Gem Show Shopping

How We Shop in Tucson on a Budget

How We Shop in Tucson on a Budget

2024 marks my 9th annual trip to Tucson, and there have been a lot of changes since I first started. Inventory is down, prices are up. When international sellers could no longer travel during covid, demand for rare gems changed drastically, making once easily accessible gems like indicolite tourmaline and pink spinel rare and pricey. Even grey spinel, once cheap and abundant because it was just used as practice pieces for cutters in Sri Lanka, are now sold at high prices. Unheated ruby, royal blue and neon pink sapphires are more highly prized in the engagement ring market than ever before.

Gray spinel gemstones

This, of course, begs the question of how one is to navigate this market on a small budget.

It might surprise you to know that CRD has never gone to Tucson with big money. Our monthly operating budget is fairly small and sometimes further tied down by long client payment plans that lower what we have in the kitty and simultaneously require that we have the cash for a possible refund on hand (should a client be paying off an expensive gem they have not yet inspected, for instance).

Clients generally expect to have a return period as well, which puts a Tucson buyer in a predicament. Most shows force wholesale vendors to accept returns during the show, but not after. So if we ship after the show has ended and receive a return, we need to have the refund money available, which means we cannot spend that income during the show. In the past, we had sufficient sales volume during Tucson to not worry about returns as our return rate is only about 5%. That is far below average. Still, we can end up caught in the middle when we allow returns for Tucson buys that we cannot return ourselves.

This gap between supply and demand, as well as strong online competition especially during the show dates have had the consequence that Tucson buyers increasingly rely on ‘flipping’ gems at a low markup without return, or shifting to a memo structure for larger buys where gems are borrowed first and shipped to the client for inspection. The former has the increased risk of customer dissatisfaction, the latter however depends on a very good relationship between vendor and borrower which is hard to maintain with international shipping/insurance and currency conversion risks.

Greenland rubies of different shapes
At CRD, we have avoided both flipping gems and taking out international memos by sticking to the US market for the latter and working with the vendors we have local relationships with, as well as having a regular markup with returns. As we are planning this year’s shopping season, we’d like to make some changes to our buying patterns, and for this we need your help.

1. We will focus more on targeted buying. For this we’d like to know from you what you think is missing in our shop. For example, we rarely buy alexandrite melees because good melees would be over 1K/ct and we are not sure how well received alexandrite melees is because it is hard to get a good color change in that size. We don’t buy much rhodochrosite because it has a high risk of breakage and we don’t want clients to be upset if their setter breaks a loose gem they got from us. But if clients want those options, we can carry small amounts of both and see if they sell.

2. We will focus more on buying smaller gems. For this we would like information from you regarding which gem shapes or sizes are needed. For example we can buy Russian demantoid in Tucson only. The supplier carries only rounds but in 3 colors: lighter olive, medium apple and deep emerald green. Sizes range from 1mm-2.5mm but a box of 2.5mm deep emerald green is very pricey so if someone wants to place an order for those we would need funds. But if you think that instead of carrying 1.3mm apple green I should have 1.6mm apple green I can probably do that. At the end of this blog you will find a list of what we mostly get in Tucson so you have a reference point.

Russian demantoids of different shapes and shades
3. Larger purchases (starting at $300). For requests $300 and up, we will need a fairly firm request from you with as many specifics as possible. We will also need a down payment. There are many shows in Tucson and all are large so it’s not possible for us to run around everywhere. Plus if we are dealing with a new vendor we may need to make an outright purchase that we cannot return. What we thought we would do here is instead of accepting returns from you we will accept an exchange or store credit with us. To plan for this event, you may want to make sure that you are comfortable with the expenditure you will make and not buy everything you want at once so you can exchange if needed for something else you’d also like to have.

4. Quick buys: if you are fairly sure you want us to buy something for you (i.e. a pair of 3mm round Hauyne, should those be available – these as you know are like eggs, they all look the same), then we can work an outright buy for you via text or Whatsapp with Zelle, Venmo or PayPal. We will set the gem aside with the vendor, collect payment for a lower markup and then pick up the gem once you have completed payment. For cases like these you will not have a return option unless the gem is damaged because yours truly didn’t look properly when purchasing. It’s rare but it happens and I want to make it clear that those mistakes are on me, not you. What we want to avoid is buyers' regret and getting caught in  the middle.

