Rocks and Minerals | My Business My Passion
This is the story of Stone Mania, who we are and where we came from. An incredible adventure that began unexpectedly in 2001 on a blisteringly hot day in Delhi. What started off as a casual interest in jewellery featuring rocks and minerals led to the creation of a business that has taken me around the world and given me more pleasure and enjoyment than I could ever have imagined.
Whilst growing up in a north London suburb I spent more time than I care to remember working with my father in a south London market. Well aware that I didn't really want to be there and disappointed that I had no aspirations to take over the business, he left me to my own devices and after leaving school I started working for a well known travel company. Market life just wasn't for me so it was ironic that more than twenty years later and after having followed a completely different career path, I found myself back behind the counter of a market stall.
Having left school with few qualifications my mother was determined for me to make something of my life so having pushed me into a twelve month government funded training programme with a large travel company on which I earnt just £25 a week, I was at the end offered a permanent contract. I initially worked in Human Resources or the Personnel department as it was known back then before moving to customer relations and finally after having applied to work overseas, went first to Italy and then to Spain. By 1989 I'd had enough and returned home to look for alternative employment.
Having taken a holiday to Florida and flown with a new airline called Virgin Atlantic I decided to apply for a job as cabin crew and less than six months later was on my first flight to New York. In 1990 they had six Boeing 747-200 aircraft and flew to just six destinations, five of which were in America.
The Early Days in India
In 1999 a new route to Delhi was announced initially flying twice a week which meant there was a five day layover which was more than enough time to get out and explore. I have great memories of those early days and with each flight came a new experience. Despite the extreme heat and dust I spent every waking hour getting to know the city whilst taking in sights, sounds and smells and despite a few inevitable challenges, loved every minute I was there. Street markets in India are noisy, vibrant, exciting places with no shortage of things to buy and gemstone jewellery was being sold everywhere.
The Shop where it all Began
Despite never having taken much notice of jewellery I was mesmerised by all the different gemstones, the intricate designs and amount of work that had clearly gone into making each piece. The urge to buy something was overwhelming and by the time I left I had more silver and gemstone jewellery than I knew what to do with. Once back in the UK I gave some of it away and the rest was sold on eBay. With each subsequent trip I returned home with more and before long had a network of suppliers. I was definitely more interested in the stones than the jewellery and had there been more places in the markets selling rocks and minerals, I believe things would have progressed very differently.
Jewellery Purchased in 2002
What started off as a bit of fun quickly became more serious and after several months I created a company called Silver People. The name was appropriate because by that time I was buying silver chains, bracelets and necklaces in large quantities but didn't find that style of jewellery as exciting so decided instead to focus on gemstones. By January 2003 I had a website, had taken a stall in Camden Market and with the business doing well applied for part time at Virgin which meant I was flying less each month. With more time off I could concentrate on my new company which had by now been renamed Stone Mania and could fly to India as a passenger whenever necessary. The little free time I had was spent learning about rocks and minerals and writing articles to post online. My newfound interest fascinated my family because my grandfather and great grandfather had both been diamond polishers.
One of my suppliers in Delhi specialised in gemstone pendants and the more I bought from him the more I sold. Apart from being nicely made and featuring good quality stones, there were so many different gemstone varieties to choose from. At one point I had more than one hundred different varieties in my collection.
Stone Mania Logos
After a couple of years of being in Camden I had many regular customers and gemstone pendants had become my speciality. I particularly enjoyed buying large and chunky pieces and although initially worried they may not sell, there was no reason to be concerned because they were usually the first to go. I was young and ambitious and was always looking for ways to move the business forwards which I did by concentrating on quality, variety of gemstones and delivering the best customer service. I had taken a second stall at a weekly market in St Albans and was now going to India every couple of months each time returning home with more jewellery.
By 2005 Stone Mania had grown into a profitable business but I was bored of buying ready-made pendants and wanted to choose the gemstones myself. Following an introduction to someone who cut and polished rocks and minerals specifically for the jewellery trade, the way that I did business changed and from that point all of the pendants in my collection were made using the finest purity of silver and carefully chosen gemstones.
