JCK Las Vegas: There’s Green in Colored Stones

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The jewelry industry received some welcome news Friday. Although sales are slow and demand has softened for some types of colored stones, this sector of the industry “is holding its own” on per-carat prices, according to Richard Drucker, of Gemworld International.

Richard Drucker of Gemworld International spoke to jewelers at JCK Las Vegas about best buys.

During his “Top Gemstones: The Best Buys, the Controversies and the Future” seminar, Drucker said rare goods and top-quality stones have been holding their value. Overall, however, commercial-quality goods have dropped in value—for some gem species as much as 20 percent, according to Drucker and his research director, Stuart Robertson.

Although not welcome news for most gem traders, colored stones such as zircon and spinel are gaining popularity. Increased demand is helping balance the scales in the colored stone sector. And these stones—especially spinel—are becoming the new darlings of the industry because they’re untreated. Drucker tempered enthusiasm for spinel with news that synthetic material has been spotted in the market and is difficult to identify.

Colored stones other than the classic colors (ruby, sapphire, and emerald) are drawing more attention from retailers. “Right now nobody is buying the big luxury pieces,” said Drucker. “Jewelers are more willing to try color so their customers can buy less-expensive jewelry.”

In discussing colored stone controversies such as the andesine diffusion issue, which he said has mostly blown over, Drucker cautioned retailers to err on the side of caution when disclosing information and being more open about the unknowns of new gem finds.

The cuprian vs. Paraíba tourmaline debate has been settled for the most part, Drucker said. The $100 million lawsuit filed against gem labs and trade associations failed, and the Lab Manual Harmonization Committee has ruled that copper-bearing tourmaline from Mozambique can be called Paraíba-like tourmaline.

Drucker also addressed glass-filled rubies. Some goods entering the market are in such bad condition that “the glass filling is all that’s holding the ruby together,” he said.

Drucker lowered the boom on golden pearls, informing retailers that roughly 80 percent of the goods are treated to produce the color. The industry is likewise reversing its four-year-old findings regarding chocolate pearls. “We now know that virtually 100 percent of these pearls are treated,” Drucker said.

He also discussed a new treatment, coated tanzanite. “Fortunately, there is very little of this material in the market at this time,” he said, adding that a 20 percent price drop in the price of tanzanite may be discouraging treaters.

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