Just Grow With It: Gem Pricing, February 2015

This year, colored stone jewelry sales are projected to grow globally by approximately 7 percent. In the United States and other key markets, colored gems have emerged as a significant profit center for jewelers. The resulting increase in demand has prices in a number of varieties climbing. Benefiting from this trend are the exotic gems, demand for which has transitioned from collector to mainstream consumer.

In the classics, natural (nontreated) fine-quality ruby and sapphire demand is strong as more buyers recognize that the price increases experienced over the past few years are demand-driven and here to stay.

Not surprisingly, the price for natural (nonheated) sapphire is following this trend. Prices are very high, but dealers recognize with so little production of nice-quality rough, the prices haven’t approached a ceiling. Dealers report that the traditional model for buying is evolving. They say miners at classic sources like Sri Lanka simply collect their rough and travel to China, where they are receiving very strong prices. As a result, the local rough trading centers are devoid of any fine material. 

This creates a difficult situation for buyers in mature markets. With prices very high for natural material, dealers are reluctant to invest, and yet every price correction that has been predicted during the past few years has failed to materialize. Instead, the price of fine corundum rose on average another 20 percent last year.

Visitors to the gem shows in Tucson, Ariz., will find bargains in the fancy sapphire colors. Price increases for many of these varieties have not kept up with those observed in the ruby and blue sapphire market. So what looked like high prices just a few years ago for pinks, purples, and green sapphires are quite attractive today.