Professional Jeweler Archive: Pinking Up

May 2000

Gemstones & Pearls/News

Pinking Up

Supply and fashion trends propel sales of pink sapphire from Madagascar

Ideally, fashion trends and gem supplies would synchronize to keep each other in constant business. It doesn’t always work that way. Right now, though, abundant pink sapphire supplies dovetail with apparel color trends for spring and summer.

“Pink sapphires are the story in Madagascar,” says Tom Cushman of Allerton Cushman & Co., Sun Valley, ID. “It’s just mind-boggling how much pink sapphire I’ve seen in recent months. Kilos upon kilos of material in sacks, ready to be cut.”

Cushman, who travels to Madagascar several times a year, says the windfall is astounding. “We’ll see a lot of nice center stones under 3 carats and sorted, calibrated goods very, very soon.”

Prices for commercial and good-quality calibrated pink sapphires have fallen 10%-15%. “Most material we see is in the $100-per-carat wholesale range,” says Omi Nagpal of Omi Gems Inc., Los Angeles, CA. “Five hundred dollars a carat for gems larger than 3 carats is already considered high for nice pink sapphires. In calibrated goods, the prices are often equal to, or better than, those of tanzanite.” Nagpal says he gets 200-500-piece orders from manufacturers, suggesting large retailers may have already taken positions in pink sapphires. “I would not be surprised to see J.C. Penney, QVC or other large retailers carrying pink sapphires very soon,” he says.

Madagascar vs. Sri Lanka

Historically, Sri Lanka set the standard, having produced large, exceptionally clean and “bubble-gum pink” sapphires in the past. Some Sri Lankan pink sapphires are still found, but gem dealers say the country is beginning to dry up as a major source. The major sapphire buyers in Madagascar are Sri Lankan, say observers, because they’re already accustomed to the product and the market. Sri Lankan buyers say that for now, Madagascar rough tends to be flatter, so it’s less conducive to cutting large stones but excellent for smaller, calibrated sizes. Dealers caution pink sapphires represented as Sri Lankan could be from Madagascar.

Sources Matter

Be careful, because pink sapphires that can be confirmed as Sri Lankan may command higher prices if the size, color and quality is good. Prices for such large, top-quality gems have at least maintained – and sometimes even increased – in value. “We’ve seen a firming up of prices in the 5-10-ct. range,” says Stuart Robertson of The Guide, a pricing guide based in Northbrook, IL. “In top qualities, $1,500-$2,000 per carat [wholesale] is not uncommon.” Prices for Madagascar material may begin to rise soon so now is the time to buy.

This is happening just in time for spring fashions, says Judy Mayfield of Mayfield’s Inc., Scottsdale, AZ. Omi Nagpal agrees. “Pastel colors are truly in fashion again. Pink sapphire will benefit greatly from the trend toward these colors,” he says.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Pink sapphires from Madagascar are in plentiful supply and prices are as reasonable as they’ve ever been. Gems are courtesy of Allerton Cushman & Co., Sun Valley, ID; (208) 726-3675.
Prices of fine, large pink sapphires from Sri Lanka, like these two, have firmed up or increased. Gems are courtesy of Radiance International, San Diego, CA; (858) 558-3320.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications