By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
Afshin Hackman’s most recent buying trip to Thailand was one of his most challenging ever.
“There wasn’t enough merchandise, and prices have gone up too much too fast,” says one of the principals of Intercolor, a high-end colored stone dealer in New York City.
Hackman attended the Thai Gem and Jewelry Traders Association Thailand Gems & Jewelry Fair, held Feb. 22–26, 2023, though most of what he bought was done so during office visits prior to the fair’s opening. “I like to get there a week ahead, so I get first crack at what’s going to show,” he explains.
What was there was more of what many gem dealers have been experiencing for the past year: difficulty in acquiring top-quality unheated material like Rubies from Mozambique at prices that never seem to stop escalating.
“Ruby prices are up 30–40% since the last two auctions held in December and June 2022,” he says.
As for unheated blue Sapphire prices, fuggedaboutit. Prices of those—as many know—have easily doubled in the past five years. “Unheated has become untouchable,” adds Hackman.
Ditto for fancy colors like purple. Madagascar’s COVID-19 lockdowns on exports and subsequent ban on rough sales still plague the international market, particularly when it comes to pink. “We get a lot of orders for it, but there’s just no inventory,” he says.
Benny Hakimi went to the Thai show just to shop Mozambique Rubies. The owner of Colorline, also in New York City, also did a lot of shopping ahead of the fair but still attended to see any new vendors, many of which (newer and established) told him the show was decent. One caveat to the praise: rumblings about Asian buyers who balked at the higher prices and a change in buying preferences. Apparently, Asians are seeking out Burma-type open colors of Rubies that the U.S. loves versus the darker gems with secondary purplish tones they had been snapping up.
Prices for unheated Rubies were up 50–80% year over year. “I spent a lot of money but didn’t get a lot of stones,” says Hakimi. Another issue? Poor cutting to retain weight but not maximize beauty.
“Ruby prices jump exponentially with weight,” he adds. “I had to pass on a lot of stones because of weight and recutting issues.”
Meanwhile, Houston-based jewelry designer Erica Courtney of the eponymous firm also went to Bangkok, both for R&R and business. She reminds peers that getting a ticket to visit doesn’t mean anyone is bringing home a bargain. She sees prices of unheated Rubies and Sapphires are as much as 50% higher than a year ago. This increase doesn’t mean she’s not spending—Courtney picked up about 20 carats of small but super bright and well-cut unheated Sapphires (“The kind that halfway blind you,” she says)—nor does she advise you to refrain.
“If you see something fabulous, buy it even if it’s pricey,” she urges. “It will be more expensive next year, and even more the year after that.”
This is proprietary content for AGTA and may not be reproduced.