Dev Shetty, chief operating officer at Gemfields, the world’s largest producer of coloured gemstones, says the coloured gemstones market is young and fast-growing.
“Diamonds are a rare commodity, but emeralds are 20 times rarer than diamonds,” he says.
Gemfields mines and markets Zambian emeralds and amethysts and Mozambican rubies, and will soon start mining sapphires in Sri Lanka. Mr Shetty says while the South African miner De Beers Group’s brilliant marketing push in the 1960s and ‘70s was hugely successful in building the white diamond market, retail prices have flattened in recent years.
“Diamonds are a mature market with a 200-year history, whereas coloured gemstones marketing only really started in earnest five years ago. Unlike diamonds, the pricing matrix isn’t as defined, but prices are growing rapidly. In July 2009, our high-quality rough emeralds were selling at an average of $4.40 per carat at auction. Now they fetch closer to $59 per carat.”
This means you can get started with much smaller sums of money than in the white diamond market. But you can also spend big. This month, Sotheby’s in Geneva sold an 8.62-carat Burmese ruby for $8.6 million, a record $997,727 per carat.
In 2011, the same auction house sold a 12.01-carat Colombian emerald for $1.44m, nearly $119,000 per carat. By comparison, the most expensive ever white diamond, a 118-carat piece, sold for more than $30m at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong last year, at $254,143 per carat.
“Collectors are investing significant money in coloured gemstones,” says Mr Shetty. “We are working hard to create support and demand, boost consumer awareness and develop the market.”
Gemfields plans to open a sales office in Dubai next year, selling coloured gemstones directly to jewellery manufacturers, retailers and private investors. Wherever you buy gemstones, you must get the right certification, key to protecting your investment.