High-End Goods Lead Diamond and Gem Sales

Diamond vendors noticed something surprising and gratifying at The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas: Retailers weren’t just ordering, they were buying.

“Retailers are discovering that memo is no longer going to work,” said Moshe Klein of Julius Klein. “There are so many foreign and European buyers now. Retailers are stepping up to the plate, because if they don’t buy, they are not going to get the goods.

“Today it’s not a matter of price,” Klein continued. “It’s a matter of who has the goods. He who has the goods makes the sale.”

Alan Rehs of New York’s Rehs Co. agreed. “Jewelers find a nice stone and they buy it and stock it,” he said. “I don’t need to consign them. They are willing to take the risk.”

Rehs also found that retailers were accepting the recent price increases. Price increases were a particularly relevant issue since the Diamond Trading Company announced a 3 percent price rise just prior to the show.

“Retailers are telling me that there is a real scarcity, they can’t find things,” Rehs said. “So they are willing to pay the higher price.”

Avi Paz, the newly elected president of the Israel Diamond Exchange, noted that the increases could prove to be a problem for dealers who have committed to retail programs that involve delivering goods at specific prices.

Among diamond buyers, the consensus was the show was solid, though not as strong as last year.

In terms of style, Asschers were still hot, and princess cuts remained strong. Colored diamonds also did well. The three-stone trend still has some life, and some noticed that the right-hand ring may finally be living up to its potential, as retailers responded more favorably to the broader palette of designs.

The American Gem Trade Association’s pavilion was reported to be somewhat slow. AGTA member Dana Schorr, Schorr Marketing, Santa Barbara, Calif., said he thought the show was quiet but pointed out that Las Vegas is a show for retailers to buy jewelry. “Those in the AGTA with finished goods did OK,” he said.

In a trend that parallels the general retail marketplace, high-end loose goods sold well but medium-priced or commercial goods—the majority of exhibitors in the AGTA pavilion—did less well.

Pearls remained high on buyers’ most-wanted lists. Traditional whites were available in large, round, bead-nucleated akoyas, 8 and 9 mm, as well as South Seas Australians from 10 to 16 mm and larger. This year also saw the presence of large Australian gold rounds and large gold baroques.

Round and near-round tissue-nucleated white Chinese freshwaters in 8, 9, and 10 mm competed strongly with higher-priced akoyas. In bead-nucleated pearls, there were fewer true peacock Tahitian strands. There were plenty of grays, some charcoal/near-blacks, some coppers, and a few pistachios from dealers who stayed true to same-origin necklaces. However, because of the large selection of Chinese freshwater multicolors, as well as Indonesian and Philippine gold pearls, multi-origin strands were the most popular combination.

At the top end of colored gemstones were unheated rubies and sapphires, following the trend toward natural color. Of particular interest were unheated blue sapphires, mostly labeled Burma sapphires. (There appeared to be no concern about the ban on Burmese imports.) Yogo sapphires from Montana are said to be growing scarce; half of the mining area has reportedly been closed.

A small but noticeable amount of padparadscha was offered. Despite the ongoing controversy of beryllium-diffusion treatment, roughly half the dealers offering it claimed the stones were unheated.

At the bottom end were glass-filled rubies, heated and unheated, as well as reports of synthetic, quench-crackled/fingerprint-induced/fracture-filled rubies entering the market.

Tanzanite sightholders, clearly proud of their unique position, displayed a wide range of goods. The best was priced in the $500/carat range, a significant jump from February’s Tucson prices.

Opal was strong, especially black Lightning Ridge material. Pink spinel is having a good year, and many dealers had blue Paraíba tourmalines, albeit more pastel than electric. Identified as Brazilian, their appearance more closely resembles Nigerian material. There were some very fine blue zircons, similar in hue and saturation to the Paraíbas, as well as some wonderful examples of Tanzania sunstone with hematite inclusions. Finally, blue moonstone is back in fashion, especially as cabochons set in designer rings and pendants.