Monday, February 22, 2010

Apologies and more great Tucson Reports coming...

I want to quickly take a moment of your time to apologize for the lack of blog posts from the Tucson Gem Show this year!!!

I am so sorry!!! My hard drive decided to crash while I was in Tucson and I lost some of the info for posts that I had already written and so now I am madly playing catch up!

One discovery was that I could keep up with email and the Facebook page and Twitter page by phone - but trying to post to a blog from a smart phone - not as easy!!!!

Did you check out the great group of posts from lots of active Twitterers on our Twitter Hub?

This site works great because it takes micro-blogging to a higher level allowing you to integrate photos from TwitPic, Videos and RSS Feeds all on one page brought together through the power of a hashtag (#)!

So anyone at the #TucsonGemShow, #AGTA, #Centurion or #TGMS could tweet about what they are seeing and doing and, when using one of these tags, it is shared with everyone else. I find that this approach offers a great range of shows, viewpoints and coverage!

I have about a dozen posts to go and following that I will (as in years past) talk about some of the vendors that made an impression on me this year!

So bare with me and enjoy an extended stay at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show!

Photo from previous post about the first delegation of Afghan Gem Dealers...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bantering Bartering Buying--The GemFair 2010 Experience

Guest post by my favorite gem writer...Diana Jarrett, GG RMV Member NAJA

More upbeat than last year's dismal fair, the AGTA GemFair and its sister the Gem and Jewelry Expo (GJX) in Tucson saw the kind of action that made vendors hopeful for the first time in months this February. AGTA reported a 7% increase in attendance over last year.

One exhibitor graded his Tucson experience C+ against last year's F-. Ok, then, that's a good sign. All parties would agree however, that buyers were spending this time around.

Where big money was not tossed around, some money was, as buyers thought of ways to stretch their dollar.

Vendors were prepared for bargain shoppers and came ready to deliver. One of the most obvious signs that buyers wanted more mileage for their buck were the alternative metals that offered a hedge against the gold price shock that many retailers are struggling with. Titanium, clay metals, and proprietary blackened metals were offered in innovative designs, especially at the couture section.

Photo: Specialty metals with Titanium in Mokume Gane process make for a mesmerizing metal choice in this diamond studded pendant. First Place Contemporary Metal Jewelry Under $1,000 JCK Jewelers Choice Awards 2010. Photo Courtesy: Luis Valderrama-Spectore Corporation/Edward Mirell.

Buyers also found more goods-for-the-gelt by snapping up exotic gemstones. But the name leaves some buyers a bit off balance. What stones actually warrant the exotic designation anyway? They can be new stones that have just found their way to the trading floor and all those unusual types of organic materials that green-grabbers are going ga-ga for at the moment.

Photo: Ammolite is finding enthusiastic buyers. The blue coloring is especially collectible. Photo: Courtesy: Solid Gold Jewellery

So Ammolite, a colorful natural material derived from fossilized ammonite shells of the Northwest were hot buys. Also newly mined stones, including the mysterious Evergreen Quartz that Out of Our Mines sold were exotic. What's in those crystal quartz cabs that create interesting forest green patterns inside? Stay tuned, they are working on it.

Photo: Evergreen Quartz cabochon is a new find. Photo Courtesy: Out of Our Mines

Bangkok's Freaking Cat gems are another source for the odd-ball, exotic and unpronounceable gemstones that make designers look light years ahead of the curve. What was their most dwindling supply? Fordite. Yes, the ultimate green gemstone. The banded colors on this 'rough' material are actually umpteen layers of Ford Motor Corp. car paint colors from the 1970s that landed in --uh--a landfill we think. Anyway, Freaking Cat told us that last year about 400 pounds of the material was available, this year he could not get his hands on bupkus. Like all one source only gems--when it's gone it's gone and this stuff has become highly sought after and is about to become extinct.

Renee Newman saw first hand the interest being paid to exotic gems. This was the ideal time for her to debut her hot off her own presses Exotic Gems Volume 1 which is the primer for deciphering exotic gems and arming retailers with a lexicon for conveying their unique traits when selling these lovelies. But consumers should grab this reference guide too. It explains what to look for when buying these uncommon stones and it is profusely illustrated.

Pearls in newer varieties fared well at the fair. More freshwater selections were available in yummy pastel colors this year. Chinese freshwater pearls are avidly collected owing to their extremely high luster. And South Seas pearl seller Yokozuma drew a crowd with their luminous South Seas multicolor pastel strands priced at $1,300.

Photo: Multicolor natural color pearl strand in 18 inch length with white gold and diamond toggle clasp. Photo Courtesy: Baggins Inc., Los Angeles.

