Gemfields – recalibrating supply for a softer market

The company delivered results in line with expectations and is positioning itself for further growth.

Auction house Bonhams sparkles as rare gemstone is expected to fetch around £200k




Auction house Bonhams is hoping to tap into the resurgence of coloured stones with the sale of a rare £200,000 gemstone that has not been put up for auction in a century.

The 50.13 carats octagonal-cut stone the size of a small plum is called the Hope Spinel and was part of the collection owned by wealthy merchant banker Henry Philip Hope.

Expert Tobias Kormind, managing director at 77 Diamonds, said: ‘As the number of ultra-wealthy are on the rise, investors and collectors are looking further afield than the obvious white diamond to the rare spectrum of coloured diamonds and gemstones including lesser known ones like spinel.’

Opal’s essence continues to delight


Source: National Jeweler

Author: Brecken Branstrator

December 19, 2014

New York — With an appearance that long inspired cultures to believe in its supernatural abilities and powers, the opal’s value comes not only from the range of colors it displays but also the increasing rarity of high-quality stones.

Opals are the product of seasonal rains that drench the dry ground in an arid place, such as Australia’s outback. The water soaks in and penetrates deep, carrying silica with it. Then, the water evaporates during a dry spell, leaving silica deposits behind to form opals.

Even though all opals are formed through this same process, the resulting stones are unique.

No two opals look the same, and the play of color for each precious opal is different, giving them wide-ranging appeal. (There are two main types of opal–while common opal has a milky, dull color, precious opal displays the range of color that is so valued.)

“In Lighting Ridge black opal, people tend to like the combination of blues and greens, which have been the most popular with us,” said Niveet Nagpal, designer and president of Omi Privé. “But with true collectors looking for special pieces, if the opal displays more red flashes, these are the most sought after and valuable.”

Opal’s recently returning popularity with consumers also can be attributed to a greater number of designers using the stones in more of their pieces, bringing high-quality opals in front of consumers again and driving demand.

“Opal is re-entering the popular market and, where they were once using a little bit lower-quality (stones) at one point, they have delved into the finer goods over the last few years,” said Matt Hopkins of Hopkins Opal.

The rush slows
Today’s supplies of opal come mostly from Australia, Mexico, and the United States, though Hopkins said that supply is constrained in Australia at the moment as companies realize that there’s more money to be made in mining other natural resources in that country, such as industrial metals.

“There’s been a lack of producing areas for more than a decade,” he said, but noted that the increased demand for opals means that miners likely will return to prospecting for the gem once they realize that there is consistent consumer demand.

Hopkins said he sees a “glimmer of hope” in a few places in Australia. (He declined giving specifics as these locations–provided they start producing–will become a source for his company.) “The one decent supply we’re seeing is boulder opals in medium to high quality, which are still being cut and coming out.”

He adds that the only type of opal that perhaps isn’t seeing a major climb in demand is the commercial opal that is sourced for mass market, lower-end jewelry that has less play of color. “People don’t really have that much interest in that anymore.”

Overall, Hopkins said he sees opal demand outstripping supply in both the U.S. and Asia, noting that there is a renewed interested in colored gems in general as consumers see high-quality large gemstones as investment pieces.

This makes sourcing high-quality opals difficult. Many dealers that Hopkins knows still are working off old stock, though replenishing that at the same price they did even a few years ago is much harder.

Jonathan Farnsworth of Parlé Designs reiterated what Hopkins is seeing in the market, noting that the hardest to source currently are high-quality black and crystal opals, as well as opal doublets, which Farnsworth attributed to labor costs that had gotten too high to validate production.

He said there is plenty of Ethiopian opal in the market, which is helping to create demand for opals as a whole as more consumers are seeing them. He also said that he feels that production will begin picking up as trends drive demand.

“It’s a little cyclical, because as demand increases, more production should increase as well, especially as oil prices drop and it becomes easier for miners to mine. Then the supply will be there to further feed and grow demand,” he said.

A price hike
Like many of the rarest gems, the price of the highest quality opals have been rising slightly over the past few years, though Hopkins notes that fine black opal always has been, and continues to be, fairly expensive.

Intense red-orange fire opal from Mexico also is extremely rare and highly valued, with its strong play of color, with price and supply following the similar patterns as the other types of high quality stones.

Though the best fire opal generally sells for less than high-quality precious opal, fire opal pieces with exceptional color will go for more than specimens of precious opal with a less-than-stellar play of color.

