Whether you’re a commercial dealer or just interested in piecing out some of your extensive collection to make room, many of us end up selling some rocks and mineral specimens at some point. Finding the right price point can take time, however, especially if you’re not sure what it’s worth in the first place.
If that sounds familiar, then read on to go through our guide to rock and mineral pricing!
First Up, a Dose of Reality
If you have a specimen that you value more than the going market rate, you should probably keep it. I’ve had plenty of slabs and specimens that I almost refused to part with until things got tight, simply because I couldn’t get what I felt was a fair price for them.
And that tends to happen to collectors. Often we have pieces that have specific memories tied to them, which causes us to value them more.
But the truth is that there are two rules to setting your prices:
- Selling for much more than the going market rate for a similar specimen isn’t going to happen.
- People who buy their stones and minerals don’t have the same value attached to them as those of us who mined them or have possessed them for a long time.
You’ll need to confront that, sometimes with each that you intend to sell before you begin attempting to find the right price point for your stones.
We’re also not going to be able to really help you with world-class specimens. Even amateurs stumble upon these once in a while, but that end of the market generally leads to high-end auctions rather than just listing them on eBay or Etsy and forgetting about them until you need to ship them out.
Determining Market Value
To start with, you’re going to need to figure out what specimens of the same type go for.
This usually means checking multiple sources, especially if you plan to sell them in person. If you’re trying to fetch a higher price on one of the more common commercial websites (think Etsy) then you’ll need either a stellar reputation or an above-average sample.
Rock Pricing Factors
Rough stone is generally sold by the pound, although it can be sold as individual rocks. This is especially true of more valuable rocks like jadeite or even some of the higher-end agates.
You can increase the value of rough rock in a fairly linear way:
- A windowed piece of rough(one with a small piece taken off one end) is generally worth more than one that’s still 100% rough, especially in translucent or transparent stones with intricate internal patterns.
- You can charge more per gram if you’re creating slabs. Particularly good stone can be polished here to increase the value and things like agates can often be halved and polished to greatly increase the value.
- Cabochons and carvings take a lot more time, but you can reclaim that time with a higher price per gram of stone. A finished cabochon can often be worth more than the entire stone it was cut from.
In general, the stone has to be something desirable. No one is particularly interested in basalt river cobbles, but chunks of rough jasper can sell very well depending on the patterns.
You also need to know your market and what they want.
Obsidian, for instance, is often cheap as lapidary grade material. We don’t mind if there are some internal fractures. As a general rule since obsidian comes in large chunks and is a cheap material. It shouldn’t just fall apart when it hits the saw, but having to make smaller cabochons isn’t a big deal in most cases.
Someone who is flintknapping, on the other hand, will pay a premium for chunks of obsidian that are without any internal cracking. It’s hard enough to separate a good blade from the core, having to deal with material that step-fractures or that won’t let you get a good-sized chunk makes it almost worthless to them.
On the other hand, a jasper which is solid colored and flakes well isn’t of much interest to those cutting cabs. They’re not going to pay much for it, but a knapper will be all over it. You can even increase the value with a simple heat treatment before selling it.
In other words, the rock has to be practical for the individual buyer.
The rarity of the material also matters.
You can cut cabochons from granite all day long but you’ll never be able to recover the time. Some granites are beautiful stones when polished, but it’s still not worth much in the kind of sizes used for lapidary projects.
So the practicality of the material, how far it’s been worked, and rarity are the main factors that go into determining the market price.
As a general rule, you’ll sell rough by the pound, slabs by the gram, and finished products by grams or carats depending on the value of the material.
There are also exceptional rocks of some varieties. This may be .la particularly striking agate, a more solid than normal rough turquoise, or any stone with qualities that make it stand above the rest of its type.
In these cases, you have two options: sell through your normal medium and ask a higher price, or specifically seek out buyers who might be interested in that sort of stone.
Pricing Mineral Samples
Mineral samples are harder to price than rocks for the most part.
The problem is that they’re all individual, and you’ll need to really know your stuff in order to get an accurate price. While things like quartz points are easy to recognize, you also need to know what each mineral and rock type included in the piece is.
For purposes of this article, I’m specifically excluding gem material that’s sold as faceting rough. The variance and level of knowledge required to price these are outside of the realm of a casual hobbyist for the most part, and I’d recommend taking anything rarer than amethyst or citrine to be properly appraised.
Sometimes these materials are still sold as mineral samples,, aquamarine and tourmaline being two common examples, and you’ll still be able to price them by comparing them to other specimens.
As a general rule, the following qualities will impact the price:
- Size- Some minerals are incredibly rare in large crystalline forms, and a crystal a few inches long can be top-notch to world-class. In other cases, such as quartz, large crystals will be worth marginally more but it’s not the most important factor in the price.
- Crystal Formation- As a general rule, well-formed crystals(euhedral) are worth more than those which only have a vague impression of the crystal habit(anhedral). You’ll need to look into this for each mineral in the piece. Color and clarity will also effect the final price, as well as the formation of unusual crystal habits for the material.
