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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rarity of Gemstones

People today often think that everything can be bought for a price. In some cases this is actually true. But what people forget about, especially when dealing with a natural product like gemstones, is that many of them are finite (and in some cases extremely finite) resources. I have been seeing a huge increase in prices across the board on my gem materials. The top color, top clarity, ideal cut diamonds that Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers sells are becoming harder and harder to come by. I have had a standing order with Lazare Diamonds for stones under a half carat in my quality range for the last three months and they have only been able to come up with one stone for me. I have had to start looking elsewhere to try to fill in with the types of goods that I believe are truly rare and that I think it's worthwhile for my customers to own. Diamonds in general have seen a significant spike in price recently but my super rare goods have gone up even more than the bread and butter goods that most jewelers use. One of the reasons for this is that high quality material is being sent overseas to Asia where there are now more buyers than ever and where quality is the first thing they want (as opposed to many Americans who only care about size). But there are additional factors. Rarity, of course, is one of them, especially in the better goods. People are also demanding better environmental practices as well as fair trade type practices. These things all cost the companies mining the goods more money so you have to expect the prices to rise from these factors as well.

Colored stones (again in the better qualities) are also experiencing significant price jumps. An example of this is a stone I recently pulled out of a piece of my wife's that she was no longer wearing. It was a 2.90 ct. purple/blue colorshift, unheated, natural color sapphire. When I took it out I realized that the stone was horribly cut on the back (my standards 15-20 years ago were not quite as rigid as they are now). So I sent it off to my cutter and he recut the back so that it was a much better looking stone. I ended up with a 2.73 ct. oval stone that is quite magnificent. I sent it off to my sapphire supplier to get an idea of current pricing on something like it. Now honestly I have no idea what I paid for it, who I got it from or even exactly when (although based on the age of the piece it was in, 15-20 years ago is the general time frame). I also know that while I have no qualms about spending money on beautiful gems for my wonderful wife, there was no way I spent anywhere near what the stone is going to be put out for now that it's been refashioned and readied for sale. The asking price on this beauty is going to be in the $9-10,000 range. When I purchased the stone the asking price would probably have been in the $2500-3500 range. My sapphire dealer told me that there is so little of this kind of material (especially untreated material) coming into the marketplace that the prices have just skyrocketed. Now this isn't a complete surprise to me because it's very similar to the material I already sell and I have been watching prices rising rapidly on it in the last few years. But it certainly gave me some perspective on what is really going on in the gem world. A computer 15-20 years ago that cost $3000 would cost you less than half that today thanks to technological and production advances. Not so with a nonrenewable resource.

The piece pictured above is also an example of material that is too pricey today or simply nonexistent. I have been unable to find any black South Sea round mobe pearls for over three years; either because it isn't being produced anymore or again because the Asian market is sucking it up. So I couldn't make a pendant like this one for you at ANY price. I simply can't get the material.

So now, as well as the price of metals having skyrocketed, the stones are beginning to as well. It might just be the time to get out and buy that piece that has been on your wish list for a few years before it just gets more expensive!


  1. That's fascinating, Dan! Thank you for this post.

    I just heard a piece on the BBC radio news yesterday about the Asian market driving up the price for hazelnuts coming out of the Pacific Northwest. Those nuts are going for record prices, I think three times the typical average. In that case it's basically a good thing; we're exporting our goods and getting desirable prices for them. But it does make prices higher here at home.

    P.S. I didn't know you had Bell's palsy. I'm glad to hear it's clearing up quickly.

  2. It's very interesting to hear this. My mother and aunts have always found amazing gemstones in Asia than compared to the ones I've come across in Australia and Europe. And I've always wondered why that was, but your article makes complete sense