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Stone Mania | Our Story

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Stone Mania, How It All Began

The story of Stone Mania began on a scorching hot day in Delhi in 2001.  A visit to a street market and the random purchase of some jewellery led to 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.  It hasn't always been easy but it's certainly been worthwhile.

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.

Market life especially during the cold British winter really wasn't for me.  Ironically many years later I found myself once again working in markets.

my jewellery stall at Camden market

Having left school with only basic qualifications I was offered a government funded placement with Thomson Holidays.  I was paid £25 a week. 

When the scheme came to an end after twelve months I was offered a permanent job.

I initially worked in Personnel as it was once known and then moved to Customer Relations.  I then went overseas to work as a holiday rep'.

By 1989 I'd had enough and returned home.  For the next six months I did temporary work whilst looking for another job.     

Having seen an advertisement for Cabin Crew with a new airline called Virgin Atlantic I applied.  Less than three months later I was on my first flight to New York.

In 1990 they had six old Boeing 747s and flew to six destinations five of which were in the U.S.

afternoon tea service Virgin Atlantic Upper Class cabin

Exploring India

In 1999 a new route to Delhi was announced.  The cabin crew initially had a five day layover so there was plenty of time to get out and about.

I have great memories of those early days in India.
Despite the heat and dust I spent every waking hour exploring the city enjoying the sights, sounds and smells.  I loved every minute I was there.

Street markets in India are noisy, vibrant, exciting places with no shortage of things to see and buy.

busy street market in India jewellery shop in a market in India

Whilst shopping for gifts I decided to buy some jewellery and ended up with far more than I needed.

Once back in the UK I gave some away and the rest I sold on a new website called eBay.

With each subsequent trip to Delhi I bought more silver and gemstone jewellery.

Before long I was buying from several places around the city

What started as a bit of fun quickly became more serious.  By the summer of 2002 I had created a company called Silver People, had built a website and had a stall in Camden Market.

Later that year I changed the business name to Stone Mania because the style of jewellery I was buying was mainly gemstones. 

The business took off quickly and before long I was struggling to bring back enough stock.

In the months that followed I changed my contract with Virgin Atlantic from full-time to part-time.

Flying less each month meant I could now travel to India on my days off.  That enabled me to spend more time buying stock and do an additional market. 

Over the next few months the style of jewellery I was buying gradually changed.  Quality became my priority and I also wanted to offer a wider selection of gemstones.

In my spare time I read as much as I could about rocks, minerals and gemstones.  With my newfound knowledge I started writing articles for my website.

My interest in rocks and minerals was ironic considering my grandfather and great-grandfather had both been diamond polishers.

Homepage of an old website Homepage of an early version of the website of Stone Mania three Stone Mania logos

For the first couple of years I bought different types of jewellery but that changed after being introduced to a new supplier.

This company only manufactured pendants and rings and had a huge variety of gemstones.

The pieces I bought initially sold like hotcakes.

Before long I was bringing home up to a hundred kilos of jewellery at a time.

By 2004 I was bored of just buying ready-made jewellery.

Having discovered Jaipur was the place in India where most of the world's gemstones were cut and polished, I headed there to see what I could find.

After a challenging few days I found a company that produced gemstones from rough rocks and minerals.  From that point the way Stone Mania did business changed.

I was also introduced to a small team of artisans who could make jewellery by hand. 

So instead of buying ready-made jewellery, I could now choose each gemstone myself.  I could also use a much higher purity of silver.

me standing behind my jewellery stall in St Albans market choosing loose labradorite cabochons

Goodbye to Markets

My new style of jewellery was really too expensive for markets.  I therefore decided to find a more suitable outlet.

Within a few months I was travelling the length and breadth of the UK doing county shows and retail events.  It was a very different environment to a market. 

With good advertising traffic to my website grew and before long it was generating a fair amount of business.  In 2004 shopping online especially for jewellery hadn't yet taken off.

jewellery retail stand at a regional county show jewellery retail stand at a regional county show jewellery retail stand at a regional county show

The Credit Crunch of 2008

Taking a stand at the London Ideal Home Show in 2006 was a risk and a huge expense.  Thankfully it paid off and I returned for the next two years.

Although 2008 was profitable, takings were down and there was talk of a looming credit crunch.

The atmosphere quickly changed and consumers were being far more careful.  Newspapers were full of doom and gloom and whilst the shows I was doing remained busy, people were not spending as much.

newspaper article about the looming recession

Stone Mania had come a long way since that first day in Camden Market and I wasn't prepared to take risks.  The looming credit crunch was predicted to be the largest economic downturn for many years.

