Every year brings new trends, but for decades diamonds have reigned supreme among gemstones. With increased concern for ethical stone sourcing and more adventurous buyers, however, 2018 could put an end to their dominance. According to gemstone experts, including a report from the Gemological Institute of America, colored stones, particularly sapphires, are in ascendance.
A Moment Of Color
Why are colored stones suddenly so popular? One theory is popular influence; Prince William engaged to Kate Middleton with Princess Diana’s sapphire while Halle Berry received an emerald for her 2012 engagement to Olivier Martinez. Meanwhile, in a slight twist on tradition, Kelly Clarkson’s engagement ring was a yellow diamond and Blake Lively’s was a pink diamond in an oval cut. Colored stones have clearly received the mark of imprimatur from celebrities.
Another consideration is increased availability. Gemfields, the world’s leading colored gemstone producer, has opened new mines in Zambia and Mozambique, producing emeralds and rubies. Many of these stones were previously unrecoverable due to technological limitations, but new mining practices have helped bring them to market.
Finally, ethical issues play perhaps the biggest factor in the shift away from diamonds. As more buyers become aware of the violence associated with “blood diamonds,” they’ve turned to colored stones, antique pieces, and lab-grown gems. Antique stones, in particular, offer a wider array of color and style options and lower costs than found with new stones.
Looking To The Lab
Though colored stones have fewer ethical issues than diamonds, some people feel bound to tradition, particularly when buying an engagement ring. For these buyers, lab grown gems may offer a more ethical and affordable option.
Labs have been growing diamonds since the 1950s, particularly for scientific use, but only in recent years have they become popular in jewelry, for ethical and economic reasons. Investment giant Morgan Stanley suggests lab-grown diamonds could be as much as 7.5% of diamond market share by 2020, up from just 1% in 2016.
The affordability of lab grown diamonds is especially important for young couples today who are typically less economically secure than prior generations. News media have declared millennials are killing the diamond industry, but the reality is that they can’t afford diamonds, at least not “natural” diamonds. They can, however, afford lab-grown diamonds and that’s become a selling point among industry experts.
A Smarter Market
Ultimately, both the rise in colored stone sales and increased interest in lab-grown stones reflect today’s technologically advanced marketplace – as well as a savvy, stylish consumer base. These buyers recognize that lab-grown diamonds are materially the same as mined diamonds and that showing off their style through color and a unique cut is more valuable than hewing to tradition.
On the sales side, colored stones, manufactured diamonds, and smarter gemstone faceting practices seek to boost the market in 2018. From the mining level on up, producers can’t afford losses, but they also can’t afford bad press in the years since Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond. Buyers are smarter and more financially strained. Millennials are getting married at a later age than prior generations. It’s a tough time for the gemstone market, but shifting the sales focus has improved prospects for all parties.