The "Story So Far" is the story of Stone Mania in words and photos and explains how the company started and where we are today. The page is updated periodically as our business continues to evolve.
Whilst growing up I spent a great deal of time working with my father in his shop in a South London market. He was well aware that it wasn't something that I enjoyed and was disappointed that I had no interest in taking over the business after he retired. Market life just wasn't for me so it was a little ironic that more than twenty years later after initially following a completely different career path, I found myself once again working in markets.
After leaving school in 1984 I started working at Thomson Holidays first based in the UK and subsequently moving overseas. I left in 1989 and in 1990 joined a new airline called Virgin Atlantic. At that time they only had six aircraft and flew to a handful of destinations but it gave me the opportunity to travel which I loved.
In 1999 the airline started flying to Delhi and I was on one of the first flights. In those early days we were fortunate enough to have a five day layover which gave me plenty of time to explore. During that first trip I walked the length and breadth of the city and discovered many magical places. Markets in India are colourful, noisy, vibrant shopping areas where almost anything at all can be bought and sold. Jewellery featuring crystals, rocks and minerals is particularly popular and it was everywhere I looked. Prices were cheap, shopkeepers were eager to sell especially to western tourists and I was fascinated by all the beautiful stones.
Once back in the UK, I gave some of the gemstone jewellery that I had bought away as presents and the rest sold quickly on eBay. I returned to Delhi regularly each time bringing back a few more pieces to sell or give away. After several months and having become very familiar with the city and its markets, I started to find better places to buy jewellery but looking back at some of my early purchases, it amazes me that I managed to sell anything at all.
What started out as a bit of fun was now turning into something more serious and after about a year, I created a company which I called Stone Mania. I had a website built in 2003, designed a logo and was now importing significant quantities of gemstone jewellery through the correct channels and everything was being done properly. Business was booming, I was buying from a couple of different wholesalers, had a regular pitch in Camden market and was also doing a fair amount of business online. Whenever I had the chance I would read about crystals, rocks and minerals and was slowly becoming a bit of an expert. One of my suppliers had beautiful gemstone pendants which sold like hot cakes and I couldn't bring them back fast enough. My new-found interest fascinated my family because my grandfather and great grandfather had both been diamond polishers.
I traded in Camden for a couple of years before moving to St Albans market and with each visit to India, returned home with more stock. I was young and ambitious and wanted the silver jewellery that I was buying to feature the very finest crystals, rocks and minerals. The large and chunky gemstones caught my attention the most and this was reflected in the pendants that I was choosing. Although I was taking a risk buying such large and chunky pieces, they proved to be extremely popular and were always the first to sell. Stone Mania quickly became well known for these type of pendants and also for the quality of the stones that each one featured. Despite having come a long way within a relatively short space of time, I still had so much to learn about how to make a nice display!
Leather Lane close to Hatton Garden is a busy lunchtime market and I traded there for about a year. My stay was short-lived because I started doing retail shows and fairs and two markets as well as these was too much for me to manage.
By 2005 Stone Mania had definitely made its mark but I was always looking for ways to improve on my collection. On one particular trip I was introduced to a gemstone dealer from Jaipur who told me that if I wanted to use finer grade gemstones, I should stop buying ready-made jewellery and start buying loose stones instead. He told me to first buy the stones and then to have each piece of jewellery made afterwards. That visit changed the way that I did business and from then on, Stone Mania was in a completely different league.
Having spent a frightening amount of money on loose gemstones, I could only pray that I had made the right decision. I was no longer working alone and had stands at several retail shows and country fairs which meant that I had to give up my place in St Albans market because I simply didn't have the manpower to do everything.
The decision definitely proved to be the right one and we were busier than ever. Our stand always attracted large crowds and people were fascinated at the size of some of our pendants. Our website was also seeing high volumes of traffic with many customers returning time and time again.
2008 was our third year at the London Ideal Home Show and although we made a tidy profit, things were definitely down on the previous two years. There was talk in the air of a looming credit crunch and people were becoming nervous. I had come a very long way since setting Stone Mania up and had no intention of losing everything to what was being predicted as the largest economic crisis for many years. I was sitting on a very large stock and had paid out considerable amounts of money in deposits for upcoming shows over the next twelve months. Business was down and things were not looking good. Every day I heard about someone else who had gone under so I had to act quickly if I wanted to save the company. Rental space at shows is expensive and you need people to spend money in order to make them worthwhile so I immediately pulled out of all future shows. I couldn't return to St Albans because the jewellery that I was now selling was not suitable to sell in a market so I decided to concentrate on doing business solely online.
The next few years were tough and there were many times when I thought sales would dry up completely but thankfully they kept coming in albeit at times, very slowly. Working alone once again and only with my existing stock, I survived the recession and it was not until the end of 2010 that things finally started to improve. As cash flow increased the money was invested straight back into the business, the website had a complete overhaul and I started travelling again to replenish my stock.
In 2013 I decided to go back to St Albans market, it felt like the right time to start moving forward again but the high street had a very different feel to it this time around. People were spending less, everything revolved around price and my gemstone pendants certainly weren't for everyone. I had thought many times in the past about moving away from jewellery but because business was good, I didn't feel it was the right time but now, I was beginning to give it serious consideration. Over the next couple of weeks I did some research and subsequently arranged a trip to South Africa where I met with a few wholesalers and mineral dealers.
Upon returning home after what I considered to be a very successful trip, I priced all of the new crystals, rocks and minerals that I had bought and set off for the market not knowing what to expect. That first Saturday was pretty nerve-racking because I had taken a chance and spent a significant amount of money and had no idea what to expect in return and furthermore, there were already a couple of other mineral dealers in the market. As it turned out I did pretty well and left that evening feeling confident that I had definitely made the right decision. In the weeks that followed, business went well and it wasn't long before I returned to South Africa to buy more stock. During 2013 I made several trips back and forth and my collection grew and also became more varied. I was very happy to still be working with crystals, rocks and minerals and having prices starting at just a few pence for tumbled stones, proved hugely beneficial.
In 2016 a new management team took over in the market and things started to be run very differently but sadly, the change wasn't a positive one. The week before St Valentine's day 2016 whilst fully set up and serving customers, our stall literally tipped over due to the supporting bars in many of the adjacent stalls having been removed. The bars kept each stall secure but a few traders regularly removed theirs so the stall could be opened up instead of having a table in place along the front. The new management team took little notice of how many people removed bars hence on this day when four out of the six stalls in the block no longer had them in place, the entire structure became unsafe and with the weight of the rain water that had accumulated in the back part of the overhead tarpaulins, the entire block started to tip over. It was an absolute disaster, the vast majority of crystals, rocks, minerals, tumbled stones and gemstone pendants on our display crashed to the floor and many ended up being broken or damaged. I couldn't believe what had happened, my entire stock was strewn across the pavement.
We lost a huge amount of stock that day and are currently in the process of suing St Albans council for negligence. We have never returned to the market since and have decided once again, to concentrate our efforts solely online.
On a happier note, following our most recent buying trip to South Africa, we now have many new crystals, rocks, minerals, tumbled stones and ladies gemstone pendants in stock and everything is gradually being added to our website. To keep up to date with what Stone Mania is doing and where in the world we are, feel free to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.