Stag & Finch began in Nov. 2016, but Bryan had been hobby-cutting since 2014 in the basement of our house in a tiny town in Manitoba. 2016 was an incredibly pivotal year for us and so much happened that it’s difficult to remember everything!
We visited the Tucson gemstone and jewelry convention in 2016, motivating us to take gem cutting from our hobby and develop it into a small home business. Bryan upgraded his cutting equipment which improved the precision and overall quality of his gem cutting. We purchased a lens and camera and Bryan taught himself basic macro photography to advertise his work. At the same time, Bryan began developing his own gemstone designs inspired by some of the Legends, mainly Arya Akhavan and Marco Voltolini, who generously shared their creations openly with everyone. Melanie was incredibly supportive and encouraging every step of the way. She developed our original S&F logo and built our first website that has been slowly evolving over the past few years, but we both still had full-time jobs.
In 2018, we were tired and unsatisfied with the day-to-day grind of our jobs and felt like we needed a serious change. We sold our house and nearly all our belongings, moving halfway across the country to Montreal—which is pretty bananas! And no concrete plan for income. While applying for work, Bryan continued to cut gems, and almost to our surprise, we started making regular sales. Just enough to cover our day-to-day and keep our heads above water. It felt like hitting the lottery when we got the chance to purchase a large parcel of old stock Montana sapphires from a retiree with the money from our house sale. Melanie decided to join me in cutting and we pursued Stag & Finch full time in earnest. What took Bryan many months to learn through trial and error, Melanie picked up almost immediately and in 3-months our cutting was nearly indistinguishable.
We decided our next step would be to get some accreditation. We enrolled in the GIA Graduate Gemologist program in 2019. Weighing our options, we decided that the Bangkok location would offer the most adventure at the best price, so we packed up our belongings and headed out to Thailand for 3 months. We were lucky enough to stay with a fellow gemstone enthusiast, a gem cutting teacher in Bangkok, and his lovely wife who had been one of the last to be apprenticed by Swiss gemcutters. Both were very gracious and accommodating hosts who introduced us to a ton of amazing people both inside and outside the gem trade. It was a great experience overall with some of the highlights being a rough gemstone buying trip to Chanthaburi and a few nights on the beach at Koh Phi Phi. Although we are still one course short of receiving our GG diplomas, we expect to be fully accredited by spring 2022.
Back in Montreal, things were great until Covid hit in 2020, which created scary and uncertain times for everyone. We continued cutting from our tiny apartment – and it turns out that being relentlessly locked inside is great for production! This is when we decided we would attempt to scale up our business, and there’s no better place than back in Manitoba where we have the support of family and long time friends.
It’s been a difficult and exciting journey so far, and I feel like we’re just getting started! We have a ton of new ideas we can’t wait to get working on and are currently in the process of scaling up our precision gemstone output while building a talented team. Our goal is to share our love of gemstones with as many people as we can, and hopefully have many more adventures along the way!