What gives gemstones value? September 05 2015

What makes a gemstone valuable? What commands their premium prices, astonishing allure and exotic exuberance? It is not uncommon to have heirlooms featuring sapphires, diamonds, rubies and emeralds being passed down generations.

Our ancestors understood the message of power, wealth and beauty possessed by these gifts of nature and it truly is amazing how these gemstones transcended the test of time to remain true to this very day.  In essence, the value assigned to gemstones can be derived from its natural beauty, portability, rarity and demand.

princess dianaBeauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. However, in the gem industry, a few parameters exist to help us all reach similar conclusions.

The depth and hue of the color present in many colored gemstones such as sapphires is a pertinent factor in determining its value. After all, a ‘lifeless’ shade of blue or yellow will fail to excite almost anyone despite its classification as a ‘precious gem’. The precision and meticulous attention to its cut is another factor that greatly affects the value of a gemstone. Symmetry, evenness and the positioning of angles to delicately balance the flow of light play an important role in achieving the perfect cut. It is, therefore, no surprise that master lapidarists spend months on end to ensure that their work is skillfully crafted and precisely set. Beauty is indeed a difficult to quantify but these tools help many to accurately decide which gemstone is perfect for their designs.

Since ancient times, the ability of gemstones to act as ‘portable wealth’ has granted much of its perceived value. The concentration of wealth per carat makes gemstones ideal for transportation of wealth, security against financial crises and government failures given its inherent value and serves as a great way to pass down wealth through generations in a tax efficient manner. It is often these factors that greatly influence royalty and many wealthy families to invest their funds in acquiring gemstones. An interesting idea to visualize the portability of gemstones is envision the transportation of a million dollars. In dollar bills, the notes would occupy a space of 42 cubic feet and weigh almost a ton. A gold brick ($1132 per oz.) collection would also be difficult to carry at about 117 pounds. However, a 15.97 carat Mogok Ruby at a weight of about an eighth of an ounce (almost like a penny) would easily fetch over $3,600,000.

An European collector once said, “Spend $50,000 on your wife or girlfriend for a fur coat or car. In ten years she has a rag or a wreck. Use the same money to buy her a fine gem, and she has a treasure worth even more over time, which she can pass along to her children”.

The durability of gemstones is often a key factor in its value. Their physical durability can easily be observed by our ancient artifacts. The Talisman of Charlemagne in the Cathedral Treasury of Reims has sapphires and rubies that have sparkled for over a thousand years and will continue to do so long after whole civilizations turn to dust. Their financial durability is also noteworthy. The cyclical nature of our economies, institutions and countries often lead to money, stocks, bonds and homes losing their value over time. Markets fluctuate and governments never last forever. However, we know innately that gemstones possess a fundamental beauty that makes them more valuable than any other object in the world. Their value would exist through the test of time and often grows as we continue to marvel at it natural allure.

We humans have formed a bond with these gemstones that remain unbroken. Every culture that is touched by diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and the like continue to revere them and it is no wonder that this trend will continue in the foreseeable future. The value aspect can be precipitated from multiple views ranging from beauty to durability but the ultimate criteria is on a subconscious, personal level.

It is that feeling of excitement, pride and wonder as you romance the stone that grants its true value. The truly amazing part is that these gems will continue to make you feel that way as they have for many generations of admirers before you.