Emily Segalini, owner of Patria Gems, traveled as far as Afghanistan, where she served the U.S. government on a lengthy tour, to discover a passion for American gemstones. Today, her online shop is the go-to source for finished jewelry and loose gems featuring all-American specialty cut stones such as Montana sapphires, Oregon sunstone, Arizona peridot, and more. “Patria is the root of both patriot and patrimony, and those two concepts—the love of one’s country and the inheritance from one’s forebears—are really central to my mission for the company,” Segalini explains. “That’s why we are so dedicated to American products and to continuing support for the American gem industry.”
Gemology was not your first career. How did you get interested in stone hunting?
My passion for gemology really started in the bazaars of Kabul, where I was exposed to an overwhelming variety of gemstones. In order to educate myself, I ordered books online and talked to the local dealers. Even as a novice, I was aware that the best gems were not being sent to Afghanistan to be sold and that there were a lot of synthetics being sold as natural gemstones. But that made the gem industry all the more enticing to me. After I returned from Kabul, I couldn’t get the thrill of gem hunting out of my mind. I decided to start the blog GemEnthusiast.com to help educate soldiers and other travelers on how to buy gemstones in unregulated markets.
What drew you to gems mined in America rather than more exotic specimens?
I realized during my studies at GIA that gemstones mined in the USA were a special category of their own due to the uniqueness of their provenance. In an industry where gemstones are generally considered foreign and exotic, American gemstones appeal to a sense of ownership and personal association. As I did my own searching for American gemstones, I realized that, for the most part, these beautiful stones lacked a market of their own. Few traditional stores carry American gemstones and almost none promote them as such. Many of the online sources only sold one variety of American gemstone with few options for jewelry settings. When I started thinking about establishing a business, it really became clear that these pieces are special and deserve their own market—one that is focused on them and that stays true to them by ensuring everything possible is made and mined in the United States.
How do your customers find you, and do they already have American gems on their mind?
I would say that about half my customers come to the store looking for something very specific, whether that is a Montana sapphire, California tourmaline, or Arizona amethyst. The other half reach me through the Made in America movement. These customers are generally unaware of American gemstones and excited to learn more about them. It is because of my Made in America customers that I started using exclusively American companies for casting my jewelry. This customer base was very specific about wanting jewelry that is completely made in America. Education and building awareness is an important aspect of our marketing. To help educate customers, Patria Gems has a dedicated education section on the website and a blog on gemological news and jewelry style.
Why did you choose to open an online shop rather than have a brick-and-mortar presence?
Being a niche company, online retail was the obvious way for me to reach the widest range of people who are looking for American gemstones. After meeting many people in the industry and visiting countless jewelry stores, it was clear to me that online retail has a big role to play in the future of the jewelry industry. With the Internet, customers are more educated on what they are buying and the prices they can expect to pay. They are also looking for the largest variety of options, which can be difficult for brick-and-mortar stores to maintain. While many customers still prefer to see jewelry in person, many online jewelers are addressing the issue by offering long refund periods.