Whether it’s the 12-carat sapphire ring that Prince William chose to make his proposal to Kate Middleton or the 128.54-carat Tiffany diamond worn by Lady Gaga to the Oscars, coloured gemstones are gaining favour over traditional white diamonds.
Splashes of colour have been used in jewellery design for centuries, of course, but colourless diamonds have reigned supreme among gemstones since at least the 19th century. After the De Beers Mining Company was established in 1888, diamonds quickly became symbols of power and romance, notions that were reinforced in 1946 when New York copywriter Frances Gerety came up with the company’s iconic advertising slogan: “A Diamond is Forever.”
“A decade ago, colourless diamonds were widely perceived by consumers to be the most prestigious of gems,” says Gemfields CEO Sean Gilbertson. “Now the swing toward precious coloured gemstones is overwhelming, with robust demand prompting double-digit growth in many countries.” Gemfields, the world’s leading supplier of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones, announced in March that it expects to record US$39.1 million in net profit for 2019, with its Montepuez mine in Mozambique, the richest known ruby deposit, generating revenue of almost US$122 million. Maybe this is because today’s jewellery buffs are seeking something unique—a one-of-a-kind treasure that’s yours and yours alone.
A Little Something Different
Let’s face it, white-diamond tennis bracelets just don’t cut it any more. Modern customers want something that’s different and personal, and Dior’s fat, juicy cabochons or Chaumet’s pump, bulbous rubellites can be viewed as enhancing a sense of individual style. Whether floating off-centre above a chunky pavé ring or swinging about the neck off a diamond-dusted chain, colour combinations or one-off shades say something that’s exclusive to you.
High-calibre mines like Montepuez and stricter international rules have also helped drive a comeback for coloured stones, after a series of exposés in the late-1990s criticised jewellers for not disclosing colour-enhancing treatments such as oiling and filling. “Mozambique’s consistency and transparency of supply has instilled renewed confidence in rubies and has enabled high-end jewellery brands to create extraordinary capsule collections with fine rubies they would typically have spent years collecting,” says Gilbertson.
Acclaimed Hong Kong jewellery artist Wallace Chan tells me that acquiring the right coloured gemstones for his creations can take “months, years and even decades”. Well known for his sculptural works that are deeply rooted in Chinese culture and philosophy, Chan’s gem-faceting and patented jade technology has revolutionised haute joaillerie.
“China enjoys a long history with coloured gemstones, especially jade,” says Gilbertson. “The region is also fond of ruby’s vibrant red colour, which represents luck, happiness, beauty, vitality, success and good fortune.”