Gemstones have long fascinated humanity with their natural brilliance, beauty, and symbolic associations. While advances in mining have made some varieties less rare, a precious few remain exceedingly scarce – and correspondingly costly.
Their sky-high prices reflect limitations in supply as well as significance across cultures as symbols of status, wealth, and power. This article unveils the top 5 most expensive gemstones that changed hands in 2024.
Gemstone Market Poised for Continued Growth
According to a new report by market research firm Future Market Insights, the global gemstone market was valued at approximately $32.38 billion in 2023. Experts project the market will reach $55.96 billion by 2033, representing a compound annual growth rate of 5.6% over the 10-year period. Gemstones currently comprise around half of total sales in the broader gems and jewelry sector.
Several factors have contributed to the gemstone market’s steady expansion in recent years. Rising consumer demand for luxury goods on a worldwide scale has been a primary driver as more people seek out high-end products. The market offers a diversity of options to meet this demand, from traditional diamond jewelry to personalized birthstone pieces.
An emerging interest in colored gemstones and their perceived metaphysical properties has also fueled market growth. Gem varieties like emeralds, rubies, and sapphires have seen increased popularity as consumers look for unique and eye-catching designs.
This evolving trend has opened new opportunities for gemstone producers and retailers to capitalize on. Due to its reputation as the most valuable gemstone, diamond jewelry remains core to the market.
If current trends persist, industry experts anticipate the gemstone trade will maintain a positive outlook over the coming decade as luxury consumption expands globally. Both traditional and innovative gemstone products appear well-positioned to satisfy growing consumer demand.
Top 5 Most Expensive Gemstones
Alexandrite – $12,000 Per Carat
Alexandrite is a rare gemstone known for its remarkable optical properties. The stone was first discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains during the 1830s and received its name in 1834 from Count Lev Alekseevich Perovskii, who named it in honor of Tsar Alexander II of Russia.
When examined under different light sources, the color dramatically shifts. This is caused by an unusual combination of minerals like chromium, iron, and titanium within its crystal structure.
It exhibits strong pleochroism, meaning the color appears to change when rotated in the hand. Additionally, the color independently alters depending on the artificial light source used without adjusting the viewing angle. Typically, it presents as a greenish-blue color in natural light but shifts to a reddish-purple hue in soft incandescent bulbs.
There are two primary factors that influence an alexandrite’s value. Firstly, gems with colors closest to pure green and red command the highest prices. Secondly, the more distinct the color shift between the two hues, the greater the valuation.
Alexandrites can range from a nearly complete 100% color change to just a 5% alteration. Therefore, the most valuable ones exhibit a full shift from green to red without any tint of blue, purple, or brown mixed in. Stones with blue-green or purplish/brownish-red colors hold less market value than those with the purest color transition.
Red Beryl – $10,000 Per Carat
Originally known as bixbite, red beryl is one of the rarest gemstones on earth. It was first discovered in 1904 in the Wah Wah Mountains of Utah by Maynard Bixby. Unlike its name suggests, red beryl is not an emerald but rather its own unique gem species.
Fine crystal specimens of red beryl are zealously guarded by mineral collectors, as they are too rare and valuable to facet into jewels. In fact, gem-quality red beryl can only be found in small quantities at its discovery site in the Wah Wah Mountains, making it approximately 8,000 times rarer than even rubies.
Any size piece of red beryl in high clarity and vibrant color grades is highly sought after by collectors and ready buyers.
Several characteristics determine the value of red beryl. The intensity and purity of its red hue are paramount, with saturated shades more valuable than paler or brownish-orange tinted stones. Inclusions or fractures that decrease clarity significantly lower the price. Flawless red beryls are extraordinarily rare and command the highest prices on the market.
Larger stones are more difficult to find and thus more expensive. However, cutting a large stone into several smaller flawless gems can also create valuable products. Finally, the quality of the cut impacts the stone’s brilliance and “fire,” affecting its evaluated worth.
Padparadscha Sapphire – $8,000 Per Carat
While sapphires are famously known for their rich blue hue, this gemstone variety actually occurs in a rainbow of colors. One rare and striking alternative is the padparadscha sapphire, which exhibits a vivid pink-orange tone. As sapphire’s birthstone for the month of September, the padparadscha sapphire offers a colorful option.
Named after the Sinhalese word for lotus flower due to its bright pink-orange resemblance to the blossom’s petals, padparadscha sapphires have long been prized for their associations with creativity, energy, and good health. These gems trace their history alongside other sapphires to popularity in the Middle Ages.
Padparadscha sapphires are primarily found in Sri Lanka, home to the Sinhalese people for centuries, but also found in Madagascar and Tanzania. As a nine on the Mohs hardness scale, the padparadscha sapphire exhibits durability near that of a diamond.
According to Leibish, the finest padparadscha sapphires fetch record prices at auction houses. In 2005, Christie’s sold a 20.84-carat gem for $374,400, equivalent to $18,000 per carat.
While Sri Lankan sources yield the highest quality stones on average, padparadscha sapphires from Madagascar tend to exhibit pinker hues, bringing a lower valuation. A Padparadscha sapphire guide can help those interested in learning more about buying options for this rare and striking gem.
Benitoite – $3,800 per carat
Benitoite is considered one of the most beautifully colored gems. It exhibits a striking blue body color with a higher refractive dispersion than a diamond. Taking its name from the location of its discovery, the headwaters of the San Benito River in San Benito County, California, benitoite has been declared the state gem.
However, its intense hue can somewhat mask the dispersive qualities it is known for. Admirers may have to choose between a darker blue that obscures the dispersion effect or a lighter shade that highlights it more clearly. Additionally, benitoite is fascinating under UV light as it fluoresces a glowing chalky blue.
Rich, clean blue Benitoite carats and above can demand premium prices due to their rarity. Clarity greatly influences value, with eye-clean or better classifications being most desirable. Very light or very dark specimens tend to have lower valuations. The ideal stones exhibit medium-dark blue hues and pristine clarity for maximum worth.
Black Opal – $3,500 per carat
Opals have a unique evaluation process compared to other gemstones, as each exhibits tremendous individual characteristics. Within the opal family, black opals carrying body tone ratings from N1 to N4 are considered the rarest and most sought-after.
Their base color is a rich black that provides a dramatic backdrop for the fiery flashes of pattern play. Much of the worldwide supply originates from Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, Australia.
Black opals command the highest value among opal varieties due to their dark body shade accentuating intensely vivid splashes of color. Unlike clearer gemstones, opals require specialized grading focusing on attributes like pattern, color, and body tone visible to the naked eye.
No two opals share the exact same combination of features, so each piece must be assessed individually to determine its ranking and price in the market.
As the gemstone market continues its steady growth, discoveries of new deposits and novel treatments may impact valuations over time. However, for the rarest gems like alexandrite, certain natural gem varieties will likely always remain highly sought after due to their uniqueness.
Whether appreciated for aesthetic beauty, cultural symbolism, or pure fascination with the marvels of the natural world, gemstones hold enduring fascination. With care and necessity driving their conservation, these extraordinary minerals will continue securing top prices for years to come.