The general consensus among exhibitors at the Tucson gem shows was that the appetite for building stock has substantially improved compared with recent years. For a few classic stones, however, the market appears to be at a standstill. Retail jewelers are reportedly moving away from rubies because the prices are simply too high for most markets. Current price levels for fine material have transformed the market for this gem into practically a memo-only business. On the other hand, sales of sapphire in both blue and the fancy colors were reportedly solid.
By all accounts, collector and unusual stones represent the hottest segment of the trade. “The market is very upbeat,” says Geoffrey Watt of Mayer & Watt, an exhibitor at the American Gem Trade Association GemFair. “We are seeing a lot of interest in the exotic and unusual gems this year.” Watt exhibited an impressive inventory of trapiche emeralds and sapphires—some of the products that proved quite popular for the firm.
Tanzanite demand was also good at the show. This is likely in direct response to the high prices for blue sapphire. In the late 1990s through early 2000s, when Madagascar’s sapphire production was high, blue sapphire prices came down to levels not that far above tanzanite and sales of the latter plummeted. But now that sapphire prices have climbed to levels three or four times higher, tanzanite, which can have a similar color, looks quite affordable and is selling very well.
Rubellite tourmaline is experiencing a similar situation because of ruby prices. Unlike the case of tanzanite, there was virtually no rubellite tourmaline rough to be found in Tucson. The polished gems at the show were supporting stronger prices than are typically associated with rubellite.
Other gems that reportedly were in good demand at this year’s show: lavender and pink spinel; most colors of zircon; indicolite tourmaline; bicolor tourmaline; aquamarine; mint garnet; tsavorite garnet; opal; and green, pink, and yellow zoisite. One could not help but notice, however, that in the finer grades, most varieties were more expensive than last year.