Interview With Sophie Simon, Gemologist and Colored Gem TraderLaryssa
In episode #169 of the Joy Joya Jewelry Marketing Podcast, I share my interview with Sophie Simon, founder and CEO of Tsubaa Gems. Sophie’s a master at colored gemstones, and her passion for them shines and sparkles. She’s also extremely experienced in many different facets of the jewelry industry.
For 14 years, Sophie worked in Paris and London as a colored gemstone grader, a diamond grader, a contemporary jewelry production and workshop assistant, an employee in a large mineral specimens gallery, a high-jewelry sales assistant, and a brand quality control assistant before she embarked on her gemology diploma adventure in 2015. Throughout all her roles, she loved discovering so many different varieties and shades of color and wanted to become an expert in gemology.
In her business Tsubaa, she wants her gemstones to be for everyone, for the high-end designer or jewelry student. She holds a large variety of specimens and qualities, so everyone can find something. She loves sourcing special orders and discovering new designs and collections.
In an email exchange after the interview, she said, “No matter how rich you are, you deserve a gem for yourself and to make jewels for others. I live and breathe with gems and jewelry, I am inseparable from them.”
In this episode, we chat about Sophie’s amazing and eye-opening experiences in the world of gemstone sourcing. She shares details about the forces impacting today’s gemstone producers as well as the importance of transparency in the supply chain. She also talks about why she’s so passionate about supporting women in the gem and jewelry industries. Check out the transcript below.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 00:08
Welcome to the Joy Joya podcast where jewelry is joy and everyone is encouraged to add more polish and sparkle to the world with topics ranging from marketing tips to business development, best practices and beyond. This is the go-to podcast for ambitious jewelry industry dreamers like you. Hi, I’m your host Laryssa Wirstiuk. Through this podcast I aim to empower and inspire jewelry entrepreneurs and professionals so they can thrive while adding more beauty to the world. I’m passionate about digital marketing for jewelry brands and I’m excited to share my passion with you. As we all know jewelry is joy, so I’ll gladly seize any opportunity to talk about it. This is episode 169 and today I’m going to be sharing my interview with Sophie Simon, founder and CEO of Tsubaa Gems. Sophie is a master at colored gemstones and her passion for them shines and sparkles. She’s also extremely experienced in many different facets of the jewelry industry. For 14 years, Sophie worked in Paris in London as a color to gemstone grader, a diamond grader, a contemporary jewelry production and workshop assistant, an employee in a large mineral specimens’ gallery, a high jewelry sales assistant and a brand quality control assistant before she embarked on her gemology diploma adventure in 2015. Throughout all her roles she loved discovering so many different varieties and shades of color and wanting to become an expert in gemology. In her business Tsubaa, she wants her gemstones to be for everyone for the high-end designer or jewelry student. She holds a large variety of specimens and qualities so everyone can find something. She loves sourcing special orders and discovering new designs and collections.
In an email exchange after the interview Sophie said, “no matter how rich you are, you deserve a gem for yourself and to make jewels for others. I live and breathe with gems and jewelry; I am inseparable from them.” In this episode, we chat about Sophie’s amazing and eye-catching experiences in the world of gemstone sourcing. She shares details about the forces impacting today’s gemstone producers, as well as the importance of transparency in the supply chain. She also talks about why she’s so passionate about supporting women in the gem and jewelry industries. But before we get to the solid gold of this episode, I’d like to take a moment to remind you that this podcast has both an audio and video component. So, you can either listen on your favorite podcast platform or watch on YouTube by searching Joy Joya. I love creating this content as my act of service to you my awesome listeners and you can support the podcast for free by taking the time not only to subscribe, but also to leave a rating and review on iTunes, which helps other jewelry dreamers find it too. If you listen to episode 165 with my guest Liz Kantner you know that we recently opened registration for our collaborative six-part webinar series called Success with Jewelry. Enrollment is still open. Want all the details, visit successwithjewelry.com or follow us on Instagram at @successwithjewelry. I can’t wait to see you at the webinar. In this segment of the podcast, I give out my sparkle award for the week.
