Crystals Rocks Minerals | My Business My Passion
Stone Mania | How It Began and Where We Are Today
The story of Stone Mania began quite unexpectedly on a blistering hot day in Delhi in 2001. A visit to a street market and the random purchase of some silver and gemstone jewellery was the start of a journey that has taken me around the world and given me more enjoyment than I could ever have imagined. The last twenty years have been quite an adventure and things haven't always been easy but it's definitely been worthwhile and today I have a thriving business that's been shaped on passion, perseverance and a huge amount of hard work.
All of the photos in this article are linked to our page on the photo sharing platform Flickr. Click the image to see the original photograph in full size.
Having grown up in a quiet north London suburb I spent more time than I care to remember working with my dad in a south London market. Aware that I didn't like being there and disappointed that I had no interest in taking over the business he left me to my own devices and after leaving school I joined Thomson Holidays. Market life especially during the cold British winters just wasn't for me so it was ironic that many years later I found myself once again back in a market.
2002 | First Stall in Camden Market
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 during which I earned just £25 a week, I was at the end offered a permanent contract. Initially working in the Personnel department or Human Resources as it's known today, I then moved to customer relations and then became a holiday rep' and worked in both Italy and Spain. By 1989 I'd had enough and returned home and worked as a temp' for about six months whilst deciding what to do with the rest of my life.
Having been on holiday to Florida and flown with a new airline called Virgin Atlantic I applied 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.
Virgin Atlantic 1996 (ish)
The Early Days in India
In 1999 a new route to Delhi was announced initially flying twice a week which meant the crew had a five day layover which was more than enough time for me to get out and explore. I have great memories of those early days with each flight came a new experience. Despite the heat and dust I spent every waking hour walking around the city enjoying the 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 everywhere.
The First Shop Where I Bought Jewellery
Despite never having an awareness of rocks or minerals I was captivated by all the different gemstones, the intricate designs of the jewellery and amount of work that had clearly gone into making each piece and soon found myself haggling over price and returning to my hotel with a load of jewellery that I really didn't need. Once back in the UK I gave some of it away to friends and family whilst the rest was sold on a relatively new online selling platform called eBay. With each subsequent trip to Delhi I returned with more silver and gemstone jewellery and before long was buying from many suppliers around the city. Had I seen rocks and minerals being sold in the market that day instead of gemstone jewellery, I'm fairly certain things would have progressed very differently.
What started off as a bit of fun quickly became more serious and by the summer of 2002 I had created a company called Silver People, had a website and had taken a stall in Camden Market. Later that year I changed the name to Stone Mania to reflect the fact that I was buying more gemstone jewellery than plain silver.
The business was doing well but I couldn't bring enough stock back with me whilst flying as cabin crew so decided to go part time. By flying less each month I had time to go to India as a passenger on my days off and could return with larger quantities of jewellery which could be imported through the correct channels.
Finding a wholesaler familiar with the European market led to a change in the style of jewellery I was buying which in turn led to an increase in sales. The more involved I became with gemstones the more I learnt particularly through information that I found online which led to me writing in depth articles for my website. My newfound interest in rocks and minerals was ironic considering my grandfather and great grandfather had both been diamond polishers although it had never really been discussed so I knew very little about it.
My First Website Launched in 2002
Click to See Full Sized Image
Previous Company Logos
Buying gemstone jewellery was hit and miss because you could never be sure an item would sell which was risky when buying in such large quantities. After a few disasters I began focusing on necklace pendants featuring a single polished cabochon because they had gradually become my best selling item. Having found someone who produced pendants in every shape and size imaginable and with hundreds of different gemstones, I started doing most of my business with him. At that time India didn't have the same technology as China so jewellery was made entirely by hand. My passion for rocks and minerals drove me towards the larger gemstones but I rarely gave much consideration to the size of the pendant. Thankfully I never had any problems selling them and in fact the larger pieces usually sold first and it wasn't long before Stone Mania was known as the place to buy large and chunky gemstone rings and pendants.
By 2005 I was bored of buying ready-made jewellery and wanted to use gemstones I had chosen myself. Having learnt that Jaipur in Rajasthan was where most of the world's coloured gemstones were cut and polished, I headed there to see what I could find. After a challenging and exhausting few days I found a company who cut and polished rocks and minerals and from that point, the way that Stone Mania did business changed. Having been introduced to a small team of artisans I explained exactly how the jewellery was to be made and instead of using Indian silver which contains a higher percentage of copper, I wanted them to use fine sterling silver.
St Albans Market 2006
Goodbye to Markets
I'll never forget returning home for the first time with more than one hundred kilos of sterling silver necklace pendants and hoping I hadn't made a terrible mistake. I was now doing two markets both of which were always busy but with the newly designed silver jewellery being considerably more expensive, it was time to find another retail outlet. Not long afterwards I gave up both markets and started travelling length and breadth of the country doing county shows and pop-up retail events instead. My stand always attracted large crowds not only because of the size of some of the pendants but also because there were so many different gemstone varieties. At shows I could spend more time talking with customers and had many long and meaningful conversations about gemstones, rocks and minerals. The online side of the business was also doing well which was reassuring.
