gem trends - Pacific braceletgem trends - Pacific bracelet

Gem Trends 2018: Ultra Violet Gems and More

What will 2018 bring to the world of gems and jewelry? Learn about the latest gem trends — everything from colors, designs, and settings to the newest gemstone discoveries making a splash with consumers.

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What will 2018 bring to the world of gems and jewelry? Learn about the latest gem trends — everything from colors, designs, and settings to the newest gemstone discoveries making a splash with consumers.
gem trends - Pacific bracelet
Sterling silver cuff with black rhodium, tanzanites, and created white sapphires. © Kukka Designs. Used with permission.

Pantone's 2018 Color of the Year: Ultra Violet

The Pantone Color Institute, the foremost authority on color and branding, has declared Pantone 18-3838 Ultra Violet the 2018 color of the year. According to Pantone, its annual color choice doesn't simply reflect "what's trending." Rather, it reflects what the world needs.

Ultra Violet taps into purple and blue's traditional associations with the mystical and celestial as well as more modern associations with unconventional artists such as Prince and Jimi Hendrix. With both historical weight and bold vision, this year's color choice will surely influence fashion and design, including jewelry.

This year's Ultra Violet-inspired jewelry will likely feature the following gemstones.


Amethyst, the February birthstone, is the violet to reddish-purple quartz variety. Popular since ancient times, amethyst was once favored by royalty and ranked with rubies and emeralds in value. Fortunately, an increased supply has made it much more affordable for today's consumers.

Violet amethyst is common and therefore cheaper. On the other hand, the rarer reddish-purple amethyst commands higher prices. However, either color choice can make a beautiful jewelry stone. Amethyst's rich range of color and affordability make it a versatile gem for design.

amethyst necklace
11.07-ct amethyst set in 14k gold with black steel chain. © Urth Kandi Jewelry. Used with permission.


Discovered in 1967, tanzanite, the violet to violetish-blue variety of zoisite, is found only in its namesake country, Tanzania. Tiffany's promotion of tanzanite rapidly made it popular, both as an affordable sapphire substitute and a lovely stone in its own right.

Tanzanite's hardness of 6-7, slightly lower than amethyst's, makes it more suitable for earrings and necklaces than rings. Nevertheless, its vivid colors guarantee it a wide fan following. Tanzanite is also many times rarer than diamond!

4.46-ct curved trilliant tanzanite. © Artinian Gems. Used with permission.


The violet-blue hues of sapphire are the most well known and highly prized. However, pure violet hues can also make stunning jewelry stones. Although violet sapphire may sometimes resemble amethyst in color, it has greater hardness and brilliance. Furthermore, its price far exceeds that of amethyst.

Violet-hued sapphires are not far behind pure blues in price. Some sapphire gems can also demonstrate color change, from violet in white light to reddish violet under incandescent light.

purple sapphire
2.10-ct brilliant pear sapphire. © Artinian Gems. Used with permission.

Grape Garnet

Grape garnet, a rich reddish-purple rhodolite, was discovered in 2015 in Mozambique. These gems have a lusciousness that makes them a joy to behold, especially when red sparkles pierce through the purple.

Unlike most gemstones, these garnets show intense colors even in small sizes. Conversely, in larger sizes, grape garnets are less saturated.

grape garnet
Brilliant oval grape garnet. © Artinian Gems. Used with permission.

Swarovski's Gem Visions 2018

Swarovski's 2018 edition of Gem Visions draws its inspiration from the wunderkammer. In these "cabinets of wonders," Renaissance collectors kept unique specimens of art and science. The Gem Visions catalog is like a wunderkammer itself!

Swarovski predicts three major design directions: Naturalia, Mirabilia, and Artificialia.

  • Naturalia designs draw inspiration from the natural world.
  • Mirabilia designs include bold looks that emphasize both uniqueness and community.
  • Artificialia designs value sleek, modern streamlining.

Naturalia: Water, Earth, and Flora

Some of the motifs for water-inspired designs include limpid gems, negative spaces, and fluid metal contrasted with pavé settings. Paraíba tourmaline and aquamarine, especially teardrop shapes, make great gem choices for these designs. Swarovski even invented a new gem cut, with a cabbed domed top and faceted bottom, to mimic water.

  • gem trends - reversible opal earrings, front
  • gem trends - reversible opal earrings. back
  • gem trends - reversible opal earrings, studs

    Transformable reversible earrings made with opal, paraíba tourmaline, and diamonds. Photo by Sara Rey photography. © Lindsay Jane Designs. Used with permission.

    Expect lush and tangled jewelry inspired by forests, with off-greens and browns as the basic palette.

    smoky quartz ring
    Smoky quartz ring with hand-fabricated sterling silver. © Niki Grandics, Enji Designs. Used with permission.

    Popular gems perfect for Naturalia include affordable earth-toned citrine and topaz. Designs that mimic leaves and flowers are classics. Expect to see them re-envisioned with new twists inspired by 2018's gem trends.