During this segment I highlight a jewelry brand that’s impressing me with their marketing. The sparkle award is also interactive so you can visit sparkleaward.com to nominate a jewelry brand that’s inspiring you these days, I might feature your submission on a future podcast episode. This week. I’m highlighting two brands that are rock stars on TikTok and the reason why I’m doing that will make sense in just a moment when I talk a little more about TikTok. But really two jewelry brands that are doing extremely well with their TikTok content is Catbird NYC and Jenny Bird. They just both happen to have birds in their name. Cat bird is doing some really fun and innovative content on TikTok. The types of categories that they post are new products, store tours, behind the scenes, unboxings, Get Ready with us videos. Then Jenny bird is really posting a lot of fun and relatable videos that don’t at all feel salesy. There’s one that’s kind of like the person in the video is like whenever I’m online shopping dot dot dot and then the fun of what that’s like me arriving late because I need to accessorize and just again, having a lot of playfulness around that, and trying to figure out how to wear all the earrings at once without getting another piercing. It’s kind of hard to explain if you’re not looking at it. But I encourage you if you don’t have the TikTok app to download it and at least go look at those two accounts. So, you can get a sense of what jewelry brands are doing on TikTok, how they’re doing it, how they are trying to be creative without dancing, which I think a lot of people associate with TikTok. Anyway, I’ll put a link to those two accounts in the show notes so you can see for yourself. As I mentioned, you can visit sparkleaward.com to nominate a jewelry brand that’s inspiring you these days, and I might feature your submission on a future podcast episode, let’s discuss some recent news related to jewelry or marketing.
Each week I share my thoughts about three relevant articles and you can get those links by visiting joyjoya.com/signup once you’re on that VIP list, you’ll receive our weekly digest filled with new episode announcements. The first one comes from commonthread.co and it connects back to what I was saying in the sparkle award segment about TikTok. So, this article is your tick tock e commerce guide tactics, examples and how to succeed without dancing. So, TikTok is truly the it platform and it continues to grow with 650,000 new users each day, the platform even over to Google late last year to become the most visited domain in the world. It’s a valuable asset to have as a brand because it really allows for discoverability in a way that Instagram does not. Here’s one quote from the article. Unlike other social media platforms TikTok supports widespread content virality, regardless of follower count end quote. Brands just really shouldn’t be ignoring this platform because it can potentially really boost your visibility if you are being creative in your content. The number one goal of people on TikTok to kind of gain more exposure is to reach new audiences on the FYP or the for you page. So, how does a brand get on this FYP. Basically, make a video that users will want to watch and ultimately share with others. The video that’s most likely to land on someone’s FYP is if your video receives more views than the average account within your audience range. Or of course, there’s a sponsored version of that where you can pay. What are the TikTok analytics right now that are mattering the most for brands, average time watched, watched full video and reached audience. So, as you can see, these are all metrics related to video engagement because that is what TikTok is all about. So, what are the top three components of an effective organic marketing strategy on TikTok if you’re not paying for ads? One definitely influencer partnership that is a huge component of successful brands on TikTok they are, “The new celebrities of the digital era.” Also live stream. So, to unlock this real time engagement feature on TikTok, you will need to be at least 16 years old. I mean, I’m sure you are, but also have at least 1000 followers. There’s no time limit on TikTok live and it can appear on the FYP page when general users are scrolling through the platform and finally taking advantage of all the shopping features on TikTok. So, brands or creators with a TikTok for Business account have the ability to host a tab on their profile where users can browse or buy products, giving you a new channel to sell your jewelry. What are your thoughts on TikTok? Have you tried it out? Are you finding ways to engage with your customers on this platform? I would say that more and more demographics are joining the platform previously, you know a year or two ago maybe TikTok was more reserved for like the Gen Z. But I think that user demographic is expanding and that it has become more diverse. So, it’s definitely worth exploring if your customers are spending time there.
