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Dealers at 2024 Tucson Gem Show Report on Colored Gemstone and Pricing Trends

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We truly live in a digital age where we can access news, follow our favorite sports teams, and shop for pretty much anything all from behind a computer screen. While it is certainly convenient to use our personal devices to plug ourselves into the world, face-to-face meetings with other humans can yield a breadth of information that the internet can't provide.

The gem world is certainly one of those places where there is a ton of information online, but you can still learn so much more by talking to the people who are immersed in the field. 

Credited as the largest gem show in the world, the Tucson gem show is one of the best opportunities that industry professionals have to connect and exchange information in person. Here, you can meet the people behind the spreadsheets and get a firsthand understanding of how these individuals view the state of their niches of the trade.  

Having spoken with a number of dealers showing at both the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) show as well as the Gems and Jewelry Exchange (GJX), two broad categories of current trends in the field revealed themselves: gemstone species that have increased or decreased in popularity and changes in the pricing of gemstone species.

Sometimes these two trends are linked. It makes intuitive sense that prices would rise for gems that are in demand and fall for those that are not selling as well. But this is not always the case as several additional factors contribute to this issue, so it is unwise to make assumptions based on sales alone. With this in mind, let's start by examining which gem dealers said that they have noticed a change in terms of demand for colored gemstones.

Trends In Gemstone Popularity

When I ask dealers this question about changes in the trends associated with gemstone popularity, I like to start by asking what has not been selling. This is because that information is usually at the forefront of seller's minds. A good businessperson wants all of their inventory to move and is hyper-aware of when certain items, or types of items, are not selling. As a result, this question is usually easier for dealers to answer. This year, I got a different answer from many dealers than I have in past shows, namely, almost everything they have is selling. In fact, Mohamed Jameel of Thai Gem Centre seemed stunned by this question and blurted out "Nothing is not selling!"

Once dealers got a moment to digest the question, one trend did emerge. Quite a few people noted that their tanzanites, a rare but historically popular gem that is one of the birthstones for December, have been slow to sell. Lauriane Lognay and Robert Doyle of Rippana Inc. said that demand for their tanzanite inventory is down while Naman Jain of Neon Gems observed that the specific market "is slow". 

As for what has gained popularity, Sean Byrne, a gemstone cutter who works with Bellagem noted that he has had many requests for Paraíba tourmaline. This is something that was echoed by quite a few dealers. Sam Sulimanov of Samuel Sylvio Designs went so far as to say "Paraíba is the hottest gemstone on the market today. Every designer wants a Paraíba." Mr. Sulimanov carries Paraíbas from both Mozambique and Brazil and mentioned that the Brazilian gems are rarer and tend to have higher price-per-carat values. He also said that his highest-quality stones are selling much faster than middle to low-quality gems. He explained this by saying "The economy is not so good. The rich people, however, are buying up all of the good stuff."

While there is clearly hype behind Paraíba gems, Caroline Chartouni and Kalin Korey of Caroline Collection Corp said that they have observed that the public understanding of the gem and its natural qualities is actually quite low - "People demand clean stones but don't understand that those are so rare". That being said, they noted that the expectations people have of Paraíbas have started to become more realistic. "People are starting to accept that eye-clean heated gems are good."

Another trend that was brought up frequently was that buyers are looking for gems with fun character. Malinda Daniel of Tim Roark, Inc. commented on sapphires saying that bi-colored, parti-colored, and North American teal gems are in great demand. Jeff Hapeman of Earth's Treasury who works closely with Potentate Mining, LLC agreed, saying he has seen multi-colored as well as green sapphires experience a steady increase in desirability over the last few years. 

Malinda Daniels
Example of three multi-colored sapphires that have been especially good sellers for Tim Roark Inc. © Emily Frontiere. Used with permission.

Similar to multi-colored sapphires, Lauriane Lognay and Robert Doyle told me that there has been quite a bit of interest in their multi-colored tourmaline inventory. They said that "polychromatic tourmaline is easy for designers to work with because the stone is interesting on its own. You don't need to do much, really just set it. It then sells itself."

Trends in Gemstone Pricing

Now we can address some of the current pricing trends. One that makes sense is that those highly desired Paraíbas have become very expensive. Nadheem Imamali, the managing director of Madagas Gem Co. expressed that his Paraíbas "have recently stopped selling because the prices are so high that people are not willing to pay that much."

Paraíba tourmalines are not the only gemstone that has experienced a hike in per-carat pricing. In fact, according to many, prices for high-end goods are up across the board. Steve and Rebecca Helmich of Kostbar International said "Prices are up and up and up for fine goods. Also, gold, bindings, and shipping costs have increased. However, the medium to commercial quality items remain at the same price." 

Like the Helmichs, Mehran M Basaleli of Elias & Sons Gem Company has observed high-end goods becoming more expensive while middle-to-commercial grade prices remain the same. He expressed some confusion as to why this is the case because the dollar is relatively strong right now - "You would think that goods would be affordable (for US buyers) but they are not".

Another gem that has seen a spike in value is the emerald. Jonathan J. Gad of Gad Enterprises partly blames Covid 19 for this rise in per-carat costs. "Things have become very expensive. There is a lack of Columbian emerald merchandise. Mines that closed during Covid haven't reopened. Additionally, the cost of mining has increased. The prices that went up with the pandemic have never come back down."

Rohan Agrawal, vice president of Shanu G., Inc. said "Everything has become expensive." He attributes at least some of this change to developing middle-class communities growing in Asia. Suddenly, he says, there are new communities of people with disposable income who are buying jewelry for the first time. 

Sean Byrne addressed the issue of an abrupt increase in gemstone values. He sells the inventory that he has had for a while at the old prices. However, he says that he will eventually have to purchase new material at the higher price point which will then be passed on to his customers. He has his own theory as to why costs are up, and he blames social media. Miners, he says, are seeing what retailers are selling gemstones for. These miners are then charging those per-carat prices for their raw goods, ignoring the fact that gems still need to be processed and transported to secondary dealers to achieve those higher values seen online. They also don't take into account that many dealers are willing to negotiate, and the posted values may not be what the item ultimately sells for. 

Spinel from Mahenge
This tray of lovely pink spinel from Mahenge, Tanzania are among Bellagem's inventory that have recently gained value. © Emily Frontiere. Used with permission.

Emily Frontiere

Emily Frontiere is a GIA Graduate Gemologist. She is particularly experienced working with estate/antique jewelry.

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