I was sitting on a huge amount of stock and had paid deposits for regional shows for the next twelve months.  If they weren't profitable I would be in serious trouble.

Every day I heard about another business that had gone under.

Despite being an incredibly difficult decision, I cancelled all future shows and decided to trade solely online through my website.

Jewellery stand in the London Ideal Home Show

Over the next two years I saw many businesses who I'd worked alongside disappear.

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 to pick up.

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.

The time had come for me to look at something else and the obvious choice was crystals, rocks and minerals.

A few weeks later I was on my way to Cape Town.

Crystals, Rocks, Minerals and Gemstones

exclamation mark in a red triangle(*)
By 2012 I was back in St Albans market but the high street had changed.  Many businesses that had been there for years had gone.  Charity and discount stores had taken their place.

It had always been difficult to get a stall in this market especially as a new trader.  That was no longer the case.  On some Saturdays there were plenty of empty stalls which at one time was unheard of.

What for many years had been a large bustling street market was now smaller and considerably quieter.  Everything revolved around price which meant the pendants in my collection were no longer as popular as they once were.

The crystals, rocks and minerals however sold well.

plastic barrels filled with tumbled stones airport trolley with cases and boxes

Christmas 2015 was one of the quietest I had ever known.  There had been a surge in new traders in the market most of whom were selling cheap imported products

In the run-up to Christmas we were trading every day yet at times the market was deserted.

Most of my business was now being done online through the Stone Mania website.  Shopping habits were finally beginning to change.

In 2016 new management took over in the market.  Despite things having been run in the same way for many years, they were intent on change.

Lack of experience and not engaging with stallholders meant new ideas didn't work and were not well received.

On a cold and very wet February afternoon whilst serving customers, our entire stall suddenly tipped over backwards.  It happened because our neighbours in the three adjoining units had removed horizontal supporting iron bars.  They were in place to stabilise the structure.

Each block was made up of six stalls that were attached.  On one side was a countertop which traders selling clothes often removed.  Removing the bars which supported the counter enabled customers to walk through.

Whilst it was fine to do that with one or even two stalls, doing it with four in a block of six reduced the stability of the unit.

As our neighbours started packing away and removed merchandise that had been hanging on the front of the stall, rainwater that had accumulated in the back section of the overhead tarpaulins unbalanced the block.

Unlike us, they hadn't been draining the water out during the day.  As the front of the stalls became lighter the entire block tipped over backwards.

The result was absolute carnage.  It was a miracle nobody was hurt.

My entire stock covered the pavement.  Hundreds of tumbled stones and expensive gemstone pendants fell down a street drain.  Beautiful stone spheres rolled across the road.

The management took no responsibility and told me to sue my neighbours.  I never returned to St Albans market and sued the council for enough money to replace my entire stock.

On a happier note, I spent a wonderful week in Cape Town and also had an amazing few days at the Tucson Mineral Fair in Arizona.  By the end of both trips my warehouse was once again bursting with beautiful crystals, rocks and minerals.

Following that horrendous day I decided for the third time in my life to say goodbye to market life.  Stone Mania now only trades online.

Market stall selling crystals rocks minerals and gemstones

Stone Mania Today

Although we still have a small collection of pendants and rings we haven't had any new pieces made for some time.  The focus of Stone Mania is now crystals, rocks, minerals and gemstones. 

I've learnt so much over the last twenty years about how to do business and how to get through difficult times.  Covid presented a whole new set of challenges but thankfully life has now returned to some kind of normality. 

In August 2020 with the outbreak of Covid-19 I was made redundant.  I had given thirty years of my life to Virgin Atlantic.

What happened in my last twelve months with this company is pretty shocking.  I've written a long blog which tells my story but still have a few more chapters to write.

After losing my job I felt it was finally time to turn Stone Mania into a full-time business.

Thanks for reading my story.  If you'd like to read my Blog it's called "Being Cabin Crew, the Ugly Truth".

Article Photos

The first photo in this article was taken in 2002 on one of my first trading days in Camden market. The second was taken around 1996 in Upper Class on a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747.

The shop in India is the first place where I bought jewellery specifically to sell.

The next photos are of my first two websites and early company logos.  They're followed by my stall in St Albans Market (the first time around) and choosing gemstones in Jaipur, India. 

My stall in three different county shows and the London Ideal Home Show comes next followed by my first trip to Cape Town to buy crystals, rocks and minerals. 

The final photo was taken in St Albans market in 2016.

Most images are clickable and redirect to the original photo.


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