Los Angeles based Baggins Inc., is a perennial Tucson favorite where buyers return for pure luxe. The deep toned multi-color strands are assembled with expert attention paid to the details of matching shape, luster, and size; no small feat when you are working with natural organic material. But they do a stunning job of all that plus finessing the symmetry and balance in every strand. The result? Perfection plus. Their 18 inch natural color strands are tastefully finished with an18K white gold and pave` diamond clasp at an SRP of $14,000.

Did somebody say turquoise? I think it was Pantone; the color trend forecasters who help us plan our style-conscious future--one year at a time. Vendors brought a boat load of turquoise strands, and beads, mostly in the Kingman and Sleeping Beauty varieties. Pretty stuff--tight graining makes for smooth finishes and a high gloss, free of any sort of veining or matrix.

Colorful diamonds were a crowd pleaser this year. Just how many years back was it when diamonds were scarce at Tucson? Not any more. Prominently positioned aisles resplendent with both natural and enhanced colored diamonds seemed to be a natural for the Tucson experience. Blackies were still snapped up, mostly because of their attractive prices. Yellow diamonds were called for because so much fuss has stirred up about them in auctions this past year.

In a word--restocking. The buyers were there to stock inventory creatively by bargain shopping and exotic stone scouring to entice buy-shy customers who've let jewelry collecting take a really really back seat for a while. It was a very good sign in the desert at Tucson.

You can follow more from Diana Jarrett in the many publications that she writes for and on her Color-n-Ice Blog

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Collector Day Features "The Will Larson Collection"

The show at the Westward Look has become an annual pilgrimage for me and my friends Margo (in turquoise - Gemologist) and Roni (Geologist, GG and Co-Founder of the Jeweler's Ethics Assoc).

Here the girls are schmoozing with Gail Spann - who refers to us as the Three Muskateers. Jim and Gail Spann were the featured collectors at the 2009 event.

You can't say enough good things about this woman - her mineral photos and drawings grace the pages of Mindat, the Mineral Forum on Jordi Fabre's website as well as her Facebook page!

This show is one of several that are filmed each year by BlueCap Productions and distributed as "What's Hot In Tucson" can' see clips at

It's a great way to bring a little bit of the show home with you...and an excellent teaching aid for geology classes and Rock & Mineral Clubs.

Here Bryan Swoboda gets host Dave Wilbur mic-ed up!

Will Larson was on hand to walk people through his exhibit which is considered to be one of the finest collection of minerals from Japan.

BlueCap Productions published a teaser about the event:

Every year the Westward Look Mineral Show (aka Fine Mineral Show: Tucson) puts on the Saturday Collector Day where they invite a special collector to display his or her specimens in the lobby of the Westward Look Resort.

This has always been a highly anticipated and attended affair and it looks like 2010 will continue that tradition when mineral collector Will Larson shares his collection of Japanese and Worldwide Minerals.

One piece from his worldwide collection that will be on display is this outstanding Tourmaline with Cleavlandite specimen. This killer specimen is from the world-famous Himalaya Mine in Mesa Grande, CA.

Apart from its obvious perfection, one of the things that makes this specimen so special is that it was self collected by Will way back in 1989.

As Will describes it, he was only 4 years old at the time and his father, Pala International's Bill Larson, basically picked him up and shoved him into the pocket - it was that big. After spitting out a mouth full of dirt that Will had managed to kick into his face, Bill patiently talked Will through the careful extraction process and, little by little, this piece started coming loose. Covered in clay, both the specimen and Will, they took this piece home and carefully washed it.

As more and more of the fine details of this specimen revealed itself, Will knew that he had a very special and rare piece. We couldn't agree more!!!

Still passionate about the famous pegmatite mines that he grew up with, Will continues his field-collecting explorations underground at places like Jeff Swanger's OceanView Mine (one of the filming locations for New Crystal Hunters).

So whether he's out field collecting or cruising through obscure mineral museums or even working deals with today's top dealers, Will Larson is one of those young, active, up-and-coming mineral collectors who follows his dreams.
Pala International profiled Will in their popular Mineral News Newsletter at:

Aside from featuring some of the finest minerals and mineral dealers, during this show BlueCap Productions offers a special panel discussion - previous discussions have been "Women in Mineral Collecting", "Mineral Photography" and this year was "The Grand Masters of Mineral Art".

Keep an eye on the website for the dates of the show, special events and the featured collector in 2011!

You probably recognized the stunning Tanzanite crystal above, but do you know what that day-glo green mineral is?

This is piece literally caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks. A really lovely man in the Pala International room was patient enough to tell the story of Cuprosklodowskite...twice!

...let see if I remember it...the Cupro is for the copper content and
Sklodowskite is for Maria SkÅ‚odowska–Curie the mother of Radioactivity - for the Uranium content.

