The Colour Allure: Gemstones steal the spotlight

Colour gemstones are increasingly desired by consumers seeking a unique and personal style. SAMUEL ORD details this surge in popularity and how retailers can make the most of the opportunity it presents.

Consumers are increasingly willing to push the conventional boundaries when it comes to fashion and style, therefore it should come as no surprise to see that colour gemstone jewellery is having a moment in the sun.

Emerald, tourmaline, opal, and tanzanite, to name but a few, are as beautiful as they are versatile and offer wearers the ability to develop their own unique style and flair.

Modern consumers value personalisation above all else and colour gemstone jewellery offers exactly that.

It’s a departure from the norms of white diamonds, gold and silver and the embrace of something new.

Whether it be the entrancing ocean blues of an aquamarine or the fiery heart of a ruby, these natural treasures have captured the attention of not only consumers, but designers too.

 Cushla Whiting is a bespoke fine jewellery store based in Melbourne, offering an arrangement of sapphire, emerald, ruby and spinel pieces.

The business is named after its creative director – Cushla Whiting – who believes gemstone jewellery has been prominent for some time.

“We do find colour gemstone jewellery to be very popular, but for us, this has been the case for many years now,” she tells Jeweller.

“I think colour gemstone has become increasingly popular due to the fact that customers are wanting something unique and every colour gemstone is different.”

She continues: “With the steep increase in the price of diamonds in recent years, colour gemstones can often also be a more affordable option.”

Another unique selling point to local consumers is that much of the world’s greatest gemstones originate in Australia.

For example, few consumers know that 95 per cent of the world’s supply of precious opals is sourced from Australia and that as a point of pride, it’s the country’s national gemstone.

Melbourne-based Artelia Jewellery offers a wide range of gemstone jewellery and creative director Maria Ulas takes great pride in its uniquely Australian origins.

“As an Australian jeweller, we wanted to make something quintessentially Aussie, combining opals, sapphire and pearls to show how colourful our country uniquely is,” she tells Jeweller.

“I love all colour gemstones. Unfortunately, not everyone shares my opinion. I would love to see more young people going for a ruby, for instance! We’re about to launch a collection of opal jewellery with both white and black opals of all shapes and sizes.”

The Colour Allure: Gemstones steal the spotlight - Artificial Jewellery

House of Gubelin


Sparkling sapphires

Australia is the source of many of the world’s other finest colour gemstones, including but not limited to sapphires, garnet, topaz, emeralds, zircon and chrysoprase.

Sapphires contain traces of titanium, iron, and nickel, which provides them with a range of colours including
blue, orange, black, green, yellow and pink.

The more iron the sapphire contains, the darker the colour. During the medieval era, many kings wore sapphires on the battlefield as they believed it would protect them in moments of violence.

Sapphires are found in all eastern Australian states, including Tasmania. Ben Manning is the director of Utopian Creations in Adelaide. Manning specialises in colour gemstones and says, “Colour gemstone jewellery continues to be our focus, predominantly Australian sapphire engagement rings”.

“We’ve seen a slow and steady increase in people searching for Australian sapphires over the past 10 years with a more pronounced increase over the past 5 years.”

Manning is passionate about creating jewellery which originates from ethical sources and says that many of his customers share the same view.

“In a world where customers expect better financial, health and safety outcomes for supply chains and care for the environment, local gemstones can be a real asset,” he says.

“Traveling to the mining areas, seeing the miners in action, and noting the care that’s taken for the local environment is really important.

“It helps us to build a story around our products, and connecting the consumer with the origins of the materials.”

Whiting recounts similar experiences to that of Manning and says that sapphires in particular are ‘hot property’ among her customers.

“Sapphire is definitely the most popular colour gemstone we sell as they are a perfect durable option for engagement rings and come in a vast range of colours,” she explains.

“Teal sapphires are our most popular seller by far! People love that they are a bit different and not so traditional looking.”


Remarkable rubies

The rich multicultural make-up of Australia’s population has led to the emergence of a market with varying appetites when it comes to fine jewellery.

This has proven to be a win for contemporary retailers willing to experiment with what products they offer with the hope of appealing to as many customers as possible.

