I joined the Boston Mineral Club recently, and overheard one of the elder gemologists say "unlike in most industries, there's no standardized system for pricing minerals." A lightbulb went off for me. Of course, I thought - that's so true!
Diamonds may have a 'universal' price code - but even there - you can find a lot of variation in cost-for-product...and if you're not an expert yourself, who can you trust?
Folks you know - folks you've seen demonstrate their knowledge, experience, and selection - you can (and should) trust them. And trust yourself, over all. If you think it's worth it (to you) - and you have the money - they go ahead and buy it...without any regrets!
But who really knows what a Crystal is worth? If there was some ONE person who knew it all, it wouldn't be much of a game anymore. It's ultimately "all in the eye of the beholder."
The Seller is the gate keeper - the ultimate "decider" - but every one has their bottom price. Unlike mainstream shop attendants, most dealers have the flexibility to give you a break. So play with them...bargain. Worst thing they can say is "no!"
I've done that plenty myself - making preposterously low offers - it can't hurt. But I never question people's prices - especially in front of others, or on Facebook - I think that's a big no-no.
I asked one such naysayer "why would you want to 'yuk someone else's yum' - I mean - if that's what they're charging, it's their business (after all), and if someone's gonna pay what they're asking, then more power to the both of them!"
I'm not into the high end, jewelry or gem stone business, preferring minerals. I do specialize in finer specimens, but within the (I think) more modest range of $30-$200.
I think of that as "affordable" - and that if you can't spend that type of change on something that really matters to you - then perhaps you should find a cheaper hobby.
Amazingly, a lot of people think that is a lot to spend. I don't know what that says about our economy, people's living conditions, or our priorities. People are spending $50 a week on coffee and donuts...so it's hard for me understand why they can't seem to find the same amount for something that'll last forever...and give them satisfaction many times over.
I feel like I'm holding the torch solo - sometimes - for people respecting the value of good Crystals, and the effort that goes into finding, and presenting them in a way that truly honors their special value.
The reason my prices aren't what you'll see at a local rock shop (or gem show), is that I am neither. This is a boutique operation. Every piece is hand picked because of some unique quality, and my prices reflect that TLC.
A wholesaler I met with recently said "I can't go there - I can't look at individual pieces - everything has to get marked up by weight only." How could I compete with - and why should I be compared to - folks buying directly from the source?! That's not my place in the pecking order - my 'ecological niche' is post miner, post international shipper - serving up that special sauce for retail buyers with great taste.
All and still - and excuse me for tooting my own horn here (if I don't, who will, aye...though you may want to look at my Buyer Testimonials) - but I'm pretty confident that I have a broader variety of true power stones than most operations I've seen out there - be they online or in person - mom and pop or major importer.
Every time I leave a gem show or wholesaler - I thank my lucky stars: I get to walk away with the good stuff - while they're stuck with literally tons of 2nds and 3rds...stuff I wouldn't even want to give away...but their margin (hello, everybody's got 'em) takes that into consideration. Plus, they have volume on their side.
Have you seen some of the truly high grade stuff displayed at Museums, and even Gem Shows? It's on sale for really big numbers? People are asking $800 for a pebble here, and $4000 for a cluster there. Try complaining to those guys about pricing.
I'm the little guy, here. How is it fair that I should occasionally get grief for charging the cost of a good meal on arguably outstanding product?
Let me tell you a little story about unreasonable pricing. There was a guy I bought a whole parcel from recently, for $140 online. I failed to get dimensions, trusting the source - but when I got it - the little 'puddle' was worth $30, maybe. There were tiny points that looked huge in the photos (which is why every piece I sell online is photographed 'in-hand' - to show relative size). Others were broken. The Citrine was all irradiated (undisclosed by the Seller), and the 'Lemurians' turned out not to be. He didn't even have an "All Sales Final" clause, but he wouldn't take them back! I put them in the mail and said "don't even refund me - keep the money as a cushion for yourself, or give it to a charity - I could never accept this overpriced garbage." The black Tourmaline was all I wanted to hold onto, but to do so would only suggest the legitimacy of any part of the transaction.
I don't know if it's yard sales, volume sellers, or rock hounds who can offer great selections for under $30 - but if they're out there - have at 'em.
As I say to some folks: "you can find another stone like this out there - but you won't find this one anywhere but here, today."
One of the favorite claims made (and I hear this one a lot) is: "I have one just like that" - or better yet, with additional glee: "and I paid $4 for it!" Awesome, I'll say: "show me a photo of it." And they disappear into the ethers.
You know what they say about opinions...
