Buying Trip Adventures with Jay

Tarah Sands, Inventory Manager, Astrological Gem International

There are few things as exciting as a gemstone buying trip. Anyone who works in a wholesale industry will understand what I mean, and for those of you who don’t, let me explain.

Imagine walking into your favorite store – only instead of your favorite store, there are over 1,000 vendors here selling goods like the ones you love, all lined out in front of you in neat little rows with large samples of their wares on display for your viewing pleasure.

To some this may seem like total sensory overload, which I understand. You’re swimming in a massive sea of vendors and at first glance (maybe 2nd, 3rd, and 4th glances too), they all appear to be the same. It’s disorienting and in the beginning can be really hard to tell up from down and left from right as you roam throughout the endless expo.

Me carefully inspecting a parcel of Colombian emeralds

As we study tray after tray of yellow sapphires, rubies, emeralds and more, it becomes pretty obvious that looks can be deceiving.

After careful examination of the gems we like under magnification, we find only a very small handful that meet the strict criteria we have for color, clarity, cut, and above all, the vibrant energy that makes a powerful astrological gemstone practically sing. (Read more about what makes a gemstone Jyotish quality here.)

Asking the selling price from the vendor, I’m left a little speechless. “What price did you just say?” That’s more than we sell our gemstones for retail! It can be a disheartening at first since we want to get the best stones to our customers at the very best prices possible.

Fortunately, this is where I learned the importance of shopping with a seasoned buyer. Jay walks up behind me and whispers, “Don’t bother. These vendors aren’t going to work with us on price. Come over here.” He thanks them for their time and walks me instead to a booth that looks seemingly like all the others, greeting the vendor warmly with outstretched arms. After introducing me to an elderly gentlemen and his wife, he explains to me, “These two got started in the business over 35 years ago along with me. Now they’re one of the biggest wholesale gem dealers in the entire world.”

After discussing friends, family and current market trends, Jay says to the couple, “Can you help me out? I need some top untreated yellow sapphires but I can’t spend the crazy prices the rest of the market is asking.” They commiserate for a minute and say, “We did purchase a great parcel just recently. Here. For any of the stones in this group, we will give you a very good price.”

Jay takes the tray of sapphires, pauses for a moment, and hands it to me. “Here, which do you think are the right stones?”

Being put on the spot, I don’t want to look like a fool in front of these well-known seasoned dealers. I draw out my loupe and carefully inspect each of the stones, setting aside the ones that are miraculously appealing and gently removing the ones that have the subtle inclusions I know won’t work for our strict purposes. After I finish, I hand over my selection back to Jay. He carefully looks through each of them again while I admittedly hold my breath, hoping I didn’t miss something that will make me look like the amateur I certainly feel like. After a moment he gives a nod and then hands them to the dealer. I expel the breath I’ve been holding as he says to the dealer, “She wants these ones.”

The dealer looks at me over his thick rimmed glasses and says “Well, what’s your offer?”

This is the real test. I mumble out a number I knew would be on par with our most competitive purchases over the past year. The dealer’s eyes widen and he says, “NOBODY gets those prices! The lowest I can go is double that.”

I’m trying not to grin as this banter is quite familiar to me. I’ve heard Jay do it on the phone about a million times. “Ok,” I reply, “I’ll add 10% to my offer.” The dealer looks at Jay, smiles, and says, “You’ve taught her well, Jay.” He replies with a laugh, “Of course I have!”

A few moments more and we have settled on a price that any buyer would be proud to pay and I walk away with a little more swing in my step. Jay afterwards takes me aside and gives me the praise that I didn’t know I had been hoping for. His words of wisdom go something like this:

Jay introducing me to a trusted supplier

“Everyone wants to make money. It’s important to get a good price, but to not insult the seller. They put a lot of time, energy, and resources into buying these stones from the miners and we need to acknowledge that while still doing the very best we can for our customers.

Some dealers won’t work with you. They’ll want top asking prices no matter what. Many dealers understand the value of long term relationships, and if they know you’ll come to them year after year with your needs, they’ll want to always do their best for you. These are the relationships I’ve spent decades developing and now you have started developing them too.”

Ok, now I’m hooked.

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