Gem Pricing Report: Cheap Thrills

Affordable colored stones abound in Tucson

Buyers traveling to the Tucson gem shows this month should heed a few words of advice. Price trends over the past decade suggest that larger, fine-quality unenhanced gemstones have the strongest potential to increase and retain value during a relatively short period. By their very nature, venues like Tucson offer a good chance to locate such gems at reasonable prices. This year, natural yellow sapphire and red and pink spinel are expected to be in demand. These, like many gems, are scarcer than they were just a few years ago, so watch for price differentials in similar colored gems to see if opportunities for substitution might be appropriate. For example, a 5 ct. intense yellow Burmese danburite ($250 to $300 per carat) is an attractive substitute for a similarly sized natural yellow sapphire ($1,000 to $1,200 per carat).

Blue sapphire is another active category. Prices have been relatively strong during the past five years, especially in unenhanced material. As the economy improves, however, buyers may face a dilemma in the near term. The price of heated blue sapphire appears to be holding at high levels, but as mining activity increases, we expect current supply issues to be resolved,  and the market to hold flat, if not correct downward. The upshot: We suggest retailers avoid making significant investments in common sizes of heated blue sapphire and buy only for the short term.

Another gem to seek out in Tucson is Ethiopian opal. The wide selection available at the shows means you’re bound to find the year’s best prices. Rubellite, sphene, andalusite, fluorite, peridot, natural Malawi sapphire, spinel, and zircon are just a few of the other gems that are poised to perform well in 2013, given their color, availability, designer appeal, and, last but certainly not least, price.

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