In this edition of internet sensations, I’m going to delve into the origins of trends that start online. Many of these trends blossom from excess material or reinvigorated styles from yesteryear.
Wholesalers’ first instinct is to choose items from lots that sell consistently - the stones that are always desirable. For instance, when selecting blue sapphires, the top priorities are finding calibrated stone measurements, consistent blue color, and the best cutting.
Once selected, most dealers have made their expected allotment off the lot. Anything that sells from the same lot after that is a luxury. This is where color trends such as “peach,” “teal,” and bi-color come in to play. These colors are the remnants of picked-through lots.
Pricing for these stones is affordable since a profit on the lot was already made by selling the more desirable colors. This allows these unique colors to be set at lower prices.
As a result, these items can be set in custom mountings and moved at affordable prices by Internet vendors. Due to cost and low overhead, online sellers reap the benefits of these previously rejected colors.
However, these stones come with caveats. Because they are the “rejected” pieces from larger parcels, they may have poor calibration and lower stock balance.
These trends can also develop a “color bubble.” Due to their inconsistency of production and uniqueness of color, at some point stock will run out. Once the lot is sold, they’re difficult to replace.
Simple economics becomes a factor as well due to supply and demand. Because of a trend’s popularity, a stone once affordable becomes more expensive and can price itself out of the niche market in which it once flourished.
Classic examples of color sensation trends are morganite and bi-color tourmaline. While both are still popular and relatively affordable, the steep increase in popularity and price is well documented. Both stones were discarded for quite some time, but due to various sources their popularity soared to previously unexpected heights and costs.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these new trends that have flooded the color gemstone market: peach, teal, and parti (bi-color) sapphires
While the initial color rush of morganite is directly related to increase in popularity of peach sapphires, its developments for becoming an internet sensation are the same as previous trends. Consumers went searching for a more durable alternative to morganite and settled on sapphire for its hardness and rainbow-like color spectrum.
However, “peach” is not an abundant and standard color for sapphire and is usually reserved for the expensive padparadscha. Padparadscha sapphires are certified by reputable labs on the specific color spectrum of pink and orange. Due to this non-standard color, it is difficult to maintain consistency. What is being advertised are extremely pale pink sapphires or yellow/orange sapphires giving a more champagne look.
For years, these colors were discarded. They didn’t display a consistent pink and weren’t yellow or orange enough to be called that either. Now, they have a role on the market at affordable pricing due to their historic lack of popularity amongst vendors and wholesalers because of their unique color. The market is trying to be flexible and widen the definition of “peach” to better serve the public demands.
Parti sapphires are bi-color sapphires that display heavy color zoning. Color zoning is a characteristic that is immediately discarded because it lacks a consistent color throughout the stone. Now, Etsy and other online retailers are successfully promoting this look in an attempt to move previously rejected, low-grade material.
Teal sapphires represent a retro trend of previous decades. At the initial discovery of sapphires in Montana over 100 years ago, the market was first introduced to steel blue-grey and green-blue colors in sapphire. This color gained attention quickly but began to lose traction and lost much of its booming popularity.
It is only within the last five to ten years that Montana sapphires found their way back onto the market, re-promoting this teal color trend. Since Montana sapphires rarely come in larger sizes, it has opened doors for blue-green sapphires from other locales, such as Australia.
Previously overlooked stones began to receive recognition because of these trends. With the push of teal and steely-blue, it has helped the popularity of spinel. For years, I have mentioned spinel as a wonderful alternative for sapphire. It just needed another push and the internet is that final wind in the sail it needed.
Clients curiosity and desire in spinel has increased due to increased exposure. Prices have followed its attraction in an upward trend, but for the most part still represent an affordable alternative. Their popularity is at an all-time high due to internet buzz and availability.
Trends come and go in waves due to quantity, pricing, and sustainability. Many stones will burn bright and fade. Others will find a niche in the market due to future sustainability. Trends are important to follow as many come and go, but for those that stand the test of time, it’s important to know everything about them.
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.