The next article comes from the official Google blog and it’s called helping your product stand out to shoppers. So, Google really wants to help E commerce brands be more discoverable, wants to help empower users of Google to shop more efficiently and to make the shopping experience more fun. So, Google has been rolling out a lot of tools that support and work complementarily with E commerce, so they recently have some new data and insight tools. One the shopping experience scorecard. So, this is a program that rewards merchants for good customer experiences. Just an overall reminder that customer experience is so important in E commerce to the point that Google is going to use that as like kind of a ranking factor for E commerce stores. Two, the release free listings conversion reporting. So, this new tool makes it easier to measure the impact of free product listings by showing things like total traffic impressions and conversion rate. They’re also or they just recently released a price insight tool. So, merchants can see whether their products are priced competitively, and also local product insights. So, local businesses that serve a local customer base will be able to see their most viewed products, including snapshots of top products, and more. So, Google is really staying at the forefront of supporting ecommerce businesses and I love to see that.
Then the last article for today is from JCK, and it’s another announcement from Instagram. I feel like there’s one every week, don’t you agree? Anyway, Instagram recently introduced new messaging features. So, on March 31, Instagram announced a new update to its messaging capability. Some of the features around this messaging platform maybe aren’t super relevant to brands, but there was one that I liked that I think perhaps a small business owner in the jewelry industry could maybe use to engage with, like VIP customers. So, one of these new messaging features is that polls will be available for group chats as a way to ask your group DMS for their opinion on something. So, imagine if you are a small jewelry business owner, and you’ve identified a handful of like your top VIP customers, you have good relationships with them. What if you almost created like a focus group of these customers making them feel even more special and valued and had maybe like a group DM chat going with them in Instagram, where you could poll them, you can share like exclusive content and updates with them. It’s just one option to create like a closed community with those customers who really matter. So, that’s just one idea.
As I mentioned, if you want to get the links to the articles I share in this segment of the podcast, you can become a Joy Joya VIP by visiting joyjoya.com/signup. Without further delay let’s get to my interview with Sophie.
Hi, Sophie, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I’m very excited to talk to you today all about gemstone sourcing.
Sophie Simon 12:43
Hi Laryssa, thank you so much for having me. I’m really happy to be invited on your podcast.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 12:49
Talking to me from so far away like from across the world in France today. Right?
Sophie Simon 12:54
I know we are in Paris. So, good morning to you.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 12:58
Yes, definitely. I appreciate coordinating the time zone differences.
Sophie Simon 13:05
The magic of internet now.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 13:07
Exactly. So, can you tell our listeners a little bit about how you first entered the jewelry industry way back when?
Sophie Simon 13:15
Way back, that’s for sure. Because that was in 2002 actually, that I graduated with the equivalent of a Jewelry MA in France. So, that’s called a [FOREIGN]. That’s a degree in general jewelry program, where you learn all the different high jewelry techniques for your soul are that gemstones, drawing jewelry and all the marketing skills that you may get. That’s just an intro, and then you can go on and graduates on other diplomas. But I decided to discover the jewelry work by myself after that. So, yeah, 22 years ago now.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 13:56
Amazing. So, how has your career evolved over that time? Because I know you’ve had your hands in like a lot of different parts of them
Sophie Simon 14:03
Yeah, it’s been a ride and it’s been a fantastic ride because jewelry engrooves a lot of different work, different skills and you can work on different fields within the jewelry world. There’re about 40 different trades just to make a jewelry, going from setting the stones and also the dealers and also different techniques that you can learn and be specialized in. So, I decided very early on to try my hand on a lot of different skills with working with jewelry designers, even glassblowers and having like integrated different medium techniques into the jewelry. So, I was able basically to get my hand on different facets of the trade. So, I’ve been working for a lot of different companies, which had nothing to do one or another. But I was very happy to do so indeed. You could be very long to actually describe all the places I’ve worked.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 14:12
Did you say 40 different trades in the industry that make a piece come together. I never even thought about that before.
