For this first interview of the new school year, I propose to meet Thierry. We’ve known each other for a few years now and I thought it would be particularly interesting to hear him talk about his career and his job. I invite you to discover the specificities of his job and his view on his professional sector. Enjoy your reading!
Mr Thierry Pradat
1-Thierry, can you introduce yourself quickly?
My name is Thierry Pradat, father of two adult boys. I live and work 10 minutes from Lyon, my childhood town.
2-What is your current job?
I am a gem trader. I resell unmounted gems, bought during my travels in Asia (India, Thailand, Sri Lanka) and in the USA (Tucson). My speciality is rather the stones of collection known as “exotic” or “atypical”, without neglecting the sector of the jewellery. My distribution niche is mainly through the Internet on my website Gems-Plus.com and secondarily at the MineraLyon exhibition-sales in November and Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines in June.
3- What made you decide to work in the field of jewellery and/or gemology?
As a child, I was already fascinated by fossils and minerals, not hesitating to go out “scratching the rock” during school holidays. I built up a collection as a child through my discoveries and small purchases, particularly in the Alps. Reconciling my passion and my job as I approached 40 was quite natural for me, and then everything followed on quite quickly.
4- Can you tell us about your professional career?
My professional activity began in marketing and publishing, notably with the creation of a guide to restaurants at friendly prices called Passeport Gourmand which I launched in 1987 in Lyon. With a partner, we extended the concept to other French regions, the French overseas territories and French-speaking Switzerland. Nearly 30 years later, the concept is unchanged, with around twenty different local guides offered for sale each year. I am still the owner and holder of the rights to the brand in France.
As for the gem trade, a jeweller friend of mine was kind enough to give me a start by introducing me to my first suppliers in Nepal and India in 2001. In the wake of this, I created and opened my Internet sales site, at a time when the web was still in its infancy. Since then, I have made almost 40 shopping trips abroad, and the Internet has become as successful as it is today.
5- What was your initial educational background?
I stopped before the end of a technical high school diploma, a sidetrack that was not at all intended for me. My best school was the one of life with the acquisition of experiences directly in the field and through books. I am a purely self-taught person, self-employed since 1987, refusing very early on any form of professional hierarchy. You can’t do it over again..
6- What is your study path specifically related to jewellery and gemmology?
I wanted an internationally recognised diploma. There are three of them, the FEEG, the Gem-A and the GIA. For mainly practical reasons, I opted for the FGA diploma of the Gem-A thanks to the excellent courses given by the Gem Lab in Marseille. But there are many other very good training schools in Europe and in the world.
7- You travel a lot to buy stones. Tell us about your experiences abroad?
To be serious about trading gems without going to get them in or as close as possible to the producing countries is a heresy, at least in my eyes. That’s why I travel 2 or 3 times a year to buy, mainly in Asia. Finding stone suppliers there is very easy. But finding GOOD and trustworthy suppliers with the RIGHT merchandise at the RIGHT prices has taken me more than 5 years. Whether in Jaipur or Bangkok, I would say there is only one supplier or broker out of ten worth working with. Refining the selection of suppliers requires patience and therefore time. Most suppliers are not gemologists. It is always up to me to make sure, by the gemmo instruments or by the presence of a certificate, that each stone proposed corresponds to the announced identity. I have regularly had some bad surprises, for example with colourless stones without inclusions..
Photo : Gems-Plus.com
8- You are very specialised in atypical and rare stones, why this choice?
My scientific mind pushed me very early to be interested in materials that were off the beaten track. I realised that there was a specific market for collectors. They have the enormous advantage of being loyal and regular buyers. They represent 75% of my clientele. There are 3 or 4 of us in France in this very special niche. When the customer’s trust is acquired, loyalty is flawless. The only difficulty for some very loyal customers is to find gems or varieties that they do not yet have in their collection!
9- You have many activities in addition to your business: Facebook group dedicated to gemology, AFG Lyon, gemological database… Not everyone has this sense of sharing. Isn’t it too tiring?
I must admit that I have slowed down a bit in the last few months because I don’t have enough time, but the pleasure and the passion are still there. When you are lucky enough to have a job you are passionate about, I think it is only natural to share your experiences and knowledge with as many people as possible.
10- Our profession is full of anecdotes and stories. I am sure you have things to share with our readers.
The one thing that makes you smile as a buyer is when the supplier is wrong about the identity of a stone to your advantage. This happens especially when buying full lots because you can’t check everything on the spot. You realise the mistake when you get home. For example, it happened to me to find a pretty purple Taaffeite in a batch of Spinels, a big blue Aquamarine in a batch of treated Topazes or an imposing Tourmaline Achroite in a batch of colourless Topazes. The reverse can also happen and it’s less fun.
11- What do you like least about your job?
The long hours in airports and planes, especially as I have a chronic inner ear problem!
12- Trader is a profession that many young people dream of. Many of them will be disappointed. The competition is tough. What advice would you give to young people who want to do this particular job?
- First of all, start with a good training.
- Then choose your niche: specific stone and its varieties, specific country, specific size..
- Then your clientele: private individuals, professionals..
- Then opt for one or more distribution methods: Internet, exhibition-sales, canvassing, shop..
- Then arm yourself with patience, persevere and a lot more patience because trust and loyalty are acquired over time.
See you soon!