With the sales of colored diamonds hitting world record ceilings such as the $71.2 Million Pink Star, color is coming to the jewel market steadily. Offerings such as the 37.30-carat Raj Pink, which will headline Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale in Geneva on Nov. 15, and a 14.93 carat beauty called The Pink Promise is the star at Christie’s “Magnificent Jewels sale on November 28th.
I am excited to bring you the perspective of someone with his finger on the trigger of this trend with a retail twist.
I have had the utmost opportunity to discuss this direction with an industry expert, Mr. Vin Lee, CEO Hadid Holdings, CEO Dalgety PLC, CEO Grand Metropolitan brands, CEO Heilig-Meyers Furniture, and CEO Finlay Fine Jewelry, which owns 20 of the top 50 US jewelry brands.
What do you see in prominent movement for colored gems, and the most popular hues?
Colored Gems have been around and as popular as diamonds for Centuries. Actually, Columbian Emeralds are far more rare than diamonds. But while diamonds have been heavily marketed for 200 years, precious and semiprecious stones have really just enjoyed an industry push since the turn of the century. As precious metal prices skyrocketed since the early 1990’s, there was a dramatic shift in the composition of jewelry in North America. Once upon a time, the gemstone was the majority of the cost of a piece of jewelry, as gold climbed near $2,000/ounce consumers had to tip the scales on carat weight. At the same time the price of emerald has shot up by a factor of 15.
As of 2005, with Leonardo Di Caprio and Martin Scorsese’s “Blood Diamond”, the millennial generation has grown up with the stigma of the part of the industry associated with that film. As they mature, and their discretionary income increases they are entering the bridal market. But this is not the same “Diamond is Forever” Tiffany-style solitaire consumer that has led the market for 70 years. Precious stones, emeralds, ruby and sapphire have exploded in popularity.
The most popular emerald hues are the blue-green through to true green, with vivid moderate color saturation and highly transparent with evenly distributed color saturation. The ideal emerald color is evenly distributed with no separate color zoning, Ideally, ruby has a red hue with a secondary purple hue possible. While tone can range from pale to pigeon blood, it is the darker richer colors that yield the highest prices and demand.
While the traditional and most popular color for sapphire is a rich blue, it is available in all colors of the spectrum. The sapphire hue at the top of the blue market range from a velvet to violet blue. But each category, even the colorless, has its own range of desirable qualities. “Prince William proposed to Catherine Middleton in the fall of 2010 and presented her with the ring his father Charles, Prince of Wales gave to Lady Diana Spencer, a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds in an 18-karat gold setting. The piece was created by Crown Jeweller Garrard. This singular global event rippled across the industry making blue sapphire extremely popular for a new generation.
Is there luxurious cuts that help magnify each color? What are the most popular with your clients, (if you feel comfortable to share generally)?
Finlay Enterprises is comprised of 70 retail brands, both national and regional. So our clientele really reaches the full extent of the North America jewelry market. Many people are not aware that each facet of each stone is carefully considered by the stone cutter and based on upon the composition of the rough originally used to bring out the maximum amount of color and clarity. As this material is created in nature there are imperfections and inclusions throughout. These shards of color and light are individual works of art.
The single most popular cut in the market is the brilliant (round) cut. This 58-facet cut divided among its crown girdle and pavilion is calibrated to achieve the optimal brilliance and fire. For diamonds, because of the tremendous cost of the material, you will find the range of cuts is not as adventurous as it is with precious and more often semi-precious stones.
When I first entered the luxury market in the late 1908’s, my first jewelry company was a leading importer for Bernd Muensteiner, the Picasso of the gemstone world. Before the advent of the laser cut gemstone, Muensteiner created the fantasy cut, artistic facets opposite the table of the gemstones. His pioneering innovative style inspired award-winning lapidaries including John Dyer, Michael Dyber, Sherris Cottier Shank, and Richard Homer. As these styles became more mainstream and emulated by manufacturers and designers, you will find them in jewelry stores around the world.
Do you have any future trends for the holiday season you expect people to come to your locations for? Luxury vs retail chain? Do you sell any heritage pieces? If so, is there color trends in requests?
Each year we follow trends across the many markets we participate in as the holiday season quickly approaches. Inventory has to be fully realized in October for the upcoming holidays. After 16 years of making couture tennis earrings for celebrities and wealthy patrons, we have noticed many designers have been creating twists on our classic inline double post ear climber. While first appearing at Cannes, it quickly emigrated to the red carpet and has now hit mainstream. Since this is my own personal design creation, I am particularly proud of how much the market has embraced this style.
We do have a heritage jeweler in our portfolio. L. D. Giddens & sons originated in 1859 in Goldsboro, NC literally steps from Heilig-Meyers Furniture original flagship store half a century later. As far as specific trends in color that is a harder question to answer. We have noticed a resurgence in the cabochon gemstones in rich blues and reds surrounded by diamond melee.
The new century has also given life to the sharing economy and “everything that is old is new again”. You will find a lot more old mine cut diamonds in jewelry store display cases than you did 30 years ago. Also with the spike in precious metals commodity prices, silver has demonstrated a preference among new clients, where platinum was once the most sought after.
Engagements are specific as an intended event, have you seen color increase in the choices for this market? If so, what kind of increase in percentage have you seen in the past 2 years? Top 2 colors and next big hue?
Obviously, diamonds are still a girl’s best friend. But for the more culturally sensitive consumer, the semi-precious market draws more attention than even the more affordably priced precious market. It has become more about the romantic story of the stone, such as a birthstone, that young brides swoon for.
The quality and advancement of cut in today’s colored gemstone market brings out the most impressive brilliance and fire that easily rivals the diamond.
In the 50’s and 60’s, fiancés were delighted to a diamond on their fingers, graduating from the gold band of previous generations. In the 70’s and 80’s this became a “size matters” issue, where young brides walked down the aisle anchored by that 1 carat solitaire on their ring finger eventually recasting those st0ones in pave and channel settings. Then the preferred metal shifted to platinum. By the 90’s, a push for 2 to 3 carat center stones became the status symbol of romance. Today, it is in fact as much about color as it is about size. But that color comes from a personal place of individual romantic storytelling. You will see an entire rainbow of color across the hands of brides.
Since you see all kinds of price points, is there any interests that seem to be crossing over from luxury to move into upper mass markets going into 2018?
Aside from the tennis earring (ear climber) I mentioned, the most significant trend in the jewelry industry in recent years is the “halo” engagement ring. This is the style Kate Middleton has in her engagement ring and represents almost 1/3 of the engagement rings sold in North America.
Thank you Mr. Lee, for your insights and assessment of the colored gemstone movement in the marketplace. I appreciate your time and availability for the interview. Much success to you and all the consumers out there in the upcoming colorful buying season.
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