Please - feel free to correct me if I'm not recollecting it properly.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Seminar: Dominate Local Search with Brad Simon

From the AGTA listing:

Internet Marketing to Drive Local Traffic
Brad Simon, (Graham room)
Basic - Intermediate. Getting the customer through the door is critical for the brick and mortar retail jeweler. Yet more and more customers begin their shopping process by seeking information on the internet, where they can find out about you, your business, and the colored gemstones which interest them. Take advantage of the customer’s use of the internet and let their search lead to your door, prepared to buy willingly from you.

Concrete and practical steps for using the internet to drive local traffic are the focus of this session.

AGTA has included several sessions this year on marketing your business online...this one was specifically aimed at the "brick and mortar" jewelry store owner.

The increased dependence on internet search for local business has greatly affected the ability of a small local store to draw customers...the days of a yellow page ad pulling traffic is gone.

Brad Simon of "Internet 4 Jewelers" spoke engagingly and with passion about recent changes to Google Search and how those changes can be used to your advantage.

Tucson Tip - AGTA is recording most of the sessions and they will be available in a DVD format - you can see their 2009 offerings here and for info about the 2010 sessions email:

Seminar: Pearls with Elisabeth Strack

From the AGTA listings:

Developments in the Chinese Pearl Industry
Elisabeth Strack, Gemmologisches Institut Hamburg (Mohave room)
Intermediate – Advanced. It is getting more and more difficult for jewelers to keep track of developments in the cultured pearl industry. Traditional producing countries like Japan are losing ground and newly producing countries like Vietnam are on the rise. In addition to producing Akoyas, China produces not only fresh water cultured pearls of all varieties, with and without a nucleus, with and without second and third harvests, but also tries its luck with South Sea cultured pearls. The traditional South Sea countries concentrate their efforts on quality but some producers undermine such efforts. It is getting increasingly more difficult, even for an expert, to distinguish the different types of pearls with the naked eye and evaluate them. Only a systematic approach will help. If eye-visible criteria are not enough, certain testing methods have to be applied which will be presented in this lecture. The lecture will also make reference to artificial coloration and treatments as they often add to the confusion of origin. Methods of detection will be presented.

AGTA offers some of the best in their field...and Elisabeth Strack quite literally wrote the book! The author of one of the most extensive tomes on the topic (the English translation came out in 2007). If you are interested in a copy they are available at the NAJA (National Association of Jewelry Appraisers) booth in the main walkway at the AGTA Show.

Her presentation includes a very exclusive look into the workings of a pearl farm - from dying and bleaching rooms to the actually harvesting.

...and I was introduced to a pearl - I had never heard of - the "souffle pearl"! So called due to the hollow center produced. It forms around a center made of mud - so when they are drilled and rinsed the center material drains out! Sweet - Seahunt has them on the AGTA Show Floor!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Alishan - At The Bench at MJSA

The Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America's EXPO West Pavilion is in the Ballroom on the Galleria level, along with the Spectrum of Design Pavilion. Exhibitors demo manufacturing equipment, tools, supplies, contract services and the latest in new technologies. MJSA’s At the Bench Live features bench demonstrations for attendees, showing the latest techniques for bench jewelers.

Today's "At The Bench - Live" demo was with Alishan Halebian - who was a delight!!

The Demo was listed as...

Craft and Creativity: Improvisation At The Bench with Alishan Halebian

A Master Goldsmith renowned for bold and often provocative designs, Alishan will demonstrate how he improvises at the bench to create designs which best showcase specific gems.

In reality he walked us through a new design he started - from illustration through fabrication. That is where the title of the demo comes in. If you work at a bench - in fact if you work in any creative field - you know that just because it looks great on paper doesn't mean it works in 3D!

As he added components he discussed pieces that weren't fitting in properly and walked us through his thought process for making changes and why. He offered demos of how he used normal bench tools to accommodate a different use.

He showed his method for applying a "Florentine" finish - no he doesn't use a burr - he does it by hand - each time it is slightly different and everyone does it a little different.

One of the things he said that stuck with me...

"...each time you add handwork you make the piece more important"

Following the demo Manos from Alishan's staff took me back to the booth to show me Alishan's insect jewelry...wonder why he thought I might like that? (big grin)

Check out the schedule, the range this year is wonderful!

Thursday, Feb. 4
Setting Fancy-Cut Gems 1: A Traditional Approach
Lee Krombholz
Fancy-cut gemstones, with their subtle cut variations, present setters with numerous challenges. In this session, custom designer Lee Krombholz demonstrates traditional wax-working techniques to create cast settings that are appealing, secure, and lasting.

Friday, Feb. 5
Setting Fancy-Cut Gems 2: A CAD/CAM Approach
Lee Krombholz
Lee Krombholz has won numerous awards for his computer-aided designs. Here, he shows how he uses CAD technology to create a wax model, then applies traditional bench techniques to ensure that model becomes a finished piece that safely and securely holds a fancy-cut gem.