Sophie Simon 15:19
Absolutely, like people don’t realize that and usually the consumers will think that it’s only one person. But you will have the wax cover, for instance, which are sculpting the waxes to make the prototypes. Some others are using 3d designs now, but most of the time is done by hand. Then you get people working with a metal, the casters, the billion people preparing the metal to be cast. Then you get all the people working back the pieces after the casting. You’ve got the stone setters, you’ve got the polishers, you’ve got the engravers, the [INAUDIBLE], you get all sorts of different skills that basically make a piece of jewelry alive. So, yeah, a jeweler cannot work alone, he has to work with all the people in order. Some of the jewelries actually are very lucky and they know all over those trades. But usually, they are calling other skill workers to help them to make the jewelry. So, yes, it’s a lot of different trades to be able to do that.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 15:25
It’s such an amazing reminder, because I feel like no matter how long I’m in this space in the industry, I’m always like newly in awe of something even just like being reminded that there are so many different roles that go into making a piece of jewelry.
Sophie Simon 16:41
Yes, I think is quite important and especially because I’ve been trained in very classical and traditional French jewelry. I think that people kind of forget that it’s just not a computer and somebody may be behind the bench. Sometimes and very often, it’s a lot of different people working. So, we call in a lot of skills for jewelry making. The same goes for gemstone trading, because you actually have a lot of people working to have the final gemstone faceted in your hand. So, this is something that most of people don’t quite know. But this is also the magic of jewelry. It’s a lot of people working in the background, making magic and sometimes it’s good to have it a bit of secret too.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 17:27
Yeah, that’s very true. So, your focus right now with your business Tsubaa Gems is color gemstone sourcing. That seems to be like your main passion or where you’ve landed, at least for now. I would love to know more about why you’re so passionate about color gems and acquiring and sourcing them.
Sophie Simon 17:48
Well, definitely, they’ve been on my mind since the beginning, actually 1996 when I started the jewelry school. I always wanted to know how these people were able to find those gems. So, I was very, very passionate about finding out about geology, and different places on earth that are related to geology work, and how do you find in different grounds and how deep. So, this is something I really wanted to do. I never did actual geology diploma, but I’m generally very interested about that. Then basically also all those shiny stuffs, and how those happen. They’re all different in colors, that you will find some of them so expensive, and some of them very, very cheap and what’s going on with that really. So, it wasn’t natural evolution for me to come in from jewelry to get my hands on gemstones and I also worked without the geology diploma for Diamond graders and gemstone graders at the peak of my career in like 2005. I was really, really into like grading and provide the best quality for high jewelry brands from the plasma dome. So, definitely they were in my eye for a long time. So, I decided to graduate with GMA and pass my gemology and GA diploma.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 19:23
Awesome. So, what makes your business and your offerings unique and special?
Sophie Simon 19:30
Well, I think I choose the stones like they were for myself. So, I go with my heart, choose the colors that I like, and I tend to not necessarily follow the trends, because the trends made the price higher and everybody kind of jump on the same wagon. So, I decided to look into gems that have inclusions, fancy shapes, some designs that basically other people would not necessarily look into and definitely a lot of different materials. Not focusing solely on precious stones, but going really, really on all the different gemstones you can find from aghaidh to sapphires, and maybe diamonds. So, yes, I definitely want to have a selection, which is eclectic, that can serve as many people as possible, including young jewelers, students, individuals, people working on different high-end collections, you name it, I’m saying yes to everybody.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 20:29
I love that. Are you able to mention any of the jewelry brand clients that you support, would our listeners be familiar with any of them?
Sophie Simon 20:51
Well, I don’t know, because I’m working with lots of independent jewelers from France and Europe. So, I don’t know whether or American consumers will be familiar with them. I also love all my clients, I really, really care for them. It doesn’t matter how much you will spend with me, because the process of your jewelry making is something that I’m very, very attached to. Actually, I can spend the same amount of time and effort on finding Rose Quartz than finding Tourmaline or Rubies because I find it like so interesting that people can access to gemstones wherever the needs and not because they actually have the highest value and I will value them more. To name just two that I really like and maybe the American public will know is cast jewelry that really cared for the base in San Francisco and they are making a very bright color for happy jewelry with MMO and other materials that I really, really love. Another artist is Alice Ceccolini which I provide for her designs as well and I simply love the enamel and all the colorful jewelry she makes such a positive design and I really, really like that so I can’t name any other people because I think it would be unfair to all the amazing customers that I have. I don’t want to place anybody higher than the other one. But these two are definitely one of the most vibrant colorful jewelry and I think we do need a lot of good vibes at the moment.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 22:37
Agreed. So, you are also a jewelry designer as one of the many hands that you’ve had in the industry and you create pieces for custom requests, correct?
