Whether they’re suddenly sexy opaque stones or faceted favorites in unusual hues, these are the five gems to watch in 2018. Fill your pockets accordingly.
Designer Diane von Furstenberg has said that “all fashion begins in the street,” then works its way up to the runways. While the world of jewelry, where trends are slow to emerge and stick, isn’t seeing the exact same phenomenon, something similar is happening: Consumer interest in certain colored gemstones is being dictated by the small, artisan workshops of young urban designers.
Certainly the gems and color stories favored by more aspirational names—think David Yurman and Erica Courtney—or red-carpet mainstays, such as Irene Neuwirth and Lorraine Schwartz, are influential. But when emerging designers share their work on social media or, just as often, are highlighted in the press, they create widespread demand for select colors and expose the consumer to stones she may never have known existed.
So what stones should be on your shopping list for 2018? Having collectively attended a battery of trade shows and press previews, we considered our own observations. We also consulted stonecutters and suppliers, in-the-know influencers, and designers (and their Instagram feeds) for their insights. The results are in: Here are the top five gems to scout for at February’s Tucson gem shows and beyond. Happy hunting!
No surprise that this gem is by far the hottest mover. What is surprising are the colors most in demand. “People are talking about sapphires in teal, gray, green, lime yellow, and slate,” says Eric Braunwart, owner of Columbia Gem House in Vancouver, Wash. “I don’t think most jewelers have even one of these colors in stock, but I’m getting requests to cut them because young customers are coming into the stores asking for what they see on Instagram.”
While it would be hard to claim that traditional blue sapphires from Myanmar, Kashmir, or Sri Lanka are “out,” it’s wise to consider alternative sources such as Africa, Australia, and the state of Montana, which tend to produce the colors that many indie designers—and their millennial clientele—are seeking.
“Off-color sapphires are my favorite colored gems,” affirms Fort Worth, Texas–based designer Megan Thorne. “Initially I was drawn to undertones of green and gray as a natural-looking choice over the often heat-treated, or extremely expensive, true blue hues, but now I celebrate the muted mossy and foggy shades, as well as those that are a bright mint-tinged teal, for the inherent individuality they offer. Sorting through these sapphires feels so personal, as specific as selecting the perfect shade from the Pantone book.”
Further proof that sapphires in this family are worth a second look: A color dubbed Arcadia, a pretty green with blue undertones, appears in Pantone’s spring 2018 palette.
Bluez Curve necklace with deep and light blue sapphires in 14k yellow gold; $1,300; Ruta Reifen; email@example.com; rutareifen.com
Custom platinum earrings with 7.89 cts. t.w. cushion-cut forest-green Montana sapphires and 3.35 cts. t.w. diamonds; $24,859; Colin Skelly for Green Lake Jewelry Works; firstname.lastname@example.org; greenlakejewelry.com
Gunta ring with round blue-green Montana sapphire in recycled 14k yellow gold; $1,630; East Fourth Street; email@example.com; eastfourthstreet.com
Mini Gateways pendant with blue sapphire in 18k yellow gold; $1,050; ARK; 646-745-6831; arkfinejewelry.com
Nearly all of our sources cited green as a popular color going into 2018, making malachite even more of a sure thing (we’ve had our eye on it since the beginning of 2017). Seen at couture jewelers Taffin de Givenchy, Roberto Coin, and Van Cleef & Arpels, malachite has a graphic, glamorous quality that luxury jewelers and their clients appreciate.
It’s also a natural choice for many artisan studio jewelers like Jessica Winzelberg. “We already have a waitlist for our sold-out Mobile earring,” says the Los Angeles–based designer. “I started to see an uptick in interest late this summer. I think people realize they can wear malachite year-round—to a board meeting, a summer wedding, or a holiday party.”
Meanwhile, New York City–based designer Dana Bronfman, who plans to debut some malachite pieces at the JCK Tucson show, which runs from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa, is drawn to the stone’s unique swirls and banding. “I may purchase more malachite if I find some from a source I feel good about supporting and if [the parcel] aligns visually with my design aesthetic,” she says.
Malachite bauble ring in 18k yellow gold; $5,000; Established; 646-745-6831; establishedjewelry.com
Bohème Dana ring with oval malachite in 18k yellow gold bezel on oxidized silver band; $580; Delphine Leymarie; firstname.lastname@example.org; delphineleymarie.com
Constellation beaded necklace in 18k yellow gold with malachite and diamonds; $12,500; Adam Foster Fine Jewelry; 314-771-3390; fosterjewelry.com
Malachite Mobile earrings in sterling silver and 14k yellow gold; $355; Jessica Winzelberg; email@example.com; shop.jessicawinzelberg.com
According to the American Gem Trade Association, demand for tourmalines—especially the bicolor and tricolor varieties—will grow even stronger in 2018. A survey of the 2018 AGTA Spectrum Awards submissions revealed several watermelon tourmalines and their ilk, with Oscar Heyman’s jaw-dropping 19.4 ct. emerald-cut tourmaline cocktail ring receiving a well-deserved honorable mention.
