How can you tell if you are paying the right price for colored gemstones?

yellow sapphire closeupLet me say this first – don’t ask anyone how much a one-carat ruby costs.  A ruby that’s one-carat can be worth $10 to over 10,000 dollars.  It is the quality of the gemstone that makes all the difference. Often one can only see these differences in quality when you look at a bunch of different rubies all at once.  Rubies with better quality colors cost more, sometimes a lot more. Like diamonds, better clarity will cost more per carat. Having a ruby with a better cut is always worth a bit more. Likewise, the bigger the stone, the more it is worth per carat. Within each variety of gemstones, prices are calculated according to the four C’s, whereas color is by far the most determining factor.

Prices differ according to the variety of gemstones. This is where confusion and a lot of pre-conceived notions about value come in.

pink rubeliteSome varieties of gemstones are prices lower simply because of the laws of supply and demand, being readily available.  Some varieties are priced lower than others because the color isn’t in demand (yellow and brown stones aren’t popular). Other times it is because the gemstone material is soft and yet other times…a stone looks like it has high marks in the 4C’s but no one knows it yet.

Plenty of gemstones are valued less than others with similar qualities. Beautiful nonetheless, some stones can have unfamiliar or unusual names, or can get confused with similar looking semi-precious stones. Eventually these injustices in the gem market may get corrected in due time.

5 Classifications of Gems

red ruby closeupOf the price ranges for gemstones, they fall into five basic classifications: traditional gemstones, connoisseur gems, new classics, affordable gems and collector gemstones. Each of these categories have their own price ranges, however the same rules apply, less popular stones or gems of lesser quality may cost less, whereas stones with fine quality in a particular color will likely cost more.

These five categories of gems outline a general guideline for pricing, with quality and color being the main determining factors.

Traditional Gemstones are emeralds, blue sapphires and rubies.
padparadscha sapphireBecause of their distinguished history and lasting appeal, these emerald, sapphire and ruby are more valuable than any other gemstone. As a general rule, rubies and emeralds are prices higher than sapphires of comparable quality due to their rarities. Hence, a one-carat traditional gemstones with good to average quality can cost anyware from $250 to $10k per carat, whereas truly fine or rare gems can cost significantly more.

Connoisseur Gemstones are in their own special market because they are rarer than other gemstones. These are black opals, pink topaz, jadeite, chrysoberl “cat’s eye”, fancy color sapphires, along with rare stones like alexandrite and demantoid garnet.  Gemstones such as these are in high demand and prices can range from $250 to $5k a carat, whereas alexandrite with a good change of color can command in excess of $10k for even one-carat.

paraiba tourmalineNew Classics are gemstones which are trendy in jewelry collections, these are: tanzanite, aquamarine, tourmaline, tsavorite garnet and imperial topaz. Sometimes these gemstones are available in the standard sizes, but large fine single gems can be very popular. New Classic gems can cost between $50 and 1000 dollars per carat for an average one-carat gemstone. Tsavorite is a good example of a new classic stone that can reach $3k per carat.

Affordable Gemstones are a combination of great color available at a good price.  Some of these include old favorites as well as new ones: amethyst, citrine, white opal, peridot, ametrine, blue topaz, rhodolite garnet, iolite, kunzite, andalusite, & chrome diopside.  green tsavorite

There are also many gemstones that are more ornamental like lapis, turquoise, laxuli, onyx, nephrite jade, amber and chrysoprase.  Prices for these gemstones will vary between $5 and $100 a carat for a one-carat stone.

Collector’s Gems are gemstones that are not available in large quantities but can offer a lot of beauty for the cost. Gemstones in this category include spinel, moonstone, zircon, morganite and several other rare gems.  Hot pink and red spinels can cost a couple thousand per carat, but for the most part, gemstones in this category often sell for hundreds of dollars, not thousands.

As with all gemstones, especially the rarer ones, one can expect to pay a lot more for matched pairs, special shapes, sets and cuts.