Some Pointers on Selling What You Cut

Some Pointers on Selling What You Cut

Bi Color Tourmaline/some pointers

You will sell what you cut. So if you want to make money faceting you had better be cutting. I often hear people say they cannot make money faceting.

My standard questions to these people is. “How many stones have you cut?” and “What are you cutting?”

You cannot sell what you have not cut.

Sounds simple, right? If you are not cutting stones of either type, natural or man-made you will have nothing to sell.

The basic facts are that there are markets for about any cut gem stone. But the key word here is “cut”. You have to be cutting stones, and in my opinion these stones need to be of high quality, natural, and unique. You have to cut stones that stand out from the crowd and have appeal.

Here are some simple basic facts of life

It takes time and talent as well as experience. A lot of people say to me… “I am going to retire and I want to learn to facet for a source of income.” This is all well and good, and some people can learn to facet and make money.

It can be done, I just do not think most people realize what it is going to take. I will give you a clue… the words “retire” and “make money” do not go together. You can certainly retire from your old job, but to make money faceting you will be working… Just maybe not at your “old” work.

Making enough money to pay for a faceting hobby is easy enough and I think that most people that facet for any length of time probably reach this point. So the hobby will pay for it’s self, some people might even make a few extra bucks.

Actually making money, as in a real “income” is a whole different story. It can be done and there are some people doing it. It is not an easy thing to do or some thing that most people are even capable of. It can be done, but I just want to point out that it takes hard work and investment like any other business.

Time – It takes years, some times decades to learn, make connections, secure rough, and just plain learn how the gem business works. Nobody can just magically acquire all of these things by learning in a few months or years. All business’s take time to learn and build. If you want to make money in gem stones you had better plan on spending some time learning.

Experience – There in no easy way to get it, and no replacement for it. You have to know what you are doing and getting experience and learning are both always expensive. Some times very expensive. The only way to get experience is to be in business and that will cost you, time, money, labor and all kinds of other things you have no idea about until you are actually in business.

Talent – It is a simple fact of life, some people have talent and some do not. If you do not have at least some basic talent for gem stones you are wasting your time and money. If you are talented, it will still take a lot of hard work and time for you to realize your talent. Just because you have talent does not mean you will be able to make money. Making money and talent are not related.

Sales – This is often an over looked part of a business. But even if you have all of the above, if you have no way to sell your faceting, you will not make any money. Selling is another whole dimension to a gem stone business and will also take time, experience, talent, and investment. You need to have a plan and be working on “selling” what you cut from early on.

The more stones you cut the more you will sell. This is simple math but it’s amazing how many people do not seem to understand this easy principal. If you are showing a customer stones and you show them 2 stones, you may sell them a stone, you may not. But if you show that same customer 50 stones your odds of selling at least one stone go up exponentially related to the number of stones you have for the customer to look at.

You have to have quantity, at least with in reason. By this I mean that you need to seriously be faceting stones and have inventory. You need to be working hard cutting and creating quality cut stones. That line in a movie about “build it and they will come…” Well it applies to faceted gem stones. So keep cutting.

If you do not ever cut it you cannot sell it. I cannot tell you how many people I have had tell me… “Well I cut man-made because it is cheaper and I cannot sell natural stones.”

This again, is very simple but I am always shocked at how many people do not understand it. If you just cut CZ (and other man-made materials) and never cut quality natural rough. Of course you will never sell natural quality faceted stones, you do not have any cut to sell to the few customers you might have.

I have heard more than one well known “club” cutter whine about not being able to sell natural gem stones, or man-made stones either for that matter. When I look at a few stones (in a lot of cases the few stones they have cut, see above) these people have cut it is obvious why they cannot make any money.

In almost all cases they are not cutting quality natural gems, most of what they are cutting is man-made and most of the man-made they are cutting is very cheap, like CZ.

Also do not make the mistake of buying and cutting lower quality natural rough. If you do you will be competing with the Bangkok cutting houses and you will not survive. Cut quality materials.

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

If you want to be in business you have to make some effort, this includes spending some money on quality natural rough and cutting it. It also means working hard and investing in your business. You will not be an over night success, making money takes time, experience, and talent.

Ever heard the phrase… “It takes money to make money.” Well this applies in spades to gemstones. If you are buying CZ for pennies that is what you will make… pennies. You will have to invest in some thing worth money before you can facet it and make it worth more money.

My advice to all these people? Suck it up guys and quit whining. Either get in the business and work, put some money where your mouth is, buy good rough, or sit on the sidelines and stop complaining if you do not have what it takes.

If you do not invest, you will of course not make any money. It is all related and nothing is free in life. You will have to invest in quality natural rough and also invest in the time it takes to cut that rough before you will make a penny. I am not talking about just a few pieces either.

Making money faceting requires investment, time and a lot of hard work just like any other business. It can be done, but it’s not a casual under taking. No real business is.

Note: This article is about how to make money faceting. So I am not talking about people that have no intentions of selling their stones and just enjoy cutting CZ (for example) for fun. That is a completely different situation.

Quality is where the money is. The money in faceting is in quality and high end stones. You will need to cut at least good quality rough to make money. The better quality the rough is, the more money you will likely make. The corollary to this is of course the better quality the rough is, the more it will cost.

