“What gemstones make money?” Novice gem cutters often ask me this question. The answer has several parts.
By Jeff R. Graham 2 minute read
watermelon tourmaline - Nigeria

Watermelon tourmaline rough, Nigeria.

Gemstones with Name Recognition

First, you’ll make money cutting natural, commercially known gemstones with name recognition.

Generally speaking, this group includes the following:

You can cut and sell a stone like spinel, but that’s hard to do. Most jewelers don’t know this gemstone and/or don’t really have a market for it. However, markets change. Spinels are gaining in popularity but still aren’t as well-known as the stones listed above.

Gemstones You Cut from Good Rough

Next, you can only make money on gemstones that you acquire as quality rough or as native cuts for recutting.

Please note: I didn’t say cheap rough. There’s no such thing as cheap quality rough. 

Yes, occasionally, you can get lucky and score a great deal. However, most of the time, you’ll have to pay good money for good rough. Don’t let this bother you. All you need to know is that you can make money after you have cut the stones.

gemstones that make money - aquamarine, Nigeria

Aquamarine rough, Nigeria.

Gemstones You Can Actually Get as Rough

That being said, you won’t be able to get some gemstones as rough at all. Even if you can get the rough, you just won’t have any profit margin after cutting it. Sapphire is a classic example of this. You’ll seldom, if ever, find sapphire rough in commercially popular colors (blue and pink) you’ll be able to cut profitably.

Some gems are in such high demand as rough that they can be bought commercially cut for about the same price. Top-quality rhodolite garnet is a good example of this. Again, markets do change over time.

Gemstones That Make Money: Reliable Options

So, based on my experience, I’ve narrowed down that initial list. These are the stones you’ll generally be able to cut for a profit:

  • Tourmaline: all colors, almost always a moneymaker for me.
  • Garnet: always sells well, as long as the stones aren’t too dark.
  • Beryl: aquamarine and emerald are the two primary commercially popular varieties, but there are others. I rarely cut emerald because of the treatments and liability.
  • Quartz: citrine and amethyst are always good sellers and mainstays of the colored stone market. You’ll find many other colored varieties. Some will do well on the commercial market, others on the collector’s market.
gemstones that make money - Ametrine, Bolivia

Ametrine rough, a variety of quartz that’s part amethyst, part citrine.

Gemstones That Make Money: Limited Opportunities

You can make money cutting the following stones, but your opportunities for profit will be more difficult. 

  • Peridot: difficult to get rough in larger sized rough but sells well if you can.
  • Sapphire: very difficult to get rough. An option is buying native-cut stones and recutting them.
  • Spinel: isn’t well-known, but I’ve done well with it on the collector’s market.
  • Topaz: not much profit in it, particularly blue. Cut so cheaply overseas there’s no profit for an American cutter.