5. Note that payment plans will not be an option for any Tucson purchase for the abovementioned reasons. How we will work a purchase from you depends of course on what kind of expense it is, how easy it is to buy or exchange etc. With regard to ‘maybes’ – i.e. gems you are interested in but not sure about – well, we will just do our best. Small purchases we can accommodate but larger ones we cannot field in that case. Most Tucson buyers cannot do that, only large and well established businesses and they often do not make Tucson inventory available until after they return. Larger companies also never sell at a low markup. They usually have the funds to hang on to a gem and consider it an investment.

Now, here’s a list of gems I source exclusively in Tucson and/or Tucson and Vegas (1st weekend in June). A few of these are available outside of Tucson, as they can be shipped or are available in NY at higher prices, but the best choices and prices will be in Tucson:
Greenland Ruby
Russian Demantoid (mostly comes in rounds)
Sapphire Melee (any color or size under 2mm, 4x3 and 3x2mm)
Sapphire Kites, Hexagons
Smaller ruby melee (2.5mm and under)
Cobalt Spinel
A wider selection of Paraiba tourmaline, calibrated Paraiba tourmaline melees
Benitoite (Tucson, Vegas, Denver in September)
Zambian emerald melees
Vietnamese spinel

Continue reading

Tucson Treasures 2023: Catch Them if you Can…

Tucson Treasures 2023: Catch Them if you Can…

This year I went to Tucson with very low expectations, and a correspondingly low budget. As I’ve previously reported, supply is lagging behind demand, in particular for the popular gems such as blue sapphire, so I wondered what else I could discover…Well, I found enough to blow my low spending intentions right out of the water.

But I think I’m gonna start telling you about Tucson in reverse order, starting with what I didn’t find, or what was hard to find. Then I’ll tell you what was hot as hotcakes, and only THEN will I tell you what I actually bought. 

On the opening day of the AGTA show there’s a bit of a “run” on the most desirable booths – you’d think it was Black Friday. Those of us who got our badges the day before stood right in front of the entrance where the guards with the scanners are and just about did a count down, just like in Times Square on New Year’s Eve – which I have never done by the way, but I got close in Tucson! My sole reason for lining up was Dudley’s booth, because that gets packed within the first ten minutes, and Dudley told me he had cobalt spinel melees, which I wanted to buy before the collectors got there. And I made it in time: I bought him out of the 1.5mm rounds, of which half are for sale with the other half going into a Paraiba ring, Cecilia Model, with a Paraiba center and Paraiba trillions.

But this isn’t what I was going to say. What I was going to say was that I immediately asked for unheated sapphire matched pairs, my other reason for going to Dudley’s booth first. “None,” Dudley said. None? NONE. Not a one, nada, nothing. I’ve never had that happen, not ever. You need to know that these are rarer than my shop will have you think because I always carry them, but that’s just because of Dudley. (If you are one of the vendors who now reads this blog because it’s just so so cool, and you have smaller blue sapphire pairs that are unheated, please get in touch!).

Generally, blue unheated sapphires were just about wiped off the show floors, followed by anything emerald cut in blues, which is the hottest and hardest to get cut this year. And that’s followed by kites, hexagons, octagons, and any other cut with corners. Right after putting aside my stash with Dudley at the AGTA for later billing (way too busy there to do it on the spot), I jogged across the street to the GJX show, shooting straight for the corner of the tent where the supplier who sells those specialty cuts has his booth. I asked for kites: none (eventually I found a box of a few pairs). Hexagons? Very few, mostly elongated. Triangles? Sold out. Trillions? Sold out. Everyone wants these in pinks, purples, lavenders, and even yellows. So annoying.


 The other thing that seems to be sold out in nicer sizes or more interesting cuts are teals. Mostly teal blues, such as Montana, even though those are heated, but also the Madagascar material. Now, I personally cannot seem to sell any teals in my shop; all the teals I buy must either be the wrong color teal, too expensive, or I’m just not known for it.

