Gemstones & Pearls:News
FIVE POPULAR GEMS
How Thailand's economic crisis may affect supply
Supplies of gems traded in Bangkok are taking a dip because of domestic
and regional economic turmoil. Depending on how the region fares through
this crisis, the cutting, trading and pricing of some popular gems may be
affected in the U.S. A Professional Jeweler poll of gemstone dealers
elicited the following results:
- by Robert Weldon, G.G.
Top-grade ruby supplies have ceased, a trend that may continue as buyers
from the Far East continue to curtail buying. For these gems, price increases
of 80% to 100% have been reported. Heavily treated commercial rubies from
Mong Hsu are still trading in Mae-Sai, along the Myanmar-Thai border. Observers
say prices are flexible, given the softening of demand for ruby in the U.S.
Demand is up for all qualities, say gem dealers. While blue sapphires are
their own category, all colors are popular. There will be a gradual price
increase through the year as world producers in Africa, Australia, Madagascar
and other sources reduce production, they say. Small commercial goods have
Only extremely fine emeralds are holding their prices, say dealers. Emeralds
are not usually cut in the Far East, so the effect of economic conditions
on price is oblique. Reports indicate a softening of demand in Asia and
elsewhere, even before Thailand's economic crisis. Prices for good-to-commercial
emeralds may follow a downward trend. The Colombian-sponsored Emerald Congress
in February in Bogota focused on solutions to emerald's problems, but some
dealers expect prices to soften further throughout the year. Others predict
a three- to five-year turnaround.
An oversupply, not the economy in Asia, curtailed production of tanzanite
in mid-1997. The oversupply was particularly in small and commercial qualities.
The crisis did cement the halt in production. Dealers say prices have gone
up 40% to 50% for fine goods and that prices are stable for small, commercial
qualities because much is still available on the market.
The Thai economic crisis should not affect supplies of tourmaline, many
of which are cut outside of Thailand. Prices should remain stable for bluish,
greenish and reddish stones. Cutting of these gems may reach new highs in
source countries such as Brazil, and material will be rerouted to emerging
All photos by Robert Weldon
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.