Even though prices are climbing steadily at the high end, it’s the mid-range-quality opals–falling between $150 and $700 per carat at wholesale–where the upswing is the greatest, Hopkins said, a trend that he expects to continue for the next couple of years.

Hopkins said that he is seeing opal prices increase along all points in the supply chain, including “field prices,” which refers to the price of the opal when sold from the miners directly to the field buyers, which have gone up some 20 percent over the last year.

Designer’s delight
Much of opal’s value, and its appeal, is the stone’s ability to show so many different colors from every angle as it diffracts light. That’s why opals normally are cut into cabochons rather than being faceted; it enhances the color play.

From a design perspective, the gem’s color show gives jewelry-makers the ability to pair opals with a variety of other gemstones, bringing out different colors depending on the gem with which the opal is set.

“Pairing opals with multiple colored gemstones and even different metals can contrast with or emphasize specific colors found within the opal,” Nagpal said.

This is also one of the reasons that designer Penny Preville told National Jeweler that she loves to work with opals.

Not only do the stones come in her favorite color, blue, but the different speckles of color that come out means that it works well with many other stones that she may want to use, as well as any metal.

She said she has noticed that her customers currently want the dark blue opals the most.

“I see opals as becoming more of a staple and, in a way, becoming their own category of sorts. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes because there’s so much more that designers can do with it. I definitely think that opal has a long life ahead of it,” Preville said.

Diamonds are forever but here and now coloured gemstones are cutting edge


Source: The Guardian

US demand underpins record prices achieved for rubies and sapphires by Gemfields and other luxury goods specialists

Author: Angela Monaghan
The Guardian, Friday 12 December 2014

For those prepared to throw money – quite a lot of it – at the ideal Christmas present this year, the gift of choice is no longer white diamonds, but coloured gemstones.

The market for coloured stones is on fire, with record prices being achieved for rubies and sapphires. At its latest ruby auction in Singapore, Gemfields achieved an average price per carat of $689 (£438), with total sales of $43.3m from its Montepuez mine in Mozambique. Both figures were records for the London-listed miner and luxury goods specialist.

Last month, Sotheby’s set a new world record for a ruby when it sold an 8.62 carat Burmese stone for 8.2m Swiss francs (£5.4m). The auction house also set a new world record for sapphires at a recent auction in Hong Kong.

Diamonds may be forever but there is nothing new about the appeal of coloured gemstones, which were worn by Wallis Simpson and are favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge, who wears the 12-carat Ceylon sapphire engagement ring once owned by Diana, Princess of Wales. Rare and beautiful as they may be, Cailey Barker, mining analyst at Numis, identifies a number of factors pushing up gemstone prices lately, including rising demand in the world’s largest economy.

“Gemstones have been performing well mainly because of jewellery buying on the street, predominantly led by the US,” she said. Gemfields’ marketing has been very successful, according to Barker, partly helped by the fact that it also owns the luxury jeweller Fabergé. “It’s a chicken and egg situation. There is demand, but Gemfields is also creating the demand.”

The company has introduced a grading system, allowing jewellers to match colours and reassure consumers about the quality of the stones. Another key to success has been providing a consistent supply of something that is inherently rare and difficult to source.

Gemfields specialises in emeralds, owning the world’s largest emerald mine in Zambia, but it also produces amethysts from Zambia and rubies from Mozambique.

New sources are being found for coloured stones. Burma was traditionally considered the main source of high-quality rubies; Mozambique is a relatively new supplier.

The company, whose chief executive is Ian Harebottle, can take the stones all the way from the ground to the jeweller – known in the male-dominated trade as the “mine to mistress” approach. “What De Beers does for diamonds, we do for colour,” he said.

Where stones are auctioned, the sale is a very select affair, according to Harebottle. A typical emerald auction would attract 100 potential buyers hoping to get in, but admissions are limited to about a third of that. A ruby auction might attract about 200 would-be buyers but only about 50 will be selected to attend.

Harebottle said it was important to sell to the right buyer. “These gems are extremely rare, much rarer than a diamond. I’d hate to sell to someone who is going to cut it badly. This is not just a fly-by-night world.

“It’s not a dictatorship. It’s not as if we’re the only supplier, but we try and choose people we think will help grow the industry.”

Demand is rising as the world’s middle classes swell and information is more readily available, according to Joanna Hardy, an independent jewellery specialist.

