Colored Gem Market Update

Joshua Saltzman
Nomad’s Lapidary Company
Interview with Joshua Saltzman, Nomad’s Lapidary Company
Nomad’s specializes in a wide range of high-end colored stones such as spinel, tourmaline, peridot, garnet, and corundum, all untreated. Saltzman finds that trade shows are excellent places for educating consumers about the differences between treated and untreated stones. As he sees it, explaining to a potential buyer why a similar-sized stone at another booth costs half of what Nomad’s charges (treatment vs. no treatment) gives that customer more choices.  She can make her selection based on whether lower prices or a gem’s natural qualities are her priority.

The market for high-quality and larger pieces has tightened noticeably in the past couple of years due to much less mining and production and the resulting higher prices. Rubellite and bi-colored tourmalines were big sellers on the Chinese market, but less rough is now available and sales have slowed. Two years ago, there was a large supply of Afghani tourmaline in the bright blues that Nomad’s is known for, but now the supply has shifted to mint colors and the variety known as indicolite; Saltzman says they are selling well and “people love them.”

Saltzman shows stunning deep purple cuprian tourmaline from Mozambique, a big and beautiful aquamarine from Brazil, and lavender spinel from Vietnam. The latter demonstrates a color shift from lavender to pink in a fine specimen with a fiery, glittery radiance that Saltzman calls “sexy, feminine and soft; very popular.” Although Nomad’s also sells Tajik spinel in rose pink, and Tanzanian spinel in oranges and intense pinks and reds, their biggest seller is Vietnamese cobalt blue, which is now very hard to find in sizes over a carat.

Indeed, spinel appears to be increasingly appreciated as a gemstone in its own right, instead of as merely a lower-cost substitute for corundum. Vietnamese spinel in pastel colors is in demand and the prices are rising due to the fact that only small finds are being mined now. One reason for its popularity is that spinel tends not to be heated or treated the way rubies and sapphires often are, so customers can be confident that what they are buying is a truly natural gemstone. Nomad’s customer base is loyal because they know that the company’s combined choice of rough, cutting, and polishing produces a level of quality in untreated gemstones not found elsewhere.

Mr. Saltzman is involved with buying rough colored gemstones from around the world, and cutting and selling finished colored gemstones globally. His company focuses on precision cutting of a wide variety of colored stones at the higher end of the market. In his interviews, Mr. Saltzman discusses the company’s cutting philosophy, market update, spinel sources and production, Afghan tourmaline, the rubellite tourmaline market, and working with untreated stones.