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 my significant other caught Omicron (3x immunized) and several of my friends did too. 

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.

TWO SALES FOR TUCSON

 

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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2020 Kicks the Bucket. A New Year, a Fresh Start

2020 Kicks the Bucket.  A New Year, a Fresh Start

 

Well, I can say this much: 2020 has decidedly been the most bizarre year of my entire life. Granted, I haven’t been through a war; I grew up in, and live in a wealthy country, so maybe that doesn’t say much.  But BOY, do I not want to repeat these past 12 months, despite the fact that I finally had time to redo my basement.  Let’s hope for better years ahead for all of us!

While I cannot offer you a vaccine, I do hope to provide you with some distractions until the latter kicks in for everyone.  CRD starts off the new year with a new Logo, designed by The Brand Shop “The White Zebra”.  And there’s more to come: new graphics, newsletter design, banners, packaging materials, and eventually, a revamped website.  We hope for your input along the way, as we are in the midst of finalizing a questionnaire that will ask you to help us with your thoughts.  Our next newsletter will fill you in on the details.

Here are some new packaging drafts.  

After that, Tucson.  Well, kind of, as there will not be any actual Tucson shows.  Not yet anyway.  A number of the organizers are trying to put together some shows to take place later this spring but amidst uncertainties about travel, new shutdowns, and more virulent mutations of COVID, I’m not holding my breath.  But later rather than sooner, it will all be back on track. 

In the meantime, I’ve made arrangements to get some stuff shipped to me for a gem sale starting mid-January.  Having skipped the semi-annual sale so that I could go to Germany to see my mom (she was VERY happy), and so that we stand a chance of Priority Mail NOT taking 3+ weeks to arrive, we are now starting to stock up on fresh gems for your perusal.  Listings are starting to roll out this week.

Rosette Pendant — zircon, sapphire & kornerupine

Also, for the first and perhaps the only time ever, we will have a Valentine’s jewelry sale in February.  We usually don’t have that because we are too busy with Tucson.  But this past fall, we created a lot more finished jewelry than in previous years and we were surprised at how well it sold, so we will make a push for more stud earrings which had record sales in November and December, more stacking rings, more pendants and statement rings.  New designs are on the way, and we continue to grow our Stuller collection in particular, with stud earrings that include shapes for which we have no proprietary designs.

Spinel Baguettes in Stuller Prong Settings

So. What new gemmy stuff can you expect?  Well, there have to be some surprises, but let me give you a hint.  One will be a type of spinel you have not seen on the market from an old find that has been freshly cut, and the other will be a gemstone cut you have not seen, at least not in colored gemstones (hint, the cut does exist in the diamond world).  Both will be an exclusive to my shop, both are Limited Editions. 

Second, I’m calling the Cecile Raley Designs colors for the year: green and lavender.  You’ve seen a lot of those colors already but you will see more.  More emeralds, from Russia and Afghanistan and Colombia, and more lavenders and purples (spinel, sapphire, and anything else I can dig up).  I will also offer some additional jewelry designs in those colors.  From what I have heard, the color of the year in the gemstone industry is a buttery yellow.  Eww.  Sorry.  I love butter, but it’s not going to work for me as anything but butter.  And we don’t sell that.  Green and lavender it is.

Custom Design, Emerald and Sapphire
Custom Design, Tourmaline, Emerald and Sapphire

In further developments, I’m negotiating a fresh batch of Benitoite, hoping for larger pieces but with prices being rather unpleasant, I will see what I can offer.  Same with more Burmese spinels.

More Paraiba melee are on the way to me as well, and some smaller single pieces, though I can’t offer many larger gems.  Demand continues to outstrip the measly supply, and those vendors who still have fine quality pieces are charging through the nose.

While I haven’t had much luck with selling diamonds, I want to continue to dabble in offering them because there’s so much interesting stuff out there that’s not, well, round and white.  I love the different available cuts, especially rare ones, and I love naturally colored diamonds. 

Any suggestions on your part?  Please don’t hesitate to let us know!