Saturday, Feb. 6
Working on Heirloom Jewelry: Recycle, Repurpose, Rejuvenate
Gary Dawson
More and more customers are asking jewelers to re-work the heirlooms they’ve inherited—jewelry that often has endured years of abuse, faulty repairs, and overall neglect. Goldsmith/designer Gary Dawson shows how to identify the hidden challenges in such pieces, safely remove the gemstones, and either recycle or repurpose them to create modern jewels.

Sunday, Feb. 7
Creating Unique Settings for Unusual Stones
Gary Dawson
Jewelers often must fabricate their own settings to accommodate unusually shaped gemstones. Gary Dawson shows how to make the wire or sheet metal jewelers need for a specific job, and how to create a secure and attractive setting.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Afghan Gemstone Traders - First Time Exhibitors at GJX

20 Afghan companies will participate in the Gem and Jewelry Exchange Trade Fair to be held in Tucson, Arizona from February 2 to 7, 2010. This premier event for gems, minerals and jewelry is one of the most popular with buyers, collectors and enthusiasts from around the country and the world.

The Afghan traders are sponsored by United States Agency for International Development’s Afghanistan Small and Medium Enterprise Development (ASMED) Project, with the assistance from the Afghan Gemstone Traders Association. The main purpose of their participation is first to show case Afghan gemstones to the world - to let people know that Afghanistan is the source of some of the finest rough and cut emerald, ruby, aquamarine, tourmaline, kunzite, silver and gold jewelry and lapis products - and secondly to directly link the Afghan traders with the international gemstone buyers who attend the fair in thousands.

This is the first Gem and Jewelry Exchange Trade Fair that ASMED has sponsored for the Afghan gemstone traders, however the ASMED gemstone sector development project was launched last Spring 2009, with the goal of reviving Afghanistan’s rich gemstones and jewelry heritage. Much of the appeal of jewelry and gemstones relates to its origins. Afghanistan’s rich, exotic culture and the history of gemstone trading in the region will form the foundation of the marketing message. Working with miners, the Ministry of Mines and local and international gemstone dealers, the ASMED project, which is currently being implemented by Development Alternatives, Inc., will stimulate the industry from mines to markets, with ‘fair-trade’ working practices, social responsibility and environmental sustainability at its heart.

More than 15,000 gem specimens will be on display at the Afghanistan Pavilion located in the International Hall at the Gem and Jewelry Exchange Trade Fair at stands 2702-2711.

Day Two - The Freeway Shows - Globe X

For those of you who are wanting the "Tucson Experience" but aren't in the trade - these are the best shows...they are open to the public - though most of the vendors will write up a wholesale purchase.
  • there is the greatest variety of genres
  • elastic gem bead bracelets, next to high end faceted gems, Tibetan silver next to gold and diamonds.
  • miners, cutters, carvers, retailers...
Along the I-10 at Congress (in fact there is parking on Congress) you start at the Globe X Show in the Days Inn.

If you are a beader - enjoy the row after row of gem beads in every color size and pricepoint...if you aren't into beads, don't let them deter you from getting into the inside booths of this show.

Rod Griffin - who also shows at the AGTA show has a booth (Rm 143) at this show and his Boulder Opal Fountains are shown to perfection in the sunlit patio of their room.

Have you ever wanted to try your hand at carving?
Daniella L'Abatta (sorry Dani if I just messed your name up) at the Down to Earth Opals booth is one of the finest opal carvers in the world and one of the most generous with her knowledge. Sit down with her and ask the questions - she has a demo station setup and will show you how she makes all those dramatic pieces in the cases. If you are just a fan and want to leave the carving to the have to see the amazing pieces being offered.

Fine Jewelry with a twist - some of the most gorgeous traditional jewelry and amazing one of a kind pieces are available at the Gem World booth - one of my favorites is a banana that is a good 3-4 inches long and made of a single raw sapphire crystal that was polished up and given a gold top is sweet! ...and ask Eddie about the latest Sapphire find - he has display pieces that show the full range of color these sapphires are available in - and these are strong, brilliant stones!!!

One of my favorite stops at this show is
The Oregon Sunstones, Inc. suite at the Days Inn - Globe X Show is not to be missed. Sunstone is a beautiful yellow feldspar which - when you get lucky has a soft pink schiller and when you get really lucky is pure red or red with green. Because it is a fairly soft stone it is easily carved and lends itself to some unique and beautiful jewelry. This is an EXCELLENT source - JCJ Mining (Jolene & Judy) is a family tradition dating back to 1953. They know there gems - where they came from - where they were cut - you can't get much more ethically sourced than that!

...another one that I love is Aragon Enterprises - these folks carry some the finest Amber - gorgeous Blue Onyx and are partners in an Argentinian Rhodocrosite mine! Looking for an Amber Showpiece this couple can provide it!


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