How Color Made Its Mark on the Vegas Show Floors

EditorsJun 27, 2024

How Color Made Its Mark on the Vegas Show Floors

Associate Editor Lauren McLemore shares her roundup of trending designs, vendors’ top picks and the unexpected color that made a statement.

colored gemstones
From left to right: A loose Montana sapphire from Kimberly Collins Colored Gems; the "Patchwork" earrings featuring sapphire, topaz and chrysoprase from designer Emily P. Wheeler; Jenna Blake's gold, diamond and turquoise bangle; a loose faceted chrysoberyl from B&B Gems, and a blue-green tourmaline pendant necklace by Lisa Nik
With countless pieces of jewelry to look at, massive show floors, and caffeinated crowds to navigate, the Las Vegas jewelry shows can feel like a blur. 

While walking the shows this year, one thing was clear even when I was cross-eyed from exhaustion—splashes of color were everywhere, from unique, multi-color inlay designs to flashy gemstone-forward pieces.

It was a long week of chatting with vendors and buyers, as well as getting insight from expert panelists during the show’s education sessions, but I’ve managed to distill it into a single article for you. 

Here are five key ways colored gemstones showed up in Sin City.

You want it? Then buy it, now.

Colored gemstone sales are strong, but there’s less supply of finer goods than what the market has been used to, and the stones that are available are in high demand.

It’s creating a sort of “you-snooze-you-lose” market, wherein buyers should be cautioned that if they walk away from a desirable stone, it may not be there when they return. 

Stuart Robertson, president of Gemworld International Inc., was one of three panelists who participated in the JCK Talks “Industry Update” session on the colored gemstone market.

He warned the Vegas crowd of an issue Tucson sellers ran into, saying, “When they went out to replace their inventory, the cost at the source was now higher than what they sold the goods for at the show.”

He gave the same advice he dealt out in Arizona—if you see it and you love it, buy it now.

Robertson said the colored gemstone market is looking at an average year of sales, noting that consumers tend to be more conservative in an election year. 

“Not a disaster,” he said, “but not a great one either.”

Customers who are still spending, however, offer what could be interpreted as a message of hope for retailers dealing with inconsistent supply.

“The client base that’s most motivated are the people looking for things that are unique and individualized to themselves,” Robertson said.

Stones available in a wide variety of colors were highly sought after.

When it comes to personalization, what better place to start than to offer customers a unique shade of a common color?

Lisa Nik sapphire bracelet
Rainbow sapphire stretch bracelets from Lisa Nik

Sapphires are the ultimate example, found in nearly every color of the rainbow, but certain colors like pink and blue are pricey at the moment.

It’s not a new concept, but it bears repeating—retailers have an opportunity now to offer different varieties of colored gemstones that are the same shade as more expensive stones. 

“When somebody walks into a store and asks for a blue sapphire, they don’t actually necessarily mean sapphire; they’re talking about a color,” Robertson said, citing research by Gemworld. 

Teal sapphire, which Robertson said initially took off as a “substitute stone,” has been very popular. 

Garnets and tourmalines were strong sellers at the Vegas shows, which may be attributed in part to this strategy of substitution, although both are valuable in their own right as well.

The whole gamut of greens is popular.

While emerald is perhaps the quintessential green gem, the verdant gemstones in Las Vegas ranged from moody bluish teals to bright lime neon greens.

Carol Kauffmann green tourmaline “Secret Garden” ring
A ring from the “Secret Garden” collection by Brazil-based designer Carol Kauffmann featuring a green tourmaline from Brazil

Colored gemstone dealer Kimberly Collins shared a few countries of origin that stood out for the minty green shades in particular—mint tourmalines out of Mozambique and Madagascar, mint garnet from Merelani, and peridot from Pakistan that Collins said has a minty quality to it.

Kimberly Collins mint garnet
A 4.08-carat pear-shaped mint garnet from Merelani (Tanzania) from Kimberly Collins Colored Gems

Victoria Gomelsky, editor-in-chief of JCK Magazine and moderator of the JCK Talks panel on colored gemstones, mentioned the latter during a later session on show floor trends.

“I think we’re seeing a lot more peridot than we ever have, partly because the supply is there,” she said, referencing the Fuli mine in China, which produces a grass-green colored peridot and is set to open this year. 

Gomelsky also mentioned the somewhat unexpected presence of faceted chrysoberyl across the show floor.  

It’s durable, it’s brilliant, and it pairs well with a variety of other colors, according to Collins.

“It’s this bright yellow that feels ‘of the moment,’” Gomelsky said. 

“Sometimes you can’t explain why; colors just feel right. It’s that yellow look that a few years ago would have been a much tougher sell.”

Non-faceted colored gemstones are being used creatively.

Last year in Las Vegas, several designers displayed jewelry with enamel, including many neon shades, to offer pieces with a bit of color without having the added cost of colored gemstones.  

This year, those same pop-of-color styles were still popular, but with a material twist; designers were incorporating so-called hard stones in places where, a year or two ago, they would have used enamel. 

“What we see now is people going back to stones and embracing hard stones—lapis, carnelian, malachite, mother-of-pearl, onyx,” Gomelsky said during the show floor trends talk. 

The inlay technique of using stones specifically cut to fit the piece is also popular. 

Enamel, while versatile, is also delicate, making more durable options like ceramic more appealing. 

Gomelsky highlighted Maria Blondet, a Puerto Rico-based designer featured in the JCK Events Design Collective Rising Star section who uses a form of ceramic in her new color rush collection.

There are glimmers of interesting new material.

In closing out the Industry Update panel, Gomelsky asked her panelists what has excited them lately.

Along with the aforementioned Pakistani peridot, the experts recalled other new material they’re keeping their eyes on.

mint peridot Pakistan
A matched pair of 5.54-carat, cushion-cut mint peridot from Pakistan from Kimberly Collins Colored Gems

Robertson, who noted his interest in North American-mined gems, mentioned The Tourmaline King mine in San Diego, and how it is producing more now than it was during the Tucson show.  

He’s also excited by a violet-blue chalcedony coming out of Madagascar he said is beautiful and not particularly expensive.

David Nassi of 100% Natural Ltd. is loving green jade from Guatemala, and when he can find it, high-quality cobalt blue spinel out of Vietnam and a relatively new deposit in Tanzania.   

 Related stories will be right here … 

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