“People now understand that there are other stones that are also getting good prices. There are more people with money and there aren’t enough [stones] to go around. Knowledge is becoming more accessible. There is more information around and more appreciation.”

Recent trends can be seen at the world’s most exclusive jewellers. Earlier this year, the luxury jeweller Cartier showcased its royal collection at the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris, featuring a necklace with a 15.29 carat oval-shaped ruby from Mozambique. The collection also included pearls, emeralds and sapphires.

Hardy, however, says it is not all about trends and fashion. “It’s about what the earth produces and the rarity of the stones. People are really fascinated about how a stone arrived.”

At Gemfields, emeralds account for around 75% of revenues, but it is building its ruby business. The company – which boasts Hollywood actress Mila Kunis as ambassador – has about a year’s supply of both emeralds and rubies.

Can the run of rising prices last? “We’re working hard on exploration,” Harebottle said.

Hardy cautioned that the availability of coloured gemstones on the high street might give the misleading impression that precious stones were in large supply. “We’re being spoilt by thinking it’s all readily available but it’s not. On the high street a lot is heat-treated to enhance the colour. The rare stones are the ones that are untouched apart from being enhanced through the art of cutting.”

Ultimately, she concedes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. “At the end of the day it’s about people’s personal perception of beauty in a colour.”


Source: Addmorecolortoyourlife

Design (and image) are published courtesy of Jeffrey Hunt

Zircon’s fire, brilliance, and beauty can rival any gem. The affordability of its vibrant greens, sky blues, and pleasing earth tones contributes to its growing popularity today.

Once considered a diamond alternative, today we know that natural zircons are in fact the most ancient materials on Earth, holding within their brilliant depths a time capsule of our planet’s birth.

A tiny fragment of zircon discovered in western Australia is the oldest known object on earth: 4.404 billion years old. Earth itself formed less than 150 million years earlier.

An even older example was found in a large meteorite in Chile. The oldest thing scientists have ever examined, that zircon formed at least 4.6 billion years ago in the swirling disk of dust and rocks that became the planets.

Although diamonds are harder than zircons, they are quite young in comparison: a mere 3.3 billion years old.

Zircon contains its own internal atomic clock. Its crystal accumulates atoms of uranium, which decay to lead at a known rate. By measuring the relative abundance of two types of uranium and lead in a zircon, geologists can determine old it is. Zircon is also incredibly durable. It remains unscathed while other rocks and minerals melt and re-form under the tremendous heat and pressure of continental shifts, mountain-building, and violent asteroid impacts.

In the middle ages, zircon was said to aid sleep, bring prosperity, and promote honor and wisdom in its owner. The name probably comes from the Persian word zargun which means “gold-colored.”

Today, natural zircon is often overlooked because cubic zirconia, the laboratory-grown diamond imitation, is so much more common. Many people don’t even realize that there is a beautiful natural gemstone called zircon.

Cubic zirconia is a man-made compound of zirconium, oxygen and yttrium, which was discovered in 1937. It lacks the silicon of a true zircon, and is, of course, very much younger.

Zircon is mined in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, and other countries. Because it can be colorless, green, blue, yellow, brown, orange, dark red, and all the colors in between, it is a popular gem for connoisseurs who collect different colors or zircon from different localities.

Zircon jewelry should be stored carefully because although this ancient gem is hard, facets can abrade and chip. Clean with mild dish soap: use a toothbrush to scrub behind the stone where dust can collect.

Rocks On: Spinel to ‘have its day’


Source: The National Jeweler

Author: Brecken Branstrator

New York — Spinel has been, up until the past few years, an underappreciated and undervalued gem with relatively little consumer recognition.

In fact, it hasn’t been uncommon for consumers to think that the stones were synthetic when they heard the name, simply because they were unfamiliar with them.

Over the last few years, though, spinel has moved into the spotlight as many of the major brands have begun to work with the gem, attracted by the rich colors of its many varieties.

The various shades of red spinel are so deep, in fact, that for a long time they were mistaken for rubies earning them the name “balas ruby.”

They even were set in crown jewels as rubies. The 170-carat center stone in the British Imperial State Crown is called the “Black Prince’s Ruby” but actually is a blood-red spinel dating back to 14th century Spain. The Crown Jewels also contain another misidentified gemstone–the 350-carat “Timur ruby,” which is actually a red spinel.

It wasn’t until 1783 that mineralogist Jean Baptiste Louis Rome de Lisle identified spinel as a different mineral from rubies.

