August 2011 Newsletter: Fine Gemstones Under $500

Fine Gemstones Under $500

Fine gemstones are expensive and getting more expensive every year. If you want to buy fine Burma ruby or blue sapphire, a significant investment is required. The same tends to be true for alexandrite, demantoid garnet and paraiba tourmaline. The prices for these gems reflect their rarity and strong market demand.

Yet there are still fine gemstones in the market at very affordable prices, even under $500. You just need to know where to look and what to look for. 

Note that we use the term fine gemstone to refer to a stone of excellent color, cut and clarity. We don't recommend that you compromise quality to reduce cost. There are many commercial grade stones in the market at low cost, but buying a gem of mediocre color or clarity or a windowed stone is never a good buy, regardless of price.

The key to finding high quality gems under $500 is first, selecting the right gem variety; and second, understanding how carat weight affects price.

Here are some examples. While you won't find high quality rubies under $500 in sizes over half a carat, you will find some fine sapphires in the 1 carat size at that price. These are sapphires of the same quality grade as stones that sell for thousands of dollars in the 2 to 4 carat size. But fine sapphires in the 1 carat size are still relatively easy to find, and sapphire is a gem where price tends to increase exponentially with carat weight. You'll find very affordable 1 carat heated sapphires in blue, pink and yellow; and lattice diffused yellow sapphires as large as 2 carats.

Spinel is another highly desirable variety where top colors in smaller sizes can be very affordable. You'll find saturated pinks and reds up to 1 carat for under $500, but in larger sizes you'll have to settle for lesser colors or pay more.

If you are looking for a larger stone, there are a number of gem varieties where you can find very good gems in the 2-5 carat size. These include tourmaline, peridot, apatite, zircon and chrysoberyl. A few species can even be found affordably in larger sizes (5+ carats), such as kunzite, amethyst, morganite and fluorite.


Notable Gems from the AJS Collection

This month we feature fine gemstones under $500 from our collection. You can click on the gem photos to view the gems.


5.09 ct Apatite from Madagascar, $428

The neon blue-green color of this large apatite rivals the best paraiba tourmaline. Nicely cut in an elegant cushion, we've graded this gem "eye clean." Since apatite is a relatively soft stone (5 on the Mohs scale), even very high quality pieces sell at attractive prices. Though not suitable for an everyday ring, this gem would be ideal for a pendant or an occasional wear ring. SOLD


0.89 ct Red Spinel from Burma, $499

Top red spinel are now very hard to find at any price. But we occasionally find smaller stones with superb color that are still attractively priced, such as the stone picturerd here. Though this gem is just under a carat in weight, it faces up nicely at 5.40 x 4.70 mm. Excellent clarity (graded "almost loupe clean") and top color make this stone an amazing value when you consider how difficult it would be to find the same quality in a 2 to 3 carat spinel.  SOLD


4.58 ct Peridot from Burma, $450  [SOLD]

Peridot is another relatively inexpensive gem variety. Though high quality peridots over 5 carats tend to go up in price quite rapidly, top grade stones from Burma and Pakistan under 5 carats can be found for less than than $500. Look for the bright apple green color such as in this very clean 4.58 ct Burmese peridot.


3.15 ct Touramline from Nigeria, $390

Tourmaline prices are rising with strong demand from the market in China. But tourmaline is still relatively abundant and some very fine pieces can be found for under $500. This 3.15 ct orange-pink stone from Nigeria is an excellent example -- lovely color, eye clean. precision scissor cut and comletely untreated.


1.03 ct Blue Sapphire from Madagascar, $385

There is still some high grade blue sapphire in the 1 carat size available under $500. This 1.03 saturated blue oval from Madagascar has a slight violet secondary hue that is very attractive. Graded "almost loupe clean", this sapphire is well cut with no trace of a window.  SOLD


1.25 ct Pink Sapphire from Madagascar, $436

Pink is one of the rarest colors in sapphire, and most stones have significant inclusions. So a well-cut 1.25 ct pink sapphire graded "almost loupe clean" is an excellent value under $500. This lovely pear from Madagascar is a good example.


23.26 ct Amethyst from Zambia, $499

Zambian amethyst is recognized as among the finest in the world, with a saturation level that is generally much higher than amethyst from Brazil or Uruguay. Though the fine Zambian material sells for about 3 times the price of the ordinary South African amethyst, even large stones can be found at very attractive prices. This 23.26 carat round shows the distinctive deep purple hue with red flashes of the best Zambian amethyst.  SOLD

News from AJS and the Gems World

  • AJS Gems will be exhibiting at the Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair, September 19-23 at the AsiaWorld-Expo, booth numbers 6Q18 and 6Q20. This is the premier fine gem and jewelry show in the world, with more than 3,300 exhibitors from around the world.

  • A vast treasure of gold and gemstones has been discovered in secret vaults under a temple in South India. The 16th century Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, is owned by the royal family of the former princely state of Travancore. The Supreme Court of India ordered the vaults to be opened when a local activist filed a case accusing the administrators of inadequate security at the temple. Gold, jewelry, diamonds, rubies and other gems worth an estimated $22 billion were found and are now being inventoried while the temple is under heavy guard. The Supreme Court has been asked to rule on who owns the treasure: either the trust that manages the temple, the former Travancore royal family, or the state of Kerala.

Ask the Gem Experts

Each month we answer questions from our customers. We welcome your questions and you can submit a question from our contact page.

Are all your gems natural? Do you include certificates with all your stones? AM, Singapore

We only deal in natural gemstones, mined from the earth. Many of our gems have already been certified by independent gemological laboratories such as GRS Swisslab, AIGS and GIT, and the certification is included in the price of a gem. We will be glad to obtain certification for any non-certified gem at a nominal cost. All AJS Gems are fully guaranteed.

I don't understand why everyone on earth is familiar with ruby but no one outside of people in the business and collectors has ever heard of natural spinel.  It is just surprising to me since spinel is such an incredible stone that can (sometimes) even rival the beauty of a ruby. Can you explain? AJP, USA 

There are a number of reasons why the larger market is unfamiliar with spinel. It is first of all a matter of history -- for centuries red spinel was thought to be ruby, and spinel was not recognized as a distinct species until the late 19th century. Second, the supply of fine spinel is so limited that there has been no point in marketing it to retail jewelers. Indeed, some of the extra fine material, such as the neon pink-red Mahenge spinel, is in such short supply that many specialized gem dealers were unable to buy it. As far as price goes, spinel has tended to be undervalued. But the finest stones fetch prices not all that different from ruby and sapphire.


All the best in gems,

Arnold, Rung & Ron