Alternative Investing

Stones to Make Your Portfolio Sparkle and Shine

The gem market, like most others, has taken strain since the economic downturn hit. But with the climate improving and with prices below their estimates, could now be the time to add sparkle to your portfolio?

"It was a very frightening time, I know, for everyone. We saw prices extremely high before the crash," Erin Shah-Morris, gemologist at David Morris, said. Groups like David Morris, which have "a lot of diamond stock," saw their inventories "devalued by let's say 30 percent." Shah-Morris told CNBC.

"Now we've seen a real strengthening and stability," she added. "We've always believed if you collect and buy beautiful things, you'll eventually always have a market for them."

A recent sale at Christies made it "an auction to remember," according to one of the house's top jewelry specialists after the 32-carat Annenberg Diamond was sold for a record $7.7 million. The level of activity and the prices achieved in the sale surprised even the most seasoned dealer.

Interest from the Middle East and Asia has seen prices in the jewel and gem market picking up, but estimates still have been sitting about 20 percent below their peak.

Investors should look for a "connoisseur piece," "something to hold onto," like an "exceptional cashmere sapphire," according to Shah-Morris.

Flawless pear-shaped 72.22-carat diamond

She suggested investors look out for "things that are really special, that you get your certification for; you can't find up and down the street."

"Natural pearls are a very good investment," she said.

There are numerous ways of getting into the jewel market. One way is by purchasing loose stones. An investor can purchase the precious gems through a diamond dealer.

"It is one of the securer methods of holding onto your money and letting it grow slowly over time," Guy Shepherd from London-based diamond retailer Guy & Max.

Investors can also have their gems traded on their behalf.

"This is reliant on finding an individual, a company, to buy that stone to trade with that stone and then split the profits both ways. Then re-invest the profit, so you're not only getting the benefit of the stone, but you're getting the benefit of the trade," Shepherd told CNBC.

Shepherd warned that those investors who decide to go it alone should be very knowledgeable about gems. He emphasized the importance of the four 'Cs': carat, clarity, cut and color.