Sometimes what I buy costs me more than someone else may have found it for. I've heard braggadocio like "I can get that for this amount." I'm like "cool, let's talk, maybe I should be buying it from you!" Again, the magic vaporization trick.
Some folks just like to hear the sound of their own voices...
In addition to my markups reflecting the considerable time spent choosing 'greats' from lesser pieces, they reflect miles driven to faraway places (you know the price of gas!); hours spent sorting through what's been gotten; the cost of storage bins; display boxes...this isn't an overhead-free business.
I see plenty of shop owners buying keystone, and charging a standard markup, but that doesn't do justice to specifically selected stand-outs. And that's not even taking into consideration a piece's metaphysical attributes!
I also find myself in stores scratching my head - "why the heck are they charging so much for this?" Tell me that hasn't happened to you! And yet...they must have their reasons.
Sometimes a rock is just plain worth more, or the seller has put a premium on it, they just don't want to part with it for less. That's their prerogative.
Again, you do have choice. You can buy anywhere. Let me repeat, this time for all vendors: "if you want this stone, from this source, this is what it's going to cost you."
PART TWO - the nitty gritty (behind the scenes)...fine print details
I've covered some important ground, so far, but I want to address (in this Blog) some more topics that have come up through feedback from customers and the curious. They've inquired about pricing on my For Sale page: www.Facebook.com/PowerStone.
As you can see, I have more to say than will comfortably fit on a Post or Comment, so here goes. I so love the flexibility of being able to 'stretch out' in my Blogs.
Unlike on one's own site - mine is www.CrystalConcentrics.com, but I haven't yet launched my new shopping cart system...it mostly just hosts my blog) - Facebook is (pretty much) an open book. That means that any and everybody can comment (and they often do).
Heckling on price or steering customers elsewhere happens, and it's not cool. That's why, even though I used to publish a range ("under $50" or "under $400") - I have always urged people to "DM" me - that is, direct message me for details.
"DM" is my own challenge to the generally accepted "PM" or private message abbreviation most commonly used. Although I have this request on virtually every item description, I'm astonished that people still prefer to Comment with questions, instead of writing me directly, as I've requested. The result - regrettably - is that I don't notice their outreach till months later, if at all.
Moving on: wholesalers (even from other countries) have been known to come in and try to undercut you to the interested party, or separately message them, trying to steal the sale. Also not cool...and it doesn't serve anyone, in the long run.
I learned this lesson the hard way - a LONG time ago - when I had 2 retail stores selling international clothing and jewelry. My suppliers started opening up direct-to-retail shops in the neighborhood. What happened? The bottom fell out of the market (for me and for them).
Sure, I want to get buyers the best possible prices, but after awhile, know that if the margin becomes too slim, it becomes pointless even to carry the product (never mind photograph it, post it, talk about it, etc.).
Remember, all vendors also have to have a huge amount of money tied up in inventory - to stay stocked - so they've got to believe in their product (and the pricing they've chosen).
In my case - you'll also have to take into consideration that when I walk into a private healing session with a client (or a class) - sporting thousands of dollars in stellar material - that stuff will never be sold. It's being held strictly for therapeutic purposes. It's like water being tied up in the glaciers, never being turned over, even for the price that was paid. Think of all that capital out of circulation.
I can't sell any one piece for less that I think it merits. That being said - you should know that my regular customers sometimes enjoy major discounts - as much as 30-40% off! It's, ultimately, about making the sale - having product move, in the larger flow of Life energy - and creating the space for new and different items.
One more factor the Buyer should account for: privately held collection pieces not earning for the Seller. One wholesaler I met doesn't have that problem - he saves nothing - but I can't think of many who can resist holding onto some precious Crystals for themselves.
In all fairness, you (or I) really have no idea what the Seller actually bought the merchandise for, or what their overhead may be.
Just today, I bought some pieces Retail, because they're that special. I was willing to 'overspend' because I know those pieces have their 'rightful owners' out there, and I'm their steward (until such time).
I can't speak for others - but I spend a lot of time dealing with product - I take photos of everything; have paid for a sophisticated in-the-cloud inventory system; and have many other time and material costs which are incurred (behind the scenes) to bring you the best selection I can.
I am prepared to sit on an item if it doesn't sell (cause it's that good) - and if it does go (especially if it's unique) - I may have a real struggle trying to replace it. So sometimes, it's better to hold something until the right buyer comes along. Thankfully) they are out there. I am so grateful for the discerning customer!
Volume, which is the lifeblood of wholesalers, is not the prime motivator of this metaphysical retailer (though it is for some). If you have a storefront, and lots of folks coming through, you want to move as much product as possible. My goal here is to focus on quality over quantity, and to match the buyer with the right stone for them, regardless of price.
