Professional Jeweler Archive: Tucson Preview: Back to Basics

January 2005

Merchandise / Gemstones

Tucson Preview: Back to Basics

Scarcity of many gems will cause higher prices

by Robert Weldon, G.G.

‘I think Tucson will turn out quite well,” says analyst Stuart Robertson research director at Gemworld International, Northbrook, IL. “It will be strong for basics, befitting the mood of the country. Traditional cuts will do well, as will classic emeralds, rubies and sapphires. We’ll see a comeback for amethyst and aquamarine too. And following last year’s trend, pinks will remain popular, including sapphire, morganite and topaz.”

Prices? Scarcity will push them up for many gems. David Epstein, author of The Gem Merchant and a dealer in Teofilo Otoni, Brazil, says imperial topaz prices are skyrocketing because some mines in Brazil are closed temporarily. Prices are up considerably for andalusite, amethyst and citrine. Epstein says a new find of amethyst in Tres Barras, Minas Gerais, Brazil, will help to stabilize prices this year.

“It will be a strong year for peridot,” says Bill Barker of Barker & Co., Scottsdale, AZ. “Fashion trends will favor green gems in the spring.” Barker also points to a new amethyst and citrine mine in Namibia and says 2005 is shaping up to be a good year for quartz (see preceding article).

Dealers say a global shortage of gem rough – from amethyst to zoisite – has affected cutting centers and retailers and caused higher prices. “There’s not much to choose from in Bangkok, Thailand’s cutting center,” laments gem dealer Bear Williams of Bear Essentials, Jefferson City, MO. “Australian opal is also very scarce.”

Prices are up also for tanzanite, sapphire (all colors) and red spinel. “There is a noticeable demand for spinel in Europe, particularly Switzerland,” says Robertson. “It suggests people are demanding untreated gems.”

Retailers who go to Tucson for pink sapphires may return home blue. A consumer feeding frenzy ate into supplies and nearly doubled prices in the past two years just as production slowed to a trickle. In fact, miners are trying to buy back pink rough from anyone who stockpiled it, paying double or triple what they sold it for, says Yianni Melas, a consultant in New York City.

Melas, like Barker, foresees a turn toward green, lifting demand for garnet, peridot, tourmaline and emerald. For dealers, this is good news, since green is the color of hope, rebirth – and money.

Major Tucson gem shows are in the first two weeks of February. For individual show dates, visit www.professional and click on Calendar.

All Photos by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Green gems are expected to be popular this year. This tsavorite garnet is courtesy of Barker & Co., Scottsdale, AZ.
Pink sapphires like this one from Sri Lanka will remain in strong demand despite shortages of rough. Gem courtesy of Kris Gems, New York City.
Amethysts are poised for growth. This one was cut by David Brackna of Germantown, MD.

Copyright © 2005 by Bond Communications