Sophie Simon 22:47
Laryssa Wirstiuk 22:48
So how does your background and experience in jewelry design inform your gem sourcing and then vice versa?
Sophie Simon 22:56
Well, actually it doesn’t really influence because I make the jewelry for the people that really want one piece from me so I’m not basically choosing the gems for them. They act, they have colors ideas, we talked about shapes. So, I’m sourcing the stone like for any other jewelry customer not necessarily from my stock, you know, there might be something that I really don’t have and I have to source for them. In terms of how it influenced my sourcing it basically is two different jobs for me. So, I understand better now the jewelry needs and as a jeweler I can understand better what kind of service they want and I understand via their designs, everything that I need to do in order to create perfectly the stones for these gemstones because I do a lot of precise sourcing for my clients basically, having like choosing from rough and having stones kept for their collection. So, sometimes it happens that I do that for my clients but usually like I put my jewelry cap on and I’m not a gems trader anymore.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 24:18
Yeah, I can imagine that helps a lot and like just improves the communication that you have with your clients because you kind of speak their language you can like share their vision.
Sophie Simon 24:29
Definitely. Also is a technical talk that we have together. Because as a jeweler you will have basically some rules that you don’t want to rule out when you are choosing a stone depending on your design. So, it has to be practical, the gemstones you have to know their hardness in order to not choose a stone that is too soft, let’s say for a ring that it will rub off too easily, that the facets will disappear, that it might break. So, you are basically just putting indication on what will be the best for the jewelry in order to not choose something that is having like not good skills for the jewelry. Excuse my broken English.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 25:17
You sound perfect to me, you’re doing great. So, one thing that I personally think is like the coolest aspect about your job, besides being able to play with beautiful gemstones is getting to travel to so many interesting and amazing places. I know you mentioned that you go to Thailand regularly to see the gems at the source. So, I would love to hear more about these experiences. Can you maybe highlight one or two to give our listeners an idea of what it’s like to be you in your job?
Sophie Simon 25:51
Yeah, I mean, the whole process is such an experience and it’s such a routine break from what I can experience in Europe right now is completely different when I go to Thailand. Thailand is the core source of all the faceting in Southeast Asia and a lot of rough actually traveling to Thailand to be cut by skills worker. So, the whole process for me is completely life changing. Since I went, and we were accompanied by my gemology teacher, which is from the laboratory in Marseille in the Gemological laboratory for Marseille, she’s an amazing teacher. She brought us to Thailand first and showed us the way where we should go. Then after I came the other times, and I basically decided to look for the right person for me, and what I can stress about is you have to find your own way in the trade because there is millions of people, hundreds of millions of people actually working in the trade, not maybe quite that number. But it’s actually like you have to find your path where it’s right for you to meeting the right person like going to make you meet other people that makes you meet other people. So, it’s about human resources and connections. For me, I cannot name anything, because everything has been like a life changing experience. I will never find my life being the same again since I went to Asia and Thailand because for me it highlights really what I wanted to do. But my experience is different for me that it will be different for somebody else. Like you never know, actually. For me, I found the perfect people, the perfect collaborators, the skilled workers, lapidary gemologist, and the people from the markets, and I’m working with them since then. So, it’s a life experience but it’s a personal experience. So, I wouldn’t say that my experience is like, the best, but for me, it was perfect. Indeed.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 28:18
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Was it difficult to find like your people? I mean, what is that? Like? Is it just meeting talking, like sharing connections? Or how do you get to that point?
Sophie Simon 28:30
Well, after reading some gemological articles and different papers, and looking at different people’s work on the internet, I decided to basically email them and cast a rendezvous with them, like basically an appointment and try to find out more about what they were doing. What is it What are their skills, and I have good instinct, and usually I can meet people like, literally out of the blue as well and they were the right persons for me, like teaching me basically the thread of the market and say you should go and see that person if you’re looking for that type of gemstones? You want to facet, this and that stones you should ask to this person because he’s a great man. You basically open your ears and eyes and just observe and listen to what other people experiences are. Also basically attending trade shows. These are very important. You have to attend trade shows to basically meet as much people as possible. This is one good skill.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 29:41
How do you find that those travels have helped you, like better understand the supply chain and the transparency and issues around that, I mean, do you feel that it’s essential to be going to these places for those reasons?
