Sign up for our newsletter |

Home Page


What's Turning in Color
Buyer's Choice

It’s tough out there but retailers are staying positive. In times like these, the right products and the right suppliers are even more important. To find out what retailers recommend in the color category, we asked top store buyers what’s selling, where to buy it, and what they are betting on for 2009. Retailers told us that sometimes what really makes the difference is their own enthusiasm for the gems they sell. We found a lot of passion for color that really does translate into sales over the counter.

necklace with faceted labradorite beads, Tahitian pearls, and 18k gold beads with diamonds

Jane Bohan necklace with faceted labradorite beads, Tahitian pearls, and 18k gold beads with diamonds and toggle clasp, suggested retail $3,600, and matching 18k gold, diamond and labradorite briolette drop earrings, suggested retail $1,175, (212) 529-6090.

22k gold necklace with pink tourmalines

Bruce Weber, Bruce G. Weber, Tulsa, Oklahoma

What I Buy: “We’re a couture shop that spans the range of jewelry, from diamonds, watches, and platinum to precious and semiprecious gemstone jewelry. We’ve seen the semiprecious look just blossom over the past three years. Pastels are especially strong, and consumers love the lightness of design, the delicate settings and the feminine, sexy look that designers are bringing to the pieces. Our favorites include Denise Roberge, whose handmade one-of-a-kind pieces have a rustic old world look. Marco Bicego is also one of our favorites. We’ve even found that Henry Dunay does phenomenal, but very expensive, color.”

How I Sell It: “We don’t do any extensive marketing. People know we are a couture store that strives to have the newest looks and lines, so people come in regularly to see what we have.”

2009 Forecast: “We expect to do well with platinum and diamonds, which we’re known for. I don’t expect to see a lot of yellow gold.”

One-of-a-kind 22k gold necklace with pink tourmalines by Denise Roberge, suggested retail $16,000, (760) 340-5045.

Ring in 14k gold with lemon citrine, pink tourmaline, and diamonds

Olivia Cornell, Cornell’s Jewelers, Rochester, New York

What I Buy: “We do our best colored stone business in rings, and it depends on the designer. We like several designers, none of whom overlap as far as looks and styles. We like Rob Leser’s work from Color Story, he does an amazing job with matching stones in a classic look. John Hardy does beautiful mixed sapphire rings with blues, pinks, and blacks, and we like the ‘Diva’ collection from Doris Panos. We also like Marco Bicego’s multicolored approach.”

How I Sell It: “We market each of our colored jewelry designers individually in our catalog or in ads in our local regional lifestyle magazine. We will send cards in the mail if they are provided by vendors.”

2009 Forecast: “Fortunately, we were actually slightly ahead of last year. Diamonds are where our passion is, so we’ll focus there. We expect the appeal of our jewelry to fall into four categories: very special, knock-your-socks-off pieces; very wearable jewelry for daily use; classic designs because you can’t go wrong with them; and affordable pieces, such as sterling silver bracelets.”

Ring in 14k gold with lemon citrine, pink tourmaline, and diamonds from the “Moonlight” collection by Color Story, suggested retail $2,900, (800) 223-1232.

Rings in 18k gold and diamonds

Ellen Lacy, Lacy & Company, El Paso, Texas

What I Buy: “My first love is color, and not just color, but really pretty jewelry. One designer who does beautiful, excellent, mouthwatering colored gemstones that can really bring a tear to my eye is Jean-François Albert. Previously I didn’t buy a lot of his real special items because of the price point, which can range from $20,000 to $50,000 retail. But lately I have been, and it’s selling well.”

How I Sell It: “JFA virtually sells itself because buyers see that he uses aquamarines, tourmalines, and other colored stones and makes it seem that you’re seeing them for the first time. All of his stones are one-of-a-kind, you’ll never see any of his gems look quite like another. I don’t get too wrapped up in anticipating what customers will buy. I buy the very best I can, then make them love it, too, by seeing how much the jewelry moves me.”

2009 Forecast: “In December, which was an unspectacular month for us, colored stone jewelry was up 53 percent; 31 percent for the entire year. So, we’re going to run that horse until it can’t run anymore. We expect the category to do pretty well for us.”

Rings in 18k gold and diamonds featuring from left: 13.65 carat spessartite garnet, suggested retail $37,500; 8.73 carat oval green tourmaline, retail $48,500; and 14.14 carat golden beryl, retail $10,500, all by Jean-François Albert for JFA Designs, (800) 621-7082.

18k gold ring with Royal Asscher cut sapphires and diamonds

Sid Potts, Sid Potts, Inc., Shreveport, Louisiana

What I Buy: “We are doing very well with Royal Asscher’s ideal cut sapphires, which are a natural secondary market for the cut. Sapphire is the most popular colored gem now, especially pinks and yellows, which have been pushed along by the popularity of colored diamonds but are less expensive. Royal Asscher introduced a gorgeous, intense ideal cut pink sapphire. Rings are the most popular, followed by earrings, and then multicolor bracelets with lines of sapphires.”

How I Sell It: “I tell my customers that the sapphires are branded and unique, which is a strong selling point. We did a Christmas and an estate catalog as well as a direct-mail piece. I was amazed at the response, the stones stirred a lot of interest. But the best marketing is simply ‘seeing is believing.’ People will see what they think is a non-descript bracelet, then gasp in amazement when they put it on and see it become this gorgeous thing.”

