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How colored stone prices are fixed

How colored stone prices are fixed

by Ardamun

In the ancient times, the colored stones were graded and classified according to their color. All red stones were generally classified as ‘ruby’, all green ones as ‘emerald’, and all blue ones as ‘sapphire’.

Summary: In the ancient times, the colored stones were graded and classified according to their color. All red stones were generally classified as ‘ruby’, all green ones as ’emerald’, and all blue ones as ‘sapphire’.

How Are The Prices Fixed For Colored Stones?

Colored gemstones have fascinated people from the ancient times. Since antiquity, people thought that the gemstones possessed magical powers and used them as objects of personal adornment. They always had the desire to possess beautiful colored stones. The three major natural characteristics – its beauty, its durability, and rarity – and one other, the perfection, or otherwise, of its cutting have a big hand in assessing the value, and hence the price, of a precious colored gemstone.

Factors That Affect The Price Of Colored Stones

Other than beauty and durability, the factors that affect the value, and hence, the price of colored stones are: rarity in nature, and the demand for them. The rarer a colored gem is, with its limited availability, the more desirable it is considered and therefore, more valuable. Its limited availability leads to increased demand, which automatically leads to increase in price.

The current fashion trends and the fluctuation in demand for them greatly affect the gem price. The earlier 20th century saw the popularity of amber and turquoise, and then they became less favorable. The end of the 20th century saw the resurgence of popularity of these gems and hence their prices too.

Celebrity Gemstones and Prices

The celebrity gemstones set their own records for prices and have no relation to the prices of colored gemstones of the similar quality and size. A factor that affects the prices of colored of gemstones depends on who owns them.

A spectacular 17.68-carat ruby ring, owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, sold for $290,000 – a whopping $16,000 a carat. This is more than the price of some of the most expensive diamonds. Similarly, a 47-carat kunzite ring that President Kennedy purchased for his wife was sold for $410,000, which averaged out at more than $8,700 per carat!

The 62.02 carat Rockefeller Sapphire – a blue sapphire – set its own record price of $48,871/carat and the total price of $3,031,000. It goes without saying that colored gemstones of similar weights and quality would not fetch similar prices.

Grading Of Colored Stones and Their Price

In the ancient times, the colored stones were graded and classified according to their color. All red stones were generally classified as ‘ruby’, all green ones as ’emerald’, and all blue ones as ‘sapphire’. Over time, gems became associated with money, and the need to price them correctly brought in the need to identify them correctly. The introduction of the imitation and synthetic gems in the 1800s, and the development of cultured pearls and emerald imitations in the 1900s, brought in the need for gemological expertise to separate the genuine colored gemstones from the fake ones.

This brought in the need to grade the colored stones based on the 4 Cs similar to diamonds. The credit for creation of the 4C system of grading of gemstones goes to The Gemological Institute of America. The evaluation of the colored stones based on Color, Clarity, Cut and Carat is somewhat different from that of diamonds. Where diamonds have precise grading for color, clarity and cut, in the case of colored stones the main consideration is color. Minor differences in clarity do not affect the price of the colored stones.

Color – Color is due to miniscule amounts of trace elements, which could be a part of the gemstone’s composition, or introduced later when the gemstone is forming in the earth. These trace elements bring forth the amazing colors we see in the gemstones. The more the intensity of the color in the colored gemstone, the more its value, and hence its price due to its increased desirability. As far as pricing of the colored gemstone goes, the color plays a greater part than its clarity.

Clarity – Clarity is the internal purity of a colored gemstone and is secondary to its color. Sometimes the unusual inclusions in the colored stones may actually enhance their desirability and therefore, their value. The star-like inclusions in rubies and sapphires, caused by the presence of the mineral rutile, increases the desirability of these gems and people are prepared to pay a higher price for them. A similar phenomena in the tiger-eye quartz – though not star-like, but parallel lines – too affect its desirability.

Not all inclusions have the desired effect. Too many inclusions that inhibit and interfere with the passage of light through the colored stones diminish their value.

Cut – Whereas the most appealing cut for a diamond is the round brilliant cut, the colored stones are cut into more shapes and proportions than diamonds. The varieties of shapes that enhance the appearance and the beauty of the colored stones are: oval, cushion, marquise, emerald cut, pear, cabochon, trapezoid, mixed-cut, and tablet. The proportions of the colored stones differ from that of the diamonds, with each cut made to preserve the weight and show off the best color.

Certain cuts and shapes look more appealing on certain colored stones. Fine cut emeralds are cut in the traditional emerald cut shape, opals in the cabochon (a smooth curved top) shape, and top quality rubies and sapphires in oval or cushion shapes. These traditional cuts enhance the value and price of the colored stones.

Carat – A carat is the measure of weight of a stone and is equal to 200 milligrams. The larger the size of the colored stone, the higher its per carat price. The price of a three-carat colored stone is not three times the price of its one-carat avatar, but much more, simply for the reason that larger stones are rare.

It is not only the weight of the colored stone that helps fix its price. It is all of the above grading factors, along with other factors, that decide the final price of the colored stone. A 0.95-carat higher quality colored stone, vis-à-vis its color, clarity, and cut would be priced higher than the comparatively lower quality 1-carat stone.

Other Factors And Price

There are other factors too that affect the price of the colored stones. Hardness is one quality that is well liked. Hardness is its ability to withstand being scratched. It is measured as per the Moh’s scale, where 0 is the softest colored stone and 10 the hardest – which is the hardness for diamond.

The price of the colored stones also depends on their ability to withstand chemicals and such substances. This stability is important. Some amethysts fade in sunlight, turquoises discolor by skin oils, and opals may crack by exposure to dry air.

Toughness of the colored stone, that is its ability to resist cracking, chipping, or breaking, is another factor. The luster and the brilliance of the colored stones too have an impact on how the prices are fixed for colored stones.

When prices are fixed for colored stones, it is a combination of all the above factors that come into play.

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