Today, spinel still costs a fraction of what rubies and sapphires do despite its comparable color and qualities, though that price gap continues to narrow.

A sliding supply
Today, spinel is sourced from Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, and Tajikistan. More recently, new sources were discovered in Tanzania–red spinel was found near Mahenge and the Uluguru Mountains in the late 1980s, as well as near Tunduru after 1994.

These mines near Mahenge had the trade buzzing in the summer of 2007, when spinel crystals as large as 270 carats began surfacing. But even that more recent discovery is starting to run low.

One of the big challenges that faces spinel is the same thing that can be said for many gemstones–demand is continuing to increase while supply is decreasing.

Demand for spinel is far exceeding supply today and the gem is getting harder and harder to come by, especially when it comes to the highest-quality, most-in-demand colors. Larger pieces of rough spinel also are more difficult to find. According to the GIA’s gem encyclopedia, fine quality spinels frequently are cut into less-traditional shapes to preserve their size.

“Today the demand for spinel is probably the highest it has ever been in history, and I believe that this demand will only increase throughout time,” said Perry Regev, Carelle’s director of gem acquisition.

Currently, the most commercially valuable colors of spinel are the rich reds followed by the increasingly rare cobalt blue shades and then the vibrant pinks and oranges. There are also shades of purple, which tend to be less in demand and less expensive.

“I have just returned from Burma today and every red to pink-red spinel with any size is priced to the point that I cannot buy them,” gem dealer Dudley Blauwet told National Jeweler in an email update from his travels. “The supply seemed to be OK, but the economy in Burma is booming with the economic liberalization and local wealthy Burmese, and dealers are competing for the better items.”

Ruben Bindra of B&B Fine Gems said that he is seeing many of the big manufacturers in Europe, companies like Cartier and Bulgari, starting to use pastel-colored spinels in jewelry, especially featuring multiple stones in one piece. This is likely due to the fact that these colors can more easily be purchased in large quantities to allow for designs such as this, he said.

As demand increases and supply decreases prices invariably rise, a trend which seems to be the case for most gems in the market these days, Bindra noted.

“Over the last five years, almost every gem we deal in has increased in price,” he said. “Anything of value–everything has gone up in price tremendously.”

He adds that though spinel still seems to be the undervalued stone of the gem world, he has seen demand for it increase greatly over the past four to five years. “This could be because it’s what was available, or because it’s also a hard stone (an 8 on the Mohs scale) so jewelers like to work with it. Or it could be because it’s easier to work with since it comes in so many colors.”

Regev reiterated this statement, stating that he likes the fact that spinel has the “in-between” shades that really help Carelle’s designs come to life.

He also noted that, “Durability is a big thing. Whenever we set an emerald or certain semi-precious stones, I worry a lot about the stone breaking. With spinel I don’t need to worry as much and, once the piece is ready, the stone has an almost unsurpassed brilliance.”

All black everything
Just as the stone’s red and blue shades have benefited from their resemblance to sapphires and rubies, so too has spinel’s cheaper variety–the black spinel–gained from its resemblance to dark diamonds.

As the popularity of black diamonds has skyrocketed even over just the past year, brands have begun turning to black spinel to create the same look at a lower price point.

The stone also can serve as a replacement for black onyx, especially because it is a much harder stone and offers a great brilliance and luster, Regev noted. Also, black spinel normally isn’t treated whereas black onyx usually has been dyed.

“Black spinel is doing great, and I do not think the consumers are having an issue purchasing pieces that incorporate black spinel,” Regev said, “but I also believe that that has to do with the different price point that one can reach using black spinel.”

But perhaps spinel’s biggest challenge, and also possibly its biggest upside, is that it still has a ways to go when it comes to recognition, in any shade.

“I think that a lot of people still aren’t aware of what spinel is,” said gem dealer Evan Caplan. “And when consumers hear the word, they think that it might be synthetic because they don’t know enough about it.”

As the big brands begin to use the gemstone and more designers incorporate the various shades of spinel into their pieces, it’s only a matter of time before spinel will get the consumer appreciation many think it deserves, Bindra said.

“The initial challenge for spinel was the name recognition, which I think has mostly been crossed. It will soon trickle down to the consumer level now that designers and manufacturers are using it,” Bindra said. “(Spinel) is an underrated stone and it is an undervalued stone, but it’s going to have its day.”

Image: courtesy of Vladyslav Yavorskyy. Please visit his site terra Spinel