    Organic and abstract shapes paired with earth tones are also popular. Look for champagne hues that evoke the desert as well as carved stones that conjure the primordial and alien. These are just some of the ways gems are being used to express nature.

    obsydian pendant
    "Obsydian Pendant," 18k yellow gold-plated sterling silver with black rhodium and brown and champagne cubic zirconia (CZ). © Kukka Designs. Used with permission.

    Mirabilia: Individuality and Storytelling

    The current emphasis on global community finds an outlet in layered jewelry and stacked rings. Jewelry of different textures and colors come together to create a striking effect.

    stacked bracelets
    A mix of antique and contemporary statement bracelets. Those on the left are made from gold, brass, and bronze. Those on the right, from sterling silver. Photo courtesy of shopesqueleto.

    There is also a renewed emphasis on the process or story behind the jewelry. For example, consumers love pieces that acquire patina from being worn as well as transformable jewels. Old items are being worn in new ways. Ethnic jewelry utilizing different patterns and textures of metals is also in style.

    Thai Zen jewelry collection
    18k yellow gold-plated sterling silver with black rhodium, fancy CZ, and created white sapphires. © Kukka Designs. Used with permission

    Asymmetry, natural matrix, and cracks in gemstones fit just perfectly into the Mirabilia trend. The emphasis is on imperfection. Another focus is reinvention. Consumers eagerly seek revamped antique pieces. Chokers, hoop earrings, and signet rings with modern touches are becoming more popular. Jewelry enthusiasts are finding new uses for grandma's vintage diamonds.

    chunky rings
    Cast bronze chunky rings set with white diamonds by artist Nan Collymore. Photo courtesy of shopesqueleto.

    More and more, customers look for jewelry that stands out and tells a story. Combining bold colors like deep red, rose, caramel, violet, and black with attractive asymmetry and mosaic designs, Mirabilia is perfect for bold statement jewelry.

    red rings
    A mix of antique and contemporary stackable rings featuring rubies and diamonds set in gold. Photo courtesy of shopesqueleto.

    Artificialia: Celebrating Craftsmanship and Sleek Design

    This trend celebrates humankind's mastery over the natural world. Negative space and simplicity dominate, creating a feeling of something complex being stripped down to the basics.

    slice earrings
    Slice earrings made from hand-fabricated sterling silver and black tourmaline. © Niki Grandics, Enji Designs. Used with permission.

    Clean, 2D lines that look like blueprints can manifest themselves in jewelry in surprising ways. For example, you can see them in open rings, ear cuffs, ear crawlers, earring jackets, and delicate body jewelry that lie close to the skin like tattoos.

    gem trends - Hana ring
    "Hana Ring," recycled sterling silver ring set with three fair-mined Canadian diamonds. © Niki Grandics, Enji Designs. Used with permission.

    Surrealist motifs including body parts are also popular, as are gems with unusual hues such as teal, mandarin orange, and gray.

    gem trends - Emel earrings
    2" long Emel earrings in 14k recycled gold with raw quartz crystals. © Niki Grandics, Enji Designs. Used with permission.

    Engagement Ring Trends

    The most-watched ring of the year is perhaps the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engagement ring. It features a cushion-shaped center diamond flanked by two smaller round brilliants. Both the style and the story of the ring serve as good indicators of what younger couples look for in their jewelry.

    Like Princess Kate's engagement ring (perhaps the most famous engagement ring in the world), Meghan Markle's ring contains stones that belonged to Princess Diana. Prince Harry chose the two round brilliants from Princess Diana's collection.

    Diamonds, especially round brilliants, may look more or less the same. However, in this instance, it's the heart that counts. To the royal couple, the ring symbolizes Princess Diana's love and blessing. The center stone, a large cushion-cut diamond, is from Botswana, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle first vacationed together. Thus, this seamless, custom-designed trinity of stones honors family tradition and highlights the couple's history and identity, too.

    gem trends - emerald and cubic zirconia engagement ring
    Engagement ring in 10k yellow gold, set with emerald-cut colorless CZ center stone flanked by two radiant cut pink CZs. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

    General Jewelry and Gem Trends

    "Everyday Stones"

    Due to expert marketing, rough and unusually colored gems have found their way to curious buyers. Of course, the marketing changes with the times. For example, the past few decades saw the rise of "champagne diamonds" with yellow-brown color. Nowadays, descriptors like "champagne" — which capture the old-school love of high-living and luxury — may be making way for "blueberry," "denim," and "strawberry" stones. Such names suggest summer picnics rather than black-tie affairs.

    "Blueberry" and "denim" sapphires and "strawberry" rubies have less saturated colors than coveted Kashmir sapphires or Burmese rubies. Thus, they have more affordable prices, which match their more versatile, down-to-earth, everyday image.

