Justin Prim and Victoria Raynaud - Magus GemsJustin Prim and Victoria Raynaud - Magus Gems

Interview with Justin Prim and Victoria Raynaud: The Dynamic Duo That Built a Multifaceted Business in the World of Gems

Justin Prim and Victoria Raynaud of Magus Gems discuss their plans to teach the art of gem cutting to a new generation.

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Anyone who's looking to carve out a career for themselves in the world of gemstones should know Justin Prim and Victoria Raynaud. When they call from their new headquarters in France to tell us all about their winding careers and booming business, I can spot big French windows, wooden floors, and gem-cutting machines behind them. These days the entrepreneurial couple is a world away from Bangkok, where they first met, fell in love, and began their business, Magus Gems. But with this new move, they're chipping away at a whole new chapter in France.

The Company They Always Wanted

"France is really the heart of the whole thing," Justin explained. "And being in Lyon, we're pretty close to the epicenter of the jewelry universe in Paris. Plus, this is where Victoria is from."

"When the pandemic hit, I'd just lost my job, and Victoria had just quit hers, so we decided we were just going to have to start that company we'd always been wanting to start," Justin told us. "But we weren't just doing gem cutting and consulting — we launched a book, The Secret Teachings of Gemcutting, started our online courses, and launched a school, the Faceting Apprentice Institute. I also started going really hardcore on creating YouTube content. It was just a crazy year, but it all took off for us."

But once restrictions lifted and the world began opening up again, Justin and Victoria were itching to move and take their knowledge on the road. "We had online classes that were going, but we were sick of being stuck in Bangkok for two and a half years, so we went to America for a year on a gem-cutting history research trip that also included Canada and the UK. Settling in Europe now allows us to be between all of that," Justin explained.

Two Passions, Two Different Paths

To understand how Justin and Victoria got here — juggling gemstones, students, books, video content, and beyond — you have to understand how their passions and paths crossed. 

"I had a much more traditional path into the world of gems. So traditional, it almost doesn't exist anymore," Victoria explained to us. "I first started a formal internship in Switzerland in Geneva when I was 15, which lasted for three years. Nowadays, it is really hard to find one of these traditional apprenticeship programs." After her training, Victoria went to Canada to learn gemology, later meeting someone who offered her a job at the GIA in Bangkok before leaving to work for a lab in Bahrain.

Victoria Raynaud - Magus Gems
Victoria Raynaud. © Magus Gems. Used with permission.

Justin's story starts in San Francisco, where "the weird world of gem shows" completely fascinates him, leading him to join the local gem and mineral society and learn the foundations of cutting. After a series of informal training and mining trips, Justin decided to finally embark on a formal education and get a Graduate Gemologist degree from the GIA, leading him first to the UK and then to Bangkok.

Justin Prim - Magus Gems
Justin Prim. © Magus Gems. Used with permission.

Meeting in the Middle

"Right when I finished gemology school was when I met Victoria," Justin smiled. "Her boss basically offered me a job, and I didn't realize at the time that it was her job because they didn't tell me that they were all quitting the company and she'd be taking that job in Bahrain. That job didn't end up working out, but, luckily, Victoria and I did."

From two different sides of the world and two entirely different paths, the two met in the middle, both with a deep understanding of how the trade was changing. "Now, embarking on this business together, we've taken on this role of trying to be stewards of the trade," Justin admitted. "We see that the apprenticeship systems are sort of breaking down, and the old masters are retiring without apprentices, and I'm desperately trying to meet all these old cutters, absorb what I can, and document what they're doing."

"For instance, the two oldest cutters in London just retired, and there's no one in London like that anymore to take over," Victoria added. "So instead of watching this lineage die, we want to be part of a solution, teaching it to others instead of letting it fade away. And what we've learned in starting this business is that there are actually so many opportunities in gem cutting, but if you're not out there, you don't realize it. So, we also want to show people there is a way."

Making Room at the Gem Cutting Table

Today, Victoria and Justin are not only working on another book while continuing to share their passions and knowledge on Instagram and YouTube but also expanding the Faceting Apprentice Institute, now operating two-week in-person courses between the United States and Europe year-round. Their upcoming course in Brooklyn in March 2024 is already sold out, but their course in Lyon in Summer 2024 has openings. 

"I think this is a new chapter for us," Victoria told us. "We really want to delve into working with students more face to face, and Bangkok was just a bit too much of a hurdle for our students to travel to. And even though Bangkok is an amazing place to be for the gem trade, it's not really customer-facing. So now, being here in France, we feel like we're in the middle of everything — both for our students and the industry."

The Future

As for the future, the couple has big plans to keep expanding their business and outreach. "Right now I am cutting a lot of customer stones, and as we keep growing I want to do more and more of my own cutting. Now that we have this physical studio, I have a place to welcome customers, and we also have a place to welcome students."

"We're really excited to welcome students here and get our European school going," Justin chimed in. "We're also working on another book because it's just been such a huge success and knowledge-base for people. We started with about 2,000 copies, and I think we only have about 200 left."

As if this pair isn't busy enough, they also have a dream of opening their own museum. "Over the years I've collected 115 machines from something like 30 different countries," Justin revealed. "It's definitely the biggest collection of gem-cutting machines in the world that anyone's ever assembled. So we really want to make it a publicly accessible experience."

Big thanks to Justin Prim and Victoria Raynaud for sharing their story with us. To learn more about their business, you can head to https://www.magusgems.com.

Cate Misczuk

Cate Misczuk is a jewelry and watch writer who covers everything from the latest jewelry trends and the heritage of watchmaking to 24k gold, gems, sustainability, unisex timepieces and more. Get in touch at catemisczuk.com.

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