Sophie Simon 29:57
Yes, absolutely. Like one of them my oldest supplier now is probably in his 70s. I know that he is working very closely with the brokers and the people finding the rough and cutting the gemstones. He is a sole trader. So, he is working almost solely with me now, because I can request some volume. So, he has gemstones cut for me, it is more work because you have to find out about people online, or discussing with them, so you don’t meet them in person. With COVID it has been very difficult, obviously, to travel, a lot of factories have been closing as well, a lot of sole traders have been usually affected by COVID, especially in Thailand that doesn’t have the same vaccination scheme. So, it’s been extremely difficult. So, the trade has been changing a little bit because there were no trade shows, there were no special gem symposium that you could attend. So, everybody kind of like being working remotely. So, from next year, from this year, I will travel again and see basically what is going on over there. Usually it was like this, and most people were traveling, but I feel like a lot of people now especially from Europe, are working remotely now with their traders and brokers to avoid traveling to China, which is kind of closed to finance right now.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 31:32
Yeah, I remember the first time that we connected you mentioned that COVID is really compromising the livelihood of a lot of people in this industry, just because business kind of came to a halt. Can you share a little bit more about that?
Sophie Simon 31:47
Well, it’s a different subject and obviously, my heart goes to the Burmese people which are being affected by a war right now. So, the trade is been like, hugely jeopardized with the political, African countries as well. I’ve been hugely impacted by political affairs, and large companies, which have been basically trading on the back of artisanal miners. So, I’m standing without using no miners, and not necessarily trading with large companies, which I’m not going to name because this is not my business here. But I feel like I’m working solely with young artisanal miners that are basically fancy fending for themselves within the industry trying to support their families and really this is a hand to mouth business, most of the time, and especially with artisanal miners, lapidary workers and brokers on the market, these people really, really work really hard to make a living and they are not depending on a big company there are buying their rough. So, the complexity of this business is that there are different layers on who works where, which country, and it depends on the geopolitical problems basically they are facing, so things are changing slowly, but also are being changed and affecting them. Like it’s a roller coaster, basically. But I would like to say that basically it’s difficult now, nowadays, especially the very, very small stones to be able to source completely entirely derive from the source thing, because we are not having the right information because the ref are moving from borders, basically to avoid conflicts in other places, et cetera. So, they are trying to basically work at the best they can.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 33:59
That sounds like such a complex issue.
Sophie Simon 34:01
It is very complicated indeed. Everyone has different bouts of information and I’m trying to breach as much as possible in my information where the ref is found, et cetera. I hope in the future I can collaborate with amazing companies that are based in Africa, for instance, and are working solely with women empowerment miners’ companies. Or you can find basically like having straight to the source bias, which I’m not doing at the moment, but I will hope to do that in the future. Right now. I’m working with one person broker that is trading with the miners and the lepiej group. So, I have very minimal middlemen in between me and the gems. That’s where we are at the moment
Laryssa Wirstiuk 35:00
It makes you really have, I guess sympathy for the concerned consumer too who really does care about where the products come from. In some cases, it seems like it’s almost impossible to really have full transparency.
