Research News

The Great Potential of Diopside in the China Market

Tao Hsu and Andrew Lucas
June 19, 2015
Tanzanian Chrome Diopside
This 5.26 carat chrome diopside, reportedly from Tanzania, was shown to GIA at the 2015 Tucson Show. G&G had previously reported on gem-quality chrome diopside from Merelani, Tanzania. Photo by Robert Weldon, courtesy of Primagem.
With the increasing interest in uncommon colored gemstones, more varieties with great potential have made their way into China’s gem market. One of these uncommon varieties is chrome diopside from Russia. Its very saturated, vivid green color makes it a nice, more affordable alternative to emerald. Since its introduction as a beautiful alternative green gemstone, chrome diopside has attracted a lot of attention from Chinese consumers.

Most of the diopside on the market is in readily available commercial sizes, ranging from approximately one half to two carats. However, larger stones can be found, some over five carats. Though Russia is the primary source of gem-quality chrome diopside, deposits also exist in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Italy, Finland, Austria, Tanzania, Madagascar, Myanmar (Burma), and India.

Once mainly described as an emerald alternative, chrome diopside is increasingly being promoted as a gem in its own right. Some domestically and internationally well-known jewelry brands such as Sino Jewel and Enzo have been promoting diopside jewelry since 2013.

Sino Jewel was established in the early 1990s in Shenzhen. It now operates as a group of companies handling jewelry design, manufacturing, wholesaling, and haute couture services. In 2012, Sino Jewel was named by the China General Chamber of Commerce as “China’s No. 1 Colored Stone Jewelry Brand.” In the spring of 2015, Sino Jewel launched a jewelry series called “Crispy Green,” featuring both faceted and cabochon-cut diopside in 18K gold jewelry. The brand also now offers promotional assistance to the trade, providing guidance and display services to retail stores and diopside distributors.

Diopside Ring
View Gallery
Diopside Jewelry by Sino Jewel and Enzo
Enzo, a retail jewelry brand under the Hong Kong based Lorenzo Group, is considered by local jewelry professionals to be the leader in colored stone jewelry promotion and trading. Enzo launched a series of 18K gold diopside jewelry at the beginning of 2015, with prices in the $500 to $1500 range. Since the prices of emerald and green tourmaline are comparatively high, diopside jewelry fills in the price gap, making it affordable for the expanding middle class.

Faceting

Owners of gem-cutting businesses in Shenzhen and Panyu informed the authors that due to diopside’s low hardness (Mohs 5.5) and flat crystal shape, only more experienced gem cutters can handle its processing, and the weight yield is generally low. Diopside is currently one of their main working materials, with faceted stones exported mostly to Hong Kong, Thailand, and the US. They are also witnessing higher domestic demand from well-known jewelry brands. In 2013, when the authors visited the colored stone cutting factory of Hutang Gems & Jewelry Ltd. in Panyu, their main goods were diopside and peridot. The factory also manufactures jewelry mounted with these two stones.

Sorting rough
View Gallery
Processing Diopside in Panyu, China
Hutang was marketing their faceted diopside at the 2015 Tucson show. The company’s owner, Mr. Wu, passionately expressed confidence in the potential of diopside jewelry in China. According to him, increasing quantities of faceted stones have been ordered by domestic jewelry brands in the past two years, but the finished diopside jewelry has not yet appeared on the market. Industry professionals feel that this is because jewelers are stockpiling goods for the right moment to sell, and that time will be soon. Industry media portray diopside as the colored stone rising star in China. Some even bravely predict that this stone has the potential to experience a big price jump, similar to what happened with tourmaline in 2009.

4.86 ct diopside
This is one of Hutang’s large faceted stones, displayed at the 2015 Tucson Show. The 12x10 oval weighs 4.86 carats. Photo by Robert Weldon, courtesy of Hutang Gems & Jewelry Ltd

Sourcing

Gem-quality chrome diopside is mined primarily in eastern Siberia. The so-called Inagli deposit is located in the republic of Sakha. Many Chinese stone cutters, including Mr. Wu, travel to the mines to buy diopside rough. He went to the mine in 2014 and brought pieces of rough from that location to the 2015 Tucson Gem Show. He described the harsh weather and terrain conditions in the mining area that shorten the mining season to only the summer months. This leads to limited supplies and steadily increasing prices.

Diopside Jewelry and Rough
The elegant diopside necklace—manufactured by Hutang—is fashioned from gold-plated
925 silver. The accompanying piece of rough weighs 105.9 grams. It was brought from
Siberia, Russia, by Mr.Wu, Hutang’s president. Photo by Robert Weldon, courtesy of
Hutang Gems and Jewelry Ltd.
Mr. Wu expressed his concern with those rising costs. Due to increasing demand from China, rough prices and Russian taxation are rapidly increasing. Chinese buyers have had to pay the tax so their stones could cross the border between the two countries. The delay and the increased cost may be a serious problem that both sides have to face in the near future.

Summary

As consumers become more aware of chrome diopside, the gem is gradually making its way into the mainstream jewelry market in China. In addition to its attractive color and comparatively affordable price, the stories of exotic sourcing and the gem’s untreated nature are both great diopside selling points. Modern Chinese consumers are more accepting of new stones than ever before. Chrome diopside already has great potential, and it is highly possible that its niche in the rapidly developing Chinese market will grow.

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