After a solid start with what was, by most accounts, a better than expected Tucson Gem Week, business has slowed. Dealers returning from the March Hong Kong show gave contrasting reports, but most said results were below expectations. Baselworld, which opened in Switzerland March 19, was reportedly slow as well.
This recent shift in demand for gems and jewelry likely stems from the current turmoil on the global stage. China’s economy has slowed, and as a result, Chinese buyers are becoming more cautious. Thus, certain gems that had recently enjoyed high demand in China—e.g., extra-fine rubellite tourmaline—have all but disappeared from the market. One can only speculate that dealers are holding them off the market now in hopes that Chinese buyers will return to pay prices that no one else currently seems willing to pay. Demand from Russia has also declined sharply (that country’s economy adapts to economic sanctions leveled by the West in response to ongoing discord in Ukraine).
In the United States, the picture is not as bleak. Manufacturers are featuring gold and platinum with fewer offering much in alternative metals. This is no surprise, as the price of gold and other precious metals is well below recent highs and is expected to remain so for some time. A strong U.S. dollar offers buyers an advantage overseas and here at home. High prices in the fine end of the ruby and sapphire market are now meeting with resistance, resulting in a healthy demand for similar-color gems.
The JCK Las Vegas show is the next major test for the gem market. Given the growth here at home, one can expect the show to be active.