    Bezel Settings

    Keeping with the "everyday" trend, bezel settings are having a resurgence. Not only do these secure settings prevent snagging, they have an appealing, snug smoothness. They make cool, no-nonsense settings for jewelry.

    gem trends - ring with bezel setting
    Diamond, bezel set in 18k white gold from Jens Hansen Gold and Silversmith. Photo by theoneringmaker. Licensed under CC By-SA 3.0.

    Boyfriend Rings

    Just as boyfriend jeans have become a trend, boyfriend rings are now in vogue. Women who want to go with this laid-back look may snap up these bold, masculine-inspired pieces.

    gem trends - boyfriend ring
    Sterling silver ring with oxide patina and white rhodium. © Kukka Designs. Used with permission.

    Cushions, Ovals and Pears

    Softer than princess cuts and more unique than rounds, cushions are on the rise. Developed from Old Mine cuts, they have a vintage feel but are also adaptable to modern settings.

    gem trends - cushion garnet
    Rockefeller engagement ring with cushion-cut garnet center stone and a double halo of round diamonds accented by baguette diamonds. © Heidi Gibson Designs. Used with permission.

    Regaining popularity, ovals make elegant alternatives to the round. They elongate the wearer's hand and have a wonderful, classic look.

    The gem cut for trendy brides, pears can be worn either vertically for a semi-traditional look or tilted for an edgy look. Designers can mix and match fancy shapes to create edgy outlines or freshen up three-stone rings that have traditionally used round brilliants.

    gem trends - pear cut
    14k Rhapsody rose gold engagement ring with 2-ct, pear-shaped center diamond and a non-traditional halo of round and baguette side stones. © Heidi Gibson Designs. Used with permission.

    Rose Gold

    This gold and copper alloy has taken the jewelry world by storm. Soft and feminine, it gives a warm undertone to diamond jewelry and makes colored stones pop. Petite center gems set in rose gold are a bohemian engagement ring must.

    gem trends - rose gold and pearl ring
    Hammered rose gold ring with pink freshwater pearl, diamonds, and pink sapphire. © Urth Kandi Jewelry. Used with permission.

    Wedding Bands

    Designers now create engagement rings with wedding bands in mind. For example, contemporary wedding bands can stack snugly next to the engagement ring or form a halo or half-halo around the engagement ring stone.

    Gemstones to Watch

    Colored gemstone engagement rings are increasingly popular. In 2018, some recent discoveries are gaining the attention of jewelry and gem loves.


    A translucent, turquoise-colored variety of chalcedony, aquaprase™ suits ocean-themed designs perfectly. Its white and tan rippling effect, formed from white druzy crystals and iron oxide, resembles sand and ocean foam or mist. With high luster and serene colors, each aquaprase™ looks like an aerial view of a Caribbean island.

    Discovered in Africa in 2015, this exciting new find has been purchased by designers like David Yurman. Aquaprase™ will surely feature in many exciting collections to come.

    gem trends - aquaprase
    Two aquaprase™ cabochons with iron oxide and white, cloud-like inclusions. © Urth Kandi Jewelry. Used with permission.

    Gold Sheen Sapphire

    Discovered in Kenya in 2009, gold sheen or "Zawadi" sapphire resembles wood, with grain-like stripes and a golden-brown shimmer. Each stone appears different, and some even demonstrate the interesting hexagonal growth typical of sapphires. Some gold sheen sapphires have blue and yellow stripes, making them look like bold abstract paintings. These unusual sapphires will make unique jewelry pieces sure to pop in an everyday ensemble.

    gem trends - gold sheen sapphire
    Gold sheen™ sapphire earrings hand fabricated in 18k yellow gold and edged with champagne diamond slices. © Brenda Smith Designs. Used with permission.

    Ethiopian Emerald

    Ethiopia produces a variety of gems. In 2016, it also became a major source of emeralds with the discovery of a new deposit. Since then, Ethiopia has produced more than 500,000 carats of this gem.

    Gem-quality Ethiopian emerald crystals have a vivid mint to medium-green color. Often, these crystals are clear enough that they don't require oil treatment. Ethiopian emeralds also come in large sizes, averaging three carats. In quality and price, these emeralds are comparable to Brazilian and Zambian material.

    gem trends - Ethiopian emerald
    1.48-ct untreated Ethiopian emerald in a custom radiant rectangle design. Jeffrey R. Hapeman, gem cutter. © Earth's Treasury. Used with permission.


    So, what does the overall 2018 gem forecast look like?

    • An appreciation of the past with modern twists.
    • A celebration of what we have now through re-creations of nature.
    • A exploration of the future that launches full speed into convention-defying shapes and materials.

    It also looks like some pretty awesome jewelry.

    Phoebe Shang, GG

    A gem lover and writer, Phoebe holds a graduate gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America and masters in writing from Columbia University. She got her start in gemology translating and editing Colored Stone and Mineral Highlights for a professor based in Shanghai. Whether in LA, Taipei, or New York, Phoebe spends her time searching for gems to design and being lost in good books.

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