Symbolising love, commitment and wisdom, the sapphire – especially stones in pure, rich shimmery blue – has been an endless source of fascination and delight in many cultures. Coveted for its beauty by serious collectors, this gemstone has been associated with legends and myths, and has been worn by the nobility for centuries. In separate interviews with JNA, some of the world’s most established gemstone dealers explain the allure behind one of the world’s most beloved gemstones.
Germany-based Paul Wild OHG is known for its extensive selection of fine-quality stones including rare sapphires. One of the gemstone dealer’s exceptional offerings is a bracelet layout in a flowing wave-like shape consisting of cabochon-cut star sapphires and star rubies with a total carat weight of 281.99.
“Historically, the sapphire has been referred to as the ultimate gemstone,” company CEO Markus Paul Wild said. “Blue is the most popular colour in sapphires but the gemstone also comes in almost every colour of the rainbow.”
The gemstone manufacturer sources its sapphires from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Madagascar and Thailand. “At the moment, supply and demand are fairly stable,” Wild said. “Blue is the hottest colour in the Chinese market. High-quality stones in classic cuts and shapes are also favoured by Chinese buyers.”
The company executive noted that price trends did not see any major shifts compared with the previous year although prices of goods in the high-quality range “could rise up fast.”
“But in general, prices are stable at the moment,” he said.
A regular exhibitor at major Hong Kong trade shows, Paul Wild OHG will be displaying its wide selection of middle- to high-end quality sapphires in different shapes in the Grand Hall of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre during the June Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. The trade show is scheduled for June 22 to 25. “Some of them will be presented as layouts and pairs, but we will also have a number of single stones,” Wild said.
Santpal Sinchawla, owner of Thailand-based Sant Enterprises Co Ltd, said unheated Sri Lankan sapphires are currently in high demand. The gemstone dealer, which sources most of its rough sapphires from Sri Lanka, also observed that single stones are among the company’s fast-moving goods in China.
“Prices of unheated sapphires have gone up a bit but prices of heated goods have come down compared to last year,” Sinchawla said.
Asked to explain sapphire’s allure, he attributed it to a number of factors: It is rare and comes in a wide range of colours, with each colour having its own quality variations.
Sant Enterprises, which has its own coloured gemstone-cutting facility in Thailand, is presenting a fine selection of both unheated and heated Sri Lankan sapphires at the June Hong Kong Fair. Single stones, matched pairs, layouts and calibrated gems will be presented at the show, according to the company.
Luxury jeweller Stenzhorn, famous for its invisible-set coloured gemstone jewellery pieces, is recognised as one of the finest makers of sapphire jewellery. Founded by the brothers Stenzhorn in Germany in 1979, the family-owned enterprise hand-selects the gems used in its collections.
“Stenzhorn has been in love with coloured stones for decades, and we like working with sapphires a lot. We appreciate the colour range and the hardness of it. A piece looks particularly fabulous when the sapphires are set in a cascade of graduating colours,” said Chris Stenzhorn, company sales director.
“My uncle who founded the company, Klaus Stenzhorn, has a fantastic eye for sapphires. This is why it’s not surprising that our sapphire jewellery collections are among our top sellers.”
One of Stenzhorn’s finest creations is its Mosaic V-shaped sapphire collier, a one-of-a-kind necklace embellished with sapphires in invisible setting. The craftsmanship and techniques unique to Stenzhorn also led to the creation of a necklace that gently follows the curves of the neck and flows beautifully over the collarbone.
“We are delighted to offer an extensive selection of pendants, rings, earrings and necklaces set with sapphires. They are highly feminine, elegant, sensual and contemporary. Every creation is a piece of art,” Chris said.
“Our sapphires are breathtaking to begin with, and we are further showing off their incredible colour and brilliance with our invisible setting technique.”
Another exceptional piece is the Wild Orchid collier, which features a six-petal orchid pendant completely set with sapphires.
“I personally love the lightness, design details and perfection of this collier,” he said.
Stenzhorn’s sapphire jewellery collections are available in various styles, sizes and price points. “We cater to the tastes of a wider customer base because of our diverse collections – from haute couture pieces to medium-price range goods,” the company official said.
Known for its mastery of technical craftsmanship and design, and its passion for coloured gemstones, Stenzhorn counts Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America among its main markets.
“We are delighted and thankful to be working with the best jewellers in the world, and we are proud to say that every year, more retailers are carrying our brand. We feel a great demand for our jewellery, and we want this trend to continue in the many years ahead.”
Compared with established and legacy brands, Stenzhorn is a relatively new player in the market. Its exceptional designs, excellent craftsmanship and fine-quality materials have given the brand a boost in a fiercely competitive marketplace.
“These qualities make our brand interesting and attractive to consumers,” Chris said.
