Color Rising: Women, Fashion, and the Gemstone Jewelry Market

“It used to be all about one color,” says Laurie Harris, fine jewelry buyer for Tapper’s Diamonds and Fine Jewelry in West Bloomfield, Mich. “But women today love color the way they love clothing.”

“It’s all about fashion, and women know fashion,” says John Anthony Jr., owner of John Anthony Jewelers in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. “Women want that certain look. Men don’t get it.”

“Most of my colored-stone jewelry sales are with female customers,” says David Friedman of Sarah Leonard Fine Jewelers in Westwood Village, Calif. “Especially with the advent of the new beaded jewels and new designs—the fashion-forward, trendy beaded necklaces, earrings, and bracelets made of what used to be considered relatively inexpensive gemstones like chalcedonies and quartzes. They’re faceting them, they’re cabbing them, they’re beading them, and they’re putting them into cool designs.”

Friedman’s breathless description captures the excitement of today’s colored-gemstone jewelry market, which is being driven by the increasing number of women buying jewelry for themselves. And that booming market isn’t limited to inexpensive jewelry. “This is true with high-end pieces as well,” Friedman notes. “We’re selling sapphires, lots of rubies, tourmalines, and emeralds.

“Tanzanite’s a staple,” he adds. “From the really inexpensive materials you’d typically see on home shopping to the significant items that get into five figures.”

Anthony cites tourmaline as another popular stone. He says chrome tourmalines sell well because they’re affordable. “It’s a nice price point for a decent large stone. And they want size. That’s why blue topaz does so well and aquamarine doesn’t.”

WOMEN AND COLOR

“Women are really into color now,” says Friedman. “Women are buying everything from the very inexpensive [$50–$500] items, all the way up, and even all across the board. The colored-stone market, which was weak for a while, has definitely strengthened. Color is moving.”

Harris says her holiday catalog displays a lot more colored-gemstone jewelry this year. “There’s a beautiful beryl necklace on the cover,” she says. “We’re making a statement about color this year.”

At Anthony’s store, women either buy on their own or have their husbands in tow for a second opinion. “Guys may give their opinion if there’s a choice between two pieces, but they never try to make the decision on their own,” he says.

Harris is witnessing a similar scenario. “The woman knows what she wants,” she says. “She may pick out the item and then tell the guy to buy the piece, but it’s still the woman’s decision.

“We have many affluent women who can purchase on their own,” Harris adds. “And because of designers’ using a lot more color instead of diamonds, to bring the price down, there’s more affordable color-gemstone jewelry.”

Price has a lot to do with the revival of color, says Harris, who notes that Tapper’s price points range from $100 to $100,000 and more. She says a $1,500 item with a designer name attached is still in the range for a self purchase. “Above that, it seems they need a second opinion.”

THE MOST POPULAR COLORS

“Pink is always hot,” says Friedman, who also cites warm tones and pastels as the hot colors. “Pink sapphires are still strong, but maybe not quite as strong as last year,” says Harris. “Pastels in beryls, morganite, lemon citrines, and aquas are all very strong. And the designers are going pastel, too.”

Many designers are using diamonds to accent their colored-gemstone jewelry. “Virtually all of the middle and high-end pieces, typically featuring a center color stone, have diamond accents,” notes Friedman. “We find that diamond accents make good color pop more.”