Color Stone Market Poised for Major Growth

Gem sales have been steady and rising since 2018.

Mood-boasting, fashion-forward and statement-making, color gemstones are in high demand among consumers in all product categories including fashion, bridal, men’s, self-purchase, and youth jewelry.

A study conducted by MVI Marketing in the fall of 2020 finds that gemstones capture more attention with younger consumers interested in buying precious stone jewelry, for both lifestyle/fashion and engagement/wedding reasons.

Over 93% of the more than 1,100 U.S. jewelry consumers polled says they love sapphire, ruby and emerald; more than 40% recently purchased these gems; and nearly 70% likely will buy them in the next two years, cites Liz Chatelain, president of MVI Marketing.

Gem sales have been steady and rising since 2018. The acceptance of color stones as engagement and wedding ring centers and accents has jumped from less than 10% a decade ago to capturing more than 30% of the market, according to recent data from The Wedding Report.

Moreover, the margins with color stones are higher than those realized with diamonds. Over 92% of manufacturers see margins of 40% with color versus 30% with diamonds; 75% of retailers cited margins of 65% with color versus 33% with diamonds.

Yet, the gem category represents just 9% ($2.4 billion) of U.S. specialty jeweler sales totaling $27 billion, versus diamonds that capture 54% ($14 billion). With over 60% of consumers indicating they want to see more color stone jewelry across product categories in jewelry stores, there’s lots of room to bloom.

In a companion survey of 50 jewelry manufacturers and retailers, MVI research finds that targeted educational and sales training for color stones is wanted and needed in the trade to grow sales across categories. Many jewelers surveyed said they plan to spend more time and resources on promoting color. In fact, the research found retailers have increased their color stone jewelry to 15% of their wedding jewelry website posted products. Jewelers say color stones have injected life in their engagement and wedding ring displays.

From fashion and folklore to family and self-actualization, gemstones represent different things to different people. Individual colors, specific stones, and compelling combinations bring people to the gemstone category. There are limitless opportunities for jewelers to merchandise and market color in fine jewelry design, cheers Theresa Namie, merchandise manager for Ostbye.

Key messages in marketing color stones are their ability to customize any piece, connect with fashion and mood, and tell the story of their journey to market.

Cora Lee Colaizzi, marketing director and senior merchandiser for Quality Gold hails color stones, natural or lab-created, the new way of customizing fashion and wedding jewelry. She finds that color stones have elevated custom design services in fine jewelry.

“Consumers are searching for things that are unique and express individuality, and color stones provide a wide range of options in gem types, colors and cuts.,” cheers Parag Desai, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing for SDC Creations.

Color gemstones in general, and birthstones specifically, offer jewelers a profitable, consistent selling product category. Birthstones and colorful gem-set jewelry is preferred by a majority of jewelry consumers, finds The Plumb Club Industry & Market Insights 2021 report.

Sixty percent of the over 1,000 U.S. jewelry consumers surveyed in 2021 say they look for jewelry with a birthstone in the design because of its meaning. The popular fashion portal hails birthstones a subtle way of personalizing jewelry, a less obvious symbol that feels more like a secret.

“Everyone has a birth month, and many consider it part of their identity, so birthstone jewelry makes logical sense to most seeking a meaningful self or gift purchase,” says Colaizzi. Birthstones have become a huge part of the gemstone category, not only in signature jewelry designs, but also added as accents to customize monograms and initials, signet rings, and engagement and wedding rings. In fact, Quality Gold’s entire bridal collection is available for custom design. “Every mounting can be designed with a gem center or accent stones.”

Fashion & Style
Discussing gem-set jewelry in terms of the latest fashions resonates with style-conscious, self-purchasing women, who like to stay on trend, especially those looking for true statement pieces, says Namie. She advocates lifestyle imagery as effective on social media, as well as in store to inspire ideas for how women can transform their own wardrobes. Capitalize on broader style conversations by highlighting gemstone designs that work with popular/seasonal fashions, or to transform that little black dress.

Pantone is one way of discussing popular colors and exciting color combinations that elevate the color conversation in style and design, as people, surrounded by lively hues, are paying more attention to what evokes emotions. Siera Burt, graphic designer and marketing coordinator for SDC Creations, also finds nature, especially references to favorite flowers, a way to express color and personality when marketing and merchandising gemstones.

Given the strength of blue hues in the spring 2022 palette — soft to saturated, representing both comfort and joy — gems like London and Swiss blue topaz, aquamarine, and blue sapphire will continue to be bestsellers. Red also is expected to be a hot color this year. A symbol of power and strength, red gems like ruby and garnet are forecasted to be important in jewelry design in 2022, as well as raw stones and gems with unique markings.

In the color of the year, Very Peri offers a blend of cool and warm tones, the faithfulness and constancy of blue with the energy and excitement of red. Colaizzi says this color, best captured in amethyst, pairs nicely with most of the seasonal shades.

Mood-boasting pieces with uplifting colors in playful designs represent a wave of optimism in trending jewelry. TPC Insights 2021 found that 78% of respondents say colorful gemstone jewelry improves their mood, with 67% wearing jewelry that expresses their mood and personality.

And it’s not just women enamored with color stones, but men as well.  A recent Forbes article cites the growing interest in men’s jewelry, with Gen Z and younger millennials the focus of most menswear brands. Men’s jewelry was “abundantly apparent, from bead necklaces to metal elements of nature, even shells and pearls,” Forbes reports.

Responsibly Sourced
A key takeaway from MVI’s gemstone study is that jewelry consumers consider responsible sourcing in their purchase decision-making. More than 40% find it very important to know country of origin for color gemstones, and nearly 50% find it very important to know that workers at a mine or cutting factor are treated well.

TPC Insights 2021 also finds most consumers care that their jewelry is responsibly sourced, sustainable and ethical in its journey to market. On a scale from one to 10 (10 most important), 20% rated those considerations a 10, with the average ranking 6.5. Nearly three quarters of respondents say they’re willing to pay more for a sustainably sourced product, 26% say a lot more.

Today’s consumers, driven by millennials and Gen Z, look for sustainability and transparency in their brands, says Valerie Fletcher, vice president of design and product development for Original Design Inc. (ODI). So, as ODI, a Taché Alliance company, expands into color, it was the ideal partnership with Greenland Ruby to bring rubies and pink sapphire from this source for its latest LOVEFIRE collection. Each piece comes with a guarantee of origin, with the gemstones’ journey tracked mine-to-market, and a portion of gem sales supporting environmental initiatives in Greenland through the Pink Polar Bear Foundation.

The global gemstones market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5% through this decade, as a number of recent market research reports forecast. North America is one of the most significant markets for color stones. Growth is attributed to high consumer purchasing power and rising demand for precious stones, as well as the increasing acceptance of lab-created gems, and broader trend for customizing jewelry design, finds TPC Insights.