A Gem of a Gift

by Amy Groh

"Turning ordinary occasions into extraordinary celebrations” is what Mary Markovich of Gemstone Confections does every day. Her lifelong love of baking and crafting—and the inspiration provided by a treasured childhood gift—were all it took to create this gem of a small business.

The concept came about when Markovich recalled a gift her mother had given her when she was young—an opal ring packaged in a handcrafted jewelry box. To her, the exquisite box was as much a gift as the ring which awaited discovery inside. The gemstone on top of the box gave the gift extra meaning, as her mother often called Markovich “her little gem girl.” This presentation stuck with her and would act as a springboard for her business, which she started four years ago this March.

About that time, Markovich wanted to give her mother a gift that would show just how special she was to her daughter. Recalling the jewelry box she had received years before, she handcrafted a satin-covered box to hold a small cake, topped it with a gem and completed it with ribbon. Her mother’s joyous reaction to this nostalgic presentation sparked the creation of Gemstone Confections. “I thought, ‘If I can make my mother feel this way, I can make others feel this way,’” she explained.

The Thoughtful Presentation
Indeed, it is the presentation in which Markovich specializes. Anyone can give a cake, but the aptly-named Gemstone Confections offers so much more: individually wrapped, decadent cakes in exquisite, hand-beaded satin boxes, each topped with a gemstone or brooch and wrapped with ribbon. “It ends up to be a gift of layering,” said Markovich.

What started as a business focused on cakes has become all about the keepsake boxes. As part of the Gemstone Confections experience, gift givers are invited to the shop to customize their Gem Cakes by choosing the cake’s size and flavor, box style and topper, ribbon and personalized card. The cakes are baked to order and shipped 2nd-day or overnight to ensure freshness, yet the boxes are what initially impress recipients and serve as everlasting reminders of the occasion. “It’s not just a cake in a box—it’s the experience of gift-giving,” explained Markovich.

Markovich spoke of a young woman who had been trying and trying to land an interview with a particular company. After sending her resume and following up with numerous phone calls, she finally decided to send a Gem Cake with a brooch of a crystal high heel and a corresponding Gem Card which read, “What will it take to get my foot in the door?” Within a week, she had scheduled an interview.

One Pennsylvania customer who loves the song, “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” sends a Gem Cake topped with the Frog Prince brooch whenever she can. She uses it both as a one-of-a-kind gift and to introduce people to the song, which speaks of spreading joy to the world.

That personal touch will get you in the door these days—and make people really pay attention—and Gemstone Confections can help you do it. With their line of Gem Cards, small note cards detailed with crystals and gems, Gem Cakes can be customized even more. “We help you become clever and use your cleverness to give a personalized gift,” said Markovich. With unique brooches that range from musical notes and flowers to martinis and footballs, Markovich and her team are sure to bring out anyone’s inner artist, while creating a one-of-a-kind gift that will be treasured for years to come.

The Gemstone Process
All Gemstone Confections’ processes are handled on-site at their Peoria location. With a full commercial kitchen and plenty of space to hand-bead boxes and package orders, it’s both convenient and efficient. During the holiday season, when they bake and ship up to 125 cakes per day, Markovich has three or four team members who assist with production. Outside of that, she does everything herself.

The process begins when Markovich purchases the satin fabric and sends it to her manufacturer, who returns the satin-covered boxes to the Peoria location where the Gemstone Confections team hand-beads each box according to custom orders. Clients can then choose one of four different types of cake—chocolate, luscious lemon, chocolate berry and cinnamon spice—in four different sizes, ranging from petite (serves 1 to 2) to large (serves 12 to 16).

Markovich noted that it’s difficult to find a personalized gift these days. Indeed, we tend to fall back on the tried and true when we can’t find the perfect gift or just don’t have the time to search. With Gemstone Confections, there’s no need for this to be the case. “It’s hard to find something that makes an impact like this, and even people who shop a lot get blown away [by what we offer]. A lot of people in Peoria don’t know about it.”

Such is the case. Despite being featured in several national publications and working with upscale retailer Neiman Marcus, the company remains somewhat hidden to central Illinoisans. Many of her customers are from out-of-state, placing their orders through the website or over the phone. As word gets out in Peoria, however, Gemstone Confections is poised to grow by leaps and bounds. Markovich said that, because those who are given Gem Cakes are so touched by their gifts, they tend to “pay it forward,” in a sense, and give someone a Gem Cake themselves.

In Giving, We Receive
Markovich’s attention to detail and commitment to her clients and their loved ones clearly sets Gem Cakes apart. She remains centered on spreading joy and helping those who receive her products feel special. After nearly four years in business, she still finds that giving “the most delicious cake presented in a most exquisite way” makes both the giver and receiver feel good. a&s