By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
Malinda Daniel offers an array of gemstones as diverse as the friends and clients she and the business’s namesake founder have accumulated since its debut in 1976.
Tim Roark may have founded his eponymous gemstones business importing Malachite and African art from Zambia, but it didn’t take long before those gems were joined by many more. Roark traveled the world developing relationships with suppliers the firm still deals with today, and his inventory of gem types—from Jasper to Sapphire—mushroomed as much as contacts did in his address book. Roark aimed to bring rough and cut gems obtained as close as possible to the source to retailers, designers, and other dealers, building ironclad connections along the way.
Roark became a founding member of AGTA and exhibited at Tucson gem shows before there was an AGTA GemFairTM Tucson. Malinda Daniel was there with him in the 1980s, new to the staff and inventory, given she was a recent graduate of Georgia State University with a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing. [Unlike many jewelry businesses, Tim Roark Inc. is not a multigenerational one, though some mistake Daniel for Roark’s wife.] Her first show was busy—no time for lunch—but Daniel got hooked.
“I loved meeting and working with everyone from all over the world, all the stories and experience people had, and they were thrilled to share their knowledge and speak to the new kid (‘me’!),” she recollects.
Today, Roark is retired—“And living out life in a care facility, struggling with dementia and Alzheimer’s, but with a happy attitude,” says Daniel—but he’s left the business (and all those relationships) in Daniel’s capable hands. Her passion for gem variety and people has helped strengthen inventory and sources and add a few more key staffers to the team.
“Jessica Dillard manages our sales and marketing and has worked with me and Tim for the past eight years and me alone for the past three,” Daniel explains. “I could not run Tim Roark Inc. without her or Rebecca McCracken, who keeps our books in line. Our team will continue to cultivate these relationships and seek out new sources to ensure Tim Roark Inc. maintains our industry-leading variety in top-quality loose gemstones. The most important lesson I have learned in this business is building relationships with clients, suppliers, industry colleagues, and staff.”
While many dealers tend to specialize in select gems or those from one area of the world, Tim Roark Inc. went the opposite direction, selling a little bit of everything. Indeed, variety is the firm’s raison d’etre. The company sells Big Three gems as well as Aquamarine, Garnet, Citrine, Chalcedony, Agate, and more. “Our niche is the crazy variety we have,” says Daniel.
Their biggest sellers are Ceylon blue Sapphires and Zambian Emeralds, but less-appreciated gems like Zircon also find homes.
“I am surprised at how often we end up selling something other than the original request,” she says. “Sometimes you have to direct a client to a gem so they can appreciate it. I’m so surprised that some retailers have never sold a nice Zircon or Spinel because they don’t know about them. It’s important to show and tell every time you get the opportunity.”
Also notable are the firm’s matching skills for pairs, even for melee as small as 1 mm stones. Plus, shoppers with vastly different budgets can typically find something in inventory to call their own. From cabochons for student designers to fine gems for high-end merchants, the Tim Roark variety extends to price points as well. “We can help anyone in the jewelry industry that uses gemstones or wants to learn,” adds Daniel.
Cutting rough or re-faceting services are also available, and clients can drop by the firm’s Atlanta showroom to see what’s new. Not surprisingly, all those relationships have helped the Roark brand cultivate sound customer service skills. “Our industry is so small—everyone knows each other—so with that competition I feel like customers like to buy from vendors they like dealing with,” she adds.
More Than Unmounted Gems
Because of the variety of gems offered and an inherent desire to help clients, the Roark brand debuted a small selection of finished jewelry at the 2023 JCK Las Vegas show. “Our customers have asked us about finished goods, and it is always nice to inspire ideas with a finished product next to a case of loose gemstones,” says Daniel.
In the future, she hopes to participate in more trunk shows. Until then, she and her all-female team love to get phone calls from clients who double as friends. “We like the calls so we can hear how you’re doing and what is going on,” she adds.
In between phone calls, visits, and orders, Daniel still marvels at the inventory that’s intrigued her both personally and professionally.
“I’ve been curious about gemstones ever since my mother bought me and my brothers the World Book Encyclopedia,” she says. “When I got to G and saw information about gems, that’s when I started looking for rocks in the driveway. Then the first time I walked into Tim’s showroom I could not get over the volume of eye candy in one place. It was quite energizing. Thirty-five years later, I still get that feeling.”
Fast Facts on Tim Roark Inc.
Contact: Malinda Daniel
Years in Business: Since 1976
Email: [email protected]
Best Sellers: Ceylon blue Sapphires and Zambian Emeralds
Instagram & Facebook Accounts: @timroarkinc
Trade Shows: AGTA GemFairTM Tucson, AGTA GemFairTM Las Vegas, AGTA GemFairTM Denver, March and October Atlanta Jewelry Show
Booth in Denver: #60040
Getting Personal with Malinda Daniel
What is your favorite gem and why?
That is like asking about your favorite child! I love them all, but if I must pick one at this moment in time it would be fine colored Imperial peach-pink Topaz. We have a 3.87 ct. oval, and it’s one of those things I might cry over if anyone ever wants it.
What was the most special loose gem you ever sold?
One of our most memorable sales was a matching suite of 7 mm round Zambian Emeralds (9.16 ctw.); there were seven pieces total that sold for more than $40,000. It’s hard to match a set like that! I have to give credit to Jessica Dillard for this sale! She was able to put it together and they were stunning! It went to a customer in Oregon who made them into a bracelet.
State one fact that people generally don’t know or realize about the gems you sell.
Over 50% of our inventory has been cut from rough purchases from Brazil, Zambia, Tanzania, and South Africa. Ruby, Emerald, and Sapphire are bought mostly through overseas vendors. We have been working with these vendors for 30 years, and now the sons and daughters have taken over and are running these companies. These people are not only suppliers, but they are family.
Who were your mentors? I learned so much about the gemstone industry from Tim, of course, and GIA classes, but also Stephen Turner of Gem Corp. in Atlanta. His knowledge and advice through the years has been priceless. There’s also Sondra Frances, an icon in my eyes. She has given me so much support and information about stones and advice on how to be effective in so many ways. She also still helps us in Tucson and was one of the groundbreakers for AGTA, having served on the board, been a Spectrum Award winner, and author of the book Gembitch about being one of the first women in the gem industry.
“Tim has always had an amazing selection and excellent-quality gems. Malinda has taken over, and the integrity and customer service has not changed. The team is wonderful and responsive.” Aida Leisure, DBS Fine Jewelers
“The team is great with clients and staff, and they give us great selling points and education. They have a fantastic inventory and range of goods in all qualities. Even since Tim stepped back, the transition has been seamless. They care enough to make things happen for you.” Harris Botnick, Worthmore Jewelers
“Tim was always a first-class gentleman. He set up a great company with great sources, and now Melinda and Jessica are doing a great job. Their inventory is wide, they carry calibrated sizes, their prices are competitive, and they’re good about sending photos and prices before shipping. They are one of our main colored stone suppliers.” Barbara Heinrich, Barbara Heinrich Studio
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