Colored Stones: Tony Duquette, Tucson Gem Week

Tony Rewards

Bonhams & Butterfields will auction the artistic expressions Holly­wood designer Tony Duquette created during a personal “healing process.” The Talismans of Power auction will follow the 20th Century Decorative Arts Auction in Los Angeles on April 18. Stamped with Duquette’s signature imagery, more than 135 pieces of the elaborate necklace collection with accompanying brooches, pendants, and bracelets will be up for sale. Gold-plated silver, geodes, and exotic and semiprecious stones bring the mystical pieces to life. —Lindsey Wojcik

Classic Color–Happy Buyers

The industry’s appetite for fine color has returned, or so the brisk business at February’s Tucson gem shows would suggest. Buying trends at the shows indicate that retailers are focusing on classic colored stones—unlike the past few years, when unusual gem varieties dominated the retail market.

Rings in 950 platinum: 6.08 ct. ceylon yellow sapphire with 1.11 cts. t.w. diamonds, $18,040; 3.19 ct. Zambian emerald with 1.33. cts. t.w. diamonds, $54,727; 5.91 ct. Ceylon blue sapphire with 1.01 cts. t.w. diamonds, $50,952; Philip Zahm Designs, Aptos, Calif.;
The biggest-selling colored stone is—no surprise here—blue sapphire. Rubellite tourmaline, which dealer Roland Schluessel of Pillar & Stone described as “the only affordable red stone,” is also in strong demand. Fine-quality ruby, especially in larger sizes, was scarce, and prices reflected that.

Other notable sellers: blue zircon, spessartite garnet, rhodolite garnet, aquamarine, green tourmaline (less available than in the past), and red spinel, which dealers said saw healthy demand. Exhibitors received more requests for phenomenal stones, especially color change and star gems. In finer-quality specimens, star sapphire has become more scarce; recently, cutters have opted to heat-treat this material to increase its transparency in the hopes of obtaining facet-grade material from the rough. Certainly, no one could miss the ever-growing buzz around Ethiopian opal, buckets of which were seen at booths across the shows.

One story that caught buyer attention was the spike in prices for fine-­quality ruby and sapphire, reflecting greater demand in overseas markets and a weaker dollar. Sapphire prices in certain grades rose 25 percent or more from 2010. Another sign the market is improving: more activity in midrange price points. Sales between $1,500 and $2,500 improved vastly over last year. Still, the most in-demand price points were below $500 or above $4,500. —Stuart Robertson

For more colorful gemstone talk

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