By Brecken Branstrator
brecken.branstrator@nationaljeweler.com
Blue shades are expected to do well in Tucson this year given Pantone’s selection of “Classic Blue” as its 2020 Color of the Year. Pictured here is 10.47-carat blue sapphire from Colorline.
New York—It’s almost that time of year again, when many in the industry will head to Tucson to shop for colored gemstones, learn more about the market and enjoy winter in the desert.

A spate of gem and mineral shows take over the city for more than two weeks in late January and early February.

AGTA GemFair is slated for Feb. 4 to 9, as is GJX, while JCK Tucson will run from Feb. 5 to 8, and the JOGS Gem & Jewelry Show is scheduled for Jan. 30 to Feb. 10.

(For the full calendar of the 50-plus shows in Tucson, visit TucsonGemShows.net.)

With so many players in the industry all in one location, it’s the perfect place to gain an understanding of trends in colored gems.

Ahead of gem week, National Jeweler asked several gemstone dealers and experts what stones and colors they think will sell in Tucson this year.

Here are eight predictions they made.

1. ‘Classic Blue’ could be a big deal.


The Pantone “Color of the Year” doesn’t always translate well to gems and jewelry, but most people National Jeweler interviewed think the 2020 selection—“Classic Blue”—will mean big things for blue gems this year.

Raja Shah of Color First said there was strong demand in 2019 for blues and blue-greens, colors that are already popular, but expects that to accelerate because of the Pantone announcement.

“It’s a calming, soothing color,” he said.

“I think what’s going to happen, especially as we approach elections, I think the news cycle could be quite negative and all that uncertainty might drive people toward calm, if they can find it.”

Blue sapphire, he said, will be the clear winner of this, but it could also benefit blue zircon and tanzanite.

Hemant Phophaliya is certainly hoping the latter is true for AG Color. He’s excited to see how the choice of Classic Blue brings more attention to the company’s tanzanite and sapphires.

Hannah Becker of Diamondoodles and gemstone dealer Kimberly Collins also predicted blue will be popular in 2020, with Collins noting the focus on Classic Blue will lead to a resurgence in interest for all shades of the cool hue.

2. Teal, too.

Another color story National Jeweler heard from dealers? Teal is in.

Colorline’s Jeremy Hakimi said they have noticed strong, new demand for fancy colored sapphires in teal, a popularity he attributes in large part to social media.

Collins also noted teals, in both Montana and Madagascar sapphires, have been hot for her, taking market share from the blush/peach/pink sapphires that have been popular for the last few years.

“I don’t see that dying down,” she said.

“We’re seeing it all over social media. And I get a ton of calls for Montana sapphire in that teal shade, which also rolls into that Pantone Color of the Year, depending on exactly what they’re looking for and if they want a stronger blue body.”

3. The ‘Roaring 20s’ might lend itself to demand for geometric shapes and clean lines.

It’s the ‘20s again, and jewelry design is reflecting that. So, too, might gem shapes and cuts this year.

Shah, of Color First, said demand for “unusual shapes” has been picking up, especially cuts with straight, clean lines or sharp angles, including radiant cuts, hexagons, princess cuts and even freeform cuts.

Collins also said she’s seeing a lot of requests for hexagons and stones “with a little more spike,” like kites.

Becker said she’s seen portrait cuts and freeform geometric rose cuts grow in popularity in the past year.

“We’ve seen hexagons used a lot as motifs in jewelry for a while now, but we are starting to see this pattern being utilized in gemstone cuts instead of just metal alone,” she said.

“Portrait cuts—slim stones with big broad faces and light faceting along the edges; think a lightly faceted slice of stone—are having a moment. These cuts allow for a big presence with less weight, and their large, transparent surfaces allow designers to play with backings and designing elements to be read through the stone.”

Rose cuts, she added, are popular in part because of their affordability and because of the way geometric and freeform outlines allow designers to play with non-traditional shapes.

Shah and Collins also noted that the unusual shapes generally are best used with less expensive species, since the cuts tend to lead to some weight loss.

Shah noted they work well with stones like garnet, zircon and tourmaline. It’s also appealing to consumers looking for something to set themselves apart.


4. Brighter colors are taking over.

Gemstone buyers are pivoting toward vibrant, bright colors, mimicking the ultra-bright and neon hues that have taken over fashion in the past year or so.

When it comes to faceted stones, Pillar & Stone International’s Roland Schluessel said: “They want brightness. They are willing to have a little bit less saturation in color if it’s compensated by great brightness.”

This lends itself well to the colors in tourmaline and beryl, he said.

Becker said in addition to blue, she expects “hot-red oranges, chalky pinks and citron yellow” to be trending this year, while Boston Gems’ Dragone said he’s been seeing demand for electric green-blue and purple/lavender colors like those found in garnets and some sapphires.

He expects the trend will have legs, given the relatively low price point for some of those gemstones.

For Collins, the requests for a lighter peach-pink have been subsumed by interest in more intense pink sapphire colors.

5. Pastels probably won’t totally fade away.

While the “bright” trend might take some market share, a number of gem dealers maintain a few pastel colors have retained popularity.

