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Articles from GEMSTONES - EMERALD (20 Articles)

International Colored Gemstone Association
International Colored Gemstone Association

Packing a colourful gemstone punch

In a difficult climate, coloured gemstones are offering jewellers an opportunity to stand out. EMILY MOBBS investigates current market trends for this colourful sector.

In June this year, one rather large emerald caught the world’s attention. The 18.04-carat Columbian emerald sold at a Christie’s auction for a whopping US$5.5 million (AU$7.2 m).

Predictably, the media went wild, partly because the emerald had a back story made for news: it was once owned by the American Rockefeller family dynasty and purchased by Harry Winston at auction. Harry Winston’s CEO Nayla Hayek even threw in a media-friendly sound bite as an instruction to her chief financial officer who was bidding for the piece.

“Bring this magnificent gem home at any price,” Hayek said.

Few jewellers or consumers have the budgets of Harry Winston; however, such hype is helping to raise awareness of coloured gemstones. This, in turn, is fanning interest down the supply chain.

Lawson Gems
Lawson Gems
Lawson Gems
Lawson Gems

International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA) executive director Gary Roskin says rare coloured gemstones on the world auction stage will always attract attention.

Consequently, this increases demand at the consumer level for gemstones of similar colour, albeit at a more affordable price.

The ICA is a non-profit organisation that aims to support the international coloured gemstone industry. It comprises more than 700 members, 31 of which are in Australia. According to Roskin, there has been a rise in coloured gemstone popularity but there’s more at play than headline-grabbing auction sales.

“There are several things working all at once here,” he says, highlighting the greater margins that can be achieved with coloured gemstones compared to colourless diamonds as one indicator of rising demand.

“Coloured gemstones are still quite rare compared to diamond,” Roskin states. “Prices and values remain steady or are increasing as mother nature produces a relatively small amount in each deposit. Once that deposit has been depleted, we have to move on to another area to find more gemstones.”

Roskin also says consumers can see value in coloured gemstone jewellery, thanks to the wide variety of gemstones available at affordable prices. Local suppliers also cite larger profit margins as a dominant advantage of stocking coloured gemstones as well as the ability for retailers to craft an invaluable point of difference.

Lawson Gems director Charles Lawson believes coloured gemstones allow jewellers to make unique jewellery pieces, which is an advantage that is especially relevant to small and medium-sized manufacturing jewellers.

“Anybody can go to a chain jewellery store and pick up a generic diamond ring,” he says. “Smaller manufacturers can offer that too but also offer a stunning, responsibly-sourced tsavorite garnet and sapphire ring, for example – the likes of which you would never see in a chain store.”

Any opportunity for jewellery retailers to differentiate their businesses from the large chain stores should be explored. “To be competitive with the massive manufacturers you have to have a unique product,” Lawson says. “The rarity, beauty and welcome change of coloured gemstones only set jewellers further apart from the competition, especially with bonuses like locally-made jewellery and responsible sourcing.”

Sasha Gammampila, director of sapphire supplier Deliqa Gems, points to the emotional connection that coloured gemstones offer the wearer as another unique selling proposition.

Deliqa Gems
Deliqa Gems
International Colored Gemstone Association
International Colored Gemstone Association

“Coloured gemstones certainly have a competitive advantage over diamonds as they are more personal choices,” Gammampila says. “Diamonds nowadays are very easily compared. No two of coloured gemstone jewellery pieces will be the same. Customers like difference and the feel of value in the long run.”

Market trends

Demand for sapphire is constantly increasing in the local market as buyers become more aware of its availability, according to Gammampila. Improved buyer knowledge is also resulting in rising popularity for sapphire in a variety of tones.

“Pastel colours and mid-coloured hues have certainly picked up demand over the last few years as buyers become more informed,” she explains. “Not everyone is going for traditional colours such as ruby red and royal blue, especially in sapphires.”

Langford Gems and Lapidary specialises in the supply of sapphire and other gemstones. Director and master gem cutter Scott Langford also notes a rise in popularity for less traditional shades.

“Sapphires in peach and apricot tones are popular requests and Australian parti sapphire is more popular than ever,” he says, adding that there is demand for unusual cuts, colours and shapes.

Pirom Gem Trading supplies coloured natural and synthetic gemstones. When asked about current standout design trends, sales director Vira Pirom highlights organically-cut natural gemstones that mimic rough gemstones.

“I would say this is because people want ‘real’ jewellery, not the costume jewellery found in Lovisa and the sort. Also, I think it is something different to the usual high-end trends in fine jewellery,” Pirom explains.

International Colored Gemstone Association
International Colored Gemstone Association
Deliqa Gems
Deliqa Gems

In the Sydney market, which makes up Pirom Gem Trading’s primary trade, Pirom says there is still high demand for ruby, emerald and blue sapphire – whether African, Australian or Ceylonese – as well as other gemstones such as London blue topaz, tanzanite, morganite, aquamarine and coloured sapphire in mainly yellow and pink.

Roskin says the fashion industry leads the way in creating trends and yet there are times when a prominent news story or a recent discovery of a particular gemstone adds another dimension.

“Ever since Prince William and Princess Kate were engaged using Princess Diana’s blue sapphire and diamond ring, blue sapphire has been very popular as an engagement gemstone ring,” he explains. “This has actually led to other gemstones, like ruby and spinel for example, being considered for engagements.

