Having adjusted to the economic unknowns, consumers are lifting the gem market to heights not seen for years
Colored stone dealers are expressing increasing optimism about current conditions in the North American market. On the tail of a stronger-than-expected Tucson gem show season, initial reports are that the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show in March saw steady business. This has elevated expectations for JCK Las Vegas, widely regarded as North America’s premier buying event.
We are now seeing a broader range of colored stone varieties selling. Sapphire continues to enjoy substantial name recognition and, as a result, leads the colored stone market. This is not unusual. During the past few years, however, sales activity has been limited to important sapphires at the high end and inexpensive commercial-quality stones at the low end. This spring, dealers have noted a significant uptick in demand for the midlevel grades and price points—something that hasn’t been witnessed in the past four years.
Even with the expanded market appeal, demand is strongest for natural (unenhanced) sapphires. Blue sapphires larger than 10 cts. are particularly strong in the high-end market, where prices are expected to increase by 20 percent again this year. In the more commercially affordable sizes (1–3 cts.), both commercial and extra-fine quality material is reportedly in good demand. Dealers say that in this category, pinks, yellows, greens, and the scarcer purple varieties all are experiencing solid demand in most quality grades. Prices in the unheated pinks are stable in this size range, while prices for the yellows, greens, and purples are expected to rise modestly during the course of the year as greater retail exposure triggers even more demand. Dealers indicate that this trend is not expected to reflect conditions for heated sapphires. That market is currently characterized as stable with increased supply anticipated.
In addition to sapphire, larger fine-quality beryls, garnets, and zircons also are reportedly in good demand. The market is once again expanding with consumption reflecting a renewed appetite to invest in gemstone inventory.