Steady sales made for good moods in Tucson
In a sign that the colored stone business is back from the brink, dealers at the Tucson 2011 gem shows reported that the market for rough is active once again overseas. Given that the mining sector was one of the earliest to recognize the severity of the crisis and suspend operations, the increase in rough production is positive news, indeed.
Initial impressions of the Tucson gem shows: Although there were some spectacular gems on display, the reality is that top-quality important stones are very scarce, and as such, prices are firm. In contrast to last year, however, growth in the mid-level of the market is much improved. Price points have moved higher. Sales activity in the $1,500–$3,000 range is much stronger than in 2010, while the $100–$500 range remains very active.
The most noticeable trend observed this year is the industry’s shift back toward the classic gems. Dealers in Tucson reported that sapphire was a strong seller—blue sapphire. Demand in fancy color sapphires such as pink and yellow appears lower than in recent years. Rubellite tourmaline is by far the most in-demand of the red gems, and remains affordable in even larger sizes. Spessatite garnet and Ethiopian opal also drew lots of attention.
But the sleeper hit of the gem world is spinel, which offers one of the best values in the colored stone market. The uniquely colored Tanzanian red spinel is one exception; the strong collectors market has driven prices much higher than is normally associated with red spinels. Blue, pink, and lavender were reportedly in moderately good demand.