Until November 2003, sales of Colombian emeralds had been steady, reports Ron Ringsrud, a wholesaler of Colombian emeralds with bases in Saratoga, Calif., and Bogotá, Colombia. In the fall of 2003, Ringsrud reported from the Colombian capital that emerald sales were strong, with Colombian exporters and international buyers downtown gearing up for the holidays. That positive outlook was sustained by successful selling at the September Hong Kong show, writes Ringsrud. Emerald dealers were buying aggressively through mid-November, with prices holding steady and production from the mines still good. According to Ringsrud’s sources, two large emerald parcels, estimated at almost $1 million each, reportedly sold in New York in November.
That’s the good news, writes Ringsrud.
Then, in early November, nervous Colombian politicians, in an attempt to secure peaceful elections later that month, banned the sale of dynamite. “Running out of dynamite, the mines of Muzo, Cosquez, La Pita, and Chivor all closed down,” reports Ringsrud. “Without mining activities, the pumps were shut down as well. The elections were successful, but in December, upon returning to the mines, workers had to wait over a week to pump out the accumulation of water in the mine shafts, and even then, mining activities were resumed slowly.”
That three-week shutdown left wholesaling offices in Bogotá with virtually nothing to show, and quantities coming into the market were very limited, irrespective of quality. “One office, normally buying $40,000 to $50,000 per month of commercial goods (up to $300 per carat), only bought $4,000 worth the entire month of December,” writes Ringsrud. He believes that Italian and North American buyers cut their trips short after realizing that availability was low and prices were high.
What will happen to prices as production resumes is uncertain, Ringsrud says: “It remains to be seen if this constant demand doesn’t edge emerald prices up by 5%-10%.”
We’ll report next month on emerald prices at the Tucson gem shows.