Gemstones & Pearls: News
Fashion & Supply Converge
Fashion's embrace of color and a plentiful supply of gemstones
should mean big business at the February gem shows in Tucson.
Our preview points to big interest in orange and red
To get a handle on your Tucson experience, take a peek at
what gems were produced in the months before the February festival.
This year, that means oranges and reds.
Stocks of spectacular rubellite tourmaline and vibrant spessartite
garnet, both from new finds in Nigeria, will be plentiful. The
color ranges seen in both gems and the (so-far) moderate prices
will provide retailers and designers with new possibilities.
The warm tones of other gemstones, including ruby and pink sapphire,
will contribute to the excitement.
And don't forget the blues, purples and greens that were so
popular throughout 1999. Be prepared for better prices and continuing
consumer interest in green and blue tourmaline, blue sapphire
and tsavorite garnet.
A more optimistic outlook for the world's major economies
especially the recovery under way in Asia
plus the embrace of color by the fashion world could bring more
buyers to Tucson this year. This growth in demand might even
signal the end of color's slump. Israel Eliezri, president of
the International Colored Gemstone Association, calls it the
beginning of a healthier climate for gemstones. He predicts not
only an acceleration in demand but also an increase in production
across a wide selection of gemstones.
On this and the following page, take a closer look at some
of the gemstones you'll see at the Tucson shows this February.
There are three sure bets for good business in the gemstone
Rubellite Tourmaline: Look for bright pink, clean gems
in the 5-10-ct. range. Prices are still moderate, having dropped
some 40% since last year. "The exact source is hard to pin
down; it's in the middle of nowhere, but apparently it's not
far from the area where alluvial tourmalines were once found
in Ogbomosho, Nigeria," says Bill Larson of Pala International,
Fallbrook, CA. (Alluvial deposits are created by wind or water
and are easier to recover than deposits deeper in the earth.)
In early October 1999, there was word that large quantities
of Nigerian rubellite were being faceted in Bangkok, Thailand.
The wholesale price range for cut gems is expected to range from
$18-$50 per carat for lower quality, small sizes to $200-$300
per carat for top-quality rubellite. As with the Ogbomosho find,
this surface deposit seems played out already.
Spessartite Garnet: This intense bright yellow and
orange gemstone will be available at moderate prices. It comes
from the same general location as the rubellite, suggesting the
area is gemologically rich, says Bill Barker of Barker &
Co., Scottsdale, AZ, who has acquired strong positions in both
gems. Barker and other dealers who have seen the garnet compare
it to some of that mined in Namibia and call it "pumpkin"
orange. Prices for 2-5-ct. gems of high quality are about $250
per carat; 5-10-ct. gems fetch about $400 per carat.
Ruby & Sapphire: Rubies continue to sell well,
particularly finer qualities. New sources in the Mogok area of
Myanmar are keeping supplies steady for fine qualities; commercial
quality production is strong also. Meanwhile, pink and blue sapphires
are being produced in quantity in Madagascar.
Three gemstones are poised to hit the market with good prices
supported by steady production.
Topaz: "Precious topaz has seen an accelerated
pace of production" says David Epstein, a gem dealer in
Teofilo Otoni, Minas Gerais, Brazil. As a result, he says, prices
have dropped 40%-50%. Retailers can expect better qualities and
finer selection of precious topaz at Tucson and in the months
ahead, he says. Yellow to light-sherry topaz in the 2-5-ct. range
is $18-$280 per carat. Finer gems range between $550-$1,800 per
Tsavorite: Good production in Kenya and a new source
in Tanzania have brought a wider selection of tsavorite to market
than seen in more than 10 years. Prices for smaller gems and
commercial qualities have dropped. Prices for finer and larger
qualities appear to have increased slightly, dealers say. Even
though tsavorite is more plentiful, it remains a rare gem so
prices range from $350 to $2,500 per carat, depending on size
and color (anything over 3 carats is considered rare).
Fire Opal: A Brazilian source of fire opal once considered
only alluvial has now gone underground. Producers expect rough
and cut goods on the streets in the gem trading center of Teofilo
Otoni, but some will find its way to Tucson in February. Prices
will be $15-$65 per carat, depending on quality.
Wait and See
High prices, languishing production and elusive supply may
cause you to tread lightly around three gemstones, though you
shouldn't rule them out completely.
Tanzanite: "Prices are way up and supplies are
way down, especially for calibrated sizes of tanzanite,"
says Dana Schorr of Schorr Marketing & Sales, Santa Barbara,
CA. Prices have eclipsed the $500-per-ct. benchmark and seem
to be edging higher for fine qualities. Other dealers say this
has strengthened the market for blue sapphires. "Buyers
don't want to pay so much for tanzanite and are opting for blue
sapphire, which is readily available and a lot more durable,"
says Jacqui Grande of Radiance International, San Diego, CA.
Emerald: Prices remain soft and production is languishing.
Some buyers have taken advantage of the bargain prices. Dealers
say demand for emeralds at the consumer level remains robust,
making it a particularly good buy right now. But some retailers
continue to shun emeralds because of continuing confusion and
concern about enhancements.
Paraíba Tourmaline: Rumors continue to surface
about new finds at the tourmaline mine in Sao Jose da Batalha,
Paraíba, Brazil. Observers say sustained production remains
unlikely, though occasional pockets may be uncovered. Prices
for the elusive electric blue Paraíba tourmaline remain
stratospheric. Good colors larger than 5 carats are more than
$10,000 per carat.
by Robert Weldon, G.G.
||High-quality Nigerian rubellite tourmaline (the
pink and red gems) and spessartite garnet (yellow and orange)
have entered the market in large quantities at moderate prices.
Gems are courtesy of Mayer & Watt, Maysville, KY, and Stephen
M. Avery, Lakewood, CO.
|Heavy production of blue and pink sapphires in
Madagascar and Sri Lanka has kept prices for high qualities stable.
In fact, some buyers are choosing blue sapphire rather than tanzanite,
production of which has been much slower. Gems are courtesy of
Radiance International, La Jolla, CA.
||Tsavorite, more abundant than ever, provides
the market with an alternative to emeralds. Gem is courtesy of
The Tsavorite Factory, New York City.
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.