What’s Trend­ing In Tuc­son

For gem lovers and deal­ers around the world, Tuc­son is more than a small city in the south­ern USA state of Ari­zona. Held dur­ing the month of Fe­bru­ary, the Tuc­son show is the pre­mier des­ti­na­tion for gem­stones, crys­tals, geodes, fos­sils and ev­ery­thing else

Solitaire - - CONTENTS - CYN­THIA UN­NI­NA­YAR re­ports.

For many trade pro­fes­sion­als, “the way Tuc­son goes, so goes the year.” If we can be­lieve this say­ing, then it would seem that the in­dus­try has fi­nally reached a pos­i­tive turn­ing point. The ma­jor­ity of gem deal­ers in­ter­viewed dur­ing the three main trade shows (AGTA GemFair™, GJX and JOGS) re­ported “good” to “ex­cel­lent” shows. Op­ti­mism was clearly greater than in pre­vi­ous years.

One of the gems cre­at­ing the most buzz was emer­ald from Ethiopia. While it was talked about last year, only a very few deal­ers had this gem­stone. This year, there was more avail­abil­ity and more dis­cus­sion about the gem’s sat­u­rated green colour. One of the main USA deal­ers of­fer­ing these emer­alds was Mayer & Watt. “Ethiopian emer­alds are blow­ing peo­ple’s minds,” stated owner Si­mon Watt, ex­plain­ing that the gems are com­pa­ra­ble, if not bet­ter, than Colom­bian stones, but at half the price. Among the green gems were a 6.1-carat and a 5.8-carat faceted stone, with no oil treat­ment. “Some 30 to 40 per cent of pro­duc­tion doesn’t need oil,” Watt added.

An­other re­mark­able as­pect of these Ethiopian emer­alds is the so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity com­po­nent. The mine is owned and op­er­ated by a tribe of 3,000 peo­ple. All the money goes back to the tribe. Pro­ceeds are al­ready build­ing roads and other fa­cil­i­ties, and plans are in the works to train lo­cal peo­ple in cut­ting the gems. Ev­ery­one prof­its.

An­other gem that at­tracted a lot of at­ten­tion was the Gold Sheen™ Sap­phire, of­fered by Thai­land-based Gen­uine Gems & Jew­ellery. When I passed by the booth for an in­ter­view with owner Tanzim Khan, he was in­ter­rupted con­stantly by a steady stream of buy­ers. Although he is in the be­gin­ning stages of mar­ket­ing these un­usual sap­phires, the word is quickly get­ting out. Brands such as Cartier and David Yur­man re­cently started us­ing the unique gems and, in Tuc­son, I saw sev­eral pieces set in gold by smaller de­sign­ers.

These shim­mer­ing gems ex­hibit a range of colours from gold to blue to green, (they re­mind me some­what of a cross be­tween ru­ti­lated quartz and labradorit­e). The gems are found only in one lo­ca­tion in a re­mote re­gion of Kenya, from a mine that is now de­pleted. “I knew as soon as I saw the rough a few years ago, that I had some­thing spe­cial, so I pur­chased the en­tire mine’s pro­duc­tion,” said Khan. He trade­marked the apt name of Gold

Sheen™ Sap­phire, and showed sev­eral lab­o­ra­tory cer­tifi­cates de­not­ing that the gems are nat­u­ral, un­heated sap­phire. Look out for more of these golden gems in the near fu­ture.

Other stones that en­joyed grow­ing in­ter­est were un­com­mon gems, such as cli­no­hu­mite and goshen­ite along with a few “ex­otics” show­cased in orig­i­nal jew­ellery de­signs. From den­dritic agates to jasper, from di­a­mond crys­tals to mala­chite, and from fos­sils to pet­ri­fied wood and more, in­ter­est­ing and atyp­i­cal gems are gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity in fine and ar­ti­sanal jew­ellery.

The big three, of course, were avail­able at most booths, with blue sap­phire among the most pop­u­lar, although there also ap­peared to be strong in­ter­est in Pad­parad­scha, vi­o­let and grey sap­phires. Sap­phires from Mon­tana, pro­mot­ing their USA ori­gin and re­spon­si­ble sourc­ing, seemed to fly off the coun­ters, in all colours and fancy cuts. Even a few booths had the very rare red beryls from Utah. Spinel and Paraiba tour­ma­line were also among the best­sellers ac­cord­ing to a num­ber of deal­ers, with prices hold­ing steady.

Eth­i­cal sourc­ing was on the minds of many deal­ers and cus­tomers, who in­di­cated that the mil­len­nial and cen­ten­nial gen­er­a­tions are more con­cerned with the in­tegrity of the sup­ply chain than with price. These young peo­ple also ap­pre­ci­ate a good gem story, pre­fer­ring to know that their pur­chase is ei­ther help­ing or—at least—not harm­ing the min­ers and cut­ters.

Prices at the high end were re­port­edly strong as sup­plies re­main tight. At the low end, how­ever, over­sup­ply is keep­ing prices de­pressed. The mid-range gems seemed to at­tract only av­er­age de­mand. As Tuc­son went, we shall now see how the year goes. Stay tuned.

Carved Aus­tralian opal horse brooch by Austal­ian gem com­pany In­to­gems. (Photo: Cyn­thia Un­ni­na­yar)

Se­lected sam­ples of Gold Sheen™ Sap­phires. (Photo: Gen­uine Gems & Jew­ellery)

Fancy cuts and colours of sap­phires from USA-based Sap­phires of Mon­tana by Columbia Gem House. (Photo: Columbia Gem House)

Two emer­alds from Ethiopia, for a to­tal carat weight of 12.5 seen at the Mayer & Watt booth. (Photo: Cyn­thia Un­ni­na­yar)

Pen­dant in sil­ver fea­tur­ing bum­ble­bee jasper by USA-based de­signer Les­ley Aine McKe­own (Photo: Les­ley Aine McKe­own)

Among the in­no­va­tive jew­ellery de­sign­ers at the show was In­dia-based and award­win­ning Deeta Thaku­ral, who show­cased a range of trendy de­signs in gem­stones and di­a­mond slices in 18-karat gold. (Photo: Deeta Thaku­ral)

Among the Spectrum Award win­ners was USA de­signer Caro­line Char­touni for her 18-karat gold ring fea­tur­ing an 8-carat pur­ple sap­phire ac­cented with oval pur­ple sap­phires and di­a­monds. (Photo: Caro­line C)

Rare 40-carat blue sap­phire from USA-based Sparkles & Col­ors. (Photo: Sparkles & Col­ors)

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