Digital sales strategies, backed up by skilful online marketing, will increasingly drive the coloured gemstone market with trade fairs cancelled for now, New York-based dealer Joe Menzie, ambassador of digital trading platform Gembridge in the United States, tells Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough.
Joe, how did you come to be involved in the world of gemstone trading and emeralds?
In 1973 I was working as a guidance counsellor and my grandfather asked me to join his business. He was a successful loose gemstone dealer in New York City.
Did you study to be a gemmologist?
Prior to going “on the road” selling, I was mandated to take the GIA courses and become a gemmologist.
Have you always been passionate about gemstones?
At first, I was not passionate about the gemstone trade. I was young and the New York City trade appeared filled with incredibly old and conservative owners.
I thought I would catch on fast and move up the ladder……… How wrong was I!
I could see how passionate my mentors were about their industry, how much they knew. How they could look at a gemstone and immediately tell you what it was, the value, approximate weight, and/or improvement by re-cutting.
What is it about gemstones that appeals to you?
Knowledge, Knowledge, Knowledge. It would take me some six years to only start to understand what my mentors were attempting to instil in me, and I am still learning today.
I now understand, you may learn from books, but you absorb the traits needed to be successful through constantly looking at gemstones and asking questions.
It is a changing international market, with new discoveries, pricings, and norms.
I would think that I could hold a gemstone in my hand; go anywhere in the consuming markets and that same gemstone could realize the same international value even though currencies, religions, politics and economic conditions are different.
Gemstones are a conduit of value. The more you know, the better you can do, and you can do it anywhere in the world.
What is your favourite gemstone?
As for a favourite, there really is not one over another. Any of the gemstones in their full pedigree of quality are nature’s gift. Although, some are much rarer than others, the beauty of Kashmir sapphires or Mogok Burma rubies and Colombian emeralds may be at the top.
The pandemic has changed the ways in which people live and work – and in how they trade in gemstones.
Gemstone dealers in the United States were not able to make traditional overseas buying trips and trade fairs were cancelled.
New York City is a mega hub gemstone trading platform.
We service the largest consuming market in the world.
Gemstone dealers, for the most part, receive individual requests through retailers and their discerning clients.
Retailers are lower in gemstone inventory than in diamonds and today’s consumers are looking for individuality in their purchases.
Colour is “in” — and sought after.
Our conduit is through the retailers.
We are learning how to use digital media and photos to facilitate, assist and help our clients make decisions that assist in a sale.
Since it is impossible to hold all inventory for all needs, we work horizontally in trading with each other on a memo basis to fill the requests we individually have.
You are an ambassador for the digital trading platform Gembridge in the United States. What does this mean?
I feel very privileged to be selected as ambassador for the Gembridge platform.
This role almost brings me full circle having started out as a guidance counsellor.
I feel Gembridge is setting up the platform needed for the 21st century.
They are working with the trade and all its current issues to be above board in ethics, security, compliance, and transparency between members.
I feel it is my role to help facilitate dealers here in the United States to attach themselves to this international platform.
The private showroom per dealer that Gembridge sets up and fulfils for members is an invaluable tool that is administered free of charge, less the small commission fee on sale.
It will be my responsibility to connect the old, perhaps traditional ways, with a new format in international trading and partnerships.
How will your new role change the way in which you will trade gemstones?
Gembridge will allow me access to unprecedented amounts of digital inventory.
Whilst this is available now on a limited basis, the increase and usage in looking and searching for specific items, can only benefit sellers and buyers.
You are readying listings on the Gembridge platform. Can you please describe a few highlighted pieces and say what makes them special?
I have quite a few gemstones that may soon be listed on Gembridge. Here are a few examples: an 81.87 ct EC aquamarine: it has a Santa Maria deep blue colour and is very reasonably priced at $250 per carat.
This EC Emerald resembles Colombian in colour and saturation, and is very, very good value for its size and quality:
This 4-carat ruby is verified heated, Mozambique. The colour quality is pigeon blood, very much sought after:
If this was a Burma unheated ruby, it would be the over 40 times the per carat price we are asking.
How important a network is the Gembridge community of traders?
Price is not always the most important factor in selecting a gemstone. The relationship we have with each other is equally — if not more — important.
Gembridge will allow us to interact on a more global basis, increasing our network.
Communications, knowledge, logistics and clientele are all ingredients to success.
The nuances of making business here in the United States is not put in jeopardy by Gembridge membership. It will serve us all in our respective markets.
How is the trade in coloured gemstones evolving in the United States, and what is the outlook for the high-end coloured gemstones market during and after the pandemic, in your view?
The high-end coloured gemstone trade in the United States is on an upswing as more wealth has been concentrated and disposable income is looking at alternative ways to be channelled.
Auction houses are performing record numbers of sales and are gaining more influence.
The amount and variations of colours, hues, saturation, shapes, sizes and qualities has opened the door to thousands more individual designers who are actively looking to work with the coloured gemstone community.
Online sales, promotion and social influencers will only fuel the growth of coloured gemstone usage in jewellery and demand here in America.