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Tucson Gem Haul: Find Out What's Coming to the Shop, Before it Gets There!

Tucson Gem Haul: Find Out What's Coming to the Shop, Before it Gets There!

My panshir emerald melee is now sorted (see below,) I'll be offering sizes from 1mm-2mm in small batches.  Some small Russian emeralds are coming up.

Panshir Emerald Melee
Panshir Emerald Melee

I also secured more beautiful boulder and black opal from Australia.  More sizes and colors of sapphire and ruby melee being listed as we speak, as well as more Vietnamese spinel including some collectors sizes that I'm super happy with.  The lavenders and lilac colors are very hard to get, and to me, very unusual because they have almost no notes of secondary gray. 

Vietnamese Lavender Spinel
Vietnamese Lavender Spinel

What I didn't buy much of was tourmaline - prices seemed very high at the moment.  I did buy paraiba melee of course but prices on those have gone up as well.  I was surprised that there still were any.  A couple more larger paraibas will be listed in upcoming weeks.

Burmese Red Spinel
Burmese Red Spinel

For more new gems, be sure to follow us on Youtube!  Here are a few of the latest videos, showcasing our brand new gems, straight from Tucson: 

 

 

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Greetings from Chilly Tucson!

Greetings from Chilly Tucson!
Updates on Yvonne's gem buying trip to the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show!  Find out what she's finding as soon as she gets it -- and there's still time to let her know what she can purchase just for you! Continue reading

NEW NEW NEW: Rings, Pendants, & Earrings for Alternate Stone Shapes

NEW NEW NEW: Rings, Pendants, & Earrings for Alternate Stone Shapes

With Tucson around the corner, I've been thinking long and hard about what new items I could make that would offer up some options for alternate stone shapes.  My main focus this time was the oval, or rather, the roval. In particular, designs that allow for more 3x2 and 4x3 options. There are so many 4x3 ovals on the market and they often cost less, too.  So I worked on a new Lily using those, and Elizabeth shapes for earrings.

OVAL LILY: These take a 4mm center stone, 4 4x3mm ovals and 2mm (or smaller) gems on the outside.  The width is 17mm, so it's a nice and substantial size.

Pricing is $680 for the pendant and $760 for the ring in 14kt (note these are new gold prices as gold has gone up a few hundred dollars in the past few months).

14k gold pendant with sapphires and rubies14k gold ring with tourmaline sapphire and mint garnet

ELIZABETH EARRINGS: These earrings can be made into studs or danglies, and the components could also be used in a bracelet or as part of a necklace.  They are made for 4x3 and 3x2mm gems.  Prices are $420 for the larger and $390 for the smaller earrings. 

hauyne rose gold earrings
7 x 4.5mm with hauyne

 

rose gold emerald earrings
8 x 5.5mm with emeralds

 

HEXAGON FOR OVALS: While we were at it, we also made hexagons for rovals (4x3mm and 3x2mm). The smaller hexagons are priced at $370 in 14Kt gold and the larger ones are $400.

hexagon 14k gold earrings with spinel

14k gold hexagon earrings with spinel

STAR FLOWER PENDANT WITH 8 PETALS: We made this model for 3x2mm gems only, because I wanted to feature the hauyne I have but we can also get Burma spinel and hopefully a few other sizes in Tucson.  The center stone is 4mm but I can go up to 4.5mm.  I have a ring version of this as well, but it isn't finished yet. These are priced at $480 for the pendant and $580 for the ring (coming soon!) in 14Kt gold.

rose gold flower pendant with hauyne and rhodochrosite

STACKING RINGS: We came out with six new models, five of which are in the photos here. All are priced at $220, which will be our new price for 14 Kt gold stacking rings.  They are made for 6x4 pears and ovals, as well as 3x2 ovals (east west and north south).

gold stacking rings with gemstones

gold stacking rings with gemstones

gold stacking rings with gemstones

NEW DESIGNS IN PROGRESS: Another underappreciated stone shape for us has been the trillion.  We made a scalloped design for a 6mm center and 15 x 1.5mm round sidestones, pendant and ring.  The pendant will cost $650 and the ring costs $710 in 14Kt gold. The pendant just came out, the ring will be available after Tucson.

