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June 13, 2024

Richa Goyal Sikri explains why coloured gems are in vogue

 Richa Goyal Sikri

There was a time when the thought of colour in fine jewellery was restricted to rubies, emeralds and sapphires. The last five to ten years, however, have witnessed a change. Multi-hued gems are being featured in, both, traditional and contemporary jewellery. The antiquated concept of semi-precious stones is on its way out as colour saturation, precision cutting and artistic styles take centre stage.
Multiple factors are responsible for this shift in consumer preference. Electronic, print and social media are educating, seducing, provoking and influencing decisions. An exponential increase in international travel has also enthused Indian consumers to experiment with contemporary styles and pastel-hued gemstones. Many global companies have played an essential role in highlighting the value and beauty of coloured gemstones. Bvlgari uses amethyst, topaz, mandarin garnet and tourmaline in high jewellery creations. The brand also popularised the ‘cabochon-cut’ gemstones with its distinctive colour combinations. The historical association of Cartier with India, since the early 20th century, has been well-documented. The patronage of the Maharajas and thus the access to the best material in faceted and carved gems formed Cartier’s signature style at that time.
Bvlgari's Giardini Italiani Necklace
Bvlgari’s Giardini Italiani Necklace
Interestingly, those creations by Cartier, have stimulated creativity among Indian jewellery houses. Another iconic international jewellery maison that relentlessly delivers vibrant, romantic collections is Van Cleef & Arpels. The brand also supports the industry through sponsorships and curated exhibitions on design, gemstones and jewellery manufacturing. They also champion L’Ecole des Arts Joailliers, a premier jewellery school in Paris.
Cartier's Equinoxe necklace from the Magnitude Collection
Cartier’s Equinoxe necklace from the Magnitude Collection
In India, tanzanites are the preferred blue stones rather than the astrologically challenged blue sapphires. The Tanzanite story started in 1968 when Tiffany & Co. named this electric blue gem tanzanite and introduced it to the world through the first advertising campaign ever created for a stone. A few decades later, a mining company called TanzaniteOne, through The Tanzanite Foundation, developed a specific grading system for the gem called the Tanzanite Quality Scale and positioned itself as a marketing company that mines tanzanite.
Following the same route, but on a significantly grander scale, GEMFIELDS pioneered the concept of responsible mining and through their marketing efforts moved the needle in favour of emeralds from Zambia and rubies from Mozambique. Their mines here are now considered the world’s largest operations, with combined auction revenues crossing $1 billion.
Tiffany & Co advert from the 1970's. Image credit: Tiffany & Co
Tiffany & Co advert from the 1970’s. Image credit: Tiffany & Co
While pricing for diamonds is quite transparent, the valuation criteria for coloured gems are still a mystery. The only open marketplace that indicates value appreciation is the auction houses. Connoisseurs are researching information published on the websites of Christie’s and Sotheby’s, under ‘past lots sold’ to evaluate the market. The perfect example would be the recently concluded Maharaja and Mughal Magnificence sale of the famous Al-Thani collection. Featuring some of the best Golconda diamonds, elaborate turban ornaments, art deco creations by Boucheron, Cartier, and Paul Iribe, the years and months leading up to the sale have sparked the imagination of consumers and the industry alike.
Publicity around Christie’s sale favoured emerald, which has been the number one choice of consumers for many years.

When it comes to the style of cut, younger female clientele favours the pear-shape; made famous by Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie. The majority, however, still prefer the iconic emerald-cut, which minimises the wastage of stone during production.

Angelina Jolie wearing pear-cut earrings
Angelina Jolie wearing pear-cut earrings
It is impossible to think of emeralds without reflecting upon their archaic imagery of carved floral forms. The Mughal emperors believed that carving emeralds and spinels would activate the inherent power of the stones. This old conviction gave birth to a unique industry run by lapidary artists, who perfected the art of gemstone carving in Jaipur. When emperor Humayun returned to India, after spending fifteen years in exile in Persia, he brought along the Persian love and regard for spinels. Historical accounts of the Mughal treasury prove the preference for emeralds and spinels over other gems. An amalgamation of Arabic, Persian, Hindustani cultures during the Mughal era contributed towards the popularity of carved gemstones, not only in the Mughal circles but also among the Maharajas of Hindustan. The history lesson, courtesy Christie’s, combined with the production of elaborate historical epics by Bollywood and compelling visuals generated by fashion brands such as Sabyasachi, have all contributed towards an explosive revival of royal iconography.
Besides floral carvings, consumers are attracted to large un-cut, tumbled gems mimicking Maharajas and their grand attire. While affluent clients can acquire spinel tumbles, others are opting for rubellite, or red tourmaline tumbles for a similar impact. Other unusual cuts in the market are ‘portrait-cut’ diamonds, emeralds, spinels and tourmalines. This trend again harks back to the royals who wore rings featuring miniature portraits, which were protected by a thin flat-cut diamond. That style came to be popularly known as the ‘portrait-cut’.
Tumbled spinel necklace recently sold by Christie’s at their auction. Image credit: Christie's
Tumbled spinel necklace recently sold by Christie’s at their auction. Image credit: Christie’s
The diverse nature of the market has given rise to multiple customer segments such as the traditionalists, the corporate and the nouveau-riche. Irrespective of their diverse tastes and preferences, their purchases are influenced by two factors—the desire to strike a balance between individuality and the desire to belong to the right group, and the need to feel some element of control over the trajectory of value appreciation concerning their purchases.
Richa Goyal Sikri
Richa Goyal Sikri
(Richa Goyal Sikri is an independent journalist, curator of educational journeys to gem mines and global jewellery hubs, connoisseur, collector and social media influencer.)

Kannav Chaudhary


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