Buyers’ unwavering affinity for rubies, coupled with significant improvements in the global market, is seen to drive solid demand for the treasured red gemstone throughout 2017.
Rubies of Burmese origin will remain highly sought after among major markets such as China and the US, with prices of unheated stones bearing the extremely coveted Pigeon’s Blood colour likely to stay high, according to gemstone experts interviewed by JNA.
The market, however, is increasingly training its sights on less expensive but equally captivating alternatives such as Mozambique rubies.
Prospects are bright for Burmese rubies if the first quarter of 2017 is any indication, revealed Aung Kyaw Zin, CEO of SP Gems Co Ltd of Myanmar.
“We have so far recorded steady sales of Burmese rubies from January to March. We don’t expect substantial changes but we maintain an optimistic outlook in 2017 mainly due to stronger demand from China,” noted Zin.
Chinese buyers are continuously looking for natural unheated Burmese rubies of commercial but decent-quality, he added. “These are more accessible than the higher-quality rubies, which have become even rarer and more pricy. We welcome this development, however, because it will bode well for the ruby market in the long run,” remarked the company official.
The fastest-moving products at the moment are rubies of 1 carat to 3 carats in size, according to Zin.
Per carat prices for big-ticket, top-grade rubies range from $50,000 to $100,000 or $10,000 to $30,000 depending on the size and quality of the stone, he added.
Patcharee Loetudomkitphaisan, director of Thailand-based gemstone dealer Bric Jewels Co Ltd, said 1-carat to 2-carat stones are highly favoured as jewellery centrepieces. Loose stone prices are currently pegged at $100 to $300 per carat at wholesale, the company official noted.
“Business is starting to pick up particularly on the retail level. In the US and Europe, we see substantial consumption from department stores and even e-commerce portals. Retailers are constantly updating their collections to include new items,” noted Loetudomkitphaisan. “We anticipate stronger business from the second half of 2017.”
The rise of Mozambique rubies
Kavi Agarwal of Hong Kong-based coloured gemstone dealer Iskkon highlighted the special allure of Mozambique rubies. The company currently holds an extensive collection of top-quality, no-heat rubies in single and calibrated sizes, which it has acquired over the past two years, disclosed Agarwal.
The gemstone manufacturer deals primarily in transparent gem-quality materials, from rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds to sphenes, garnets and blue topaz stones.
“We have a couple of pieces that are above 40 carats and they are all natural. When it comes to the finer pieces, we have quite a few rubies and sapphires that are of exceptional quality, including unheated Mozambique rubies,” he added.
Agarwal noted that unlike Burmese rubies, which have generally been around for a long time and have been passed from one owner to another, Mozambique rubies are being sourced directly from the mines.
“A more stable production means I can easily supply goods per order. If a jewellery manufacturer buys rubies for a certain product line, he can be assured of a steady supply of the same high-quality goods from our company,” he said. “This makes Mozambique rubies a highly viable investment choice. It is not a one-off sale but something you can keep getting in the same quality, consistency and price range.”
Hong Kong and mainland China account for around 70 percent of Iskkon’s business. According to Agarwal, the market is currently edging towards finer-quality goods, with the investment community also taking greater notice of gems and jewellery. As calibrated sizes constitute the bulk of Iskkon’s inventory, the company caters mainly to jewellery manufacturers requiring a regular supply of stones to ensure continuity and consistency in their product lines.
“We are bullish about prospects in the Mozambique ruby business. Given our broad range of products, we are able to supply stones depending on ever-changing market trends,” Agarwal added.
Zin of SP Gems said after the US government lifted restrictions against the trade of ruby and jadeite from Burma on October 7, 2016, majority of American dealers have yet to catch up on the Burmese ruby trade.
“It will take some time to harmonise the US market with that of Asia, which has a robust ruby business. There is, however, demand for heated Burmese rubies in the US. These stones have become sellable again,” he noted.
The US government’s decision effectively waived financial and economic sanctions stipulated in the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008, a US legislation barring gemstones – specifically rubies and jadeite – from Myanmar from entering the US.
A number of ruby suppliers earlier said they have already entertained inquiries from their US customers following the removal of the ban.
Loetudomkitphaisan of Bric Gems, meanwhile, said the US market is likely to gain traction by the second half of the year.
“Rubies will always be highly desired by the market. We expect the ruby business to flourish even further. Red is a colour that is deeply associated with protection, wealth, love and passion. With the removal of the ban, ruby is bound to once again reclaim its dominant position in major markets in the US, Asia and Europe,” she added.
Ravi Lunia, director of gemstone specialist Faidee, echoed this sentiment, adding that Burmese rubies are coveted for their beauty and value.
“The colour and rarity of Burmese rubies are incomparable. They are also viewed as long-term investments,” he noted. “We’re excited to do business with the US market again but from our observation, clients and retailers in the US are still adjusting to the lifting of the ban, and with a new US administration, it’s going to take time for things to get settled but we are very optimistic about the second half of 2017.”
He said the company anticipates prices to increase by 40 percent to 50 percent because of limited supply of fine-quality rubies.
Asia and the US are seen to drive demand for Burmese rubies throughout the year, he stated, adding that the market is surprisingly becoming more receptive to heated Burmese rubies in calibrated to single sizes.
The magnificence of Burmese rubies takes precedence in a one-of-a-kind, $35-million necklace that Faidee unveiled at BaselWorld.
According to Lunia, “The Grand Phoenix” ruby necklace consists of 24 exceptional Pigeon’s Blood rubies with a combined weight of 59.83 carats. The piece is further accentuated with 100.21 carats of D colour diamonds in fancy shapes and of flawless and internally flawless clarity grades.
The Grand Phoenix is a “masterpiece – a collection of flawless rubies spanning over four generations. To find a single exceptional ruby of this calibre is a daunting task but with our passion and burning desire to excel beyond perfection, we’ve managed to achieve a feat never before attained in the jewellery industry,” Lunia noted.
Zin of SP Gems said rubies will continue to have a place in the hearts of gemstone lovers and connoisseurs.
“Ruby connotes passion and strength, which makes it a very significant stone. There will always be demand for this natural beauty and its legacy will live on for the next generation to uphold and appreciate,” he noted.