Cecile Raley Designs

Too Soon for Tucson? The Reality of Gem Buying in 2022

Too Soon for Tucson?  The Reality of Gem Buying in 2022

I either have antibodies already, or I am the luckiest person on earth, having traveled to Germany 7x since Covid started, having to test incessantly to get into my mom’s home, always coming up negative.  I was in Colombia, Denver twice for gem shows, and in Tucson in April.  Yes, I am very careful, I am triple immunized, and one of the most tested people outside the health care industry, but still!  Last week one of my closest friends got Omicron (3x immunized) and several of my more distant ones did too - all independently of one another. 

Hence, I say this with a great deal of caution: in two weeks I am going to the Tucson gem shows - not to one, but to several super spreader events.  I am going to self-test every single day both for myself and for the sake of everyone else that I am going to see.  

But I SO want to go, even if I have to hole up in the hotel every night and get room service.  I am really hoping to meet some of my long missed vendors from Bangkok – four in total – all of which are going to be there if they don’t test positive beforehand.  My budget is small but my appetite for gems is high, especially for multi colored and blue sapphire melee, emerald melee, benitoite, and spinel


4x3mm Blue Sapphire Oval
4x3mm Blue Sapphire Oval



Loose Pink Burma Sapphire Rounds, 2.1mm
2.1mm Loose Pink Burma Sapphire Rounds



I am also on the lookout for specialty cuts.  The ones in the lower price range often sell out quickly.  Two years ago I saw some lovely zircon hexagons and long kites, but when I went back to GJX on day two to get more, they had all gone.  Also, while I can get sapphire melee shipped from Thailand, the reason MY stock of blues, purples and greens, even yellows is always so well matched is because I do this myself at the show and it takes hours, yielding only small batches.  I cannot get anything matched down that well when it’s shipped to me.  Nobody in NY has these melees, at least not for the prices I get them for in Tucson.

Of course, I am also curious about what vendors are managing to bring.  Vietnam is still difficult to access, so my favorite location for spinel, other than Burma, is not likely to have much of interest.  I have asked around for cobalt spinel, but so far, no luck.

Madagascar, as a source, remains problematic as well.  I had hoped to get my shipment this winter, but the Mining Office, which provides the export documents, remains closed.  A large Sri Lankan smuggling operation was outed late last fall, which led to arrests of Madagascan custom’s officers, several people from the Mining Office as well as the director of the Ilakaka mine.  The director of the Mining Office, meanwhile, has vanished without a trace, and a new one is being trained.  Until that’s sorted, they are not reopening.  This means, in turn, that there will be zero exports of gemstone rough, faceted gems, and collectors’ crystals.  Only commercial goods such as decorative and ornamental stones (i.e. tumbled calcite that you can put into a bowl on your table) are allowed as those are handled by four other local mining offices located in other towns.

Ergo: my grandidierite, color change garnets, sphene, aquamarine and a small production of a new find of gems that I am excited about is stuck.  My friends are keeping everything at their house and I know I will get it sooner or later, but if any other gemstone dealer hoped to have Madagascan material for Tucson, those hopes are dashed at this point.  It is simply too late.

Color-change garnet lot in Mada waiting for shipment
Color-change garnet lot in Mada waiting for shipment


Sphene lot sitting in Madagascar waiting for shipment
Sphene lot sitting in Madagascar waiting for shipment


Finally, I am going to switch out several sets of memo gems, which I usually do toward the end of the AGTA show, when vendors are winding down and are offering them out to me for a few months to work with.



For this reason, you’ll see a flash sale of last chance memo’d items offered at 20% before Tucson (January 26-29), and then the rest will go on sale on the 30th of January for two weeks. I wish I could offer a steeper discount on memo gems but much of the profit of gems on memo is not ours, so there are limits to what we can do.  That said (and if you read that far), if you contact me directly you can get 25% off because I pay 5% to Etsy anyway, on top of any advertising fee should you have clicked on a Google Ad for my shop within 30 days of your purchase from me.  If I sell direct, none of that applies and I am happy to pass it on, as well as save you taxes outside the state of NJ. 

