Collectibility and color drive today’s market
In general, the U.S. gem trade is more optimistic than it was a year ago, but sales are still quite different than they were a decade ago. The market continues to see demand focused on the high end, while colors—and not gem varieties—are driving demand in the commercial end of the market.
At the high end, buyer motivation is rooted in wealth preservation through rare collectible commodities such as colored stones. Growing consumption overseas also has increased prices and therefore reduced access to a number of popular gem varieties, including emeralds, green and pink tourmalines, and blue sapphires. Retailers can adjust to this by looking beyond the “big three” (ruby, sapphire, and emerald) to some lesser-known gems like sphene and scapolite, which remain affordable. Fine aquamarine also is available in greater quantity than last year, as is amethyst.
The supply chain no longer supports the small independent dealer as efficiently as it once did. Major retailers have agents traveling to Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Sri Lanka to buy as close to the source as possible. This presents a challenge to mom-and-pop jewelers who lack the resources to adopt a similar approach. The independents, however, can change direction more quickly in response to market trends.
Ahead of JCK Las Vegas, demand is good for tourmaline, garnet, and spinel. Finer quality emerald also is selling very well. Blue sapphires remain in good demand. In finer qualities, the supply is tight and prices reflect that. Likewise, shortages of fine ruby continue to put pressure on prices. Demand has improved sharply for Mozambique ruby as buyers recognize that fine Burmese material is very difficult to get.