Not only do customers request variety, they also prioritise unique and custom designs, an area where gemstone jewellery is particularly appealing.

“The Australian market is one of a kind in the world of jewellery because it involves customers from extremely diverse and varied cultural backgrounds,” Ulas explains.

“There are people who have more conservative tastes and won’t even consider anything else than the now-traditional combination of white gold or platinum and white diamonds.

“But there are also people with broader taste, involving gemstones that might have a special cultural meaning to them. This diverse social makeup makes the Australian market quite unpredictable.”

William Stone is a manager at Stones Diamond Ring Specialists in Brisbane and says that a strong colour gemstone jewellery offering should be a point of pride for any retailer.

“We take great pride in our colour gemstone collections. At any given time of the year we have over 150-200 readymade colour gemstone rings, in our store windows ready for customers to try on or purchase.

“We are often complimented by customers on our variety of colours and designs. We see consistent sales in our colour gemstone collections, and around Christmas time we always see an increase in this particular category,” Stone says.

He also believes the most popular colour gemstone sellers so far in 2023 have been Australian blue Inverell sapphires, emeralds, rubies (particularly darker Burmese rubies), Ceylon sapphires, and pink sapphires.

“Australians love colour gemstone jewellery, they offer a unique yet beautiful engagement ring choice, especially as a more affordable option,” he explains.

“Often there is meaning and symbolism behind the choice, personal touch, birthstone or favourite colour.”

He continues: “I think colour gemstone rings will always remain a popular option, especially in the Australian market. The continued choice of colour gemstone rings as an engagement ring and anniversary gift suggests this trend will continue.”

Ulas agrees with Stone and says that gemstone jewellery displays should always be front-and-centre in a store, as they easily capture the attention of those passing by.

“Colour gemstones retain a huge appeal, they easily attract the glance of customers when displayed in our store window,” she explains.

“We do have many walk-in customers who buy gemstones earrings and necklaces ‘off-the-rack’ just because they saw them in our window. That remains a big part of our non-custom-made customer base but not necessarily as an engagement ring.”


The Colour Allure: Gemstones steal the spotlight - Artificial Jewellery

Muzo x Argyle


Enticing emeralds

In many cultures green gemstones such as emerald, garnet, and tourmaline have been viewed as symbols of creativity and change.

Change is well and truly in the air when it comes to jewellery style and it seems the Australian market is leading the charge.

According to The Knot, a digital wedding planning and registry service based in the US, diamonds remain the favourite selection for centre stones for 85 per cent of those surveyed.

That was a decrease from the previous year and with lab-created diamonds doubling in popularity within one year, it’s fair to say there’s an appetite for change among consumers.

The popularity of colour gemstones is more pronounced in Australia, according to research conducted by Ashley Portas of Brisbane’s Diamondport Jewellers.

Portas published the findings of a voluntary online 2022 survey in September assessing the engagement ring market.

The survey found that just 80 per cent of rings featured a diamond, a notable departure from the findings in the US.

Whiting says that when it comes to engagement rings nearly half of all her sales are now colour gemstone engagement rings, as opposed to diamonds.

“Perhaps this is merely the type of customer we are attracting as we have a significant inventory of colour gemstones,” Whiting reveals.

“However with that said, I would say that around 50 per cent of our engagement ring sales are with colour gemstones.”

That said, sapphire was the second most popular centre stone, while morganite was described as a ‘relative newcomer’ and appeared in 2 per cent of engagement rings.

“In total, our survey recorded more than 50 different gemstones. This just goes to show there aren’t any rules when it comes to choosing the perfect engagement ring,” Portas says.

“The great news is most people love their ring, with more than 80 per cent reporting they are happy or very happy with their engagement ring. This is true no matter how much the engagement ring cost, or the cut of the gemstone.”



The Colour Allure: Gemstones steal the spotlight - Artificial Jewellery

L to R: Cushla Whiting; Cleopatra’s Bling


The Colour Allure: Gemstones steal the spotlight - Artificial Jewellery
Magical morganite

Morganite has a fascinating origin story and few know it was named after legendary US financier and banker JP Morgan. Morgan was friends with George Kunz, who discovered Morganite in 1910.

