One couldn't say that such a belief is mistaken, since most fine gems do cost thousands of dollars. But having said that, many prospective buyers are surprised to discover that it's possible to buy fine gemstones of reasonable size for under $500. You just need to know where to look and what to look for.
The prices of gemstones, like the prices for many other products, fluctuate with supply and demand. If there is heavy demand and limited supply, then prices will be high, as they are with gems like blue sapphire, tanzanite, tsavorite garnet and Burmese ruby.
Yet there are many gems which are consistently in good supply, and many of these are reasonably priced indeed. They include amethyst, citrine, ametrine, blue topaz and many of the common red garnets. Good quality pieces can sell for as little as $10 a carat.
However, amethyst or citrine or may not be quite what you have in mind when you think "fine gemstone." Another strategy for finding affordable gems is to look at certain varieties of finer gems which are rare, but not yet expensive. These are gems which, due to their scarcity, have not been heavily promoted in the market. These include spinel, peridot, zircon, beryl, tourmaline and spessartite garnet. All of these have good hardness, clarity and brilliance. Depending on size and color, quality specimens can be found at prices from $20 to $150 a carat.
Another thing to consider is that where you buy your gems can affect the price as much as which gems you buy. The same 1.5 carat blue sapphire from Madagascar may cost anywhere from $400 to $1500, depending on where you buy it. The distribution chain for gemstones can consist of many steps, and each additional step in the chain can increase the selling price by 50%. Buy close to the source for the best prices and you can save hundreds of dollars.
In fact it is still possible to buy good quality sapphire, tanzanite, tsavorite garnet and even Burmese ruby at prices under $500 if you find the right source. Of course you won't get the finest specimens of those gems at under $500; they really do cost thousands of dollars! But you can find high quality specimens with good color and clarity in the 1 to 1.5 carat size at that price range. Just remember that you can also pay $2000 for the very same gems if your supplier is many steps removed from production of the stone.
- First Published: March-18-2008
- Last Updated: October-06-2010
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