Feature Gems & Gemology, Fall 2010, Volume 46, No. 3

An Era of Sweeping Change in Diamond and Colored Stone Production Markets

The diamond, colored stone, and pearl businesses have witnessed unprecedented change since the turn of the 21st century. Not only have new markets for gems emerged around the world, but channels of distribution have also changed dramatically as a result of economic forces and political pressures. De Beers abandoned its single-channel seller role, which created —for the first time in over a century—a competitive rough diamond market. Political problems in Madagascar and a ban on gem exports from Myanmar disrupted supply channels for sapphire and ruby. And the proliferation of new sales avenues, through the Internet and TV, has given consumers much more information about gems and forever changed the way they buy them. The use of gems to subsidize bloody conflicts and repressive regimes has moved the trades to become more accountable, as concerns over terrorism and illicit trading have created a new legal environment. At the same time, a new class of consumers who value ethically, socially, and environmentally friendly products are making their demands known in the gemstone business.