By Bernardette Sto. Domingo
Tanzanite – a gemstone valued for its intense blue-violet hues, rarity and enigmatic history – will continue to captivate the global jewellery and gemstone sector going forward.
Discovered 50 years ago in Tanzania, near the city of Arusha and Mount Kilimanjaro, tanzanite has a special hold among genuine gemstone aficionados, according to dealers and jewellers interviewed by JNA.
Despite a slowdown in demand during the first six months of 2017, gemstone traders remain upbeat about prospects in the second half of the year as buyers are expected to replenish their inventories for the holiday season. Fine-quality tanzanite jewellery, meanwhile, will always be highly sought after by discerning individuals who appreciate the stone’s intrinsic significance.
Ariel Tivon of UK-based Tivon Fine Jewellery said tanzanite trade in the UK suffered a slight setback from January to June this year, largely due to major economic developments including Brexit, which affected consumer confidence.
Buyers partial to top-quality gemstones, however, remain undeterred and continue to purchase high-end tanzanite jewellery, continued Tivon.
“Consumers looking for truly fine-quality gems and jewellery still come forward and top-end tanzanite is certainly one of those gems that they seek out because of its natural beauty and alluring story,” the company official noted. “Demand for tanzanite appears stable as far as we are concerned.”
Tivon serves a broad range of clientele worldwide, with some buyers opting for 1-carat stones while others prefer bigger stones of 20 carats. Stones larger than 20 carats are hard to come by and is usually more suited to Middle and Far Eastern markets, noted the jeweller.
He added that this inherent preference for beauty will likely fuel demand for tanzanite towards the end of the year. More education about the stone, however, is needed to further drive demand.
“I believe demand will continue to be steady with very little volatility. As long as people continue to search for beautiful gems and supply is uninterrupted, tanzanite will continue to rank high on the wish list of true gem lovers,” added Tivon.
Ram Khatoria, CEO of New York-based gemstone dealer Rare Multi Color Gems, reiterated this sentiment, adding that a tanzanite’s history, mystery and rarity set it apart from other coloured gemstones.
“Why are people drawn to tanzanite? It is rare and mysterious, and has an interesting back story. No other gemstone in the entire world possesses all three characteristics. People will continue to want it because these factors add to a customer’s perceived value of the stone,” he added.
While business was generally sluggish in the first half of the year, Khatoria said he is already seeing signs of market improvement going forward.
“The first half was a bit challenging for us since prices have gone up by 15 percent to 20 percent compared to last year. Production has gone down so dealers raised their prices. Buyers have become apprehensive and reluctant to pay a higher amount,” the company official continued.
Wholesale prices of 5-carat to 20-carat stones of premier quality range from $250 to $300 a carat while bigger-sized stones command a per carat price of $350 to $450, depending on the size, cut and colour, according to Khatoria.
Rare Multi Colour Gems mainly sells to the US and Asia, specifically to Hong Kong and China. The company is planning to expand its reach to other Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore as part of its long-term goals.
According to Khatoria, US customers are on the lookout for calibrated goods of up to 5 carats while Asian and Middle Eastern clients are attracted to stones of 50 carats to 70 carats.
The gemstone expert said the industry will also be taking cues from the outcome of the upcoming September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair.
“The September Fair will be a good indication of what’s going to happen in the market at the end of the year and next year. It’s a benchmark for the holiday season. Right now, we are taking a wait-and-see stance but we remain optimistic,” remarked Khatoria.
Shubham Hurket of gemstone trader Gemoro, meanwhile, raised the importance of market and product diversification to overcome challenges in the tanzanite business.
He attributed this year’s slower demand to a less aggressive tanzanite market in China.
“Chinese customers bought an enormous amount of tanzanite from 2010 to 2013, and now that they’ve stopped buying, overall demand was affected,” Hurket disclosed. “I think that if tanzanite dealers want to sustain their business given a lacklustre market, there’s a need to diversify into other markets or offer other stones.”
Established in 2004, Gemoro’s top markets are China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the US. It is also eyeing clients from the UAE and Europe.
“Tanzanite is the only stone that you can get in big sizes and mesmerising colours but still appear very clean,” said Hurket. “We don’t see any interest in large-sized stones of 70 to 80 carats at the moment. Chinese customers mainly gravitate towards 2-carat to 5-carat or 8-carat stones,” he added.