Gemstone Trends From the Shop Floor

Big look, bold cut, brilliant color, but at a rock-bottom price – we’ve all heard the gemstone jewelry mantra that’s dominating gem talk at jewelry shows around the globe, but which are the gems that are tickling the consumers fancy in 2012? And, when it comes to a ‘bold cut’, which are the shapes and settings that make the buyer pause for thought?

According to Swarovski’s annual Gem Visions forecast, 2012 is the year in which neo-tradition will dominate the color gem market. Neo-tradition, Swarovski explains, is ‘a radical integration of past, present, and future that offers a new take on heritage’. Translated this means – dust off the archives, see what we’ve forgotten, take it out and update it with a twist.
This year in gemstone jewelry, consumers are looking to make an impact, albeit an understated impact. Think large neutral color gems or if a consumer is looking for something more colorful, rectangular gems or bursts of color blocked groups.

Last week we focused on white as one of this season’s dominating colors, other options for consumers looking for a versatile and minimalist color are organic-looking stones, namely opaque options such as lapis lazuli, labradorite, moonstones and the current trend topping gem – opal.

While opal comes in a variety of colors, black or white, fire or milky, crystal or boulder, milky and white crystal opals are currently reigning supreme. Another update on the opal front, while not necessarily a consumer trend, is that of supply. Although Australia is by far the world’s dominant producer of opals, demand and supply has been pushing up price points for these goods. Ethiopian opals, on the other hand, are coming into the market at a fraction of the price of similar Australian stones and in some notable large sizes, specifically opals from the Welo region.
Another stone that’s gaining consumer attention – red garnets and spinels. As the price of rubies continues to rise, the alternate of a rich red garnet is resulting in many price-conscious consumers opting for a larger garnet or spinel, over a much, much smaller and more expensive ruby.
Going for the cut (or to be more accurate – shape) and it’s all about the cabochon. Many gems that are opaque or translucent, such as opal and moonstone, are cut as cabochons rather than faceted. It’s also a popular cut for the price-friendly gems such as garnet and spinel.
Back to Swarovski’s prediction of neo-tradition, this can be seen in the growing interest for cushion-cut gems – a shape that’s a mixture between rectangular and oval. Cushion cuts were most en vogue during the nineteenth century .These cushion cuts were based on what we call today the ‘Old Mine Cut’. A squarish cut with rounded corners and large facets.
The modern cushion cut provides that ‘neo-tradition’ twist, featuring 64 facets instead of its ancestors 58, and while it’s not as fiery or brilliant as more modern cuts, its classic styling maximizes the gem’s luster.

Broken down by style, consumers are focusing on oversized rectangular gemstone rings set in silver. According to the Jewelry Information Center (JIC) fashion-wise, it’s all about pink morganite, champagne quartz and green quartz. Pendant necklaces featuring neutral or opaque gems, or on the flip side, featuring a cluster of colors
fighting for dominance, are also slated to be heavy hitters.

As far as earrings go – no surprise here. Oversized chandeliers featuring neutral colors with the design are stealing the show, and of course the ubiquitous linear style earrings featuring thin long rectangular gems.

Next week we look at one trend that is sweeping the market – custom designs. No longer relegated to the top-tier customer, customized jewelry is becoming a ‘must’ for every jeweler. From design customization to mass-market in-house options – providing consumers with a tailor-made piece has never been easier (or more lucrative).