Just Ask Jeff: Is stone size important when cutting for money?
Is stone size important when cutting for money?
No matter what you may have heard, size is important. If you do some home work and study the commercial stone market, you will find that in most cases an American cutter just cannot compete with the commercial cutting houses (Asian, Indian), even if you wanted too. Their labor costs are practically free in comparison. So that leaves us with what they do not do, or at least not well or inexpensively. Basically, on most stones they are almost unbeatable in sizes under 1 carat, and sometimes up to 1 1/2 carats.
Also in Quartz and Topaz, generally they cannot be beaten, at least on price. I sell larger Quartz on a quality basis, as they get bigger the quality difference begins to be very obvious. Topaz is not really worth cutting it unless it is a collector stone and color.
Where can an American cutter do well? As you reach the magic number (1.5 carats) on most commercial materials, the prices start to get expensive, mostly because good stones in these sizes are rarer, and the rough cost is much more an issue than the labor. As the issue becomes rough cost and size, not cheap labor. American cutters can compete.
That leaves us with stones 1 1/2 carats and up. This is where I have found the sweet spot to be both competition wise and in the market. There are some exceptions to this rule, unusual color and cut (not available commercially), also if the jeweler is educated and cares (you will be surprised at how many of them do not know or care) quality is an issue.
Remember it takes almost the same amount of time to cut a 2 or 3 carat stone as it does to cut a 1 carat stone, this is where you can work to some advantage against a commercial cutting house, besides much superior quality. Thankfully there is a lot of rough available that will cut in this size range, at a fair price, and most people want stones that are big enough to show quality as well as cutting.