What’s the best way to go about investing in gems and how do you avoid getting taken advantage of when when purchasing high end jewelry? Rénee Kubryk comes from a background specializing in rare gems and vintage diamonds. Listen as she shares about her trade and what you need to look for in purchasing high end jewelry.
Alan: Welcome back I’m here today with Rénee Kubryk. She is their founder and owner of Gemlust, -local to the San Francisco Bay Area. Rénee, welcome to today's show.
Rénee: Thank you very much, pleasure to be here.
Alan: So Gemlust, by the name, you're into antique jewelry, tell me what you do?
Rénee: First and foremost, I'm passionate about gems and gemology and I seek out the top 2 percent of gems for private individuals either as a piece of jewelry or just something to hold onto as a hard asset. Generally, we're not talking about the kind of things we find in a jewelry store, and that includes antique jewelry which is very hard to come by in today's marketplace.
Alan: Now how did you get started in this? Now the jewelry market and especially what you do is very specialized industry and is this something you can go to school or do you just do it by...
Rénee: Well I actually was a nurse I went to college to become a nurse but I grew up in the jewelry business my mom and dad ran the business and they had a couple of stores in the mountains of the Catskills in New York and so at a very young age I was working in stores selling jewelry and always had a passion for gemology. My dad was very kind and used ask people who would come to the hotels to bring me rocks and minerals that had crystals in them because I had a collection going when I was very young and I just was always amazed that the earth could create these incredible beautiful glittering objects that once you faceted then turned into extraordinary, beautiful- like the rarest things on the planet. And so at an early age I got an exposure to, but I didn't think I wanted to do it as a living.
Alan: Okay so your dad was in the industry and you converted from being a nurse because you had more passion into the gems?
Rénee: Well actually I've had 3 careers. After I was a nurse, I worked in the furniture industry for 20 years. I did product development and design and visual merchandising and I used a lot of inspiration from jewelry and our company was smoking hot for like 20 years, because we specialized in one thing which was tables. And they were objects of art on display is a table so you might have like a metal bracket that held together an ancient coin on display as part of a base with a glass top. And we just did things that nobody else did. It wasn't the mind of the mill kind of furniture you could buy and typical retail stores and again most of my inspiration came from jewelry because jewelry has so much that you can be inspired from I mean it's ancient. Even the cave people were adorning themselves with something.
Alan: You know most people when they when they look at the jewelry industry, you either know what you're doing you don't. So I imagine there's a lot of deception that people think they're buying something precious and it's really not. How do you advise individuals as a going about investing?
Rénee: You're absolutely about right about the fraud there's so much fraud you really have to have a professional with you that knows a lot about you gemology knows how stone should be cut, in terms of diamonds you can get the biggest loss on buying a diamond that isn't cut properly or that's had treatments to it and generally the way that you stay safe is to buy from an accredited dealer who adheres to a strict code of ethics, but also you have to buy stones that are certified. If you get a stone that's certified that guarantees that you're getting what you paid for. It will tell you if the stone's been treated, it'll tell you the origin but most importantly it'll tell you if the stone is synthetic or if it's from the earth.
Alan: What does it mean when- oftentimes you'll see descriptions that say, this is not heat treated. What what is all that about. Does it lessen the value to have heat.
Rénee: Well anytime you have a stone if you're buying it for investment, you want it to have no treatments whatsoever, but it's very rare that most gems are not treated- especially something like an emerald which comes with a lot of inclusions. So there are acceptable practices for each gem. Like it's very acceptable to heat a ruby or to heat a sapphire because that removes a lot of these little silk inclusions that tend to disappear when it's heated and it only enhances the color which really gives it a lot more personality. But it does diminish the value- not as much as you would think but it does diminish the value to have any form of treatment at all. If you're going invested a stone you wanna buy something with no treatments but again you'll pay 4 or 5 times the price for something that's not heated. So it it gets to be out of somebody's range, especially if they're going to wear it. If they're gonna put in a safety deposit box for 20 years, they might want to make sure that they had a stone that had no treatments.
Alan: I'm visiting here today with Rénee Kubryk, she is the founder of Gemlust, and Rénee, I need to take a quick break. And we'll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back and visit here today with Rénee Kubryk, she is the founder Gemlust. And Rénee, gemology always fascinates me but Gemlust, tell me about the name, how you came up with that.