Kunz requested the gemstone be named after Morgan in honour of his monetary support of emerging sciences.

Morganite was discovered in Madagascar, far from Melbourne where Olivia Cumming works as a jewellery designer and the director of Cleopatra’s Bling.

She works closely with morganite in her designs, and says that she’s receiving an increasing number of requests for colour gemstone jewellery that will be used to mark an engagement.

“We are making many engagement rings with sapphires, spinels, rubies and emeralds,” Cumming tells Jeweller.

“The demand is there for diamonds; however, I think that people come to us for colour gemstone engagement rings because many couples want an unconventional ring for their wedding.

“They don’t necessarily prescribe to the traditional institution of marriage and the expectations that go with it.”

Indeed, attitudes towards marriage have changed significantly in recent years and so it should follow that common perspective on the jewellery which marks a union between two individuals would change too.

According to a recent report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the crude marriage rate has fallen for a range of reasons.

These include the increased workforce participation of women, the disconnection between marriage and childbearing, an increase of cohabitation, and quite generally – social change in perspective of marriage.

Based in Switzerland, the House of Gübelin is described as a ‘unification’ of international artisans, specialists and experts in jewellery making, gemmology, and watchmaking.

Raphael Gübelin says that colour gemstones such as sapphires offer a more personal, symbolic touch than a traditional diamond.

“We see colour gemstones becoming more popular for engagement rings. Couples want to express their love and choose gemstones that are connected to them personally,” he tells the South China Morning Post.

“Sapphires sparkle in all the colours of the rainbow. Especially rare are padparadscha sapphires with their characteristic orange-pink or pink-orange shades. Padparadscha sapphires combine two colours in one gemstone, which is also a very romantic symbol.”

Opulent opals

More now than ever, Australian consumers are willing to push the boundaries and explore new styles and designs when it comes to jewellery.

Whether it be an enchanting emerald or a tempting tourmaline, colour gemstone jewellery offers retailers the chance to quench the modern consumer’s desire to stand out from the crowd.

Better yet, many of the world’s finest gemstones are sourced from Australia, meaning that not only is supply readily available, there’s also the additional home-grown appeal for those looking to showcase a little civic pride.

Colour gemstone jewellery also tends to reach consumers at a more appetising price point, which is another point to consider given the dominant commentary around the state of the international economy.

Uniquely Australian, versatile and unique, while being sourced from ethical origins at a customer-friendly price – colour gemstone jewellery is one category few can afford to ignore.


Stars & Gemstones

The dominance of diamonds in the engagement and marriage market is often credited to Tiffany & Co and the introduction of the six-prong solitaire setting in the late 1880s.

This was further solidified in the 1940s when De Beers coined one of the most powerful advertising slogans of all time – ‘A diamond is forever.’

While diamonds have ruled the roost for more than 140 years now, there have been many high-profile engagement rings featuring colour gemstones.

Princess Diana wore a 12-carat blue sapphire halo with diamonds.

Actress Emma Stone and singer Ariana Grande wear rings that incorporate pearls and actress Elizabeth Olsen is well known for her love of emeralds.

In the UK, Princess Eugenie wears a 20-carat orange-pink sapphire, and actor Orlando Bloom proposed to musician Katy Perry with an engagement ring featuring a ruby.

More recently, actress Megan Fox marked her engagement to musician Machine Gun Kelly with a ring headlined by an emerald.

Musician Jennifer Lopez has twice been engaged to actor Ben Affleck in 2002, who first proposed to her with a 6-carat pink diamond in 2002, and when the pair reconnected in 2021, he proposed again – this time with an 8-carat green diamond.

The Colour Allure: Gemstones steal the spotlight - Artificial Jewellery

Love it or hate it, celebrities are more often than not the largest influence of consumer trends in jewelley.

With that said, it should come as no surprise that online interest for ‘green engagement ring’ increased by almost fourteen times more than the average search volume following the announcement of a second engagement in April of 2022.

The term ‘green ring’ also reached a record number of searches – increasing 81 per cent.


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