Rocks On: Kunzite

SourcingFeb 22, 2016

Rocks On: Kunzite

Though it can come in a vivid violet color and is readily available in large pieces, kunzite remains relatively low in demand in the market, keeping it at a more accessible price point.

It is not uncommon for kunzite to be found in large sizes and for big, faceted pieces to be available on the market, such as the 104-carat piece seen in this Loretta Castoro necklace.

New York--Kunzite, with its light pink to violet hues, is one of the newer gemstones in terms of the history of colored stones and their use in jewelry.

In the early 1900s, pieces of pink crystal were found in San Diego County and soon identified by Tiffany & Co. mineralogist George Frederick Kunz, for whom the stone was named.

Kunzite has two perfect cleavage directions and is pleochroic, meaning it appears to be different colors depending upon the angle at which it is viewed. Its best color is visible when looking down the length of the crystal--both traits that make cutting the stone more difficult than others gems and which cutters have to keep in mind when they’re faceting kunzite.

Today, the gemstone is found primarily in California, Afghanistan, Brazil and Madagascar, and is one of the few gems that is available in fairly large sizes for an affordable price.

Kunzite demand
Despite its vivid pink hues, demand for kunzite remains relatively low compared with most other gems.

“Kunzite is never really ‘hot’ like tourmaline or fine aquamarine,” said Paul-Otto Caesar of gemstone wholesaler Oberon & Caswell, noting that he thinks many people still associate it with the cheaper material that used to be on the market and faded from dark purple to white in a short amount of time.

It’s also important that rough continue to come through for them consistently, as people lose interest if the production is so small it becomes a collector’s stone. “We need to be able to cut pairs and sets in great color to keep our clients interested,” Caesar said.

Oberon & Caswell started cutting kunzite in a new way--a vintage cut that has been very well received, offering a new look for the stone. Even with these cuts offering a unique new look for the stone, Caesar said that he doesn’t expect much of a change in kunzite demand in the future, especially as the stone hasn’t yet had a significant marketing push behind it like other stones.

“Production was … never very big, and the market stayed healthy and balanced. I think we’ll keep paddling along without major changes (to demand).”

Tom Ross of The Ross Jewelry Company mirrored this thought, noting again that it is not a commonly requested stone, so “unless something happens in the fashion world to make it more popular or a celebrity starts wearing it, I don’t expect much change in demand.”

Supply, pricing stable

doesn’t face the same challenge that many other gems are seeing in the current market, demand drastically outpacing supply.

However Caesar said that they generally try to use rough from Nigeria, which has always been hard to find but has dwindled to almost nothing in the last six months, and that fine rough from Afghanistan also is more difficult to find these days.

Yet there still remains ample material coming from other sources. Ross said that he hasn’t had an issue with availability--since kunzite is not often requested, when someone does contact him about it they usually have something specific in mind when it comes to size and shape and he usually can find something very close to what they want, if not exactly.

Prices remain fairly consistent and, as with any stone, the richer the color and the more attractive the cut is, the higher the price per carat.

Caesar said that lately, he’s seen prices go up slightly, but noted that because kunzite is difficult to cut and demand remains relatively low, there haven’t been too many people looking to buy kunzite so prices have remained relatively reasonable.

Design trends
The pastel purple-pink hues of kunzite go well with Pantone’s Rose Quartz color of the year, which could prove to be a boon for the stone this year. Its coloring also is aligned with the overall pastel trends that are expected to pop up all over the market in 2016.

Designer Margery Hirschey said that she’s had a very good response to her pieces that feature kunzite, with many women drawn to the soft pink color and its accessible price point. Even so, the stone isn’t well known in the general public, she added.

Though Hirschey said though it isn’t a particularly trendy gemstone, she will continue to use kunzite both alone and in combination with other stones, particularly diamonds, to set it off.

“I love the color of kunzite and the fact that it has a lot of sparkle,” she said. “I think the soft pink is so beautiful, and it does have variations in color, which I like. Also, kunzite is a heavy stone, and I like that it feels like it has substance to it.”

She added that she’s never broken or chipped a kunzite; it’s an easy stone to work with because of its relative hardness.

As primarily a custom jewelry designer who promotes kunzite, Ross said that he finds that the client who requests kunzite is typically more educated, sophisticated and tends to know exactly what they want when it comes to design.

As with most colored gems, halos are popular because they frame the stone and emphasize color, but designs for kunzite continue to be widely varied, he said.

Caesar said that connoisseurs appreciate kunzite, especially when it comes to the unusual cuts and shapes, and he believes that he could sell more of this material if more rough was available.

Hirschey, too, said she prefers the more unusual kunzite stones, such as the rutilated material or with irregular cuts. “I think once people become more familiar with kunzite, both as a designer and as a consumer, the more they will be drawn to it.”

Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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