The company official said Stenzhorn is closely watching changing market trends and consumer preferences. Millennials, for one, view jewellery differently than the older generation.
“In general terms, I would say that younger consumers are looking more into brands, fashion and trends. For this reason, I build my strategies based on this philosophy: Changes are only new challenges to opportunities,” said Chris.
The House of Gübelin is also taking a creative approach to its sapphire jewellery collection. Revolving around the theme “Deeply Inspired,” the jewellery lines are representative of the brand’s jewellery-making and gemstone expertise.
The Drops of Water Collection is based on microphotographs of a sapphire, and is characterised by gems with rounded shapes, be they ovals, drops or half-moons, set in delicate prongs. As centre stones for these jewellery pieces, blue gems such as sapphires as well as other coloured gems including rubies, emeralds and violet or pink sapphires are used, the jeweller said.
One of the pieces in the collection is a ring in white gold set with an oval sapphire flanked by two diamonds. The ring band features two pear-shaped sapphires, demonstrating the high degree of workmanship that was put into the jewel.
“As a member of the sixth generation of our family-owned company, I am very proud of the way in which we combine beauty, knowledge and artisanship,” said Raphael Gübelin, president of the Swiss family-owned business. Gübelin serves its international clientele in 10 boutiques in prime locations in Switzerland, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.
Sapphires will continue to command attention in the international gemstone and jewellery industry, thanks to their captivating colours and regal appeal, according to Sri Lanka-based gemstone specialists.
Ismail Kamil, managing partner at Gembines, said the much-coveted “Royal Blue” and “Cornflower Blue” sapphires are not the only ones highly sought after in the market today.
“The first quarter of 2017 saw steady demand for sapphires, particularly facetted blue, pink and padparadscha sapphires, more than other varieties,” he noted. “The US is likely to drive growth in the sapphire trade this year. We expect the US market to recover and bounce back in 2017 after extremely challenging times. China is also fuelling the sapphire business.”
Premier-quality blue sapphires weighing 2 carats to 6 carats are the most attractive to buyers, disclosed Kamil. These sapphires cost around $750 to $5,000 per carat.
Hot pink sapphires are also favoured by the market, especially 2-carat to 6-carat stones with per carat prices of $750 to $2,000. Padparadscha sapphires of 2 carats to 4 carats valued at $500 to $3,000 per carat are also in demand, added the gemstone specialist.
“Fine gemstones are still regarded highly by traders and collectors despite economic uncertainties. Jewellery manufacturers are on the lookout for clean, well-cut goods in matching pairs and layouts for their future collections. We also noticed a spike in demand for fancy sapphires in pastel colours, from 2 carats to 10 carats in size. Prices range from $200 to $500 per carat,” added Kamil.
Rehan Caffoor, director for business development at Ruby N’ Sapphire Private Ltd, said buyers are expected to gravitate towards unheated blue sapphires and top-quality padparadscha sapphires.
“There has always been solid demand for these two products and we see this trend continuing this year,” he noted. “Unheated blue sapphires and fancy sapphires are always required by clients. In terms of sizes, stones of 1 carat to 3 carats will likely move the fastest, but there is also demand for 10 carats and above.”
The market’s unwavering preference for sapphires could be attributed to tightening supply, according to Caffoor.
“Despite the development of new mines in Madagascar and other parts of Africa, demand for high-quality sapphires still exceeds supply,” noted the gemstone expert, adding that provenance remains a significant factor when purchasing sapphires.
Caffoor also highlighted the impact of emerging consumer markets on demand, citing a rising interest in fancy sapphire jewellery as an alternative to diamonds.
“The retail jewellery market plays a crucial role in the sapphire sector. Fancy sapphires are moving fast, especially those weighing 1 carat to 3 carats,” he added.
Caffoor cited a sapphire’s one-of-a-kind appeal as its most enduring trait. “Every stone is unique. Although you can find a close match, acquiring two sapphires that are identical in terms of colour, quality, size and shape is close to impossible,” he added.
Consumers are likewise given a wider range of choices since sapphires are available in various colours. These stones are also viable investment choices since their value appreciates over time, remarked Caffoor.
Kamil, meanwhile, highlighted a sapphire’s intense, electrifying colour as its most attractive feature.
“It is also a versatile gemstone; that’s why jewellery manufacturers and designers are partial to using sapphires to keep their product portfolios more attractive and up to date,” he said.
Improved consumer confidence, aided by easily accessible gemmological reports and certifications, is also at the heart of stronger demand for coloured gemstones, according to Kamil.
Caffoor echoed this sentiment, adding that consumers have become highly selective in their sapphire choices. “They want a product that suits their needs in terms of quality, colour and cut. Supplying this particular merchandise can sometimes be a challenge for industry players,” he noted. JNA