Precious Colored Gemstones
In my last blog, I wrote about diamonds as an asset. But there’s a range of gemstones beyond diamonds that can be valuable long-term assets. Again, I stress long-term; gemstones should ideally be seen as collector’s pieces that hold and increase their value over a period of years. Like gold, they can be a method of diversifying one’s holdings, as they are more stable than paper investments. But one should principally buy gemstones out of love, and a desire to pass them on to future generations. With all gemstones, as with diamonds, rarity equals value. Natural gemstones, which have not subjected to heat to alter color or clarity, are the rarest and most desirable.
At the high end of the spectrum, the Sunrise Ruby was auctioned at Sotheby’s in May of 2015 for a record setting $32,420,000, or $1,266,901 per carat. This fabulous pigeon-blood red stone is the most expensive ruby, the most expensive colored stone, and the most expensive gem of any kind other than a diamond. Named for a poem by the Sufi poet Rumi, set in an exquisite Cartier ring frame, between diamonds of two carats each, its size, deeply saturated color and clarity place it in a category all its own.
Not all rubies have the same color as the Sunrise; they can range from pinkish red to bright red to brownish red; color is the most important factor in determining the value of any ruby, with the pigeon’s blood hue being the most prized. But color figures prominently in the value of all colored gemstones, be they sapphires, emeralds, amethysts, garnet, topaz or anything else in the gem family. And that color range is more varied and complex than you may think; sapphires are not only blue, but can be pink, yellow, purple or even orange. The color is dictated by trace amounts of elements such as titanium, iron, magnesium, chromium or copper. Blue sapphires generally bring the highest amount at auction; the most valuable is the Blue Belle of Asia, which brought $17,305,996 at Christie’s Geneva in 2014. Pink sapphires are actually rarer than blue, and generally more affordable on the whole, although the highest quality stones are hardly inexpensive. Again, depth of color is key here, as it is with yellow diamonds. With the lighter hues, clarity becomes more important, as inclusions become more visible.
One of the most exquisite jewels I have ever beheld was in the window of a high-end jewelry store in Sausalito, California. The size of an egg, and perfectly cut into a glittering oval, it looked for all the world to me to be a cognac colored diamond. I entered the store and inquired, and was told it was an Imperial Topaz. I had never seen anything like it, with its brown to orange deep hue and perfect brilliance. Named for the Tsars who claimed exclusive ownership of the pink topaz stones mined in Russia, they are the rarest and most sought-after topazes, rarer even than diamonds. The beauty I beheld so many years ago was most likely from Brazil, which produces the yellow to brown gems. It inspired me; I can still remember it. Had I been able to purchase it back then, I know its value would have increased many times over by now, although I can’t imagine parting with it for any price if I had it in my possession. Which is the best way I can advise you to invest in colored gemstones; find a stone you love, and want to hold onto.