And we also made a design for a 7mm stone which is currently with Alex for engraving of the sides. You'll have to imagine the finished product, but here's how it looks in the CAD. We made the prongs super long so that we can also set a slightly larger than 7mm gem, which we'd open the prongs up a little to accommodate.  A 7mm or a hair smaller gem will sit as shown in the image, and the prongs will be cut down to tiny claws as in all our designs.  The sidestones are 2x2.5rds, 2x 1.6rds and 2x1.5rds or 1x 2.5mm.

Finally, we have a design coming for a 6mm cushion, an adaptation of last year's prize winner Josephine.  The sidestones for this will be 4x 1.7mm round & 12x 1.3ish mm round.  This model is currently in printing, but we will have a finished item later in February to show you.  

 

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Pack your Virtual Bags: You’re Coming to Tucson with Us!

Pack your Virtual Bags: You’re Coming to Tucson with Us!

Hooker Emerald Brooch

Hooker Emerald Brooch, designed by Tiffany & Co, previously exhibited at Tucson Gem & Mineral Show & worth $5,000,000 USD!!!

I can't believe how quickly the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show is coming around this year: I got back from Germany last Thursday night, where I spent a lot of quality time with my mom, and then I realized: I leave in THREE WEEKS!  I changed my Tucson travel dates this year because several shows start before my big ones (i.e. AGTA and GJX shows.) The AGTA gives booths only to their own vendors, and the GJX has a long waiting list to get a spot, so gem dealers like my opal vendors and some of my spinel vendors attend some of these other shows instead.

Here then is the big question: is there really anything new this year?  How’s this even possible?  Well it actually is possible thanks to new finds, such as a spinel find in Vietnam last summer; with lucky buys from my vendors, and with lucky buys from yours truly, those will arrive from overseas in February.

Let’s start with, well, ME.  As my friend Jochen from Jentsch Minerals was just in Madagascar, I bought some high quality grandidierite through him.  This time the gems are a bit larger, but not so big that they will break the bank.  On my WhatsApp the colors looked juicy and the gems sparkly, but my friend Gael is still learning to take adequate video (and admittedly he doesn’t have a state-of-the-art cell phone).  

In other ways, too, my “Tucson buying” has already started, as several of my vendors have given me the opportunity to make pre-show selections.  I have several boxes of Burma spinel melees on my desk already.  You will see these roll out in the next three weeks.  If these move well, I may stock up!

 

I have also negotiated to buy up an old production of Vietnamese lavender and lilac spinel pear shapes, small sizes, good for earrings, stacking rings, and I will come up with some other designs for them as well.  I will be able to price those fairly reasonably.  I was hoping for more lilacs and neon pinks in other sizes but right now that market is wiped clean.  But, some larger purples and lavenders are an option for me.  I’ve seen most of what will be presented via WhatsApp, it’s just a question of what I want to put aside...These pieces would be more expensive though, figure on several thousand for one piece since they also weigh a couple of carats, so it multiplies out in two ways (price and carat weight).

Related to this, I of course, keep getting asked about paraiba.  Having scoured this market for years, this is what I know: there are about 6 decent paraiba vendors in all of Tucson.  One or two are Brazilian with outrageous prices and they don’t allow you to memo gems.  I don’t buy there.  I wouldn’t be able to offer a return and the price would be high for that.  There’s another vendor, not Brazilian, who has top (top top top) quality pieces but those are in the 30K and up range, so I haven’t ever bought those.  But, they are amazing!  Another vendor from the US used to have stuff but he’s fairly sold down and I’ve passed on the rest.  The final two with anything but crumbly overpriced stuff are here in NY and I see their selection before it goes to Tucson.  I have three pieces that I am holding back on for now, available only upon request, and for the moment at least, I have no plans to buy in Tucson directly.  For me personally, and therefore for you, there’s no advantage in doing so.  If you have requests, please let me know and I will source if I can.  For the rest, as you know there will be a sale coming up, so you can buy the stock I still have.

