If you have ever tried to buy something for that person who has everything, then you know what some of your customers are dealing with. Many people find themselves shopping at rock and mineral stores around the holidays, simply to indulge the interests of a loved one. You may even be able to spot them when they walk into the store because they usually head directly to the nearest salesperson with a bit of a “lost” expression.
As rock shop owners and managers, we’ve all heard how important it is to learn about rocks and minerals, but is it really that hard to become an expert? That might depend on who you ask. Sometimes a customer will walk in asking for an obscure type of fossil or call to inquire about rare shades of amethyst, but they may not even consider themselves a collector. The truth is, few of the “collector types” know much about every type of rock or mineral; they usually know a lot about one or two of their favorites. Still, it never hurts for rock shop owners to know a lot about the geological sciences.
If you look closely enough at most minerals, you will see they all have the ability to reflect light, but they are generally limited by their color, cut and natural translucence. Not so with fluorescent minerals. These unusual stones have that unusual physical property that allows them to temporarily absorb small amounts of light and then an instant later release them at a slightly different wavelength. This “fluorescence” causes a temporary color change in the mineral as it appears to the human eye.
Unless you stay current on the latest rock and mineral trends, it’s easy to miss something as obscure at the Amethyst Flower. Thankfully, rock and mineral wholesalers are on top of the latest buying patterns and able to stock up on the most popular items before the holiday rush. The average rock shop retailer may not be able to tell the difference between Brazilian and Uruguayan amethyst, or an amethyst geode and an amethyst flower. One thing is certain though; your customers will. Most rock shops – even those located near tourist attractions – tend to cater to serious collectors.
Every year at around this time, retailers everywhere begin to panic about their holiday inventory. Yes, it is that time again; time to stock up on all the latest “hot” items for your rock shop, but it’s not all about geodes, rare specimens and fossils. No matter where your store is located, chances are you get a fair amount of customers who prefer natural stone jewelry to rock displays.
Whether it is a regular customer out shopping for gifts or out-of-town visitors looking for ideas, rock shops should be prepared with a selection of geologically-inspired jewelry.
As a rock shop owner, it can be difficult to predict coming trends in rocks and minerals. After all, most rock shops aren’t surrounded by competitors and don’t have the time to find out what is selling at similar shops in the area. This is a handicap that often drives retailers to ask their wholesaler for suggestions. At Pikes Peak Rock Shop we are very familiar with this dilemma. When asked, I often advise buyers to check out our selection of labradorite.
When customers stop by your store outside of tourist season it can be difficult to capture their attention with routine offerings, but labradorite is anything but “routine.” If you’ve never seen a labradorite specimen you can be sure it is something special. It may not be cut into fancy shapes or mined in the foothills of the Rockies, but labradorite closely resembles the Colorado sky. Shoppers marvel at how the colors change in the light, reflecting a prism of purple, orange and teal against a slate gray background.
At first, many shoppers thing this stone is named after their dog, a Labrador retriever, but in reality it is named after a region in Canada, Labrador, where the gemstone was first discovered. It was found in anorthosite rock where it formed in large crystal masses in an incredible display of colors.
Labradorite in American culture
Interestingly, the use of labradorite as a decorative stone is hardly new. It was found in objects and jewelry dating back to Native American cultures in Maine, but wasn’t officially named until the 1770s. Its vibrant color and natural iridescence have been compared to the wings of an exotic butterfly.
What makes the colors change in labradorite?
The natural iridescence that comes from blue labradorite is the result of layers of semitransparent minerals that have adhered to the surface of the stone. As light reflects off of each layer, they intersect and emit parallel bands of shimmering “spectral color.” An overarching trend of blues and greens immediately brings to mind the colors of turquoise, similar to the Arizona sky. This may explain the popularity of this stone in the Southwestern states.
What are the technical specifications?
Labradorite is made up of 30 to 50 percent albite (a sodium aluminum silicate) and 50 to 70 percent anorthite (a calcium aluminum silicate.) A member of the feldspar group, another multicolor variety of labradorite can be found in Madagascar, where it is referred to as a “rainbow moonstone.” Often known as “spectrolite,” because of its brilliant spectral hues, labradorite has its own name for this effect: “labradorescence.” The schiller effect allows this stone to emit flashes of red, green, blue and orange, with the most common colorations being blue and green. In Madagascar, this colorful gemstone is known as the “rainbow moonstone.”
How do jewelers and crafters use labradorite?
Most of these gemstones are are transformed into hand-cut designer labradorite pendants, which are generally set in a sterling silver pendant. However, some home crafters have used the gemstone in decorative wooden objects, decorative wall tiles and carvings. Shoppers love to pick up labradorite jewelry when visiting the Southwest because the blue/green color so closely resembles the Colorado summer sky.
If you are looking for the perfect stone to display in your store this season, now is the time to stock up on labradorite. Rock shops and retailers around the country are already placing orders for their holiday inventory.
Photo courtesy of Pikes Peak Rock Shop
As a rock and mineral wholesaler who sells to retailers, I am often asked what makes amethyst the “gem of choice” for so many customers. Is it that everyone secretly loves the color purple? Or is it just that the amethyst is available in so many different forms?
Several years ago, an interesting item was introduced to the world of rock and mineral wholesaling. The spirit stone trend may not have been taken seriously enough by rock shop owners at first, but now they are paying close attention. Spirit stones were the first line of semi-precious rocks and minerals to be “branded” with images, and their low price point allowed many would-be collectors entry into the marketplace. It may have taken a while for some stores to catch on to this trend, since the stones are a displays.
Unless you personally own a collection of rocks, minerals and fossil specimens, it might be hard to determine which souvenirs are the best to buy wholesale. This is not to say that fossil specimens have changed much over the millennia; considering that many of them are over 300 million years old. However, even with such a timeless natural resource, trends come and go. For example, the range of bestselling fossils has expanded in recent years to include several specimens from Morocco.
Unless you’ve been in the rock and mineral business for years, chances are you don’t know much about what people are buying. It can be tempting to snatch up all the good deals at your favorite wholesaler, but before you do that it is important to know what sells, and more importantly what will sell in your store.