Colored Stone Market

Posted on September 1, 2021 by Stuart M. Robertson, GIA GG

Dealers are upbeat heading into late summer. Mixed colors are popular with consumers but at the high end, the classic colors dominate. Appetite for tourmaline, garnet and spinel remains strong. Dealers note difficulty sourcing goods as COVID related issues are still disrupting stages of the supply chain. As the holiday season approaches, one of the stories in the colored stone market continues to be the difficulty that dealers are having sourcing new stock. Although conditions have improved from a year ago, COVID related issues are still restraining the movement of material through the distribution channels. At the moment, there are few gem varieties that are not impacted, at least to some extent. For example, dealers are reporting increased difficulty sourcing finer Ceylon sapphire in particular. As Roland Schluessel of Pillar & Stone International, states, “If you need a fine 15ct Ceylon sapphire, you can get it because there is usually some reserve of these stones held back. But if you are looking for the more common requests, which are for smaller sizes and medium grades [of Ceylon sapphire], this is harder to find right now.The reserves of these are now spent and shortages have formed that could linger through next year.” The issue is not at the mines, according to Roland. “The challenge is getting material through the supply chain.” On the supply side, the market is not working as normal yet. The issue is getting rough through the processing stages, and when you combine this with the fact that few interna- tional buyers are traveling to these local markets to buy, it works to discourage mining. The situation is better than it was last year, and some buyers have started to travel to the local source markets again, but not yet in the numbers seen in normal times. FIGURE 1. The classic green of chrome tourmaline. Image courtesy of Mayer & Watt, Photography by Geoffrey Watt. There are a number of market levels that the typical gem travels through before it gets to the wholesale market. It is in these earlier stages of movement—where rough is processed and transformed into a cut gem—that most of the delays are being experienced. As a result, gem prices currently lack the general uniformity normally expected. This is observed to differing degrees at each level of the market, but especially true at the wholesale level. Appraisers and retailers should keep this in mind when researching gem prices. Material trading outside of prices published in the GemGuide may be encountered occasionally, especially in high demand-low supply gems. THE CURRENT MARKET Dealers report that the mood is generally optimistic in the trade. The jewelry industry is seeing more competition for consumer spending from other sectors as the economy con- tinues to reopen. However, retail jewelers remain upbeat and report that business has remained good and colored stone sales continue to grow. The penetration into bridal has been particularly influential to this growth. In the North American market, sapphire dominates colored stone sales, at least by value. The trend towards unusual col- ors observed in recent years continues to expand. In addition to blue sapphire, the market is seeing good demand for teal, peacock, bicolor and tricolor sapphires. As Eric Braunwart of Columbia Gem House stated, “Sapphire is King, but not just the sapphire of the big-3 of years ago. Today, buyers want the unusual colors and bicolored sapphires.” Geoffrey Watt at Mayer & Watt, notes that, “We have been selling lots of Montana Sapphire and lots of multicolor stones.” Montana, of course, produces one of the most...

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