A subdued gemstone market reflects consumer demand for price point goods
The JCK Las Vegas show revealed that attitude in the trade is improving, but the colored stone market still lacks enthusiasm. Consumers are far more price conscious today than they were during better times. As a result, sales activity for colored stones remains concentrated at the very high and low ends.
The price of gold and other precious metals also is influencing the quality and gem varieties being consumed. “Gold has reached all-time highs during the past few years, and this pushes jewelry prices up, even as the middle classes have less money to spend,” says Richard Hughes of Sino Resource Mining Corp. in Hong Kong. “The result of which is manufacturers use less gold, lower karat gold, move to silver, and lower the quality of the stones used in jewelry.” Hughes’ last point is particularly apparent from current market activity. We are seeing of lot of colored gemstone jewelry that retails for a few hundred dollars.
Queensland, Australia’s sapphire deposits, known for producing attractive, albeit dark, blue sapphire, are reportedly once again producing in volume. This material is in good demand from manufacturers seeking an attractive sapphire product that can be retailed at equally affordable price points. Experts are reporting some of this material is being enhanced by beryllium diffusion into much more attractive blues and yellows, the extent to which is not yet understood.
As always, buyers beware: Treated stones can offer buyers more affordable options. Nevertheless, disclosure of the treatment is essential to consumer confidence.