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. The buyer merely needs 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 that are consistently in good supply, and many of these are very 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 per carat.
However, amethyst or citrine may not be quite what a buyer has in mind when thinking of "fine gemstones." Another strategy for finding affordable gems is to look at certain varieties of finer gems that 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 per carat.
Another thing to consider is that where gems are bought can affect the price as much as which gems are chosen. The same 1.5-carat blue sapphire from Madagascar may cost anything from $400 to $1500, depending on where it is purchased. The distribution chain for gemstones can consist of many steps, and each additional step in the chain can increase the selling price by 50%. If gems are bought close to the source, the best prices can be found and hundreds of dollars can be saved.
In fact it is still possible to buy good quality sapphire, tanzanite, tsavorite garnet and even Burmese ruby at prices under $500 if the right source is found. Of course, these may not be the finest specimens of those gems at under $500; they really do cost thousands of dollars! However, high-quality specimens with good color and clarity in the 1 to 1.5 carat size can be found in that price range. Just remember that $2000 can be paid for the very same gems if the supplier is many steps away from the production of the stone.
- First Published: March-18-2008
- Last Updated: August-16-2017
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