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Gem Collector with Alex McKay

| 8 min read

For those of you who love to design your own jewellery and collect loose gems, our Gem Collector channel has proven incredibly popular. We thought we’d have a proper catch-up with channel host Alex McKay about what he’s been up to and to see what’s next for Gem Collector.

Hi Alex, how is life treating you?

I'm very well thank you, life is treating me very well. I’m much happier now that we've had a lovely summertime and beautiful autumn is on its way! Hopefully, the autumn will be just as wonderful.

Can you believe you’re coming up to your fifth anniversary here at Gemporia?

Honestly, it feels like I have been in the building for five minutes, yet at the same time I feel part of the family and that Gemporia is part of me and my life. I love it, each day brings new exciting projects.

To anyone who hasn’t seen Gem Collector before, what is it about?

Gem Collector is the world's largest gem store, and we have a daily broadcast featuring solely loose genuine gemstones. Nick Davies, Emily Cox, Katie Ho and I go live from 1pm to 11pm every day and bring treasures from around the world to our global collecting audience. Furthermore, we feature special guests, such as Glenn Lehrer and David Troth, who bring an exciting balance of news and knowledge to the show on a personal basis. Collectors can even message their questions directly to them on the live show.

The show is very laid back and fun to watch, you must really enjoy the audience interaction?

Coming from a family run jewellery business myself, it feels like being back in one of my grandparents’ jewellery stores. The online element makes interaction with our collectors so fluid due to our instant message feature, where collectors can message me directly in the studio. Every day I do a Gem Collector quiz too, which builds a tremendous rapport with the collectors. I feature many gemstone related questions with bonus points on offer for my music questions, which mainly revolve around Motown or 1980s music as they are my favourite genres!

The studio is set up so you’re able to do live requests, isn’t it?

Absolutely. Once you are logged in to the Gem Collector website, you can view all of our gemstones and, upon finding one that you like, just click the 'request a demo' button. That will come straight through to us in the live studio where all the gemstones are kept. We are literally broadcasting live from the vault.

Loose Gems

As well as collecting the gems as a hobby, do any of your regular viewers have their stones made into bespoke jewellery pieces?

We now have a substantial base of jewellers, jewellery makers and gemstone setters who love our quality and prices whom regularly buy from us. I get some amazing photos sent to me most weeks, they make some truly incredible pieces.

Gem Collector features some extraordinary treasures. What are the rarest gems you’ve seen yourself?

The rarest gemstone I have seen must be the 6ct Grandidierite which we had for sale late last year. Forbes list Grandidierite as the third most expensive gemstone in the world at $20,000 per carat. Seeing a 6ct example was unforgettable.

You obviously really love the job – what’s your favourite thing about what you do?

The best thing for me is being able to talk to collectors all around the world every day. The conversations, the laughter and the genuine fun we have on-air is great. As I drive to the studios each day, I wonder to myself what we will end up discussing. I also take live phone calls on the show from collectors, which have been some of the funniest calls I have ever received. If you haven't watched before, tune in and join us!

Have gemstones always been a fascination of yours, you mentioned growing up in the jewellery industry?

I certainly did. My grandparents had several jewellery shops which mainly sold antique jewellery. I spent every Saturday in their shops from the age of seven. In the summer holidays, I would go with them to auction houses and private sales to unearth treasures. As I got older, I went to Italy and Spain with them on buying trips and would also join them on many of their trips to London. Gemstones are in my blood. I’ve learned so much, especially from the antique world where it was essential to be able to spot a fake from the real thing.

What are your favourite gemstones?

My favourites have to be the stunning natural greens of Tsavorite Garnet and the amazing blues of Mahenge Blue Spinel.

Is there a gem that you get a lot of requests for that we just can’t source at the moment?

Large carat weights of Songea Ruby. Sadly this gemstone simply doesn't form in large carat weights, so it’s not even down to a problem in the supply. In essence, it’s a search for something which just isn't there.

Alex McKay and Dave Troth

Which guests have you enjoyed working with on Gem Collector recently?

Gemporia’s resident Gem Expert David Troth pops in as often as he can. I like to call him 'Sir David', as I have known him in the industry for many years. I'm rather happy for our paths to have crossed once more in a live TV environment. David brings his true passion for genuine gems and shares my love of natural gemstones. We have recently brought to air an extremely rare selection of carved Mozambique Rubies which were exclusive to Gem Collector, and also a remarkable showcase of Boulder Opal that was also an exclusive.

The channel has grown so much since it launched – what’s next?

Gem Collector has certainly gone from strength to strength over the past four years. Nick Davies has recently joined the team and has been a great addition, as he also shares a love for genuine gemstones and has been in the industry for many years. We're always looking to find interesting new gemstones to bring to our collectors, so it's always worth keeping an eye on the channel. Also, we've just launched our brand new website which should make it easier to browse our gems.

What do you do with your days when you’re not presenting?

I love cooking, and hosting dinner parties for friends. I have created many of my own recipes and love trying new cooking techniques. Many of my friends have asked me to do some videos of my cooking, so very soon I'm launching my own YouTube channel with my recipes and how to cook them. Also, I have family who live down on the coast, so I am often out on the boat in Starcross, Devon, sailing down the estuary and stopping off occasionally for a gin and tonic.

You used to spend a lot of time in Ibiza, do you still make it out there?

Ibiza is still my second home. I find the most beautiful coastal villages and enjoy meeting the charismatic people of the island. I speak Spanish, so it’s always great to refresh my lingo and catch up with my friends out there, who are as good as family to me.

You’re a hilarious guy, and you’re always making people laugh in the office at Gemporia Towers, have you ever wanted to do stand-up comedy?

I did stand-up once, and they told me to sit down! Seriously though, I love making people laugh. I have thought about it, and when we have the Gemporia Summer and Winter Balls, Steve Bennett always asks me to do 15 minutes of stand-up for our guests. It actually goes down quite well, so you never know!

Alex McKay and Ruth Linnett

What are your favourite three jokes?

A plumber of 40 years broke up with his wife, Florence. He said, "It’s overflow."

I went for a job on a building site and they said to me, "Alex, can you make cups of tea?" I said, "Yeah, sure." They said, "Can you drive a forklift?" I said, "How big is the teapot?"

I've just started my own band called 'Nine Hundred and Ninety-Nine Megabytes, but we haven't had a gig yet.

You’ve always been a big fan of shopping TV, what would your advice be to anybody wanting to follow in your footsteps?

My advice to them would be to find one area that you would like to specialise in, as when buying from the television it requires trust. If you can show true knowledge or experience with the jewellery, you will be able to communicate well and be an accurate, reliable source of information.

How do people stay in touch with you and with what’s happening on Gem Collector?

Our daily live broadcast is viewable at gemcollector.com and on the Gemporia App from 1pm to 11pm every day. You can find me on Facebook by searching for 'Alex McKay Presenter' – I’ll see you there!

You can read more about Alex right here.