Many people with excess income or high hopes wish to invest in minerals for financial gain. The reality is that those of us who make money in this field run a full-time business moving rock. In short, we make our money on buying. Our connections to the communities, as sellers, give us the means to move these materials at a markup. Remember this phrase as it summarizes the whole rock industry in many ways: a product is only worth what you sell it for.

Every day, my storefront receives phone calls and emails from people who claim to have "found a meteorite" or have inherited jade from their grandparents. They often have lapidary collections from estates or claim to have access to cheap stones from foreign countries where mining occurs. I also get local people who dig up stones but don't understand the scale of the mineral and gem market. They bring river rocks and hope I'll buy the pebbles they found on the beach, the same ones I can collect an hour away.

Let me give you an example of one person who tried to sell me jade. I do not wish to deter people from investing in minerals, fossils, and gemstones—I aim to provide a reality check on the naivety I often see. My opinion is that only those devoted to creating a full-time business will achieve real financial success in this industry.

One of my subsidiary companies is a distributor for the largest jade mining outfit in British Columbia. I have an exclusivity contract and non-compete clauses. I move jade by the ton. A person once called me, stating he had a 5-ton boulder of jade in his backyard, about an hour and a half from my shop. He asked what I would pay for it and was appalled at my offer of $0.30 per kilo, which equaled $1500. He was offended, but I explained why:

  1. The boulder was lower grade, not of high value, and a dime a dozen from the mine.
  2. I would have to rent a truck to haul it away and heavy equipment to extract it from his fenced-in backyard. This requires a heavy equipment operator, and this bill alone would exceed my offer on the jade.
  3. A large boulder like that has a very small market because of how unmanageable it is. This type of stone goes to very few select factories worldwide that can handle its size. These factories already buy containers directly from the mine, where we load and freight out. Diverting a container or sending this 5-ton boulder 1500 kilometers back to the mine, where we already have mountains of them, would be illogical and expensive.
  4. He likely did not understand my price as the distributor because he bought his boulder retail. He also bought it when jade was hot, popular, and inflated in value. It is not my job to compensate for his poor decision.

He may think my offer is absurd, but I think his investment was.

To reiterate, crystals can be a fantastic investment if you have a means to sell them for more than you paid. They are a poor investment if you buy them at retail prices and hope to sell them later without any assured means.

Minerals, fossils, crystals—these are not liquid like gold or silver. Anyone will buy bullion any day, but minerals are niche. Even with my ability to move thousands of pounds a month through a thousand transactions, I still joke about how hard it is to sell rocks. Fossils will be especially difficult because no one will believe they are real. Proving their authenticity largely depends on trust during the transaction. Having a reputable shop name, good Google reviews, and infrastructure someone can return items to all factor in. Buying a $5000+ fossil on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace doesn’t exactly scream "Trust."

You can turn to sales channels like Etsy, and you may have luck competing against the tens of thousands of other sellers. But to compete with them, you’ll have to sell at near or even below market price, defeating the purpose of gaining on your investment if you paid retail for your product. The difference between retail and wholesale should be clarified here. Just because someone says they are giving you a great deal doesn’t mean it actually is. Relative to their buying power, sure, it might be. Perhaps they are a seller that buys some boxes in Tucson and drives them back in their truck or bought 20kg online and think they are getting a great wholesale price. But I assure you, there are those of us buying out booths and businesses at the end of Tucson, taking product by the container and pallet. There are larger players, and I know this. Understanding the mineral market on a global scale is a key indicator that the person you are buying from truly understands wholesale.

If you’re planning on making a business and selling on Etsy, whether now or ten years from now, you may be making the right move. But you MUST factor in expenses. That is key. Your time, marketing cost, storage cost for the material, inflation—all of this factors into your bottom line. As you grow, rent, employees, licenses, and more will add to expenses. But that’s different from “buying minerals as an investment,” which implies putting them in a safe and sitting on them for years.

When I first started buying rocks, I looked at the stock market and felt I knew nothing about it—but I knew a decent amount about rocks. I have learned even more as time has gone on. But I had a vested interest in them. For example, I knew what was scarce and what mines were exhausted. I even knew that there were another 400 years of amethyst left in the ground in Brazil at the current mining rate, and they already supply the global market—meaning amethyst isn’t going up in price anytime soon. I knew what a wise investment was and what was a gamble. It wasn’t based on feelings or divination. After fulfilling almost 100,000 transactions in the mineral world, I have a very good understanding of what’s in demand and what is a challenge to sell. I know what wealthy people want to spend their money on when shopping for crystals, and I know what shops want to buy in bulk. I know what niche mineral collectors will succumb to buying because of their desire to fill collections. I also know what will be rejected.

I invest in minerals because I have a vast scope of the business. I have contacts with factories in most major production countries that share with me their rates. I know freight costs around the globe, labor costs for mining and processing in each significant country. I know yields from mines and which vendors are struggling, allowing me to leverage buying stock below market value because they need to liquidate. I buy wholesale.

A regular person does not have this advantage.

I also have the largest retail store in Canada, seeing over 10,000 transactions a year. I will be opening a second location soon. I also have websites integrated into nine other sales channels, all pulling in multiple online sales a day. I have social media platforms where I can go live and clear thousands of dollars an hour with my clients and fans. I can find and flip merchandise as a trader and make capital gains rapidly and long-term.

I would never recommend getting into the business without a similar goal or advantages—otherwise, you’re just taking liquid capital and locking it up in something too hard to sell, almost assuredly at a loss.

With all that being said, if you do plan on sinking a small fortune into minerals, fossils, and gemstones, here would be my advice:

  • Buy the cliché common stones that everyone wants and buy them way below market value. The popular staples always sell; that’s why they are popular staples.
  • For obscure ones, look into mines that are exhausting or becoming uneconomical to mine. Just like how an artist’s work becomes more expensive after they die, we want minerals that are no longer available in the ground and exist in finite amounts.
  • Look at embargo laws, cultural and heritage laws, and realize that many countries cease to allow export of specific material. Examples include dinosaur eggs from China, now illegal to export, and rough Botswana agate, which must now be kept in the country and only exported after labor has been done on it. This generates work for the local economy but makes the rough stone hard to acquire. Sugilite, more of a lapidary stone than a collector mineral, has been exhausted for years, and most pieces have been made into carvings and jewelry, meaning the rough is most scarce and in demand with carvers wanting to create something special.