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
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)