Some non-traditional gems have increased in popularity among consumers in the past 12-15 months, and each one presents a sales opportunity for the jewelers who promote them. Examples include blue chalcedony, chrysoprase, milky aquamarine, morganite, pale pink tourmaline, lighter shades of tanzanite and fancy-color sapphire.
Icy pastel gems work beautifully with silver, white gold and platinum, particularly in pale pinks, blues and lavenders, says Mary Ann Camp, G.G., buyer and inventory controller for Manns Jewelers in Rochester, NY. Theyre very neutral and go well with a variety of fashions for all seasons. They are casual yet elegant, making them great for day- and eveningwear.
Among the growing legion of designers who have embraced these cool-tone gems are David Yurman, Alex Sepkus and Richard Palermo for Color Craft, all in New York City, and Nancy B. & Co., Culver City, CA. A leader in bringing blue chalcedony to the forefront, David Yurman keeps this dreamy opalescent gem before consumers in national magazine ads for his Blue Ice and new Quatrefoil Cable collections.
Yurman was first inspired to use this ghostly blue stone four years ago while viewing the Duchess of Windsors collection of blue chalcedony bracelets. He says its subtle shades were intuitive of the times and that they complement the mood and temperament of todays fashion as well.
According to Camp, Yurmans Blue Ice Collection in sterling silver is a winner. Camp also raves about Alex Sepkus, who designs a high-end line featuring milky aquamarine briolettes accented with diamonds set in platinum. Im seeing a lot more icy pastel gems done in briolettes; theyre coming back in fashion, she says.
Also big on milky aqua is Nancy B. & Co. According to David St. Clair, director of product development, Nancy B. ventured into softer colored gems with milky aqua, probably the companys strongest pastel. Its a lower-quality material that was really never used in better designs until people started to realize how beautiful it could be. Its more opaque and often has more inclusions, giving the illusion of clouds within the stone. Because the price per carat is lower than fine aqua, were able to use larger stones to create a more relaxed, casual and affordable piece of jewelry.
Nancy B. also features blue chalcedony, soft pink tourmaline and chrysoprase, especially in buff-top cabochons. Rings sell the best in these pastel gems, followed by pendants and earrings, says St. Clair. We started using these pastel and opaque gems in response to customers requests for new colors. Its challenging when working in gems for production lines to come up with something new thats available in a steady supply of calibrated sizes at a certain price level. Weve been able to provide that with this lineup.
In addition to blue chalcedony, milky aqua and pink tourmaline, Richard Palermo of Color Craft has embraced lighter shades of fancy-color sapphires, particularly pinks and yellows. Weve had a great response to mixing fancy colors with Ceylon blue in a flower motif for bracelets, pendants and earrings, he says. Its very soft and feminine.
Palermo also does well with multiple strands of large tumbled opaque quartz and aqua beads, as well as lighter shades of blue topaz, tanzanite and amethyst.
According to Jeff Johnson, president of The Diamond Cellar in Columbus, OH, cool-tone gems are a big hit because of the fashionable colors and because consumers are more sophisticated about whats on the market. National advertising by popular designers such as Yurman and gem programming by major television shopping networks has helped to educate consumers, he says. But it behooves a gem-savvy retailer to provide a strong assortment of pastel gems in the showcase to pique customer interest.
Once youve got their interest, you can really romance the beauty of these stones, says Johnson. You cant talk about milky aqua in technical terms because its real beauty is in its color and how that lends itself to the overall design.
by Deborah Yonick