Sophie Simon 35:16
Yes, I agree. This is one of the main issues is that, basically the information that is going to the European, the Westerner consumer is half of the truth, because most of the time, they are very well marketed campaigns that basically are showcasing some of the truths, but not entirely. Basically, the consumer wants to have the proof of sourcing of the gemstones, and some companies will market absolutely anything and say anything to try to carry this information, which is not often exactly true. So, I would like to say to the consumers that basically they are having good gemstones, most of people are not being affected by the trading of those gemstones, but very often especially the big companies that are affecting the livelihoods of the miners and their families, because they want to exploit as many as possible of the gem lens. So, they might do very, very wrong things to all those villages in order to place a mine and they are very big companies. So, usually with artisanal miners, they are working on their own, they are having this spot in the mountains, the river, their mines, and they work with their family. They are usually not working the whole year as well. They are doing agricultural work during half of the year and the other time of the year they do mining and breaking the stones. So, basically the consumer wants to rightfully have the right information where the gemstone come from, but it is very, very difficult for the small stones. As gemstone dealers we are trying as hard as possible to find a sourcing but usually you will miss some information that we try to. So, as a gemologist, we can basically find out where it’s from, as in geological position. But usually, you will have like some sort of oh, yeah, it’s come from Africa, or it comes from Vietnam, or Thailand, or some other places like Nigeria, which is a bit more local, but you won’t have necessarily the name of the mines coming from.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 37:50
Sure. Are there any other challenges or issues that you’re seeing with gemstone producers or in that space of the industry today? Like what are some of the other forces that these people are battling?
Sophie Simon 38:03
I think that basically trends. Trends are not a good thing for the gemstone market and for the people finding the gemstones because there is a lot of pressure like we had the pare Black Tourmaline that’s been crazy, they have been furloughed the price is so high, and they basically are putting a lot of pressure on the miners and everybody to find this type of colors. So, when trends appears and some jeweler on high end jeweler decided that this type of color, this type of gemstone is the trend, basically all the consumer go for their gemstones, and is basically pulling a lot of pressure on the miners and on the market basically. So, trends are a bad thing, I think. Trends shouldn’t exist, because I think is definitely damaging a lot, it’s a lot of issues.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 39:02
Sure, I mean, it makes so much sense. But I never really thought about that before and now I’m going to be more careful when I talk about trends because I’m just feeding into their shoe.
Sophie Simon 39:16
That’s basically that, you know and see everybody wants like purple garnet, for instance, the purple garnet.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 39:22
Sophie Simon 39:24
Absolutely gorgeous and it has like an amazing reddish-purple hue. But if everybody in the whole consumer wagon is basically jumping into that rather light garnet trend, the whole market is going to be trained the price is going to be super high. So, basically that’s why I’m trying to supply as many colors as possible. I’m not focusing solely on certain gemstones, because I feel like following the trends is basically fueling all those ecological damage problems too. Because people would be like looking at the soli certain places that are sourcing certain type of gemstones. So, it’s kind of like unbalancing the whole market, I feel like. So, trends are out to be taken with a grain of salt. I know a lot of people are really in love with fashion and wants to follow absolutely what the trends are. But I think that we need to be careful with that and kind of like, look at all over gemstones, because all other colors are absolutely beautiful.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 40:35
Definitely. It makes it so much more important for you to be an educator too, because I’m sure when you’re talking to your clients, they probably know a lot about gems, but you can help them see the beauty and maybe something a little bit different or unique that they might not have considered before.
Sophie Simon 40:53
Absolutely, it’s like coming from the diamonds, basically, the consumer is very well informed about diamonds at the moment and they want to have a certain type of color and everything. But usually, they’re not looking into some colored diamonds which are slightly off color, but they will suit better to their design, or the skin tone, or something that is not going necessarily to be exactly the same as other people. So, I feel like basically it’s the job of a gemologist and a gem trader to orientate the client better on what their needs are, not because other people have been buying this, but because what will suit them for the collection. It’s like there are people who want to have like diamonds and requesting for a D Color, if they see an E or maybe an F, they won’t see any difference. But they’re really on this because they’ve been looking on the internet and say, well, this is the best. But actually, you will cut off a lot of your budget going for a lower color grade, and the difference won’t be even noticeable on your finger. So, sometimes more information is a bit dimensioned because people are actually getting the hands-on information that they can grasp because gemology is vice subject and sometimes if you know too much, you get very, very confused.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 42:24
Sophie Simon 42:27
So, it doesn’t help to find a perfect gem, I feel like.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 42:32
Definitely. So, the last time we talked to you mentioned how vocal you are about supporting women in the jewelry and gemstone space, and you’re actively taking steps to build community and to really lift up women and bring them together. Tell me more about why this is so important to you and what you’re doing to facilitate that.