I take extra time talking or emailing with people - to make sure we 'get it right' - and that's part of why I have a 100% satisfaction rate. When a total stranger (online) makes an inquiry - I do ask for their email, to followup - and build the relationship. If they refuse to share that with me , chances are: they won't be that great to do business with. Another way of thinking about this is - what if someone walked into your store with an invisibility cloak - and balked at you asking them to remove it before talking to them?
As stated, valuation is not a rigid science - costs can change over time. I wouldn't want to be held accountable for outdated pricing ("but in November, you said this cost such-and-such")...especially if later, I find that the piece has become that much harder to find (or sudden abundance lowers the price it can command). Not posting exact numbers used to give me the flexibility to bargain, too - if it made sense - or I'd just hold out for my highest asking price.
Having been in the business 25 years, I've seen a LOT of rocks, from what's in the shops, to gem shows...a great gamut of retail and wholesale offerings. I've even sampled what the museums are sporting (though I'm sad that it's always behind glass)! I've got a pretty good sense of what is out there, what's not likely to come around again, and what's a fad.
Yes, even in the crystal world (or especially?), there are phases and fashions. New finds get milked (become all the rage, like Fluorite bowls - a purple example pictured here - were "happening" just a few years ago...and then they've disappeared since. Am I gonna charge more for something like that? You betcha.
New Age names & qualities (like the "Auralite 23" phenomenon) get slapped onto pieces that had otherwise gone unnoticed. These in particular - end up fetching a ridiculous premium - but oddly, I find myself liking (and buying) them regardless. If it's worth it, it's worth it.
I have priced pieces for the long run, not just based on what I paid for them. I have to take into consideration what I estimate their long term value will be...mindful of the current market, but also of its future.
I do get some surprises, at times. Because much of my stock has been accumulated over 10 and 20 years, even my pricing can get out of date.
Take for example these Sapphires (pictured left and available here, on Facebook). I don't even know what I paid for them - an I was willing to basically give them away - but now, they apparently fetch upwards of $50 a gram(!), currently.
Some vendors are in a hurry for turnover - others like attracting the lowest bidders - not me. That's part of why I don't do auctions. I've held some stones a quarter century, and don't mind holding them some more. I'm really not comfortable 'giving them away' to someone who doesn't truly appreciate their value.
That can happen after I'm gone. But if I have anything to do with it, I'll have all my inventory properly codified and transferable, so anyone can know from looking at my archives what these pieces should sell for.
I passed up the 18 carat Gold bracelet I once wanted, and any big rings, for this diversified investment in a different kind of earth bounty. I give thanks to Mother Earth, Gaia and "the G*ds" - however you want to call him, her, or them - for giving me the eye (and occasionally, the full wallet) to have come this far in my collecting. I'd like to think what's happened up till now is the tip of the iceberg of what's possible.
As you can see, I value my time and inventory highly. The reason I've taken so long in writing this Blog post - days, probably, over it's various incarnations - is that it really matters to me what you, the reader, think. I have to present every angle I can think of, to make sure you can see my nuanced perspective (and become as informed as possible).
My mission now, is to share and to educate, so that more people will appreciate the worth of Crystals - not just for their rarity (or beauty) - but for their unique energetic qualities (even if that lends a financial boost to their price tag).
I boast a piece's metaphysical merits only when I have personal experience indicating this would be appropriate, as opposed to some others' making claims, attributing to them a laundry list of supposedly scientific and magical attributes.
Ours is a fine line - the metaphysician sellers' - between what is, and what is imagined to be. Sometimes how we feel matters most. I just want to be wary of the "Emperor's Clothes" syndrome - where everybody believes something just because everybody else believes in it - or some "master" went and put it down on paper. That feels spurious, and not sufficient basis for a shared belief.
There are treasured varieties out there that I just 'don't feel' - but again - I won't 'poo-poo' another's gig. If it's working for them and their customers, then as I've heard said: "who G*d bless, let no man curse!"
Hope to connect with you, email: CrystalConcentrics@gmail.com
http://www.Facebook.com/PowerStoneCrystals (strictly For Sale items)
http://www.Facebook.com/CrystalConcentric (new modality, inspirations, and personal collection pieces)
Facebook Profile: http://www.Facebook.com/CrystalConcentrics
Facebook Group 1 (for New Englanders): http://www.Facebook.com/Groups/CrystalsNewEngland
Facebook Group 2 (for chronic rock spenders): http://www.Facebook.com/Groups/Gemoholics Anonymous