But jewelers and designers at every level find the bicolor tourmalines irresistible, including Lauren Kessler of New York City–based Lauren K. “I love that ‘bicolor’ can mean purple-pink, pink-blue, blue-green, or purple-green, so I am always intrigued and never bored,” she says. According to Kessler, the stone is well known to sophisticated consumers, and now it’s up to stores to stock it and make it more visible. “It’s a great conversation piece,” she notes. “Consumers are naturally interested and curious when they see it and want to know more.”
Pink Mystique earrings with 17.02 cts. t.w. bicolor pink tourmaline, and pink sapphire, ruby, and diamond accents in 14k white and yellow gold; $4,160; K.Mita Design; 646-633-4573; k-mita.com
Ring with 19.4 ct. emerald-cut bicolor tourmaline and diamonds in platinum; $70,000; Oscar Heyman; 212-593-0400; oscarheyman.com
Joyce earrings with 55.36 cts. t.w. blue tourmaline and diamond accents in 18k yellow gold;
$8,250; Lauren K; firstname.lastname@example.org; laurenk.com
Green-blue tourmaline slice ring in 14k green gold backed with sterling silver; $1,585; Judi Powers; email@example.com; judipowersjewelry.com
Like foodies with their affinity for exotic delicacies, jewelry insiders have always revered spinel as a stone of great beauty, and it’s just now starting to enter the mainstream.
“There are some astounding colors in the spinel family, and they have a high refractive index that makes them sparkle and delight the eye,” says Albuquerque, N.M.–based designer Paula Crevoshay, who is partial to the highly prized flame-red variety from Myanmar.
Los Angeles designer Dallas Prince shares Crevoshay’s affection for the stone and confirms its growth in popularity. “Spinel has become the new sapphire,” she says. “As a certified hoarder of red spinel, I have now shifted my obsession to shades of pink, lavender, and rose.”
More emerging designers are beginning to catch on. This could have something to do with the AGTA’s 2016 naming of spinel as an alternate August birthstone or might be because David Yurman, Alex Soldier, and some of the more commercial QVC lines often work with black spinel as a less expensive substitute for black diamonds.
“Spinel is a way to have that high-end couture look but keep your designs affordable,” says Prince, who suggests exploring the entire spectrum of shades.
Our take: Look for spinels from Tanzania, and consider stockpiling “off” colors—e.g., purplish grays, silver-tinged mauves, and steely blues—which have an unconventional beauty (and a better price point).
Fleur d’Amour ring with white diamonds, fancy yellow and fancy orange-brown diamonds, and red spinel in 18k yellow gold; price on request; Crevoshay; 505-898-2888; crevoshay.com
Rose Leaf necklace with black spinel and champagne diamonds in 18k rose gold; $19,000; Alex Soldier; 212-354-4244; alexsoldier.com
Pink Peony ring with oval pink and lavender spinels and white diamonds in 14k white gold; price on request; Dallas Prince Designs; 310-625-0200; dallasprincedesigns.com
Reine ring with 8.69 ct. cushion-cut gray spinel and diamonds in 18k gold; price on request; Carley Jewels; firstname.lastname@example.org
With its gorgeous hue—deeper than that of angel skin coral, closer to a conch pearl (or a strawberry macaron)—and glossy, gumball-smooth texture, the appeal of this opaque gem from the Peruvian Andes needs little justification. “Pink opal is also found in Australia, but doesn’t have the ‘fire’ unique to the more common Australian and Ethiopian opals,” says gemologist and blogger Erica Silverglide, aka @gemologygeek. “Yet they have a romantic quality that designers love to play with.”
One such designer is Pamela Huizenga. “Because it’s opal, it’s an easy stone to explain,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to discuss all the various colors of opals, the regions where they’re found, and why pink is so coveted. The color is flattering on every woman, and it’s one of my absolute favorites.”
More reasons to think pink: The spring 2018 runways were teeming with blush-to-flamingo shades, and floral-themed fashion jewelry and watches in a similar palette are likewise expected to be in vogue. That means retailers can easily position pink opal pieces as an on-trend yet elevated choice for accessorizing the latest styles.
Yin Yang ring in 14k yellow gold with pink opal and diamonds; $3,430; Retrouvaí; 646-745-6831; retrouvai.com
Akoya pearl and pink opal bangle in 14k gold–plated sterling silver; $187; Bounkit; 212-244-1877; bounkit.com
One-of-a-kind ring with carved pink opal and diamonds in 18k rose gold; price on request; Irene Neuwirth; 310-450-6063; ireneneuwirth.com
(Green Lake earrings: Edwin Ross III; Heyman ring: courtesy of Brian Moghadam Photography for AGTA)