Adventurer opens shop after world hunt for gems

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An adventurer who has spent much of the past 12 years scouring the world for precious gemstones to sell from his wheelbarrow on the Royal Mile has finally secured a shop for his business.

Adam McIntosh, 32, left Edinburgh in 2001 for a life as a globe-trotting folk singer but was taught how to dig and barter for the most valuable stones by Native American tribes.

His adventures have seen him given a new name by a Mi’kmaq chief in Nova Scotia, chased out of the Dominican Republic by gangsters, and scrabbling for gems in mines from Scotland to Australia to South Africa.

Back in the Capital he dodged police as he sold his wares from a mobile unlicensed market stall – his wheelbarrow. And the adventurer – who lived in a treehouse from the age of 14 – has now celebrated the grand opening of his store, Highland Gems.

“We’ve tried to get a shop for quite a while now,” Mr McIntosh said. “It’s been just a huge celebration going from a wheelbarrow to proper premises.

“I went off around the world with the idea I was going to tell Scottish folk stories for the rest of my life and play my guitar and sing folk songs. But my first stop was to go live with Native Americans in Nova Scotia, Canada, with the Mi’kmaq tribe.

“They gave me the name that is now the name of my company, Two Skies. It was there that I developed an interest in bartering and trading, particularly when I moved to Arizona, where the Native Americans there deal in turquoise. My path changed, and I got into the gemstone business.”

Stopping in Australia, Mr McIntosh says he was gifted a sack full of priceless opals by a local prospector who had stumbled upon a seam worth $500,000 – all in exchange for a pint.

“He had very strong Scottish roots. There was I in my kilt, and he basically put all his stone offcuts into a Hessian sack and said, there you are, you can buy me a beer in the pub later tonight.”

Returning to Edinburgh in 2003, he set up shop on the High Street. “I threw everything into a wheelbarrow and wheeled it into town,” he said. “I just sat in the Royal Mile with my gemstones.

“I didn’t have a street traders’ licence at the time, so I was wheeling about and whenever the police turned up, they would move me on.”

His travels to source more stones continued, including a trip to the Dominican Republic to find rare and valuable blue amber. However, the expedition was cut short when a local cartel didn’t take kindly to being priced out of the market.

“I was trying to be fair and ethical in the way I did business, and I knew how much it was going for in Europe, which was much more than what the miners were offering it to me for.

“I offered double the price they were asking for, thinking they would bring me more. I didn’t even think it through.

“Our interpreter came along at 1am and said, ‘You’ve got to get out. They’re coming.”

Mr McIntosh also hopes appearances on BBC TV programmes such as Coast and the One Show will help draw people to his store.