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Martin Julier on fashionable and classic gemstones

Martin Julier buys the finest gemstones for Bucherer Fine Jewellery. In an interview with Marianne Eschbach, the gemstone expert reveals the latest trends and talks about how colour gemstones have increased in value.
At the moment, the most fashionable gemstones are the light blue aquamarine and pink morganite. Like emerald, they belong to the beryl family.
Martin Julier, Head of the Gemological Laboratory at Bucherer AG

An interview with Head Gemologist Martin Julier

Martin Julier, Head Gemologist at Bucherer

Mr Julier, are gemstones also subject to trends, and if so, how do these tendencies arise?

The trends for colour gemstones are partly, but not exclusively, related to fashion. Not long ago, the fashion was for dark colours; but now, pastels are suddenly very much in demand, particularly pale blue and pink. The leading gemstones in this area at the moment are the light blue aquamarine and the pink to salmon-coloured morganite. Like emerald, both belong to the beryl family.

So why is emerald in demand again?

Fashion has less of an influence on the very-high-value end of the scale, such as rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Rubies are always red, emeralds are always green, and when you hear the word sapphire, you immediately think of the colour dark blue. These three well-known basic colours are less affected by fashion trends, which is why they have been forgotten somewhat in recent years. We now want to expand our offering in the area of these classic gemstones in order to raise awareness of them again. They certainly deserve more attention – after all, alongside diamonds, they are among the most valuable gemstones in the world.

It is clear from our retailers’ product ranges that emerald is undergoing an encouraging renaissance. Even individual mine operators are marketing the intense green stones. The result of these developments is that the prices for high-quality emeralds are rising. 
 

So gemstones are also an interesting investment at the moment?

Gemstones have been very interesting as an investment for quite some time. Unlike with diamonds, there is no uniform grading system for colour gemstones. In addition, the deposits are very random. Even if you find a stone today, you might not find another one at the same mine for three months. The prices for unheated rubies from Myanmar have increased by two to three times in the last five years – and the same is true for sapphires. Spinels have actually become five times more expensive. To date, diamonds have never undergone such increases in value. 

Why is that?

For one thing, because the resources in the well-known mines run out. A good example of this is Myanmar. People have been finding gemstones there for 2,000 years. Every king and emperor in the world has gemstones from Myanmar in his crown. But mining over such a long time means that stocks gradually begin to run out. Fewer and fewer rubies and sapphires are found, and this drives up prices. The other reason is the change in demand. In booming countries such as India and China, more and more people have the money to afford things like this, and that is immediately noticeable on the gemstone market. 

 

Relationships with gemstone suppliers that have grown over many years are particularly valuable to us. I have some suppliers which already worked with my predecessor 25 years ago.
Martin Julier, Head of the Gemological Laboratory at Bucherer AG

 

Setting a colour gemstone

Where do you buy the stones?

Trade fairs such as Baselworld and Inhorgenta in Munich are key hubs. In international terms, Bangkok and Hong Kong are still the largest and most important trading centres.

Relationships that have grown over many years are also enormously valuable. I have some suppliers which already worked with my predecessor 25 years ago. You do not meet these people at the trade fairs but at unremarkable offices somewhere in Bangkok. We can buy rarities there that are not even shown at the trade fairs.