Mineral Guide > Gems > Price of Gems

Price of Gems

The price of gems, besides varying with quality and species, is dependent, like that of other commodities, upon supply and demand, which are in turn affected by discoveries of new sources, and by changes of fashion. Thus the discoveries of diamonds in Brazil and South Africa respectively caused a fall in the prices of this gem at each of these periods because of the increased supply afforded. In 1750, just before the influx of Brazilian diamonds into Europe, onecarat stones were valued at $40. Shortly after, when the supply from Brazil poured into the market, they fell to a value of only $5.

In 1791 this price had risen to $30. This fell again to $20 during the French wars of 1843, but by 1865 had risen to nearly $100, which is not far from the present price. At the present time the emerald has reached an unprecedented price, because while the demand is steady the supply has almost entirely failed. On the other hand, the sapphire has fallen about 25 per cent in value in the last twenty years on account of the discovery of new fields. In some cases, however, the failure of supply of a little-used gem may cause the demand for it to cease.

The price of the four gems, diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald, is on the whole little influenced by changes of fashion, for they seem to be always in demand. Most of the other gems, however, vary in price with the fashion, being at one time much in vogue and again almost forgotten. Thus topaz is now little prized, but Kunz states that the mines of this gem in Spain have been bought and are being held by a French company in anticipation of a return of the stone to fashion. This might cause a demand for it equal to that of forty years ago, when it brought from $4 to $8 per carat.

As gems are objects of luxury, and not of necessity, the demand for them is greater, and hence their price is higher, in times of prosperity. Vice versa, in hard times, or periods of financial depression, prices of gems fall. The period following the French Revolution witnessed a great lowering of the prices of gems, partly because the previous extravagances of the French court in this direction had been one of the sources of popular discontent, and partly because of the general financial depression. At the present time in the United States the magnitude of the gem trade is greater than ever before.

The skill with which a stone is cut should be taken into consideration in valuing it, although this is a matter upon which only an expert is competent to give an opinion. Of two stones of the same weight and equal quality, one may be worth ten times as much as the other because more skilfully cut. Further, the exact qualities desirable in any particular gem are points to be learned by long skill and experience, and stones possessing these qualities command much higher prices than the ordinary.