Rénee: Well I guess I'm passionate about gems, probably more than most people. I think that they're the earth's greatest miracle they come from geological events that are cataclysmic, I'm like one continent collides into another in the ocean get sucked into the earth's crust. And gems are formed in that alchemy and it's amazing how rare they are and how many millions of years they take to create. And when you facet them and turn them into something that it adds sparkle and shine to it, it's just something that is preserved forever, it never is loses its value it's something that is past down for generations, things go in and out of style but a precious gem is something that's rare is always raring there's always a buyer for. A great example that is rubies, rubies are the most rare gem on the planet other than maybe imperial green jade, the reason for that is rubies can only be formed in the absence of carbon and as you know the earth is full of carbon and so some cataclysmic event to happen it has to eliminate all the carbon from the environment and that comes from induction, when the ocean get sucked into the earth's crust which only happens maybe once in I don't know how many millions of years. And so when that perfect alchemy is created and you get a small amount of ruby's as a result it's only in one place in the world, there are people who are gonna want those rubies. And generally the crystals are very small, they don't they don't grow to large sizes so to get something over 2 or 3 carats the price goes up exponentially. Diamonds on the other hand that are made from carbon are plentiful. Because everything is made from carbon I don't know if you know this but you could even have your deceased pet made made into a diamond. There are companies that do that, they take the carbon from your deceased loved one and they turn it into a diamond. But diamonds are plentiful, they're rare because De Beers created a monopoly and the only time that I would seriously invest in diamonds if I was going to have a portfolio of gems, would be a colored fancy diamond- something was naturally colored not enhanced by heat, because the rarity factor- and that's what makes a gem so spectacular, is how rare it is. A beautiful emerald that has no inclusions is so incredibly rare there are lot of emeralds 99 percent of them have terrible inclusions in them. They're not attractive, in fact 80 percent of the gemstones that are available on the commercial market are just commercial gemstones they're not worth very much. The top tier go to dealers and people who are in an inner circle of gem you know business, and that's the business that I address, the top 2 percent. The commercial stones that you see in Macy's that are on sale for 50 off and then another 20 off when you get to the counter really don't have any value. They might be pretty to look at, but they're not rare, they're not as beautiful as a natural ruby that is large and has no one you know inclusions in it. You know, it just depends on the rarity factor. Like imperial green shade almost all of it is hoarded by the Chinese and Japanese. They value it more than they do gold or any other currency. Because for them they believe it has properties that brings them abundance and that's the other thing about gems. A lot of people believe that these crystals contained some form of metaphysical powers if you will. I just know that they make people very happy.
Alan: So Rénee, in the world of gems, I hear today and it's more with the high end, a lot of individuals are concerned about the currency markets in what's going to happen. So oftentimes they look at, let me get investment of gems in case I need this, and when you're looking at the rarity or from an investment quality how do you advise your clients.
Rénee: Well again, the things that maintain the most value over the long term are things like antiques, like an antique car or an old antique gun, there are collectors for these, there are collectors for gems and the collectors for antique jewelry, antique jewelry that's made with diamonds from the late 18 hundreds to early 19 hundreds is extremely rare and hard to find because diamonds were just found in the late 18 hundreds in the only people who could afford them were very wealthy so to get an antique diamond ring as an engagement ring which a lot of my clients actually I specialize in, I have an eBay store that I sell those and called vintage diamonds. And I did some research, the word vintage diamonds is googled over 90,000 times a month, so there's a huge market for young people that want to return to an age where it was a little bit more romantic, but these antique diamond rings that were from the Edwardian period, early 19 hundreds to the art deco 1930's are so collectible and so sought after, and and they have appreciated in value greatly in the last 10 years because demand far exceeds the supply. And so a lot of my clients are young people who come to me for engagement ring so they either want an antique diamond ring which is a specialty, which is something that I've been specializing in most of my life because my parents they specialized in antique jewelry and so I grew up with appreciation because you can see a lot of different pieces of jewelry when you go to a show but an antique piece is one of a kind and you'll never see it again if you pass on it you'll never see something like it so if you want it you have to buy it then. And if fuels the philosophy of if you have hard assets that you know when you pass on you can pass something valuable onto your heirs that has so much more meaning than money in a bank or paper goods, there's a psychological element to owning a great piece of jewelry or an antique treasure that you know is made with craftsmanship that you don't see today. Or a very rare and elusive stoned gem that you just don't see it everywhere.
Alan: So Rénee, I need to take a quick break, I'm visiting with Rénee Kubryk, she is the founder of Gemlust, a firm that specializes in antique jewelry and we'll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back and didn't hear today with Rénee Kubryk she is the founder of Gemlust and Rénee, we need we touched on the rarity jewelry and how it has its value, let's talk about your clients, how do you how do you get new clients?
Rénee: Okay so I do a few different things I buy from my clients I sell to my clients and I trade with my clients and it's mostly through word of mouth or through through referral. So for example, I have a client who recently I got her a 10 carat emerald and it was an amazing price and I'm always trying to buy something that's under valued so when I purchase it so that when I present it to my client it becomes a no brainer.
Alan: A 10 carat emerald?
