Gemstones: Colombian Emeralds in Short Supply, Montana Sapphires in Demand

Rain on Colombia’s Parade

Mother Nature was not smiling on the emerald industry in July, bringing intense rains down on Colombia. “Emerald buyers in Bogotá habitually take a break when it rains,” explains dealer Ron Rings­rud, who recently returned from the capital. “The dark clouds ruin the north daylight they are accustomed to buying with.” This year’s stormy season was particularly heavy. In addition, government restrictions have reportedly caused dynamite shortages, leading to scaled-back mining activity. Industry analysts are expecting these factors, although temporary, to result in Colombian emerald shortages—not to mention higher prices—for at least the last half of 2010.

So far this year, demand for emeralds has been good in the major international markets. And even in the United States, where there’s been less demand, Ringsrud notes, “emerald calls from jewelers to wholesalers have increased. Reports from JCK Las Vegas were also positive. Although the recession’s side effects will still be seen, everything looks green for emeralds.”

Meanwhile, miners are looking for international backing to continue to produce a steady supply of the coveted green gem. Explains Ringsrud: “The strong demand, [coupled with] the shortage, has caused small and midsize mine operators to actively seek investors. Within the triangle formed by the three largest emerald mines—Muzo, Coscuez, and La Pita—there are many small mines and prospect digs. There are also areas legally staked and claimed, but waiting for the money to invest in machinery. All of these small operations have stepped up to fill the current demand.” —Stuart Robertson

Reign of Sapphire

Robert E. Kane

With sapphires in all colors selling fairly well in the United States and demand for the high-end stones remaining strong, retail jewelers now have an exciting opportunity to capitalize on the interest in American-produced gems. Consider sapphires mined in Montana. Robert Kane, president of the Helena, Mont.–based Fine Gems International, tells JCK that Montana sapphire sales have been consistent. He’s had requests for “single stones plus matched pairs and layouts in both graduated single hues and rainbow suites.” In recent years, Kane has also noticed consumers ­growing more specific when it comes to their sapphire preferences. “Calls for grayish-blue, greenish-blue, and green sapphires have increased,” he says. “These were once colors disregarded by experts.” Montana ­produces an array of beautifully colored sapphires, many of which are priced very favorably for today’s market. —SR

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