How long have you been in business?
I have been trading full time as a mineral dealer now for 10 years, but Crystal Vine was established back in 1996 when I ran it alongside my profession as a teacher.
Do you have a company by-line?
I suppose my company by-line would be "retailer of fine quality minerals, crystals, carvings and opals."
What brought you into the business?
I came into the business due to a love of minerals and a love of self development which seemed to dove tail at the time.
Have you noticed many changes over the years?
I have noticed a number of changes over the years, most of which unfortunately haven't been that kind to the mineral dealer or collector. The price of minerals seems to have increased quite considerably compared to say 15 years ago. The number of new collectors are now very small, partly I feel due to the fact that not much self collecting of minerals can take place in the UK for a number of reasons. This means there are fewer collectors collecting what I call aesthetic specimens. New specimens don't appear that often anymore either. The increase in internet trade and information has had a huge impact on the mineral market good and bad.
What stands out as the best part of running your business?
I cannot get over the freedom and joys of self employment and doing what you love doing, but it becomes your job. Well vocation really, there is not anything I don't enjoy about it. Travelling and spending money on new items, bliss.
What’s the worst?
If there is one it would be the inconsistency of not knowing how much money the business is going to take in any month, and hence whether you have the funds to pay your bills!
Is there anything you’d do differently if you could do it again?
If I could start again back in 1996 I would certainly hoard certain minerals that now are impossible to find. Ah, hindsight is a wondeful thing!
What do you hope to achieve in the next 10 years?
I hope that in the next ten years my business continues to survive and keeps me in the style I am comfortable with. That I continue to meet and make some more really good friends through the shows and the business.
Do you have a memorable funny (business) story?
Maybe the oddest experience is twice in a row bumping into my friend in Tucson USA, whilst both visiting the mineral shows, without any prior arrangement. We were both just walking down a road when we spot each other, same place each time. If you have been to Tucson and know how large a city it is, how many people there are there, the chances of this happening must be very slim.
What are your favourite crystals?
You only have to look at my stand to realise my favourite mineral is opal, closely followed by stalactitic rhodochrosite, legrandite and yellow anglesite.
What do you look for in a customer?
Someone who takes time to properly look at my stand and is not afraid to engage me in conversation and to also come back time and time again.
How do you source your stock?
I try not to stock the same as everybody else and therefore hand pick my stock from overseas. I travel to Europe and the USA on buying trips where I buy direct from miners or their representatives. I also usually have collections for sale from customers who now wish to dispose of their collections.
What preparation do you do for a show?
I may have to do some opal polishing to replenish my stock, but usually I now know what I'm doing so it's just a case of packing the car, making the sandwiches, feeding the cats and making sure they are happy, oh and getting the pizza out of the freezer ready for when I arrive home on the Sunday evening hungry.
As an experienced exhibitor what advice would you want to share with others?
Be an individual, present your stand in a way that you feel comfortable with, but remember you have to set it up and take it down at the end of a show so try to keep your display simple enough that it doesn't take you 4 hours. Try to have a unique selling product that makes you different from everyone else, but also try to be diverse in what you sell.
Further information about Crystal Vine, along with informative opal and mineral information can be found at www.crystalvine.co.uk