By Brecken Branstrator
Tucson trends
Pale pink hues, as seen in the morganite at the center of this Audrius Krulis ring, are expected to sell well at the upcoming gem shows in Tucson, Ariz.
New York--It’s about that time of year again.

Just as many areas of the country are hunkering down to get through the worst of winter, any and all involved in the colored gemstone market are heading out to desert to attend the Tucson gem shows, where an array of gems in all colors of the rainbow will be on display.

The hottest gems among buyers can be influenced by a number of factors, including trends that have carried over from the last year and the colors Pantone predicts will be popping up everywhere.

Here are the hues gemstone dealers and suppliers expect to be popular in Arizona this year.

Cotton candy colors
During last year’s shows, many exhibitors reported to National Jeweler that blues and pinks were selling well, and it seems like that will be a theme in Tucson again this year, with blue stones in particular expected to be in demand.

“I continue to see blue gemstones as being the most popular sellers for our customers,” said Richard Shull of gemstone dealer Out of Our Mines, adding that he expects to continue to see a demand for fine turquoise, indicolite, Peruvian blue opal and Paraiba tourmaline.

In fact, it seems like tourmaline stones in general could be one of the stars of the Tucson shows, offering up both saturated, stronger blues as well as blue-green and other even lighter hues. 

Caesar Habib of Kaiser Gems, meanwhile, said that his company has been getting many inquiries for aquamarine since the end of the holiday season, which could be due to the fact that it is the March birthstone. He said that most of the customers looking for aquamarine center stones are requesting medium to medium-dark gems ranging in price from $200 to $300 per carat. 

Similarly, gemstone dealer Kimberly Collins said she believes aquamarine, pale blue sapphires and the “sea foam/ocean colors of tourmaline” will be popular.

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Pantone’s colors of the year--Serenity and Rose Quartz--also will play a strong part in what is popular in Tucson. Not only will it help push the blues to the forefront, especially in softer hues, but the blush hue of Rose Quartz likely will boost demand for many light pink stones.

At the top of this list, not surprisingly, is the gemstone rose quartz as well as morganite. The latter stone has been riding high for some time now. While it might not yet make up as large a percentage of sales as more well-known stones such as sapphires, it likely will continue to close that gap this year.

Habib said that in addition to aquamarine, the other stone they’ve been getting requests for almost daily has been for morganite valued at between $65 and $75 per carat, mostly in pear-shaped sets of two or three for earrings and a pendant.

The big three
For Diana Atieno at Porini Gems, it looks likely that sapphires, rubies and emeralds will maintain their in-demand status. At the same time, tsavorite garnet, a possible alternative to emeralds, is expected to be popular during the gem shows, she said. 

“Its brilliance is unmatched and its green is very intense, giving it quite a sparkle,” she said. “Color is becoming quite a trend in engagement and wedding rings, and now people are looking for colored gems, especially tsavorite, for their center stones. I can say that tsavorites are the new diamonds.”

Meanwhile, while traditional blue sapphires will continue to reign, many dealers noted that they expect sapphires of all colors to sell. 

With a variety of colors that can be applied to many trends, fancy sapphires seem to be a favorite when it comes to the new bridal market. Today’s young bride is looking for something that will set her apart, and as gemstone dealer Collins noted, “There is so much opportunity to do that when working with colored stones, specifically sapphires or spinel.” 

She added that they provide even more size for the customer’s budget as well as a greater bottom line for the retailer. What’s more, she said, increased marketing of fancy colored diamonds is helping to boost interest in fancy sapphires.

Fine and rare stones
Today’s consumer, as has been discussed time and again, is looking for something different to express themselves, and in Tucson this could come in the form of buyers looking for that unusual or exceptional stone.

“This year I expect there to be a premium on fine and rare items,” said Bill Heher of gemstone company Rare Earth Mining, noting that he’s been seeing a rush on chrysocolla and Mexican jelly fire opal in unusual shapes, and expects to have a good show with fine rutilated quartz and cat’s eye stones.

For Boston Gems, moonstone tends to be particularly strong in Tucson, according to Paul Dragone. In fact, the company’s booth usually is comprised of 80 percent moonstone with five different varieties. But he also noted one new area that had opened up for them recently.

“The surprise stone for the holidays … that I feel will hold going forward into the summer is alexandrite,” Dragone said. “We had an unusually high volume of calls this season for matched pairs, melee and medium to large singles.”

Even as the finer material offering the best color-change characteristics has become increasingly difficult to source, pushing prices increasingly higher, consumer purchase history has shown us that there always will those willing to pay the price for that rarity.

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