15 January 2024

Spotlight on rubies in Gemfields’ second Chinese consumer report

Building on the findings of the inaugural report in 2020, this latest edition shows that the market for coloured gemstones – especially rubies – is going from strength to strength in China.

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Entitled Ruby – Breaking Out of Collectors’ Cabinets, Becoming Part Of China’s Middle-Class Lifestyle, the new report, released on 9 January in Shanghai, represents an in-depth study of Chinese consumer attitudes towards coloured gemstones, homing in on rubies. It shows a remarkable shift, with rubies now integrated into the mainstream amongst middle-class Chinese buyers.

Ruby – Breaking Out of Collectors’ Cabinets, Becoming Part Of China’s Middle-Class Lifestyle draws on in-depth qualitative and quantitative research and data analysis. The report explores in detail purchase drivers, style preferences, gifting and wearing scenarios and historical associations to shine a light on China’s growing passion for these fiery red gems.

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The report shows that rubies – associated with passion, prosperity and protection and the “lucky” colour red – are now the most coveted coloured gemstone in China, three times as popular as second-place emerald. They rank highest in terms of awareness, desirability and purchasing amongst the country’s middle-class consumers, with respondents indicating that they see them as intrinsically Chinese, “tasteful” and linked to “wealth and prosperity”.

Gemfields is a world-leading responsible miner and marketer of coloured gemstones and the majority owner of the Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique, source of some of the most exceptional rubies. Its CEO Sean Gilbertson praised the “encouraging” nature of the report’s findings, the “stories of growth and identified opportunities”, citing an “unquenchable thirst for rubies, which is both exciting and encouraging amidst post-pandemic uncertainties”.

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Present at the launch event for the new report were Gemfields’ marketing and communications director Emily Dungey, President of GUILD Gem Laboratories Ruby Liu and gemmologist and editor-in-chief of Comfort magazine Lionel Lee. They participated in a panel to discuss developments in the ruby industry in China.

Emily Dungey said: “It is clear from this market research that Chinese consumers are passionate about rubies. Like the research report before it, the insights gained here will inform our marketing approach going forward – introducing greater educational resources to share our knowledge of this special gemstone with Chinese consumers, as well as working with like-minded local jewellery brands to offer elegant everyday ruby jewellery pieces that provide versatility and the ability to carry a beautiful red gem with them as they go about their day.”

The report showed that attitudes have changed in terms of ruby-wearing. Consumers no longer feel the gems should be saved to wear on special occasions in statement pieces, many electing to incorporate them into their everyday look in subtle and wearable designs, in keeping with the “New Chinese Style”. Necklaces and rings work particularly well with this more casual gemstone aesthetic.

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So-called Neo-Socialites, Aesthetic Appreciators and Chinese Culture Devotees were the three groups identified by the report as driving ruby-consumption. The first group are creative and sociable entrepreneurs and executives who wear rubies to project their social status; the second are young urban women living a tasteful and exclusive lifestyle; the third are interested in rubies as collector’s items and see them as inextricably linked to traditional Chinese culture.

Finally, the report showed that there is a need for increased, and informed, professional ruby market education by Chinese consumers, of the sort provided by the coloured gemstone masterclasses hosted by Gemfields and GUILD for media, to untap the vast market potential of rubies. Currently, Chinese consumers glean most of their information from social platforms, presenting an opportunity to drive ruby-consumption in the country even higher with renewed efforts to educate this population of enthusiasts!

Download the full report here