|Gemstones possessing high hardness and superior durability gain public favor and become fashionable. Assuming continued production of a gemstone, people who wear this gift from nature and appreciate its beauty will gradually influence those around them. As long as quality remains consistent, public confidence in the gem will grow. Eventually, as knowledge of the gemstone spreads, the gemstone’s use will transcend fashion and become custom. If society finds the gem desirable, it will be handed down to succeeding generations, making it part of a cultural tradition with a firmly established demand. The high demand for beautiful diamonds, for example, is based on a strong sense of consumer trust and prestige that has built up over the course of history.
Blue zircon is a truly stunning gemstone that enjoyed popularity in the 1920s, but before long it had virtually disappeared from the marketplace. It is likely that public confidence dropped sharply because the gemstone’s blue color would take on a yellowish or brownish tint when exposed to sunlight. Tanzanite, popularized in the 1980s, is a beautiful blue gemstone that has been especially fashionable over the past several years in the United States. The opinion of the people who have bought and worn tanzanite will determine whether it will end up as just a fashion of the times or become a firmly established custom and eventually attain the level of tradition. Even if a gemstone is heavily promoted and sold by the jewelry industry or individual companies, this does not guarantee that it will become a tradition. That can only be decided by future generations.
Gemstones are made by nature, and therefore each one actually has a unique quality level. They are mined, polished, and then supplied, in totally different combinations of type, country of origin, treatment, beauty, tone, defects, and size. The value of gemstones is established by demand and by the rates of production for the various quality levels in which they occur.
Also, since gemstones are not consumable goods, those that have been handed down over generations can be expected to affect value, regardless of whether or not they re-enter the market. Gemstones continually build on their tradition as people use and enjoy them.
In this book, gemstones are first classified by type, source, and treatment. Their quality is then determined, by size and as gem-, jewelry-, or accessory quality. Value is established accordingly. In practice, value is established by determining the quality of each individual gem, and gauging the market demand that corresponds to it.
Gemstones must be “beautiful and rare.” If a gemstone’s name is misrepresented, or if a synthetic stone is called a gemstone, we are dealing with blatant imitations and fakes. At the same time, a material lacking beauty will have almost no value, even if it belongs to a particular gem type. A pitch-black natural corundum, for example, may be called “sapphire,” but is unattractive and therefore not a gemstone. Being called a sapphire does not make it a gemstone. Being “beautiful and rare” is what makes something worthy of being referred to as the gemstone sapphire. The value of a gemstone is established by the degree of its beauty and rarity.
It is important to understand that the rarity of gemstone is not just a matter of limited mining production, but one of high demand as well. For example, an estimated 100,000 one-carat-size gem- and jewelry-quality round brilliant diamonds are polished each year. Even with such large-scale production, if one-tenth of the world’s population of 6 billion wanted to purchase one of these, the demand-to supply ratio would be 6,000 to 1. On the other hand, if we suppose that 1,000 one-carat-size tsavorites were polished and that only 10,000 people wanted one, the ratio would be just 10 to 1. As you can see, the rarity of gemstones leans more toward demand than supply.
The beauty and rarity of gemstone is not something contrived by gemstone dealers for the sake of boosting prices. Gemstones are highly dependable goods, having withstood the test of time. Furthermore, their beauty is a fortuitous gift from nature; and each gem’s beauty has its own individual character coupled with a high degree of rarity. The beauty of gemstones, and the traditions that accompany them, are full of meaning.
The purpose of gemstone is to wear them as adornments, thereby enjoying their beauty and experiencing the sense of comfort that they bring. The true value of these precious items that nature leaves in our care comes from the personal joy of wearing them, from the delight that they bring to those who look at them, and from the sense of luxury that they bestow upon our lives. There is a saying to the effect that “the true value of money is only realized when it is spent.” Just as a fortune left behind by a mister held no practical value for that person, it can be said that unused gemstones have no real value. True, it is important to take precautions against theft and loss, such as by keeping a third of your jewelry on hand while storing the remainder in a safe and using them in rotation. However, the true value of gemstones can only be fulfilled by having them at hand to wear and enjoy.
Jewelry incorporating sound design, materials, and fabrication greatly increases the enjoyment that comes with wearing it. It gives the wearer confidence, becomes a treasured heirloom, and remains a valuable asset over time. I think that the phrase “half enjoyment, half asset” not only captures the attitude one should take when purchasing gemstone-oriented jewelry, but also conveys the essence of gemstones. Money is gone once it is used, but as seen in auction sales, jewelry crafted and worn since 50 or 100 years ago- or even longer-often sells for a price several times its original cost.