Every year, thousands of people descend upon Arizona to partake in the craziness that is the Tucson Gem Show. For decades, the Tucson Show has set the standard for the color gemstone industry. New trends are displayed, pricing updates unveiled, and unique stones presented, making it the “red carpet” for color gems.
While Tucson is the starting point, many of these trends won’t take flight in the retail market for a few months. After monitoring popular items from Tucson, as well as increased requests for specific stones in our offices, this is my half-year review in color.
Multi-color sapphires remain a big hit in 2017. The most obvious request is the “peach” color sapphire. Many customers began looking for alternatives to Morganite due to its hardness (7 out of 10). Naturally, sapphire was the logical conclusion (9 out of 10 hardness). This “peach” color ranges from soft, pastel pink to slight yellow with orange undertones. Though this color isn’t abundant like contemporary yellows and pinks, there is material available that remains cost effective for engagement rings.
Another popular multi-color sapphire spiking in popularity recently is the teal-color sapphire. This unique, refreshing color displays both blue and green hues together, revealing lovely ocean colors. Due to their competitive and affordable price point, interest in teal sapphires is rising to the level of classic blue material. Similar in color to teal tourmalines, the sapphire is catapulted once again by its durability. Requests for Montana Sapphires, which commonly display this color, have also received a boost.
While multi-color sapphires are having their moment in the sun, blue sapphires are still the ubiquitous favorite amongst color gemstones. However, unheated material is gaining interest. Many younger consumers are interested in stones in their natural, untreated state. Since unheated material is rarer due to low supply of material in the market, these stones attract a higher price. It is important these stones are never purchased without proof from a reputable lab with certification reports (i.e. AGL or GIA).
Although sapphires will continue to be the strongest seller among color gems, I have seen an uptick in high-end stones, as well. The best example is Alexandrite. As more consumers are made aware of its rarity and beauty, they are becoming more comfortable spending top dollar for one as an investment. It’s hard to quantify the rarity of Alexandrites, but it’s fair to assume there aren’t many Alexandrite owners in the same town. Sales are above what they were in 2015 and 2016, and as more consumers understand and become comfortable with pricing, this trend should continue. Certification reports can be useful during selling because of the stone’s high value and will specify the type of color shift it displays. Due to their high value and price per carat, Alexandrites shouldn’t be neglected and can only help reach those yearly goals.
Morganite continues to be a strong seller. Popularity is at an all-time high, as many customers are using them for engagement rings and custom pieces. Affordability and soft color is the key. The color of Morganite continues to evolve as it goes from light pink, to the common peach. Light pink is once again the desired hue currently. As long as people continue to crave “pink/peach in rose gold”, this stone will have a place in the market.
Finally, one of my favorite stones is beginning to force its way into consumers’ minds. Spinel has long been overlooked, but not anymore. This versatile stone is unique because it contains all the colors of the corundum family, but in most cases is a fraction of the cost. Pastel pinks and purples and shades of blue are the most popular. They provide great prices for consumers looking for affordable alternatives to sapphire without going for lab-created stones.
While many spinels can be very affordable, they do come in beautiful, high-end pieces, too. These colors are usually “bubble gum” pink, rich blue - containing the trace element cobalt - and vivid red - resembling ruby. These colors are rarer and demand higher value. In the case of the red spinel, material is becoming more difficult to come by and true reds are following the price trajectory of rubies. Overall, spinels will continue to be a competitive stone on the market as its popularity rises.
Color is continuing its growth and starting to make a statement in the gemstone market. These stones don’t have to be throw-away sales to diamonds anymore. As younger generations continue their pursuit of the wide range in color offered by a variety of stones, the need for new color in the market will continue to rise.
Konrad Darling is the sales and marketing director for Darling Imports, a color gemstone wholesaler offering genuine and synthetics as well as lapidary services and stone identification. For more information contact Darling Imports at 800-282-8436 or www.darlingimports.com.