There has been a surge in demand for coloured gemstones prompting rapidly rising prices, according to Bonhams.
The auction house said sapphires have seen a particular rise in popularity, with consumers purchasing sapphire engagement and wedding rings. Bonhams said its clients are looking for something “a little bit different” from a diamond engagement ring.
It said classic diamonds remain popular, but there is a growing trend for people choosing coloured ‘statement stones’ like sapphires, rubies and emeralds.
Sapphires, which come in a variety of colours including pink and yellow, are in demand from serious jewellery collectors and investors, meaning the stones are experiencing increases in their value.
This has demand has been helped by celebrities such as Hollywood actor Javier Bardem – who presented a 3-carat sapphire ring to actress Penelope Cruz – and Victoria Beckham, who has added a large oval cut sapphire to her collection of engagement rings.
Jean Ghika, head of jewellery in the UK and Europe at Bonhams, said: “Traditionally, sapphires symbolise truth, sincerity and faithfulness – so they make the perfect ingredients for an upcoming marriage.
“Our market data suggests more and more of our clients are opting for coloured ‘statement stones’ like sapphires, emeralds and rubies in their jewellery.”
Bonhams said part of the growing interest in coloured stones is due to the renewed supply of material along with rejuvenated mining activities in traditional areas. While the older material typically achieves the higher prices at auction, the auction house reports the price for new material is also increasing.
It said it is seeing “superb” examples of coloured stones coming on to the market due to the rising demand, with new mines opening in countries such as Mozambique, Madagascar and Zambia.
Examples of price increases at auction include the recent sale of a pair of 19th Century earrings set with Kashmir sapphires – which previously belonged to a European princess – and weighing a little less than 8-carats, each sold for £1,538,500. The price was more than triple its pre-sale estimate of £500,000.