With the price of gold, diamonds and jewelry continually changing, seeking professional advice relating to your specific requirement is extremely important. An item retailing for £100,000 one month could lose significant value six months later, so knowing what to insure it for correctly or, possibly even, when to think about selling it, are becoming increasingly critical issues.
At Pall Mall Art Advisors our team of jewelry specialists monitor prices and trends in the international market to make sure that you can be properly informed and looked after.
The jewelry market over the past few years has been unusually volatile for several reasons – some directly due to the general ‘woes of the world’ and some caused by some quite dramatic fluctuations in commodity, material and gem prices.
In 2007, the price per ounce of gold was around the $750 mark – it peaked late in 2012 at $1,890 – and fell back to just over $1,000 in recent months although it’s edging up to the $1,200 mark today.
However, in pieces of gem set jewelry the gold value factor is not huge – the gem prices, manufacturing costs and retail profits are larger factors.
Diamonds, despite what De Beers say in their advertisements, are not rare. Huge deposits of good quality stones are regularly being found in mid-Africa and now Botswana has pretty well become the diamond centre of the world, with De Beers moving their headquarters there from London.
Mining techniques are better and more efficient, so there are more than enough stones to go around. Slackening demand from the Middle and Far East for many of the slightly lower grade stones and sizes have seen noticeable drops in market prices. De Beers and their fellow core suppliers have had to do a lot of juggling and adjustment to try and keep things on an even keel.
However, if the stone is exceptional in all of the three main quality criteria i.e. size, colour and clarity, it will still be very expensive. The trade price of a one carat flawless D colour (the best) stone, is well over twice the price of a one carat H colour and VVS2 clarity (both acceptable commercial qualities) stone.
There have been some exceptional auction prices recently for coloured diamonds, specifically for pink and blue stones with prices approaching $1 million dollars per carat. There is a very rare red diamond coming up for sale in the Spring, which could break records despite being only just over one carat, i.e. 6.5 mm diameter.
There’s a slight, but increasing, threat to the stability of the diamond markets with the arrival of man-made diamonds. They have been around for a few years and are ‘genuine’ stones i.e. made from of carbon, but have up until now been a rather unattractive bright orange/yellow color and they were costing more to make than the price for a natural one.
However, techniques have improved and costs have dropped and they are now producing acceptably ‘white’ stones at commercially viable prices.
The biggest movement in the gem market has been the huge increase in auction prices of good rubies, sapphires and to a slightly lesser degree emeralds – with the big proviso that they are ‘natural and untreated’ stones and have a laboratory certificate to prove it. Nearly all the colored stone modern jewelry that you see in shops today will have stones treated with heat and highly technical processes to improve their color and clarity and therefore retail value. So it is important to ensure you have certificates and an up to date valuation.
Thailand, Vietnam, Ceylon and India are the centers for this stone enhancement. The market is awash with these stones and trade prices are very low, plus with modest manufacturing costs over there, there is plenty of scope for retailers to put a pretty punchy profit mark up on the pieces. So, it’s the good colored stones from the 1920’s and 1930’s, before this enhancement became so wide spread, that are the ones that hit the headlines. A good color and clarity natural ruby can be worth more than a diamond of comparable size, but a recognized laboratory certificate is a must.
There have been two other ‘spikes’ in the market over recent years, both driven by Middle and Far Eastern buying. First came amber, but it has to be a butter scotch brown/red color and as big as possible and unfacetted. Amber has always been associated with good fortune in the Buddhist world and has medicinal properties also. About a year ago, good amber was selling for more per ounce than gold, but there is recent auction evidence to suggest that the amber boom is over.
The other spike has been in the pearl market, specifically the natural saltwater pearl market. Cultured pearls are natural beads ‘farmed’ in seawater by introducing man made beads in to the soft tissue of an oyster. The oyster’s reaction to these ‘irritations’ is to cover them in ‘nacre’, which is the lustrous shell like covering that we see on the pearl necklaces in most shops. The beads can be 4 or 5 mm in diameter so the thickness of the nacre coating can be pretty thin and lacking in lustre depth. In a natural seawater pearl the oyster takes in the occasional tiny grain of sand around which it builds up the layers of nacre, so in an 8 mm diameter natural pearl you may have 7 mm depth of nacre rather than 3 or 4 mm in a cultured pearl. If you put one of each of these pearls together the wonderful depth of lustre of the natural pearl is very apparent.
Again a laboratory certificate and an up to date valuation is a must. But the main problem for the pearl market is the arrival of freshwater pearls from China. These are farmed in rivers and lakes and not in oysters but in mussels. A mussel can produce more pearls, more often, but they can be of poor lustre and are prone to being misshapen. They are however very cheap and can be seen up to 15 mm in diameter.
Whilst auction prices for fairly modern ‘ordinary’ jewelry can very modest indeed – and a small fraction of its retail replacement price – the market for ‘big name’ pieces with good style and quality is as strong as ever. Cartier, early Tiffany, Boucheron, Bulgari, Buccellati, and Lalique all sell strongly. From the previous century there is a strong collectors’ market for work by Castellani and Giuliano and anything with an interesting historical or royal background will generally fare well.
So, with the price of gold, diamonds and jewelry continually changing, seeking professional advice and having your jewelry reviewed annually is extremely important.
At Pall Mall Art Advisors our team of jewelry specialists monitor prices and trends in the international market to make sure that you can be properly informed when choosing to sell your piece. We can also provide you with an accurate valuation for insurance purposes, reducing the prospect of any issues arising out of loss. Accurate valuations can also play a vital role in successful estate planning.