b'THE STATE OF RETAIL COLOREDDIAMONDSJEWELRY STONES DESIGNA TASTE FOR FINER THINGS China. The Chinese market is very hot on pearls at the moment, and If you see a gemstone, especially in finer quality at this [Tucson]theyve been buying up anything [of a reasonable quality] they can get show, this is the time to buy it, Stuart Robertson, president of Gem- their hands on, Mastoloni said in an interview with National Jeweler world International Inc., encouraged the audience during an educa- late last year. Its forced the price way, way high, and the Chinese are tion session on the near-term outlook for the gemstone market. paying huge prices for goods.Robertson, who is alsoBecause of our relationships [with suppliers], we still get mer-research director for the com- chandise. We dont get a lot, but we get enough.panys publication, GemGuide,While theres a typical ebb and flow to the market, Mastoloni noted Our biggestaddressed the audience alongsidethat its unusual to have such high demand centralized in one place. concern right nowGemGuide Editor-in-ChiefJoshua Israileff, vice president of operations for his familys pearl with the market isBrecken Branstrator.supply business, ASBA USA, witnessed the oddity firsthand.that [it has] simplyThough the room was full ofBy the time we arrived in Hong Kong in September, it was like nowhere close topeople tuning in to get a broadpeople pushing [each other] over for hot cakes, he says. the productionoverview of the gemstone mar- He says his mother, Dominique Israileff, said shes never seen it levels it had beforeket, several attendees were alsolike this in the 40 years shes been in the business.the pandemic, sohoping for a discussion on theThere was a demand unlike [anything] weve ever seen, Joshua the idea that anhigher-than-usual prices.adds. We get it, theyre selling a lot, but we dont get why. influx of materialRobertsons early remarksJoshua theorizes the mania is, in part, related to the production delay.is going to helpaddressed the topic, stating thatHe also cites the extraordinary influence of Chinese actress and right now, in the fine and extrainfluencer Ni Ni, who embarked on a unique, pearl-focused social alleviate pricefine gem-quality categories,media campaign while promoting her latest film, Lost in the Stars. pressures istheres simply not enough materi- Joshua says the annual Robert Wan auction, scheduled to take unrealistic.al to produce the type of pressureplace in Hong Kong in September, was canceled a day ahead of time needed to push prices down.Stuart Robertson,Our biggest concern right Gemworldnow with the market is that [it International Inc. has] simply nowhere close to the production levels it had before the pandemic, so the idea that an influx of material is going to help alleviate price pressures is unrealistic, said Robertson.If anything, prices will hold stable, possibly even continue to move up in those categories, because there just isnt the production to support any negative movement. One category still heavily affected by lags in production due to pandemic challenges is pearls.THE STATE OF PEARLS Pearls, in general, were probably the most hard-hit of anyproduct during the pandemic, Robertson said. Information on the gem wasnt included in his original presentation, but the topic quickly came up during the Q&A that followed.Pearl prices are very high now because they lost entire seasons of production [during the pandemic]A strand of golden South Sea in most of the main categoriesTahitian, South Sea,pearls from Mastoloniand Akoya, he explained.His expectation is that pearl prices will remain high for about three to four years before moderating. Back in October 2023, Ray Mastoloni of pearl company Mastoloni confirmed a production-related shortage of the above-mentioned goods in Europe and the United States, where pearls also are trending in fashion.Perhaps inconveniently, the precious gem was simultane-ously gaining popularity in another region. There has become a huge demand for these pearls from Continued on page 5856 STATE OF THE MAJORS 2024'