Gem Pricing: U.S. Colored Stone Continues Move in Right Direction

The real test for gem dealers comes next month in Las Vegas

The U.S. colored stone market continues to move in a positive direction. Dealers are reporting good demand from retail jewelers for stock. This trend was evident at the Tucson gem shows and reportedly has continued to improve into the spring.

Western buyers attending the Hong Kong International Jewellery show in March found the fair to be busy in spite of strong asking prices. Better-to-fine quality sapphires remain in high demand with tight supply. Likewise, shortages of fine ruby continue to put pressure on prices in all markets. (Hong Kong is the primary market for ruby: Jewellery News Asia recently reported that more than 50 percent of ruby processed in Thailand is exported to Hong Kong, while just 8 percent is exported to the United States.)

Prices for ruby have been bifurcated; the quality of polished material is either very high or very low. But promising developments in Mozambique—where a few large-scale miners have gravitated—are making some traders optimistic that this ­market will be less volatile in the coming year as the availability of better-grade material improves.

Particularly important to the U.S. market is that demand for other gems has expanded to include many stones in the midlevel of the market. This area has been stagnant for years because the recession fueled the buying of important high-end gems as a means of preserving wealth, while budget constraints pushed “affordable” price points considerably lower for middle-class consumers.

This spring, however, has brought a measurable increase in active price points. Retailers also are experiencing more activity in colored stones beyond ruby, sapphire, and emerald—namely, aquamarine, morganite, amethyst, kunzite, diaspore, sphene, and green and blue zircons.

The JCK Las Vegas show is the next major test for the market. All indications are that the show will experience solid activity as colored stones continue to gain more dedicated space in the showcases of independent retailers.