Hakimi said they’ve noticed continued demand for peach-colored sapphires, and Shah too said 2019 saw good demand for peaches and peach-pinks, leading to a strong performance for Malaya garnets, rose and some imperial zircons, peach sapphires and even morganites.

Meanwhile Becker noted mint green’s current trendiness in fashion. She expects that to trickle down to gemstones in 2020.

6. Buyers will be looking for special and unique materials.

One trend that’s been gaining traction over the past few years, and which now squarely has a foothold in the market, is the search for something different, special or unique.

“I’ve noticed people are looking for unusual or different, as opposed to standard still,” Shah said.

“That’s partly a function of the economy. People do have money to spend and they want to be different.”

Pillar & Stone’s Schluessel joked the trend now seems to be “everything.”

“Someone might buy a rough mineral to make a necklace, which was not something we even thought about 20 years ago.”

It’s exactly this kind of demand, in fact, that Boston Gems’ Dragone has found great success with.

About two or three years ago, Boston Gems started buying antique diamonds with old-mine, old- European or transitional cuts, a move made in response to demand from younger buyers.

Dragone said it created a new niche for them and has generated enough sales that it will be part of the company’s stock in Tucson.


Boston Gems also now is carrying rough diamond and sapphire crystals, which Dragone said are selling more to designers to make necklaces, rings and pendants.

“They started out slow and then picked up speed … They seem to be selling on Madison Avenue as well as in the Midwest, so they’re getting a good response.”

Becker, meanwhile, noted designers who don’t typically work with gemstone beads are “finding a newfound love” for them.

She said the high price of gold might play a part in this trend, with designers creating necklaces or bracelets with beads and reserving their gold budget for clasps, spacers, pendants or charms instead of adding cost with chains.

7. Prices should hold steady.

Most dealers National Jeweler interviewed seemed to think prices for colored stones in Tucson would be stable in 2020.

Collins said tanzanite has come down a little and sapphires may have “eked up a little bit,” but generally prices have remained steady.

Pillar & Stone’s Schluessel said: “I do not expect significant changes in prices. I’m talking now about the norm, not about collector pieces. But for the special higher-end gems, just the normal uptick in prices.”

Shah, too, said he thinks pricing will stay strong for higher-quality goods.

“I don’t see any discounting going on at the top end,” he said.

“There’s so much demand for nice goods. The availability of rough is limited across the board as well, so there’s the limited ability to cut stones.”

Because of increased buying activity he’s seen happening in the $1,000 to $5,000 wholesale price range, he said middle-tier colored gemstones will do quite well but prices will stay steady.

At the lower end, prices will be soft because of the large amount of stock many dealers are sitting on and will want to move in Tucson, he said.

Colorline’s Hakimi said he’s seen pricing overall for sapphires and rubies creeping up over the past year due to lack of supply and high demand for fine quality stones.

He said they expect prices for both, in both heated and unheated material, will continue to climb this year.

20200123 Tucson rosecuts
Freeform rose-cut imperial zircons weighing 2+ carats each from Color First


8. Many are feeling optimistic about the 2020 shows.


Tucson offers insight into the health of the sector, so it’s a positive sign the dealers National Jeweler spoke with ahead of the shows are generally feeling optimistic.

There seems to be some caution about the latter part of 2020 and how the election could affect spending and confidence but for now, a strong 2019 has several dealers thinking buyers will be ready to spend.

“We are expecting to have another strong show in Tucson this year,” Hakimi said.

“The economy and stock market are in a good state, and we had a strong holiday season. Many of our clients also had strong sales during the holidays, and we expect that many of them will come out to Tucson to replenish their inventories.”

While several of her clients reported a disappointing holiday season in 2019, the increased spending in the sector throughout the year has Collins thinking gem week will be strong.

“I think people need to restock things that they’ve sold throughout the year, more of the bread-and-butter items that have sold really well, and maybe the bigger one-of-a-kinds they did sell over the holidays or for big, important pieces. It seems like I’ve gotten way more calls over the past few years than I used to for big pieces as anniversary gifts.”

Shah too thinks Tucson this year will be positive, noting 2019 was a good year for many customers and dealers, so he thinks they will be in a buying mood.

While he doesn’t expect a huge number of buyers to attend the shows, he those who are there will be ready to spend.

“For the rest of the year, I have some reservations because of the elections and the uncertainty that might impact people’s buying and confidence,” he said.

“But in the run-up to Christmas, business was good, and then even right after, January started out with a lot of calls. People are still looking to buy right after holidays, so I’m hoping that continues through to the show.”

Schluessel and Dragone, however, have reservations.

Both noted fewer buyers seem to make the trip out to the desert these days, but also recognize that the strong economy and solid 2019 performance for many are ingredients for a positive Tucson.

For Diamondoodles’ Becker, she sees another factor that could play out in the gemstone market’s favor: the high price of gold.

“My hope is that the wild prices of gold will impact gemstone sales positively. Bold statements can be made in gemstones without relying on hefty metal. I’m interested to see if designers keep this in mind while planning their collections this year and while buying in Tucson.”


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