Category Analysis: COLORED GEMSTONES
BY TERESA NOVELLINO TNOVELLINO@NATIONALJEWELER.COM
Recession-friendly price points and the sheer number of options keep designers coming back to colored gemstones. The latest designs include checkerboard cuts, chunky pieces of rough, and luxurious mixes of varied gemstones and pearls.
Expect high prices for top
goods, watch for treatments
in lower-quality gemstones Colored gemstone jewelry is a money-maker, yielding median gross margins of 52.5 percent (better than diamonds’ 48.9 percent), finds the 2009 Jewelers of America Cost of Doing Business Report. But selling them is the trick.
Prices for ruby, sapphire and emerald in “com- mercial” and “good” quality ranges are down, and demand is fairly soft, says Stuart Robertson, research director of Glenview, Ill.-based Gemworld International, which publishes The GemGuide. But expect to pay top dollar for “fine” and “extra fine” quality grades of all three, espe- cially ruby, and to a lesser extent blue sapphire, due to the recession and lighter production in key gem areas such as Myanmar (Burmese rubies that were not here before the ban remain off-limits for U.S buyers) and Madagascar, he adds. Among the big three, emerald is most like- ly to be in better supply than in past years.
Assuming good attendance at the Tucson shows, Robertson cited blue sapphire, aquama- rine, red tourmaline, unusual agates and “virtual- ly anything that is really special” as top sellers. Overseas buyers lured by exchange rates could send prices higher, he says.
Good Morning America viewers might have been startled by a November 2009 investigative report on glass-filled rubies, but Tucson gem show regulars sure weren’t. Robertson says the glass- filling treatments are an issue in most commer- cial grade rubies and some “good” grade rubies. Some gem dealers are avoiding them altogether. Experts say that retailers must disclose to con- sumers that these inexpensive rubies need special care: household chemical exposure should be avoided, and stones must be removed for repairs.
While jewelers can easily tell a sapphire from an aquamarine, most consumers cannot. Enter an in-case display system crafted by Pacific Northern Display and the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), which debuts in Tucson and identifies gemstones by name.
AGTA has also licensed the “CIBJO Retailers Reference Guide,” a compact reference book with details on colored stones, diamonds, pearls and precious metals. It is free to AGTA members and $100 for non-members. NJ
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