“The latest find of blue sapphire in Madagascar, the purple garnets in Tanzania or the large opal find in Ethiopia all spark interest in coloured gemstone sales,” Roskin continues. “With the help of prominent jewellery designers and those following [colour authority] Pantone and other colour trends, the industry will see a spike in the use of coloured gemstones.”


International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA) executive director Gary Roskin clears up some common gemstone misconceptions.

All colour-change gemstones are alexandrite

Truth: Alexandrite chrysoberyl and other colour-change gemstones like natural colour-change sapphire, natural colour-change garnet and natural colour-change diaspore can all have beautiful colour changes when moving the gemstone from one lighting source (sunlight) to another (candle light or incandescent light). All too often, consumers will be looking at a colour-change gemstone and thinking they are getting a natural alexandrite but the gemstone turns out to be a lab-created colour-change sapphire.

Most tanzanite is natural

Truth: Approximately 95 per cent or more of all tanzanite has been heated to improve colour. It is a traditional and permanent enhancement. There are some sellers who do not realise that almost all tanzanite has been treated and so they believe theirs to be of natural colour. Most likely, it has been heated; however, if it is one of the very rare tanzanites that has not been heated, the value is substantially higher.


Up close and personal
In describing the current local market for coloured gemstones, Lawson says demand is steady, rather than high.

“There is still a lack of common knowledge of coloured gemstones within the Australian consumer market and this is a large contributor to the lower demand than something like diamond jewellery,” he explains. “Now that I am running a physical store open to the public as well as the trade, I have found that most people are very keen to learn more about coloured gemstones.”

Lawson believes even customers who enter with diamonds in mind can be swayed with a little education.

“When teaching customers some of the basic facts, such as the history of gemstone species, where and how certain gemstones are mined, how they are cut and what impact the industry has around the world, customers often become excited about the prospect of not only owning a coloured gemstone but moving away from the big three – sapphire, ruby, emerald – in favour of something rare, unique or sustainable,” he explains.

According to Langford, a lack of education on gemstone ranges and types is also a major challenge amongst retailers. He says he has encountered jewellers unaware of the accessibility of gemstones within Australia, jewellers who don’t know pricing and availability and even some who struggle to identify which gemstones come in red, for example.

“Gemstone pricing fluctuates with supply and demand. Now, with internet and social media, we’re open to international trading and there is a big difference between Australia and international markets,” Langford says. “Prices are affected by this and many people do not understand that prices increase when gemstones are harder to supply, especially larger gemstones.

There is a definite trend where people see something on the internet and expect it to be available anywhere without understanding availability within Australia.”

Langford says he would love for more jewellers to widen their knowledge by attending educational courses organised by the Gemmological Association of Australia.

Gammampila believes retailers can be misinformed about ethical gemstones.

“Certainly developing countries do not have the same working standards like in developed countries but that does not make everything that comes from a third world country unethical,” she explains.

Lawson Gems
Lawson Gems
Langford Gems and Lapidary
Langford Gems and Lapidary

There may have been a time when local consumers weren’t too concerned by provenance or when it wasn’t a driving factor in purchasing decisions but Langford suggests this is no longer the case.

“People want to know where their gemstone comes from,” he says. “[It’s a] growing trend in the diamond market
since the movie Blood Diamond was released but is slowly dribbling into the coloured gemstone market.”

Although it is not such an issue for big retailers, Langford says artisan and independent retailers are calling for ethically-sourced gemstones more, using this as a marketing tool in their businesses.

According to Roskin, everyone in the gemstone industry needs to be aware of where a gemstone comes from and whether it was sourced responsibly and ethically. This is arguably an easier task for suppliers but Roskin says retailers must also make it a priority.

“Retailers should absolutely be doing their own due diligence,” he says. “Some suppliers have very good records and this makes it easy for the retailer to feel confident in their supply; however, one must remember that it is the retailer who is the last person in the chain before the consumer. If the consumer has a concern with the gemstone, it is the retailer who is ultimately responsible, not the jeweller’s supplier.”

Roskin believes the more retailers know about a product, the more genuine the sales conversation will be with the customer.

“Wouldn’t you rather be able to talk about the fellow in Kenya who drove for hours out into the bush of East Africa to mine the tsavorite garnet in your jewellery case than simply say to customers that it is green and comes from Kenya?” he asks.

“Find the suppliers who can give you the full story about the gemstone you are buying and you will find that the beauty
of the gemstone – along with that fantastic story – will sell itself.”

With so many gemstone varieties and unique selling propositions available, there should be no shortage of stories to help retailers pack a colourful sales punch.


What are the major challenges and misunderstandings that ICA members currently face when dealing with jewellery retailers?

“The overall word is education. Getting to the major challenge, we are talking about understanding treatments and enhancements, how to detect them and what it means for a gemstone’s value as well as its stability. A treatment is what has been done to the gemstone, such as heated, dyed and filled. An enhancement is what that treatment has accomplished, such as colour enhancement, clarity enhancement and stability enhancement.

“Retailers need to know if these treatments/enhancements are permanent and if they affect rarity and value. There are so many gemstones with so many different possibilities that one must stay abreast of the literature every day. Gemstone and jewellery suppliers and retailers need to know what is true and what is fiction.”

International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA) executive director Gary Roskin


Emily Mobbs • Former Editor

Emily Mobbs is editor of Jeweller. She has more than 8 years' experience in trade publishing and reports on various aspects of the jewellery industry.

Independent Jewellers Collective (IJC)

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