Regarding the melee paraiba, there is a little bit left with my melee vendor, and I source it as needed.  I would buy it up but it would tie up all my cash flow, so that’s not an option for me, but production of these ended years ago.

In other news, I am negotiating for a small production of benitoite before it hits Tucson (it sells out on the first day)!  I was also shown some Vietnamese ruby and sapphire melees that I am interested in, but I haven’t made a decision yet...

I am going to stock up more on the high quality moonstone this time.  The main cost there is from cutting, not lack of availability.  If there are any requests, please let me know as I will be a very busy bee this year!  

The other thing I will stock up on are ruby and sapphire melees in all colors and sizes.  This is pretty much an all day thing, or a several day thing, as I have to match down suites.  The vendor has pre sorted parcels, i.e. 5 shades of lavender rounds in the 2-2.5mm size.  He will then sift out, say, 2.2mm from the shade I like best, but then I still have to match them.  Sometimes I think there are as many lavender and purple shades of sapphire as there are stars (or maybe I’m seeing stars as time passes).  Matching these is a job only for the obsessed.  So it’s fine for me…

Let me list here what I can get, and if you want to help me, in a manner of speaking, let me know what you might like, i.e. size, shape, amount.  Otherwise, I will just pick what I think is best.  

Blue sapphire: shades of blue, vibrant to light to dark, 1-3mm rounds mainly but other shapes also.
Ruby and pink sapphire: same idea, from light pink to deep pink to ruby color, all pre-sorted.
Lavender sapphire: light to medium, not super dark, but nothing in 1mm.  1.8 is the smallest I’ve seen.
I can also get teal, tealish-green sapphire, and I can get other shapes: 4x3 ovals, marquis, small pears.

Anything aside from lavender is heated or a mix between heat and no heat.  Lavender is usually from Madagascar and is not heated, just because at the moment, that’s the main supply line for this shade.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but for now this is all I can think of.

One final note.  Photos: I will of course keep you posted on Instagram and Facebook, and I will put out as many listings as I can manage.  What I will not do, however, is publicly post photos of gems that I haven’t bought yet or of selections at booths.  I don’t usually do that anyway, but as this has become a widespread practice, here’s my two cents. Vendors don’t like it, especially for finer goods.  Once a gem is “out there and been seen”, possibly with exact specs, those gems are kind of “spoiled”.  And if several people show the same gems, it gives a false sense of availability.  

There are also small sellers that pre-sell goods based on vendor photos at a low markup.  But they can’t offer a good return policy and they run the risk of selling you something that is no longer available once you pay.    

On Instagram, I’ve also even seen photos from wholesale websites (taken without permission,) sometimes shown by several different vendors, but when you ask, the gem isn’t available.  I’ve witnessed a small retail jeweler doing so on his website, and I’ve even had my own photos taken and reused both on Etsy and on Instagram.  I’ve even seen sellers photograph gems in vendors' boxes with the price on the front, thereby signaling that they were selling without a markup, when in reality, wholesale vendors provide (sometimes steep) discounts on that product.  
As much as I love the internet as a selling platform, I find that it provides a lot of confusing information, and I don’t want to add to the confusion.  Whatever I have for sale is either (a) mine, or (b) given to me on legitimate memo and just for me to sell for the duration, and (c) to the best of my ability, has not been in the hands of other vendors.  Caveat on that: sometimes I decide to show a gem that I co-own, or that I know is on a friend’s website, or that I was told has been shown around.  That’s ok, as long as I can make that decision.  But increasingly, I have decided to forego some selling opportunities because the gem has “been around the block already,” possibly at a multitude of prices.  So if vendors show me their rare goods, I usually ask them directly.  That way I can give full disclosure to my own clients so that they can make the best decision for themselves.

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