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High-End Gemstones Are Diamonds in the Rough

Thursday, 5 Feb 2009 | 4:58 PM ET

For so long, it's been all about value in the retail sector, and looking at the latest retail sales results, that hasn't changed yet. But an often overlooked type of retail business is emerging as a new diamond in the rough: gemstones.

Retailers Rocked, Rolled
Consumers continue to cut back their spending, and that's taking a toll on the retail sector, reports CNBC's Margaret Brennan. Howard Davidowitz, of Davidowitz & Associates, shares his insight.

"Luxury's been decimated..., but I'll tell you one thing that's hot: jewelry, stones for $300,000 to $500,000. Investment grade stones are on fire," says Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, in an interview on CNBC. "It's similar to the gold trade."

(For more on the winners and losers in the retail space and analysis of January's chain-store sales, watch the video to the left.)

Italian jeweler Bulgari is an example of a retailer that sells these types of products, Davidowitz says.

Doug Sandler, co-Founder of RiverFront Investment Group, says he would rather play this trend in an exchange-traded fund tied to an actual commodity than buy a retailer that sells ultra-high end jewelry products.

Sandler's not surprised investors are seeking out hard assets in these tough times.

"One of the hottest-selling products, believe it or not, in an earlier consumer recession in the seventies was fur coats. Everybody had to have a fur coat," Sandler says. "So there is a demand for the high end."

Davidowitz says he sees more retail bankruptcies on the horizon in this difficult environment.

On Thursday, regional retailer Fortunoff filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Others that could follow include names like Bon-Ton, Talbots, and Claire's Stores, Davidowitz says.

More from Consumer Nation:

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com

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