Royal Highland Show
Royal Berkshire Show
Pembrokeshire County Show
Looming Credit Crunch
Taking a stand at the London Ideal Home Show in 2006 was a huge expense but thankfully it paid off so I returned for the next two years. Although 2008 was profitable takings were down significantly and there was talk of a looming credit crunch that was making everyone very nervous. The newspapers were full of doom and gloom and whilst the show was busy, people were not spending anywhere near as much.
Stone Mania had come a long way since that first day in Camden Market and I wasn't prepared to risk losing 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 deposits for retail stands at many regional shows but was concerned they may not end up being profitable. I wasn't prepared to risk losing everything and every day was hearing about another business that had gone under. Despite being an incredibly difficult decision, I cancelled all future events and decided for the time being to trade solely online through my website.
2007 London Ideal Home Show
Over the next two years so many businesses who I'd worked alongside disappeared and those who did survive really struggled. Although all of my money was tied up in stock, my expenses were minimal and business online remained fairly steady. It was Christmas 2010 before sales really started picking up and as consumer confidence returned, I decided it was time to change the direction of the business. The jewellery market was saturated, prices were cheaper than ever and it was difficult to remain competitive so the time had come to finally look at buying crystals, rocks and minerals. In true Stone Mania fashion I had no intentions of buying from a wholesaler here in the UK and just a few weeks later was on my way to Cape Town.
Introducing Crystals Rocks and Minerals
By 2012 I was back in St Albans market but the high street had changed dramatically since I was last there, loads of businesses had disappeared and there were many charity and discount shops. It had always been notoriously difficult to get a stall in the market as a new trader and more so if you sold jewellery but that was no longer the case. On some Saturdays there were plenty of empty stalls which at one time was unheard of. What was once a large and bustling street market was now smaller and much quieter. Everything revolved around price which meant the gemstone pendants in my collection were no longer as popular as they once were. The tumbled healing crystals, rocks and minerals however that were now part of my collection attracted plenty of interest and sold like hot cakes.
3 Aisles of Tumbled Stones
70 Kilos of Crystals Rocks Minerals
Christmas 2015 in St Albans was one of the quietest I had ever known. There had been a surge in recent months of new traders most of whom were selling cheap imported products and as a result the market's reputation started going down hill. In the run-up to Christmas we were trading every day yet at times the street was almost deserted. Our website however was doing well so people were clearly doing most of their shopping online.
In 2016 new management took over who were intent on change. Lack of experience and not engaging with traders meant that many of their ideas didn't go down well and in some cases impacted negatively on business. On one cold and very wet February afternoon whilst serving customers, our entire stall tipped over backwards because our neighbours in the adjoining units had removed horizontal supporting bars. Each block was made up of six stalls all of which were attached and each had a countertop on one side which traders selling clothes often removed. Removing the bars which supported the counter opened up the stall but also made it less stable which was fine for one or two stalls in each block but not with four out of the six. Previous market managers had always ensured stalls were set up safely but the new team didn't bother. On that fateful day as our neighbours started packing away and removed merchandise hanging on the front of their stalls, rainwater that had accumulated in the back section of the overhead tarpaulins unbalanced the entire block. Unlike us they hadn't been draining the water out during the day so as the front became lighter all six adjoining stalls tipped over. The result was absolute carnage, crystals rocks and minerals covered the pavement, hundreds of tumbled stones and necklace pendants fell down a street drain and beautiful polished spheres rolled away.
Management took no responsibility for what had happened and advised me to sue my neighbours. I never returned to the market and subsequently sued St Albans 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 had 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 tumbled crystals, rocks and minerals. Following that horrendous day I decided for the second time in my life to say goodbye to market life and now only trade online.
St Albans Market
Stone Mania Today
Today Stone Mania is a great place online to spend some time if you love crystals rocks and minerals. The Articles and Photos section of our website is definitely worth visiting and features some fantastic photos and hundreds of onward links to great pages that we're confident you'll enjoy. Our products have all been carefully photographed to ensure they're as true to life as possible and new pieces are added regularly. We do most of our buying locally in Africa, Asia and the USA and still have a large collection of beautiful necklace pendants.
We're currently re-designing our website to make shopping online with us even more exciting and are looking forward to what the future has in store. We've learnt so much over the last twenty years about how to do business and how to get through the difficult times and Covid has once again presented a new set of challenges.
At Stone Mania we try to do things differently. We consider our customers to be our guests so want to make the time that you spend online with us as enjoyable as possible. Orders are carefully put together, come with an outstanding level of customer service and we always try to deliver a little more than expected.