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Gem and Mineral Shows

Posted by Yvonne Raley on

If you saw some of my most recent listings, you know that I attended my very first mineral show here in NJ in May.  I didn’t know what to expect, especially since the advertisement for it (and the banner) said that I would also get to see dinos!

So ok, there weren’t any dinosaurs, no live ones anyway, but lots of fossils and mineral specimens, some of them costing in the 10’s of thousands of dollars.   And an entire bench made of agate, probably weighing several tons.  Apparently, that’s how a mineral show differs from bead shows, jewelry shows, and gem shows.  There were in fact very few gems to see at all, but tons of cheap stuff (beads, agates, crystals) and lots of people walking around who believe in the special powers of rocks.
In short, I really thought I was in the wrong place at first, especially since there didn’t seem to be a distinction between wholesale and retail.  And even I don’t want the public to get the same prices at which I buy. 

But after spending a little more time looking around, it turned out to be quite fun, and worth recommending.  First, there were several dealers that had gemstone rough.  I don’t use rough very much, and I think the prices weren’t that low, but it was very helpful for me to get an idea of how to judge it.  For instance, if it doesn’t look perfectly clean, it’s not going to get cleaner when you cut it (a simple truth which we forget very easily when looking at glitter).  I actually got very lucky picking out some pieces of Australian black opal rough.  Opal rough is stored in water so you can see how it might look after polishing, and a lot of it is pre-shaped:  the rocks are split open and the sandstone and other stone cut off so you can see how much opal there is and how it looks.  I dipped around in little wet bowls for a good hour, but I in the end I found three pieces totally worth having (and a larger one that was already finished).
Black Opal Rough (Wet)

Polished Fancy Shape Black Opal
Then, at the other end of the huge hall in which the show was held, I found a German mineralogist, a guy who also deals in rough, but largely the quality that goes to schools for cutting, or is used for industrial purposes, or sold as is in mineral shops.  Jochen Hintze lives partly in Tanzania and partly in Germany, has an M.A. in geology and has experience working in the mines.  He can converse in Swahili with the locals, and he has written articles in trade journals.  You can look at his ridiculously vast collection of specimens at
http://www.jentsch-mineralien.com/en/uebersicht/5/A/1/Lehrmineralien.html  (but you need to be able to read German I’m afraid).

Sphene and Tanzanite Slices

Tanzanite Slice on Silver Sheeting
Anyway, we hit it off right away and I pretty much spent the afternoon sifting through his items.  He had an entire box of unheated tanzanite, which I dug around in until I located a few excellent pieces of bi-color rough that were thin enough to set as slices.  He also had Madagascan sphene slices – something I had never ever seen before (apparently that’s how the rough comes sometimes).  There was also some spinel rough from Tanzania, and a mineral called Sanidine, which I had never heard of before.  Needless to say I bought some of everything. 

On my upcoming trip to Germany, I hope to pay another visit to Jochen Hintze; he has a whole house full of mineral stuffs he told me.  If not, I’ll have to wait till the next mineral show in the spring.  Or maybe my dream destination, Tuscon, if I can ever swing that.

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