- Inclusions- Interesting inclusions, such as chlorite in quartz, can make a piece worth more. Those that don’t add anything visually or just make the crystals less transparent can actually lower the value.
- Cleanliness- Good mineral samples have been cleaned carefully, with all remnants of the host rock removed from the faces of the mineral.
- Combinations- A simple quartz that’s 5-6” long isn’t worth very much, even if it is exceptional in formation. If it has garnets growing off the exterior like blisters, however, then you’ve got something worth quite a bit. Rarer combinations naturally command higher prices.
- Rarity- The overall rarity of the mineral, inclusive of the above qualities, will also determine the final price.
So long as you have the identification down, you should be able to find something similar to your sample and see what it’s priced at. This gives you a good rate to start with.
Note that world-class samples (think those in museum mineral exhibitions) are rarely just sold, instead they generally end up at auctions a little bit more prestigious than eBay. If you think you have one, then you should probably contact your local rock and mineral club, they should be able to point you in the right direction.
Finding Market Price
There are a few different ways to start trying to get an accurate picture of what your rock or mineral samples are worth. You should be familiar with using all of the following:
- Facebook Market
As a starting point. You can generally figure out a good price point starting with these sites.
If you have any other websites where rocks are available, use them as well!
Auction and Retail Site Price Checking
Note that you should be looking for objects that have already sold, not necessarily those that are listed. Etsy, in particular, often has things listed at outrageous prices that will never sell.
Using eBay is great for this. You just need to look at listings that have already closed. If you’re on a computer when looking the option will be on the left hand side of the page, just scroll down to the “Show Only” list in the options and click on “Sold Items.”
For instance, if I’ve gotten my hands on a Guatemalan jade river cobble, I’ll see that they’re listed for anywhere from $20 to $60 depending on size and grade. If I go into the sold items, I’ll see that they do sell for that price.
Rough material of about the same price can be found on Etsy, although that particular form only shows up as windowed stones. So you can safely assume that I’ll be able to fetch similar prices, or maybe a bit higher.
For mineral samples, as opposed to rocks, you’ll need to be more discerning. It generally requires checking on more sources than you’d need to if you were selling rough or even worked stone.
For instance, if I have a Keokuk geode with well-formed pink calcite crystals, that are roughly 3” across I’ll need to look through sold listings on eBay first. It doesn’t take long to see that Keokuk geodes of average size go for between $9 and $30.
If the calcite were bright pink, instead of the usual pale pink seen in these samples, I may need to look elsewhere to find the value. But these sites work very well with common samples.
If you can’t find anything at all, then it may be time to look to social media.
Using Social Media Sites
I know Facebook is awful at times, but for niche hobbies like mineral collecting, it’s a standout place. Instagram is also a good one, especially if you’re more interested in pictures of specimens and rocks than in discussing them.
But both have a wide range of different sellers on them, often with samples that are much rarer than those found through the usual retail channels. That makes it great for sourcing stones, but it can also help you price your own if you approach the matter carefully.
Vetting sellers can be a pain, but it never hurts to ask what a sample similar to yours might cost. Most, though not all, are also interested in collecting and many of them mine the stones themselves.
This can be time-consuming, of course, but if you’re already active with these sites or apps then you’re in a good place to start.
Avenue Also Affects Sales
Where you sell is one important fact that people forget.
In general, the more personal the experience is, the higher the price you’ll be able to command. But… you’ll also have to do more work in order to sell them in some cases.
- In-Person Sales- Selling at rock and gem shows will generally let you get the highest price. Customers like being able to handle and look at samples before they buy and you can command a premium for having to be there in person. A pretty big one, too, I’ll generally spend 150-250% of the price I would for the same specimen off of a retail site without batting an eye.
- Social Media Websites- Generally these lead to a more personalized experience, especially if you’re being directly contacted about the stone or mineral sample beforehand. This is more time-intensive than working with a website, whether personal or retail.
- Personal Websites- Another great avenue for a personalized experience. It also prevents customers from comparison shopping directly, although savvy stone buyers are most likely checking across multiple platforms. Shopify is a great option if you’re not technically proficient. Making the site can take a while if you’ve never done it before, but generally updating them is painless after the first few times.
- Retail Sites- eBay, Etsy, and even Amazon all sell stones. They’re a solid place to do so, but you’re in direct competition with everyone else who is selling. This means you’ll generally sell faster, but you may not be able to get the price you want.
As a general rule, I tend to use retail websites and social media since it means more time in the shop and less time figuring out how to get traffic. It just depends on how you want to do things and your own technical skills.
Long Story Short
We realize this is quite a bit of information to take in, but once you’ve done it a few times the process of pricing your rocks and minerals is very simple:
- Make sure you’re 100% sure of your initial identification.
- Find comparable rocks or samples that are selling or have been sold already to get a good starting point for the price. Use multiple sources.
- Adjust a bit upwards or downwards depending on the quality of your item and avenue of sale..
- List the item and wait for it to sell.
So, there you have it!
Use the information above and you’ll be able to set a fair price without having to leave things to chance.
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