For us it always begins with a stone

Forum: Jewelry Collaborations & Challenges

In our little niche of untreated gems, almost all jewelry projects start with the stone in hand.

My customers decide on the stone first, and then ask ‘How shall we set it?’. That itself is probably not common, is it? I imagine for most members here, the design comes first and then the gems, right?

For us it often begins even one step before. A significant part of our business is what we call “gem-hunting”, meaning we’re hired to go and search for a certain gem in a certain size and shape.

Classically, somebody want’s a precision cut round three carat unheated cornflower blue sapphire for his e-ring. Such a gem is a rare beast and is not readily available. It needs time and budget to find.

Once hired, I go and search for THE one gem that fits the bill. In case of the sapphire I would probably start in Colombo, for a big unheated pigeon blood Burma ruby, my flight goes to Bangkok, and in necessary to Rangoon.

Over the years, I have gathered some experiences of “do&don’t’s” that I have summarized in the following article:

What does not work for a hunt?

1. Demanding an exact weight like 2.26 carat or a very precise dimension like 6.40×4.55mm is not realistic. You may be lucky in the end but it is better to leave some wiggle room to start with.

2. Unless he has nothing else to do, and no family to feed, a professional trader will not want to hunt for a low value stone, even if it is rare and special. It just doesn’t pay the bills. Budgets may start somewhere around $1k, depending on how exotic your search is.

3. Finding a stone immediately. Nothing will happen in under a week. A month or two is realistic. If a hunt takes longer than twelve months, there might be a problem. (I searched for an unheated blue zircon for 2 years, canceled the hunt and then found one two months later)

Why do people decide to go for a hunt?
Buying a gem is fun (or should be) so it usually is not laziness but lack of availability that frustrates the do-it-yourself search. Also, people are overwhelmed by the many fakes on offer, are stressed and scared to get ripped off.

What kind of people start hunts?
Usually they are rather well informed buyers searching a gem for a special occasion. They are not long-term collectors or investors. These acquire what they like and when they can find it, but they are not fixated on a certain quality and timeline. A gem-hunt is almost always connected with a certain deadline.

Is it more expensive?
Yes, a hunted gem will generally be more expensive than a chance-find on the web. This is natural effect of supply and demand. Once word is out that a specific color/size/shape combination is wanted, sellers will try to make extra margin. A professional hunter will have several searches open at any time so he can conceal the exact specs wanted. However, the more specific your demand, the more likely it is to push up prices. E.g. if want nothing but a 5 carat trillion untreated padparadscha you will find the one guy who has a 5ct trillion is asking the highest price. It will cheaper to search for a 4-6 carat oval/round/cushion and see what comes along.

Do I have to commit to one trader?
It may be tempting to send mass-emails to everybody with a website, but that is not useful. It is unlikely that somebody hides a trillion 5 carat padparadscha in his drawer and is just waiting for your email. In any case you will drive up prices because several traders will be asking around for a gem with the same specifications without knowing from each other.

All-in-all, this is a very demanding part of the business, great fun at times but also very stressful: Usually negotiating are done over various times-zones and cultural settings, with highest expectations on the buyer side and a strong position on the seller side at the same time. I will never forget the case where a Chinese seller raised the price twice after we had agreed on a deal and my American customers were going mad on the other end."

The full article and more information can be found here:

Any comments or questions are welcome.

Tags: gem hunting untreated gemstone jewelry untreated gemstones untreated ruby untreated sapphire

Edward Bristol from


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4 Replies

Debbie Pribele ...

that is so “wow”. I never knew!!!

Marta ...

I never knew either! Great article!

Edward Bristol ...


Yes, we do set a third to a half of the gems we sell into jewelry, but the gem is always the starting point.

“Here are some past projects: ":

Marta ...

Wow! Beautiful work!