2009 Forecast: “In colored stone jewelry, we expect to do well with hoop and dangle earrings featuring Royal Asscher sapphires. We expect customers to be price-minded and looking to fill gaps in their collections, not start new ones.”

“Intoxicate” 18k gold ring with Royal Asscher cut sapphires and diamonds by Royal Asscher, suggested retail from $8,400, (212) 922-1908.

Ring in 18k gold with 5.51 carat aquamarine and diamonds

Jeff Juhas, Juhas & Sullivan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

What I Buy: “We’ve been doing well with all varieties, from peridot to kunzite. Quality is what sells our pieces, great color and a cut that makes it pop. We do a lot of in-house custom work. Eichhorn is our favorite custom line. We like their classical pieces, but really became interested when we saw their unique contemporary creations. We don’t separate Eichhorn’s line by color, so clients can see the full range of stones. We also like H.L. Manufacturing. Colored gem jewelry is very much a growing segment. We’ve added several linear feet of retail space.”

How I Sell It: “If you don’t have it on hand, people can’t see or touch it. Our customers know they’re at the end of a series of hand-offs, from wholesaler to retailer to end buyer, where everybody along the way held a stone in their hands and said, wow! We don’t do any specific marketing other than billboards, which always use a single dramatic image to define our look and then stress that we offer unique, upscale, and high quality goods.”

2009 Forecast: “We expect custom design jewelry to sell well, and, of course, diamonds are still important. We also think fashion gold will be a real basic with our customers.”

Ring in 18k gold with 5.51 carat aquamarine and diamonds from Eichhorn, suggested retail $20,000, (408) 777-9894.

blue topaz, diamond, and 18k gold ring

Khristina Loving, Diamonds Direct, Charlotte, North Carolina

What I Buy: “We are a bridal house so we don’t do as much with fashion jewelry. We do a small amount with sapphire, ruby, and emerald, and with the most popular jewel-tone colors with higher saturations such as citrine, amethyst, and unusual topaz and quartz varieties that have more pop and wow. Also very popular are the pink, light green and light lavender gems like rose quartz, prasiolite, and lavender amethyst, which have an ethereal feel. The fashion jewelry brands we have include Chad Allison, which makes unique pieces with a custom feel; MCR, a leader in color fashion; and Pe Jay Creations, which makes very clean, classic designs.”

How I Sell It: “For fashion jewelry, we watch what the trend magazines and Hollywood are showing off so that we have popular styles on hand when people ask for it.”

2009 Forecast: “Our best sellers for the holidays are always engagement rings and diamond studs, though each year there seems to be a particular pendant style. In 2008, the Journey, circle, and diamond halo styles were most requested. Despite the economy, we expect a good year. People still want to marry and in tough times we focus on those around us and family.”

Heart-shaped London blue topaz, diamond, and 18k gold ring by Chad Allison, suggested retail $3,875, (212) 278-8669.

Earrings in 14k gold and diamonds with titanium coated drusy

Jason Baskin and Sharon Curtiss, The Gem Vault, Flemington, New Jersey

WHAT WE BUY: “Surprisingly, this has been a season for neutrals. Earth tones have been the trend. We’ve also been doing a lot more with unusual stones and shapes. Usually, we sell a lot of pink and green tourmaline during the holidays but blues and yellows have been more popular. We love carvings and unusual cuts by Tom Trozzo, David Brackna, and Greg Genovese. We can’t get enough of Greg’s drusy pieces. Colors are bright for spring. People are going to come in out of the cold and dreary winter mood and want to feel better with something colorful.”

How We Sell It: “Starting in the fall, we decided to make a lot more pieces in silver and gold. People started coming in and saying ‘I have a budget’ and giving us a set amount, whether it was $500, $1,000, or even $100. We didn’t want to lose any sales so we had to adapt to the times. We didn’t sacrifice quality, we got inventive. We have a lot of great cabochons, from dendritic chrysoprase to crazy lace agate, and Montana moss agate. We made up designs in silver, used beads, and created hand-made beautiful jewelry to fit every budget.”

2009 Forecast: “In Tucson, we’ll be looking for drusies, they have an excellent price point for a larger size stone. Set in silver, they fly out of the store.”

Earrings in 14k gold and diamonds with titanium coated drusy by Greg Genovese designed by Sharon Curtiss-Gal, The Gem Vault, (908) 788-1770.

Sterling silver and 18k gold rings in aventurine, carnelian or onyx

Ellen Akwa, Mix at The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

What I Buy: “With the increasing cost of gold, many designers, like Slane & Slane, Links of London, and Somers, are using silver in their designs and incorporating gold as accents. Designers who typically craft in 18k gold are adding secondary lines made of silver. There is also the trend of using 10k and 14k gold instead of 18k in conjunction with semiprecious stones. Ten Thousand Things, Me & Ro, and Annette Ferdinandsen are good examples. There’s also a trend for bold yet refined pieces like designs by Alexis Bittar in lucite and Kara Ross in gold plate and gems. Color is important here: turquoise, peach, gray blues, fuchsia, and orange for spring. There’s a softening of colors, tones that are sometimes very bold but soft and feminine.”

How I Sell It: “Key to the fashion jewelry business is that pieces need to be price positioned so that the consumer feels that she is getting something special and unique for her money.”

2009 Forecast: “I am excited about Ippolita’s new pink silver collection, which I expect will do well.”

Sterling silver and 18k gold “Bellus” rings available in aventurine, carnelian, or onyx by Slane & Slane, suggested retail $770, (212) 691-5820.