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Tourmaline dealers bank on China

posted May 29, 2011, 2:35 PM by Alex Barcados   [ updated May 29, 2011, 2:40 PM ]

Tight supply and growing demand from Asia – especially China – raised tourmaline prices to double-digit levels in 2010. Gem-quality tourmalines were particularly sought after during the said period, commanding prices that were double, or even triple, their original price tags. The steep rise in prices, however, has not deterred Chinese buyers from purchasing tourmalines, gemstone dealers interviewed by JNA said.

Red and green are among the most popular colours in tourmaline

Supply shortage

During the 2008-2009 period, some miners either cut back on their production or shut down their mining operations due to slowing demand for the gemstone, said Constantin Wild, owner of German-based W. Constantin Wild & Co.

“Tourmaline demand has picked up when signs of economic improvement started to emerge in 2010, triggering an increase in rough prices. From the spring of 2010 to the end of the said year, prices for top-quality tourmalines doubled or even tripled,” Wild said.

Mohamed Said, managing director of Farouk Bros Co of Hong Kong, noted too the surge in tourmaline prices. “Prices of rough tourmaline in general rose by 40 to 100 percent in 2010 compared with 2009,” Said said. His company has shifted its tourmaline sourcing base from Brazil to Mozambique, which supplies tourmalines of commercial and fine qualities, and in sizes ranging from 5 carats to 100 carats.


Growth markets
Demand for tourmaline remains strong in the developed markets, but its popularity is exploding in the fast-growing economies of Asia, Wild said. “In the last 25 years, the main markets for tourmaline were North America, Europe and Asia. However, tourmaline’s future rests largely on the Asian markets, which are becoming increasingly important to us,” he said.

Gold jewellery embellished with tourmaline is a design trend that is further gaining momentum, said Neeraj Lunawat, director of India-based Lunawat Gems Corporation.

Tourmaline started capturing the attention of Asian buyers, including those from China, Singapore and Vietnam, in 2009, Lunawat said. “China has since become our top buyer of tourmaline,” he said. In terms of volume, the gemstone currently accounts for 50 percent of Lunawat Gems’ product portfolio from only 25 percent in 2010.

Farouk Bros is another gemstone supplier that is tapping into the China market. “Today, 99 percent of our tourmaline is sold to Chinese buyers, offsetting softer demand in more mature markets like the US, Europe and Japan,” Said said. “Tourmaline is now one of the gemstones favoured by the Chinese, alongside jadeite, ruby, emerald and sapphire. Fine-quality collector tourmalines in big sizes, weighing from 50 to 100 carats, are particularly prized by China’s gemstone aficionados.”

Farouk Bros’ tourmaline sales grew nearly 50 percent in 2010 over the previous year, he continued.

Top sellers
Bi-colour and tri-colour tourmalines are among Farouk Bros’ most sought-after goods in China. “Chinese consumers have a strong preference for bi-colour tourmalines in beautiful shades of green and pink, and tri-colour tourmalines with the predominant colours of green, pink-brown and yellow,” Said said.
Demand for bi-colour tourmaline also remains strong, said Lunawat, although such stones are limited in availability.
Red and green tourmalines are just as popular. Wild of W. Constantin Wild & Co reported that green tourmalines, rubellites and bi-colour tourmalines were among the company’s fast-moving items in 2010.

Bright prospects
Robust tourmaline sales in China will continue well into 2011, gemstone suppliers said. “Chinese consumers may not know much about semi-precious gemstones but they know their tourmalines. They are becoming tourmaline specialists, and are knowledgeable about the stone’s most sought-after properties and price points,” Lunawat said.
Asia’s growing affluent class will also lead to higher tourmaline consumption in the coming years, Wild added. “Tourmaline will be the ‘Stone of the Year’ in 2011,” he said.

Jewellery News Asia

25 May 2011