Heading into the new year, there is optimism among many in the industry. Early reports from retail jewelers show that the holiday shopping season was overall a little better than expected. The record highs of the stock market may have contributed to this strong finish. While online selling continues to grow, jewelry still has that certain aspect of wanting to see it and feel it before buying so some items do not lend as well to the online format.
The optimism is great to see because there has also been a difficult side to the retail industry. This past year saw many independent retail stores close their doors. Some long standing generational stores finally went the way of retirement with no one taking over. Chains may be growing while independents are shrinking. However, for those independents still in business, they are possibly gaining from fewer independents to compete with.
On the wholesale side, many dealers are also predicting a strong year ahead. Supply has been short in many gems and that has managed to keep some prices higher than expected. While there was a softening of price by year end, the decreases were a small fraction compared to the dramatic increases felt in the past few years when China was bustling and driving up prices.
In trends to follow, sapphire is expected to be number one again as it has been for the last decade. Spinel is making its way up the ladder to be a gem in greater demand. Great properties as a gem and a rainbow of colors, many very affordable, are keys to this being a best seller this year. Pantone named the color of the year to be “greenery.” Described as “a refreshing and revitalizing shade, greenery is symbolic of new beginnings.” This fits well with the optimism we are feeling and the hope for a successful year as green denotes. Watch for gems such as tsavorite to do well besides the classic emerald.
Ruby has always been a desirable and a very expensive gemstone in its finest quality. As rarity governs its high price tag, treatments may keep the price at more affordable levels for the consumer. Generally speaking, most rubies are heat treated to improve the color to a richer or deeper red. The heating of rubies has been done throughout history both primitively at the source and today in modern controlled furnaces. It is a stable and permanent process. A ruby that is untreated in any way is extremely rare and can be very expensive. However, for the lay person the difference between a treated ruby and an imitation does not mean much. The unscrupulous seller takes advantage of this situation.
Recently, there has been an increase in the number of certain ruby imitations. Alongside of ruby and glass composite which is produced in millions of carats every year, the common synthetic corundums are worked into convincing clones of natural gems. Although not new, quench crackled flame fusion ruby is sold as heated natural ruby. This material has been around for decades, yet the number of reports by appraisal offices and labs are increasing by the day. Most buyers are being deceived into believing that these are more valuable rubies as they are sold in high carat gold jewelry.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of this scenario is that gemologists are identifying them as heat treated ruby by confusing the wispy veil like inclusions as fingerprints.
As always, we recommend detailed microscopic examination to spot gas bubbles and curved straie of the lame fusion process along with floaty fingerprint-like veins. Unless quench crackled, these veins do not occur in the flame fusion synthesis. Similarly, any natural ruby, whether heated or not, should not contain a free standing gas bubble or curved straie.