Rénee: Yes it was a $50,000 emerald and I sold it to her for $20000 and it was set in a beautiful setting, even though she'd she bought it for them the emerald. Anyway she was on a flight, she was in first class and she was wearing the emerald ring and some woman was sitting next to her the whole flight and said I just have to ask you where did you get that emerald? I'm in the market for one myself, I'm eyeing one at an auction and it's something like $30,000-$40,000. Well my client didn't reveal what she paid but she gave her my number and she called me and she told me that she was considering buying this expensive emerald at an auction house, and she was going to be paying a 25 percent buyers premium on top of whatever it was. And so we had a long conversation, I told her that the way that I usually approach things is if I knew she was looking for an emerald, I wouldn't buy finished piece of jewelry, I would go to a gem show, the biggest one in the world, and I would go to the best dealers that are direct from the mine, the guys who caught them and from the country where they're found and I would procure one for her and charge her a small buyer's premium, and way she could be sure that she would be getting something from an accredited resource that adheres to a certain code of ethics and it would be coming with a certificate and she would be able to buy it at below wholesale. And that is something that most people don't know. You really can buy gems and jewelry at below wholesale. You're never gonna make money or even catch up. To what you paid for it if you pay retail and I don't care if the retailer gives you 50 percent off because there's always marketing scams- 50 percent off. Jewelry has such a high mark up, it's 3 times what it costs and if you include all the middle people that are involved in the process, because it's not just the mining it's the cutting and the distributing and then selling to wholesalers and the whole salers sell it to manufacturers, then the manufacturers sell it to retailers and then the retailer sells it to you. So when you have all that chain of people in the supply, you're gonna pay sometimes 10 times more for that than you really need to. So if you paid retail, as soon as you buy it, it's worth half of what you've purchased it for. And I unfortunately have to be the barer of bad news sometimes when people bring things to me and say I spent $20,000 on this and it's not worth more than $4,000-$5,000. And I show them, look this is what we can get for you. Andit become the kind of thing that you really have to have the resources and I'm fortunate that I have the ones that I have, because I've been doing it for so long, and I don't like to pay for unnecessary things when I'm done with young clients who are very very astute, they know what the cost things are and they're going to get everything reappraised and my goal is that it appraises for double or triple what they paid for. And that's usually what happens and that's why I get repeat business. And it starts out with an engagement rang and then it becomes the wedding jewelry, and then it's the push present after they have a baby and then a special anniversary, and then they tell their friends and I become a lifelong friend and I love it, I love the process because it brings so much joy, but it got to the point where a 30 something year old clients how much more jewelry can they buy? I have one client, she's 32, her husband has bought her jewelry for the last 10 years and she's got a suite of everything. And so now I think I'm just going to be putting together gem portfolios for them because she loves gems and we're going to pick out those kinds of gems that will have appreciation value, and instead of looking at a computer screen to look at their portfolio, they'll have a few gems in the palm of their hand that they can look at, that appreciate in value and make them feel very happy.
Alan: You love what you do, and I can see it with the passion in your voice and what's your typical process, a new client comes to you, do they typically come with with a specific or do they say find something that makes money for me.
Rénee: Well it's usually some young guy who's found out from a relative or whatever that I'm a knowledgeable resource, someone that can be trusted and they'll contact me and they'll say something like, my last client was from Georgia, I'd never met him, he's got a very wonderful girlfriend she does sign language and for the deaf and she uses her hands a he wanted something that was very understated but he wanted top top top quality, upper 2 percent. So he said I can buy diamond here in Atlanta, we have you know a merchandise mart here but I'm coming to you because I know you will prevent me from making a mistake. And so basically I went on her Pinterest page because I always ask him to send me a picture of his fiance be, and a picture of her hands so I could see what she looks like, and fortunately share to Pinterest page and when you go on Pinterest you can see all these different designs that women are pinning, and all their hearts desires and all their biggest wish lists, and I saw what was important to her. And I designed a ring- first I picked out a diamond and I knew since he wanted something small it had to be the upper upper tier of the best cut, the best color- so I looked at hundreds of diamonds I called my diamond dealer, told her what I was looking for, I looked at hundreds of diamonds, I have a very good eye, I picked out one that was just in a league of its own. I took him outside, I look at them in every different light, inside outside, bad light goodlight. The cut is most important thing on a diamond, besides the 4-c's, because a well cut diamond sparkles like crazy and really that's what most people want a diamond for, is that sparkle factor. And this one was just amazing, the cut on it, the clarity everything was superb, came with the GIA certificate, so he came out with his dad, and looked at the diamond under a microscope- a 900 powered microscope to make sure that it was the diamond that was indeed in the certificate, and then talk to me about what kind of mounting and we designed it together knowing that she was using our hands a lot and didn't want a flashy ring and I'd make suggestions, I'm very opinionated and I've yet to have a client that wasn't happy with something that we've created for him. But I love the idea of buying the stone and making the piece of jewelry because I think it's so much better of a value for my client they get a much better deal there's a lot more personally invested, it's so much more fun for me and the girl really seems to be happy.
Alan: Rénee, this has been a lot of fun and what we'll do for the listeners, before we wrap up the second here, how does a person reach you?
Rénee: I have a store in Lafayette called Gemlust, and it's a 3529 Mt. Diablo Boulevard, and it's mainly by appointment only although I am open you know several days a week. You can reach me on my private all line 209-609-2548, or you can reach me at Renee@gemlust.com. I have an eBay store called vintage diamonds which you can Google, or you can go on my website and there's a link to that.
Alan: And we'll have all this information on our rebroadcast on the web site of GROCO.com and you can see more about today's show and also contacting Rénee. Rénee thank you for being on today, and we'll be right back after these messages.