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Can a comment by the wife of small dealer affect color trends, just as a butterfly may affect the world's climate?
June 10, 2012

by Menahem Sevdermish, FGA D.Litt

I am a veteran of the trade and I've heard lots of stories that have been told to me by prominent and less prominent figures in the trade. But this most recent item, which is unfolding in the jewelry industry right before our very eyes, has astounded me.

Common wisdom in our business says that brown and brownish colors are unattractive to our customers. When you so much as mention brown in conjunction with a certain gem or a certain color, your customer is automatically assumed to think that it is inferior. And I mean no disrespect to citrine or topaz, of course.

Well would you believe that I...but a small dealer... am changing this concept in the jewelry trade?

A couple of years ago, I visited Africa with my dear and better half, to go on safari together and to then show what her husband does as a gem buyer. We were invited to visit the tanzanite mines in the hills of Merelani, and we also traveled more than 400 kilometers to the Morogoro area to see some beautiful chrome tourmaline and rubies.

After visiting my regular gems sources, one of the miners there, a good friend of mine, came to me with a bunch of rough brown water worn tourmaline. He asked me if I would be interested in buying them. I gave them a brief look over and I immediately uttered, "Really? Brown? You must be joking! Who would buy such brown gems?"

Though being silent during much of the trip to Africa, my better half suddenly showed intense interest in those brown gems. "Wow, aren't earth colors very popular with everything today?", she commented. "Lipstick and makeup and even fashion?"

I heard "lipstick and makeup and fashion" and I knew there were there dollars for the taking. On the spot I decided to take my wife's word for it and bought almost 17 kilos of the brown rough.

A few months went by and I sent the parcel to be cut. The polished material I received included many bright browns, brownish oranges, brownish greens and brownish yellows. Notice how the world "brown" keeps popping up? I am still getting used to saying "earth tones."

On my next trip to the United States, I took these brown cut gems, along with all the rest of my stock, all very saleable magnificent blue tanzanite, green tsavorite and chrome tourmaline, and many red garnets. The mood of market was mediocre at best.

I began with the regular fare, and the response was not enthusiastic. Then, almost as an afterthought, I decided to show my customer, a very prominent jeweler, the brown colors.

I don't think that he was really impressed. "Browns...well they are bright but I never do well with browns," he muttered.

Suddenly his wife walked into the meeting room where I was showing him those brown stones, looked at them and said, "Wow, Earth Tones!" Now I know for a fact that this very famous jeweler adores his wife and I immediately realized that these were no longer merely "Brown Stones", but from then on, "Earth Tones".

To cut a long story short, he bought the whole lot from me and since then, all of a sudden, one can see plenty of jewelry with earth-tones stones set into them, not only in the United States but all over the place.

Friends, I don't want to sound big headed, but is it possible that an inspired comment by the wife of a small gem dealer set of a chain reaction that changed the affinity of people of certain colors? After all, is it not possible that a butterfly flapping its wings can affect climate changes on the other side of the world?