say thanks any way and come back later or wait on the side patiently until they are done.

Note: If you are at a gem show and some one beat you to that particular rough. Tough, that is just life. Look at the bright side, they may not know much, and/or have money and may leave plenty for you later. Also keep in mind that there is always more places and rough to look at. So while you are waiting for them to finish, look around and beat them to the other rough around.

Remember Where You Are. Do business where it is appropriate. Never do business in some one else’s booth or store. What do I mean? If you are in a business and you see a customer at some one else’s booth or store. Never, ever, solicit business any where you do not have specific permission to do so. If you are in some one’s store or booth at a gemshow, they paid for the space and you are a guest. If the person who owns the store (or booth) cannot help the customer and asks you if you can help (he is doing you a favor). Then, and only then is it OK to talk business with his customer. Keep in mind that if you make a sale you “owe” the person that owns the booth a favor at the very least. I generally find it fair and a good idea to offer the person a small percentage of the sale. Often they will say no, but some times they will say yes. Either way you made a sale you would not have other wise made and you very likely made a friend of the booth/store owner who will feel good about helping you in the future.

You Never Know. You never know who you may be really dealing with, so be polite. What do I mean? Here is an example. I, and almost all other rough dealers often have other people represent me and show/sell my parcels of rough. This is actually a pretty common practice, so keep it in mind.

Here is another story. I was going to meet a friend and retrieve a couple parcels of rough that I had given him to look through. My friend had picked what he wanted and had placed the parcels in his case at the Tucson show and was selling some rough out of the parcel occasionally. When I walked up to my friend’s booth, there was a guy trying to get my friend to show him the parcels. I was being polite and waiting for them to finish (and watched what was happening). This guy was just plain rude and obnoxious, and being an all around ass to my friend. I have no idea why but the guy thought he was god’s gift to faceting. I caught my friend’s eye, and gave him the kill sign. The parcels at that point became unavailable. Later in the show this same guy tried to buy goods from several other people representing me. I had put the word out, he was unable to buy even a piece of rough, at least from me or my representatives.

What is the point? Be polite, beings a rude jerk or know it all will cost you dearly and you may never know. Nobody wants to deal with some one like that, so do not be that guy. Life is too short to put up with people like that. I don’t put up with this type of behavior, I would rather send jerks to some one else. Like one of my competiters to deal with. I have learned from past experience that these types are just not worth the trouble.

Note: Who were the friends selling my rough? Trade secret, but you might be very, very surprised. My advise is be aware and do not take things for granted and make false assumptions. You never know.

Do not waste some one’s time. Keep in mind that time is valuable and people have other things to do. What do I mean? If you are just window shopping, tell the dealer that you are just looking. That way the dealer knows it’s OK for him to concentrate on some one else who maybe buying. If you later see some thing you are interested in you can always ask him to show it to you. Why waste his time? Believe me dealers will appreciate your courtesy. Also remember that there is a huge difference between some one buying $10 and some one buying $10,000 of merchandise. So keep a perspective of what you are doing and try to respect the sellers time and patience.

Note: The irony here is that in my experience the guy buying $10 worth of some thing (CZ) can take hours and hours, and the guy spending $10,000 or more of merchandise often makes the deal in just a few minutes and is gone.

Wholesale is Wholesale. If you go to, or are shopping in a wholesale equipment or gem show like the Tucson February show, pricing is confidential. Wholesale is wholesale for a reason. People that get into a wholesale show are all supposed to be in business and serious about being in business. Unfortunately this is not always the case, I have seen more than one person who had no business being in a wholesale gem show. I have seen these same people online bragging about how cheap they bought rough and other items. Well of course it is cheaper, it is wholesale and meant to be for people trying to make a living in the Lapidary and gem business.

The point I am trying to make here is that if you are in a wholesale show, the pricing information is confidential. Believe me dealers and manufacturers will take a very dim view of you or any one else broadcasting their cost of goods publicly. This type of thing is not uncommon, however the wholesale show promoters and the government tax and business license people are beginning to crack down on people with business license’s that are not in the business they claim to be in or are just a hobby person who has no real intention of being in business and who is basically operating under false pretenses. The tax people will eventually catch them.

Cash Talks, B.S. Walks. Carry or have access to some cash. This is a simple thing, but I cannot tell you how often I have seen people who do not do carry some cash at a major gem show. If you are worried about carrying money, carry travelers checks. They are just about as good as money, almost all dealers will take them. Why carry money? Well, say you are at the Tucson February gem show. You want to buy $3000 worth of some thing, like rough. Most dealers that are from over seas and are not Americans, do not take plastic, sorry no Visa, MC, Discover, et. If they do not know you, they will not want to take a check. So what do you do? No cash, no deal.

Note: I would also mention that the Tucson February gem show in a lot of hotels is supposed to be wholesale and there are a fair amount of American rough dealers that only want to do wholesale business at the shows. This often means no plastic.

When in Doubt. Keep quiet. You will learn more by not talking much and asking polite questions than you will ever learn by shooting off your mouth. Remember that there are some very talented people out there and most of them will try to help or trade information if you are polite. You may even make some friends.

OnLine too. I have had people be very rude and hostile because they did not like my answer to a question. I do my best to answer people and try to be helpful. I often will answer a question as simply as I can because of my time restraints, I am busy. But I am polite, and I do try to help people when they have questions. Recently I had a person, ask me for my “.gem” files in an email. I answered “No, sorry…” and went on to other emails that needed answering and never really gave it a second thought. Well the next day I got basically a hate email from this person about how rude I was to answer their question that way and that my short (polite, I think) answer just insulted them. They also went on to say that they would do their best to make sure and do the worst to me they could publically when ever they could.

Remember, I have never met or had any dealings with this person of any kind. Never emailed or talked to them before. Also I have no idea if this person is even really who they say they are. Names on the internet are not always correct, and there are some people going under assumed names on the web. This person had asked if they could have my “.gem” files… It was basically a short one line question and I gave them a polite “No, sorry…” answer. I reframed from saying what I really think of giving out “.gem” files. This person’s nasty attitude alone tells me they are some one I would not want to do business with and certainly would not want to have any of my files. Come to find out this person is a “want to be” gem designer (big surprise) and they were obviously looking for my “.gem” files for those reasons and were apparently angry that I would not release the files.

I have seen some of “their designs” and lets just say that they have a lot of similarities to other peoples work. I have actually had several people write me and say… “did you see what this person is doing?” All I can say is… It was not a coincidence, this person wanting “.gem” files. This is a classic example of both why I do not release “.gem” files and also why it’s a good idea to be nice. I have warned friends of mine about this incident and passed the word around (after all turn about is fair play). Sooner or later this person’s behavior will catch up to them. If it has not already, people with that type of attitude and behavior are often frustrated because their bad behavior is catching up to them all the time. What goes around does tend to come around. People will remember bad attitudes, I certainly do. People are not perfect, and some times a person is just having a bad day, but bad behavior will eventually catch up to you. So be polite.

About the author
Jeff R. Graham
The late Jeff Graham was a prolific faceter, creator of many original faceting designs, and the author of several highly-regarded instructional faceting books such as Gram Faceting Designs.
All articles by this author