Just Ask Jeff: You will sell only what you cut… Natural gemstones or man-made?

You will sell only what you cut… Natural gemstones or man-made?


You will sell what you cut. Sounds simple doesn’t it? What do I mean by this? Pretty much just what it sounds like. If you cut natural stones, you will sell them. If you cut man-made materials, you will sell them too. Just for a lot less money and profit.

The basic facts are that there are markets for about any cut gem stone. Almost any material from top quality natural Rubies to man-made clear Quartz will sell if cut properly and well. Depending on the market of course.

What you, as a cutter need to figure out is what market you want to cut in and what your goals are. I am assuming of course that a person is a competent faceters before trying to make some money selling faceted stones. If you are not at least a good faceter you are wasting your time trying to make money, no matter what you are cutting.

There is nothing wrong with cutting man-made stones, if that is what you want to do. But as far as making money cutting them, that is a difficult thing to do. The man-made stone market is basically a low end market where price is almost always king.

Why is price king in this market? Many reasons. Man-made materials are inexpensive to extremely cheap in cost to buy cut or rough. Almost all man-made materials are very commonly available faceted and very cheap to buy. There are/were a few exceptions like Chatham Emeralds and some Ruby manufacturers. But these exceptions are beginning to disappear because the companies making them are going out of business. They cannot compete with alternative and much cheaper similar materials.

Note: The fact that the manufacturers making more expensive man-made materials cannot compete and are going out of business should be a major indicator to you as a cutter about how this market works.

Rarity or lack of it is a major factor in this market. Man-made materials of almost all types are readily and cheaply available almost any where. So there is no rartity. The only rarity is your cutting, but most buyers of man-made stones will not care or pay the difference for quality cutting.

Cheap labor is of course another factor. The Bangkok, Chinese and Indian cutting houses are cutting millions and millions of carats of man-made materials every month. All shapes and sizes.

How does all of this effect an American (or other) faceter wanting to cut man-made materials to make money? The answer is, in a lot of ways. But most significantly all this cheap competition will mean you will have a lot of trouble selling your man-made faceted stones at a reasonable profit. If you can sell them at all.

Basically you cannot make any money on the rough, because the cost of rough is insignificant and man-made rough is available every where so there is absolutely no rarity. Everybody can and will be competing with you. Including the hobby guy(s) down the street who do not care about their time and are just trying to make a few dollars.

Note: Lack of rarity is a major problem and lowers potential earnings dramatically as well as increases competition. In a natural stone there is always a rarity factor that improves the profits and salability, often substantially.

All a person cutting man-made material can really charge for is their labor. Now this is not a bad thing if you have customers willing to pay you for your much more expensive labor. Of course that is always the trick.

OK, I said there was a market for man-made stones and there is a market. A large one as a matter of fact. So how does an American (or other) faceter make any money in this market?

Note: I do not even recommend trying to make money in the man-made market, at least not trying to make a living. Any American faceter trying to compete in this market is starting with almost unbeatable odds against them.

Quality of cutting – Quality is always a selling point and as far as selling man-made materials one of the few things a cutter has going for them. Show the customers the quality differences.

Uniqueness – This is a major factor and one that a faceter needs to take full advantage of. Cut designs that are obviously different. I mean different, some thing that the customer has never seen before. In other words do not cut designs the commercial cutting houses are cutting. Cut original, quality designs, that a customer is only going to find from a faceter, not a commercial supplier.

Materials – All man-made materials are readily available, particularly in the rough. How ever there are some man-made materials that are much more difficult to find cut. So cut the man-made materials that are less commonly cut. These materials are in general things like Chatham Emerald, Alexanderite, and YAG.

Note: Cutting CZ is a waste of time because a customer can find it commercially cut almost any where, in about any size and shape faceted for pennies.

Replacement – Often people want “replacement” stones for a variety of reasons. Cutting this type of stone is also a market and pretty common. Actually I suspect the “replacement” market is the most likly place to make money in man-made materials. It is important to note “replacement” may also mean cutting a man-made Emerald for some one rather than a junk real one. “Replacement” can also mean cutting some one a 5 carat pigeon blood Ruby that they could never afford in real Ruby.

A few closing notes. There is a market for man-made stones. How ever the market is very competitive and difficult to make money in. Even if you make some money cutting man-made stones you will be making “labor only”.

There is no rarity, and thus no profit for rarity. There is nothing wrong with making money on “labor only” but basically you are working as an hourly wage earner when you do it and competing against commercial cutting houses.

This all boils down to. There is some money to be made in cutting man-made stones. But then there is money to be made digging ditches. I personally prefer much easier and more profitable methods to make money.

If you like man-made material and that is what you want to cut, then fine. Just remember that it will always be a low end market and a struggle to make any decent money. This may or may not change in the future as natural rough becomes more expensive. Just remember though, until the world runs out of cheap labor you will be competing against cheap labor as long as you cut man-made materials. Unless you are willing to work at that wage or offer something unique you will not be competitive.

Gram Faceting Archive of Information
This edited version of an article by the late Jeff Graham is part of a special archived informational series from Gram Faceting. Used with permission.