Sophie Simon 42:53
Yeah, basically, it’s by chance, because I just noticed that going through my customers list after two years of basically working hard and meeting a lot of people and I could just notice that 95% of my clients are women. So, maybe because a lot of women now are jewelry designers and when I started the trade it was actually a really male industry. A lot of places were forbidden to women. You can find actually places in the mines which are still a bit forbidden to women, because it’s kind of is like some kind of like bad luck things and you don’t know. Sometimes it’s religious. So, I feel like growing in the community of women makers, gemstone dealers’ lapidaries I’ve met a lot of them in the past two years as well and a lot of girls and women that are starting to work with us. So, I feel like the sorority behind gemstone industry is perfect because most of the jewelry is let’s face it intended to women. So, it’s only logical that more women are actually part of this industry and voices. Because some men in the industry can be a bit scary a bit patronizing a bit mansplaining when actually we have a lot of sensibilities, we love colors. We have different tastes and our selections and our work are very, very different from the males. So, I feel like this is us as women that can just grow harder, better this industry and the same thing when I’ve been mentioning some colleagues, dealers in Moya gems and Enza gems for instance in Africa, which are partnering with and empowering women miners. So, this is like the kind of trade that I absolutely love because they are keeping the money, they are able to learn how to facet gemstone, they are ideal to care for their kids close to the mine sites. In overall, basically women have been more vocal about their needs and what they want to do with their jewelry business, and I absolutely love every minute of it. Not that men are not coming to me. But I feel like a lot of women have been feeling absolutely more comfortable to talk with another woman, to talk about their designs. They have had a lot of very bad experiences with men in the industry. My friends, the men friends I have in the trade are absolutely brilliant. But most of the time, they also have a lady in the trade in their life. I feel like sometimes it does make sense that you are better men because of the woman next to you.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 45:51
Yeah, that makes sense. I love that it’s really inspiring. It’s nice to hear too.
Sophie Simon 45:59
Yes. I think that as women, we are taking our bit now, we are taking our part in the industry and this is so much important. It’s been brightening my days literally to meet amazing girls in this trade. As you, you’ve contacted me and I feel like this is like just the start of our talking with you.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 46:23
Yeah, definitely. Well, I learned so much talking to you today. I hope my listeners learned a lot. Even if they know about gemstones. I hope they got some kind of new piece of information from you. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the listeners about your work? Any exciting projects you have coming up, any final thoughts?
Sophie Simon 46:43
Well, I’m definitely going back to Thailand as soon as they can reopen for foreigners. So, I can spend a little time with my friends and suppliers over there. I would like to take on more travels, especially to Sri Lanka and India. I unfortunately don’t think I can travel to Pakistan, but I do know I have good friends in Pakistan. So, I want to be part of this world basically. I want to do my share, to do my bit, to be able to provide the best gemstones, cut and trade by the good people of this world. So, gems and jewelry are basically treasures and we need to be treasure in life. We need to be good people. I’m looking forward for the future and see how much I can grow and how much I can exist still in this world with the gemstones because this is what I do for a very long time now so I’m going to keep going.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 47:46
What an amazing adventure. I love it.
Sophie Simon 47:49
Thank you so much.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 47:51
Thank you for coming on the podcast Sophie, I really appreciate it.
Sophie Simon 47:53
I really appreciate. Thank you so much for giving a voice to a lot of different people in this trade and I really appreciate your work and just keep going Laryssa. Good job
Laryssa Wirstiuk 48:09
What did you think? If you want to learn more about Sophie and her business Tsubaa Gems, you can visit tsubaagems.com or follow her on Instagram at Tsubaa_Gems that’s T-S-U-B-A-A_Gems. You can always email me Laryssa that’s L-A-R-Y-S-S-A@joyjoya.com. If you love this podcast, please share it with a friend who’d appreciate it and don’t forget to subscribe as well as leave a review on iTunes. To purchase a signed copy of my book Jewelry Marketing Joy, visit joyjoya.com/book. Thanks for listening. Remember to subscribe so you never miss an episode. For more information about working with Joy Joya, visit joyjoya.com where you can sign up to download our free eBooks about various topics in jewelry marketing.