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Articles from FASHION JEWELLERY (266 Articles), GEMSTONES - LOOSE (254 Articles)

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Size matters... more

As supply tightens, shades are less important than sizes in determining the direction of gemstone jewellery in 2008. TALI BOROWSKI reports.

Marilyn Monroe might have convinced generations of consumers that diamonds are a girl's best friend, but perhaps she didn't consider all of the gloriously-coloured gemstones to choose from.

An increased interest in fashion jewellery, plus a desire for a distinctive and unique piece, has escalated coloured stones to the forefront of consumers' minds - a trend that is set to continue in in 2008 - when anything goes. Nominating a dominant colour for gems this season is a little problematic. As Terry Coldham of gemstone distributor Sapphex explains: "There's no specific interest in any group; we're finding it's a wide variety of different coloured stones."

Last year, blue was big and green was grand, with pinks, reds and even yellows popular across the board. Aquamarines also held their position as a strong seller, with sapphires, rubies and citrines not far behind.

Luigi Tancredi of Tancredi Jewellers believes it to be a matter of timing in deciphering what colours are going to hit their mark with consumers.

"It depends on the time of year. What we've found is that, during the summertime, it's more blue stones and when it's winter, it's more amethyst because it's a warmer colour."

"I think towards the end of the year and certainly the start of this one, blue seems to be right back in there at top billing," agrees Jenny Elliot from Queensland sapphire distributor Coolamon Mining.

Joseph Akelian of Raphael Jewellers says sapphire is top with his customers because of its affordability and durability.

"You have beautiful longevity of the stone, and in terms of sheer beauty, they're classics."

Last year also brought a rise in adornment, and coloured stones were certainly not immune from that trend.

"Quite a lot of pavé around the stone was fashionable," Akelian says. "But I think this year it's going towards more simple, classic lines."

Yet while dainty elegance is emerging as a dominant style in jewellery design as the year continues, partly because of the ever-rising gold price, retailers shouldn't expect gemstones to follow meekly. The demand for large sizes shows no signs of abating. "It does seem that large, chunky solitaire rings have become fashionable," adds Peter Wolf from wholesaler Alija International. "Large and colourful is back in and it has been increasing in size each year for the last two or three years."

Such a trend is creating some challenges across the board as the search for such stones pushes up the cost of manufacture.

"We're getting a lot of shops asking for quite large stones and they're just not cost-effective," says David Phillips, owner of jewellery manufacturer Bentley de Lisle. "We're finding that every time we're quoting on bigger stones, we're scaring them."

In some cases, created or synthetic stones are being used to satisfy this consumer trend, but it's an option many manufacturers are wary of considering seriously. And as Phillips points out, natural stones are now even more highly sought as the deluge of synthetics onto the market continues.

"One of the things we have found is that people are looking for natural stones, preferably that haven't been tampered with at all," adds Elliot.

To supplement this, the industry is making use of gems such as onyx, which offer quality and durability at a lower cost of manufacture.

"People are after large, simple pieces with stones in the middle and you just can't do that anymore because it's just not cost effective," Phillips says, "but we can start doing larger pieces in onyx because it's not expensive. Besides, onyx got very popular towards the end of last year."

Interestingly, as the cost of larger stones rises, the target market is shifting to older, financially-independent consumers - something that may perhaps start influencing the future style of gem-set pieces.

"There's some idea that the 20 to 25 year olds have a disposable income, but at this price point, you'll still be looking at the 40-somethings that can really afford to purchase them," says Ben Morrow from Opals Australia, explaining that the baby boomers continue to spend the most money on opals despite some penetration into the younger demographic last year.

"A lot of the coloured stone items are usually demanded by middle-aged couples," Akelian agrees. "They've gone through the engagement ring, the wedding ring, the eternity ring, and are now onto coloured stones."

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And forget about men being anything more than gemstone gift-givers.

"Men usually love Australian sapphires because you can get nice green, native blue colours within the jewellery," Akelian adds, "but typically, men more enjoy purchasing for women."

It's an opinion held by Tancredi also: "In Europe, coloured stones do very well for men," he says, "but here, it may happen in the long term but not in the next three years."

This three years is roughly the time span Morrow believes it takes an overseas trend to filter through to an Australian audience.

"We were producing coloured stones with opals three or four years ago and they were selling really well overseas because that's the kind of style that was hot at the time," he says, "but we got a lukewarm reception in Australia."

Paula Keshett from retailer Keshett Jewellers believes that Australians are a lot more conservative than their European counterparts, adding that "they're followers, not trendsetters."

Peter Wolf partly attributes Australia's reluctance to readily accept overseas gemstone trends to a lack of education on new gems, citing tourmaline as an example: "When it was a popular stone across Europe and America, Australians took a while to adjust to it mainly because the public didn't know what the stone was."

As for the argument that Australians are generally more conservative than their European counterparts, Akelian argues that cost often determines choice, and that fashion doesn't come into the equation at all.

"When someone is spending thousands of dollars on a piece, they don't want it to have anything to do with fashion," he argues. "They want it to be timeless - something they can wear and enjoy 20 years down the track."

So while television, magazines and celebrity style might offer insights into hot colours and cuts, shopping for gemstones remains a process ruled more by size (cost) than shape and shade.

"The prevailing economics have a tremendous bearing on what we sell," Elliot says. "It probably doesn't have a lot of bearing on what colours anyone's interested in buying, but it certainly has a bearing on what sizes they buy."

Akelian goes a step further, throwing forward the theory that gemstone sales by colour are less influenced by short-term trends and simply a question of preference. "It would be rare for someone to choose a coloured gemstone base on the season's fashion," he says. "People are choosing colours that they absolutely love."

Whether this is the case is tricky to gauge. Certainly, fashion editors continue to make predictions - if one were to look at recent fashion trends, one would see that rubies and amethyst are going to be the stones that sizzle in 2008. As for size, big stones will always sell, but their shortness of supply and escalating cost probably means that smaller stones will be used to adorn simpler styles.

But whatever the case may be, coloured stone is certainly here to stay - helped by the cheaper accessibility of diamonds.

"A diamond is a diamond but a coloured stone is more eye-catching," Keshett says. "It's something different."

"Diamonds were the biggest event but now they have become cheaper," Wolf adds. "In a lot of cases, independent jewellers have lost their margin and their salvation possibly is more fashion-oriented jewellery, and particularly coloured-stone jewellery."

So while gemstones may never reach the dizzying heights of diamonds and gold, they can provide a positive alternative market. And what can be wrong with adding a bit of colour to your world?

Caring for coloured stones

• Have jewellery checked and cleaned once every six to 12 months by a professional jeweller.

• Be aware of pieces when wearing them. Coloured stones have varying degrees of hardness and can scratch, or chip, with hard wear. When doing household tasks, be certain to remove rings that may chip the gemstones.

• When not wearing coloured stone pieces, store them safely in a jewellery box.

• Many gemstones can fade in sunlight, so store jewellery away from the sun.










ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tali Borowski
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Monday, 21 October, 2019 08:08am
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