In addition to the gem sales, all jewelry (with the exception of custom) will be on sale as well.  We have never had a Valentine’s Day sale because we are always in Tucson, but now that we are selling more jewelry again, we think we should.  So it’s all gonna happen at once.  I hope you will keep us busy!

So, fingers crossed, Tucson is going to happen as planned.  If not, I certainly won’t be the only one not going... and I will find a plan B, as I always do. 

Here are a few of the "Last Chance" gems, disappearing from the shop after January 29th, but available from January 26th-29th at 20% off:

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RINGing in the New Year!

RINGing in the New Year!

Something odd happened this fall season, and it gave us a little bit to think about for the year to come.  You, my clients, didn’t buy big gems!  Now, you usually buy more items in the “gift category,” for the holidays anyway, like small pendants, silver rings, simple chains, but when you buy for yourself or the one closest to you, it is usually gems.  This fall, you didn’t buy those.

Then, the second surprise: you bought some of my biggest ticket finished jewelry: the star ring with paraiba, the orange sapphire sunflower ring, the square opal pendant…I’m not talking about any of the many custom pieces, but completely finished designs.

I was particularly flattered when I realized that you bought all the pieces on which I spent extra time and which reflect my particular line and ideas, as opposed to the more standard and simple pieces from Stuller that use our gems.

So: what I think this means is that I have to make more jewelry!  More really special jewelry.  Not necessarily heirloom pieces at heirloom prices, but more richly detailed and in keeping with the pieces that I sold.  Soon you will see my favorite ring style released - her name is Cecilia (naturally).  And more Paraiba jewelry is already in the making, as are layouts for pendants and rings that feature gems not yet seen in the shop.

Brand New Cecilia Ring
Introducing Our Brand New Cecilia Ring


To do all of this, we're going to have to make some room in the shop, so out with the old, and in with 2022!  We'll be adding two sale sections to the shop and any gems included in the sale that don’t move will no longer be available after the sale. One section will consist of gems reduced in price by 20% and the other will be reduced by 50% - the latter section will also include some close out jewelry and some gemstone melee that are low in stock and that we are able to sell off. 




When the sale ends on January 4th, the 20% LAST CALL items will all disappear from the shop.  The single gems in the 50% section, and pairs, will also disappear.  Many will be reimagined into jewelry to show you why I bought those particular gems in the first place.  Others will go back into my “boxes of extras” or returned to the vendor.  I cannot offer any layaway or payment plans on either of these sales.

You will see me populate the LAST CALL sections today when this blog is released, but the sale officially starts on the 26th when I will open up the 50% LAST CALL section.  In the meantime, I’m starting to sketch new designs as we speak!  

I played around with some of these sale gems and came up with a few potential layouts so you can get a better idea of  how they'll look in a custom piece:

Some Gem Layout Ideas for Gemstones Included in the Sale!


This clearance will also help me plan better for Tucson because 2022 is the year!  We will be back in “almost” full swing, I expect some Thai and Russian dealers to make it, and many from other countries that I haven’t seen in two years.  While the supply line is in certain respects still very interrupted, I think we will see both interesting and important goods appear.  Fingers Crossed.

In addition, yours truly has been collecting merchandise in Madagascar since 2020 – remotely of course – and these goods are finally about to make their way here!  This is fortunate as, occasionally, I could get ahead of new goods being mined while export was at a standstill.  Except for the illegal export of sapphire rough, which was interrupted recently when several arrests were made a few weeks ago, Madagascar hadn’t been open to buyers until just this past November.  This was very rough on the people as you can imagine.  Unemployment money exists only for the federally employed, if that.  For everyone else, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid, and that’s almost the entire population. Therefore, you can’t rely on the rest of your family to take care of you either.  Meanwhile, only 2% of the people are immunized due to lack of availability of the vaccine. And in southern Madagascar, people are dying by the thousands of hunger due to a drought that has lasted several years.

I felt lucky, therefore, to be able to contribute to “my own” family in Madagascar.  They, in turn, took the time to learn about export licenses, lapidary work, etc., and built up their business (which is actually the mining and cutting of calcite, but that, too is a mineral).  More about the fruits of this relationship, in terms of little shiny things, next time!

I’m signing off until the New Year.  All the best to you and yours.

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