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.
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.