AGTA GemFair™ Tucson Daily Report
Thursday, February 4, 2010

AGTA GemFair™ Reveals Top Trends in Color

Tucson, Arizona, Feb. 4, 2010-The American Gem Trade Association GemFair™ is a leading barometer for what is selling in colored gemstones. Amidst the full spectrum of gems to choose from, several types have risen to the top as favorites of buyers on the gem floor. Among them are tourmaline, spinel, and certain common-variety gems like quartz and garnet. Moreover, lesser-known gems, some of which have been regaled as collector's gemstones in the past, are rising in popularity among buyers searching for the unique and unusual.

gf image• Tourmaline: In his annual "Best Buys in Tucson" seminar, Richard Drucker of GemWorld International, publisher of The GemGuide in Glenview, Illinois cites tourmaline as one of his top picks on the show floor in terms of popular colors and best value. While he has seen a pull back in demand for the cuprian tourmaline from Mozambique, due to negative press about possible treatment that resulted in market confusion, he sees strength in red to pink.

In fact, Gina Taylor of Taylor Gem Corp. in Lincoln, California has done very well with new baby pink tourmalines in 3-carat to 5-carat sizes, and rubellites in 2-carat to 7-carat sizes from the Ilakaka mining area in Madagascar. "The softer colors go for around $200 per carat and under, and the hot colors for $400 per carat and under," she says. "We have mostly ovals, cushions, rounds, and emerald cuts, as we sell these shapes the best."

Taylor is also showing some new chrome tourmaline from the Lendanai mining area of Mozambique. "These gemstones are new to us from deposits in Mozambique that have been producing for a while now," she explains. "We have a few large mint colors of green, too, that are real clean."

gf image• Spinel: Drucker also rates spinel a show favorite, attributing nice sources and great prices the leading reasons why. He notes that among its sources, Tanzanian spinel is most expensive. Niveet Nagpal of the Los Angeles-based Omi Gems notes that high-end goods are selling very well, like fine spinel from Tanzania and alexandrite. "The middle bread and butter goods are down 40 percent, while high-end sales are up by twice as much for us," he says.

Jason Stephenson with Pala International in Fallbrook, California also cites spinels from Tanzania as a great seller, as well as the cuprian tourmaline from Mozambique that for his company is still going strong. Another hot gemstone for Pala has been Tanzanian spessartite garnet. Overall, he hails Tanzania as a "hot bed" for popular gems at this time including spinel, spessartite, and ruby.

Common Varieties: Gem trends undoubtedly cycle in response to supply and demand, and Todd Wolleman of the N.Y. gem house Leo Wolleman, Inc. expects that under-appreciated gems like red garnet will have its day in the sun. He attributes the success of garnet to the variety of colors and types it comes in, as well as attractive prices and the fact that it is not treated.

Wolleman also cites quartz and topaz as very popular, especially for lower price point designs in silver, which he calls the "new gold." But despite the lower prices of these gem types, buyers are only interested in fine quality goods, like better amethyst and citrine.

In fact, Hubert Gesser, of the L.A.-based Hubert, Inc. has some unique jewelry designs with green quartz in various shades from transparent to milky that he combines in necklaces and earrings in 18K gold. He reports pastel-colored gems as most popular with his customers.

gf imageUnique and Unusual: Hubert is well known for his unusual gems like natural cherry topaz and Paraiba tourmaline. But he says that combinations of unusual cuts and shapes, of any gem type, have been exciting to buyers. And, when buyers see something they love, despite their budget, they are more inclined to spend a little extra for something that is unique and fine.

Drucker also notes a movement afoot for lesser-known gems, citing such types as scapolite, danburite and benitoite. Once prized only by collectors, he says these gems are moving into the mainstream. 

"The trend for lesser-known gems has been gaining momentum during the past few years," Drucker notes. "It became more noticeable in late 2008 and continued to grow through 2009. Initially, we observed it clearly as cases of color substitution motivated by price point like red spinel in place of more expensive ruby. But that isn't the only cause any longer." He says jewelers looking to differentiate themselves, and not sell on price point alone has been a prime motivator. Also, production for some mainstream gems declined in reaction to the soft market, opening the door further for lesser-known gems to gain exposure.

Tanzanian Tourmaline, courtesy Taylor Gem Corp.
Tanzanian Red Spinel, courtesy of Omi Gems
Scapolite, Courtesy of GemWorld, from John Bradshaw, Coast-to-Coast Rare Stones International

Today at GemFair

 9:00 am     Seminars start
10:00 am    Show Opens
 6:00 pm     Show Closes
 7:00 pm     IDCA Reception – Marriott University Park Hotel