A Looming Credit Crunch
I clearly remember returning home the first time after having spent four days choosing stones and with the amount of money I had just spent, could only pray it was the right decision. When I collected the newly crafted pendants some weeks later I was confident they would sell but only time would tell. Not only had I taken a huge risk but had also decided to give up the markets in favour of county shows and small shopping events and within a few months was travelling the length and breadth of the country. My stall attracted large crowds not only because of the size of some of the pendants but also because of all the different gemstone varieties. My newfound knowledge of rocks and minerals led to many long and memorable conversations with customers and traffic to my website continued to grow.
Stone Mania at a County Show
2008 was my third and final year at London's Ideal Home Show and although profitable, takings were down on the previous two years. There was talk of a looming credit crunch and both consumers and retailers were nervous. Newspapers were full of doom and gloom and whilst the shows remained busy, people were not spending anywhere near as much.
Daily Mail | November 2007
Stone Mania had come a long way since 2002 and I wasn't prepared to risk lose everything to something that was being predicted as the largest economic downturn for many years. I was sitting on a serious amount of stock and had paid for space at many upcoming shows but there was no guarantee they would be profitable. I couldn't ignore all the warning signs, every day I heard about another business that had gone under so had to take action to ensure I wouldn't be next. I immediately cancelled all future events and decided to concentrate on selling through my website. There were hundreds different gemstone pendants available to choose from plus a large section of carefully written articles on rocks and minerals and many of the pages ranked well on Google. Online sales had been increasing steadily since the site had been launched so I was confident it was a good move.
2008 London Ideal Home Show
It was Christmas 2010 before things really started to pick up again and as cash flow increased, I invested in new stock and redesigned my website. The time had really come to start adding something else to my collection and the obvious choice was healing crystals, rocks and minerals.
The Addition of Crystals, Rocks and Minerals
By 2013 I was back in St Albans market but the high street had changed since I was last there. Businesses that had been there for many years had either changed hands or closed down and there were many charity shops and discount stores. It had always been notoriously difficult to get in to the market as a casual trader especially for people selling jewellery but that was no longer the case and on some Saturdays there were plenty of empty stalls. What was once a large and bustling market was now smaller and nowhere near as busy. Everything revolved around price which meant the gemstone pendants were not as popular as they once were. The healing crystals rocks and minerals however that I had bought attracted loads of interest and sold like hot cakes.
Tumbled Stones Galore
In 2016 new management took over and were intent on change but it didn't go down well with traders and some of the changes had a negative impact on business. On a cold and very wet February afternoon whilst serving customers, our entire stall tipped over backwards because traders in the adjoining units had removed horizontal supporting bars whilst setting up that morning. Each block was made up of six stalls all of which had a countertop at the front but traders who sold clothes often removed it to enable customers to walk through. Removing the bars which supported the counter made each stall less stable which was fine for one or two in each block but not with four out of six. The previous managers had always walked around to ensure units were set up safely and correctly but the new team didn't bother. As my neighbours started packing away at the end of the day and removed weight from the front of their stalls, rainwater that had accumulated in the back section of the overhead tarpaulin unbalanced the structure and the entire block tipped over. Unlike the rest of us, they had not been emptying the water out periodically and had not been told to do so by management. The result was absolute carnage and my entire display was thrown to the ground. Rocks and minerals covered the pavement whilst hundreds of smaller stones and healing crystals fell down a street drain. Gemstone pendants secured to display boards landed face down on the road, mineral spheres rolled away and whilst many people scrambled to help pick things up, others took advantage of the situation and helped themselves to whatever they could.
The management team took no responsibility for what had happened and told me to sue my neighbours. I never returned to St Albans again and subsequently sued the council for a significant amount of money which enabled me to replace all of my stock. On a happier note I spent a wonderful week in Cape Town and an amazing few days at the Tucson Mineral Fair in Arizona and by the end of the both trips my warehouse was once again bursting with beautiful crystals rocks and minerals. Following that fateful day I decided for the second time in my adult life to say goodbye to market life and concentrated my efforts on selling solely online through my website.
Back in St Albans
I now travel regularly to Africa, Asia and America in search of new rocks and minerals and thanks to the explosion of shopping online in recent years, all of my business is done online. Since setting up Stone Mania in 2002 I've had an incredible adventure which has included its fair share of ups and downs but have achieved more than I could ever have imagined and my passion for all things related to rocks and minerals continues to grow.