The market is slowly growing, but buyers beware
Now that the holidays have come and gone, colored gemstone dealers have turned their attention toward Tucson. Among those heading to the gem shows at the beginning of February, the consensus is that they will see modest improvements in sales this year. Many dealers also feel that, at retail, the business climate is improving, albeit gradually. The slow comeback, however, continues to restrain exploration and production.
That may explain why the market is still starved for new gem products—and why common materials continue to be marketed under a plethora of new brand names, raising concerns about long-term consumer confidence. In the past, many of the established gemstone brands were reinforced through their commitment to fair trade principles and quality assurances. Not so with some of the newer entries in this arena; in many cases, they appear to offer nothing more than mediocre quality and premium pricing.
The market continues to see strong interest in fine and commercial quality products. But midlevel price points? Not so much. This year, we expect Chinese freshwater pearls to stand out along with sapphire, quartz, garnet, aquamarine, and several of the lesser known but attractive and reasonably priced gems such as scapolite, diopside, and sphene.