If you want to be in business it costs money. You will not get any “deals” on high quality rough, people know what it is worth and will charge accordingly. So will you, when you facet the rough and sell the gem stones, from this rough. It is called business and that is how things work. Get used to it.

Selection is also important. By selection I mean various stone types. But I also mean colors, we are after all faceting and selling colored stones.

To some extent colors and color choices are more important than stone type. A customer will often be looking for a particular color and may ask for a certain stone type. But if you discuss what they want you will often find that the customer is really wanting a particular color and asking for a certain stone type because that is what they think the color they are looking for comes in.

Chrome Tourmaline

For example. A customer is asking for an Emerald. Often the customer wants the color green, and has no idea that there are other, much better options in that color than an Emerald (Emeralds are mostly poor quality as far as I am concerned).

Chrome Tourmaline, and Tsavortite Garnet are both much better choices and often in the same price range. But many customers have no idea that Chrome Tourmaline and Tsavorite Garnets even exist, or that both of these stones are almost always cleaner, harder, higher performance and not treated.

Do I have Emeralds in my cut inventory? Seldom (there are occasions when I have some natural unoiled Zambian material or some thing like it), because I will not cut or sell oiled stones and almost all Emeralds are oiled, fractured, and in my opinion just over priced. If the customer asks, I tell them why I do not carry Emeralds.

Quality cutting is very important and becoming more so all the time. The average customer is becoming more educated all the time. Many people know more about gemstones then ever before and this trend I think will continue to grow and get stronger. Part of this trend is actually coming from the TV shopping networks.

Yes, I know and agree, a lot of those TV people have questionable sales techniques and ethics (so do some people in the normal gem market). But the bottom line here is that they are marketing colored stones and people are watching and buying. Along the way a lot of these customers become more interested in gemstones and learn the major differences in quality and cutting.

Many, many people come into my websites and other people’s sites and discover that there is a completely different world of faceted gemstones. I have people write me all the time that they had no idea of the quality difference until they went to my website and saw quality stones.

The point here is that we as faceters want an educated buyers market. The more people see and know the differences the more likely they are to buy our stones.


Style in my opinion is the most important of all.

What do I mean? I mean style, impact, unusual, different, unique, some thing that people have not seen before or something they have seen but done in a way they have not seen it.

The more quality and uniqueness a gem stone has the easier it is to sell. This applies to both the cutting and the material. Rarity is a big factor in all natural gem stones. Rarity plays a major part in both the value of a cut gems stone and in the salability of that gem stone.

Note: Rarity also applies to the style and type of cut you use as well as a type of cut/style in a particular type of gem stone.

Style? In a cut gem stone that basically means design, shape, and size.

Designs – Well I will freely admit I am biased, I prefer my designs. That being said there are a lot of quality designs out there to choose from. What you want are designs that commercial cutters do not cut. You want designs that are obviously unique or different than what is commonly available. Pick designs that will stand out.

By standing out, I am talking about looks, but I am also talking about performance. Performance is some thing an average customer will not typically realize or ask for. But they will see the differences in performance between a common commercially cut stone and one that a high end faceter has cut. Even if they do not realize it at first when they are looking at stones.


Shape – Shape is important and can go one of several ways. The shape can be unique like my “Origami Star” pictured above. Or the shape can be more in line with a common outline, like square, oval.

But, even in a common shapes there are many differences and ways to make the stone look different.

Left: Is my “Killer” cut in Ametrine

Notice that “Killer” is a common generic square outline. But that is about all that is average about this stone. The design and orientation of the rough both make this stone unique. Even if squares are not uncommon on the market, this stone stands out all by itself.

Size – Size, particularity in natural rough can be an unique factor of a cut gemstone. This also relates to design, and cut to some extent the design. But basically there are sweet spots in the market, some sizes in some materials are just better than others when it comes to selling stones.

Note: Color is unique also, but more in line with buying rough, not how it is cut. Although color and the way it is cut does add a lot to uniqueness and can be a factor.

What about markets?

I have actually heard people say that there is no market for quality natural gem stones, beyond the commercial quality cutting. People that think this are not paying attention (they need to read above). There is a huge market for all types of natural gemstones. The market for natural stones is actually growing, not getting smaller.

It is my opinion the the market for high end quality cutting is actually growing and going to continue to grow as never before.

The over all natural gem stone market is growing fast, like I said. By definition that means that all parts of the gem stone market are growing.

Note: I have friends that specialize in 100% natural goods, this a market that is not all that new, but is expanding at a high rate in the last few years for various reasons. This market has grown so much that there is now people just specializing in completely natural stones. In the past some dealers carried them but they did not specialize in them.

But added to that. I personally think that the Internet and all the information available will increase (and is) the market for my/our type of cutting even more. There is no where to go but up.

It is as simple as education and access to that knowledge and education. My website and others are working hard for this education to happen. The better educated the gem stone buyer’s are the more the demand for high quality cut stones there will be.

There is already an excellent market for quality cutting. It will get better and larger as people become more educated about gemstones, quality, and cutting.

As a side note. There is a tremendous market for very high end, high quality cut stones. This high end market may not be all that obvious to some one that is not educated about how things work. But trust me, the market is there and growing all the time.

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.
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