Kristi Mercer is a Graduate Gemologist and Member of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers.

Her interest in gems began close to 20 years ago while living part-time in Montana, a state known for gold, silver, sapphires and other gemstones.

Being a Florida native, the Montana outdoors captivated her and she spent most of her time fly fishing, hiking and mountain biking.

It was one day finishing a blue ribbon trout stream a fellow angler mentioned there was actually gold in it. Curious about this claim she purchased a sluice box, gold pan and shovel. Sure enough, after a full day of searching she had actually found a few flakes of gold.

Soon she would venture out to different areas of the state to find sapphires, garnets, agate and even some Native American artifacts.

In 2001, Kristi began designing handbags for boutiques in Aspen, Los Angeles, Montana and Naples. Incorporating gemstones into her designs she decided it was time to learn more about them and enrolled in the Graduate Gemologist program at the Gemological Institute of America.

Upon completion of her degree, her direction shifted into the jewelry business where she was a corporate appraiser and consultant for acquisitions until 2010 when she founded The Carat Bunch, LLC.