I cannot sell them any better than I can sell grey spinel. Spoiler alert here: some of the grey spinel material is now heat treated, particularly the gems from Mozambique. I bought two single rounds and a kite which are not treated. The Burma material, which once upon a time was used to train cutters because nobody actually wanted it, has now pretty much gone poof.

Heated sapphires (excepting 1+ carat emerald cuts) in most colors and in smaller sizes were abundant by the way. From my judgment, we are looking mainly at Madagascar material. I’m supporting my guess with the argument that there was a lot of medium lavender purple available, and that’s a color mostly produced in Madagascar (in fact, the entire color palette at most of the vendors with smaller sapphires looked distinctly Madagascan, that’s the easiest way to tell). The purples from Sri Lanka tend to be more on the saturated, darker side. And there was a lot of overlap between those and blues in the same booths, from which I thought it was safe to deduce that the material is all from Madagascar. But I could be wrong.

So: what did I find that’s unusual? My personal favorite from the show was the cobalt blue Mahenge spinel. I first inspected material from this find in Las Vegas in 2022. At that time all I saw was greyish blue, nice stuff but far too expensive given the modifier. This led me to dismiss the idea that there was anything worth seeing from that find.


It was Saturday morning, the day after my arrival and three days before the main shows even started. I went to the Pueblo show, which is in walking distance from AGTA and GJX, just on the other side of the highway. I like starting there because vendors who cannot get into GJX because of the long waiting list usually exhibit at Pueblo. Also, vendors who like to make the most of their time in Tucson exhibit at Pueblo before GJX or AGTA, and then they move their nicer inventory over to those shows but keep their doors open at Pueblo with smaller things, using the hotel rooms as offices and for storage – “Pueblo” is somewhat of a misnomer, the show is actually at the Ramada hotel, using the rooms as show rooms and the courtyard and conference rooms for tents and other booths.

So as I browsed around, I saw these boxes with cobalt spinel. Oh, I thought, nice new Luc Yen material. I turned over the boxes and expected sticker shock. The prices were high but still about 25-30% below Luc Yen, with the exact same color and the location was clearly marked as Tanzania. Indistinguishable from Luc Yen though, not just for me but to everyone else I showed them to, after I bought them out (almost, one more person got a couple boxes but I can tell you that NONE made it to GJX). I have only sold 3 so far and I am loath to put them on Etsy given the 15% fee Etsy charges. Sorry folks. But if you inquire directly, I will show you what I have. I want to make at least one thing that I get to keep! (Also, on the last day of GJX, a vendor showed me 4 boxes with the same color material in 1+ carat sizes. Now THERE I got sticker shock. Prices nearing those of Kashmir sapphire!)

I also got my usual tray of benitoite at my private meeting with P., which will be almost all sold at the time of this writing and I expect it to be 90% gone by the time this blog is being seen on a screen other than my own. If anyone wants to get to it early the next time around, put your requests in before Vegas, where I will be presented with the next batch. For the foreseeable future, meaning till it runs out, I will get a small tray 3x a year and can reject anything in it, or accept all, but there’s no further availability. The two other vendors who carry it, one of them Vance gems who exhibited at 22nd Street (you probably know them anyway), sold out before GJX opened. All buyers are Japanese – I have no idea why, maybe one of my clients can educate me on the connection between Japan and Benito County, California.

During the AGTA, I had a longish meetup with the Greenland Ruby folk. Their inventory is a little bit difficult to get to, as they will not entertain retail sales, their NY office for now is just a passing through office with no actual inventory, and they are only in Vegas and Tucson for exhibits in the U.S. (the entire team is pretty much European, the CEO I met is Norwegian). But I now have an account with them and can get things on request. They take pretty good video that I can share. Their block chaining is impeccable and each larger gem comes with a certificate. The material is 100% high heat, otherwise it’s not usable, so if you are a treatment purist this is not for you. But the treatment is stable and permanent.

Another exceptionally cool find was more Kornerupine. I bought a box of 4mm, I have only listed one matched pair but am happy to sell them as singles, 20% below Etsy price in a direct sale. Prices are above 2020 level but I hope that does not come as a surprise. I also saw a 3.5ct Kornerupine that made my heart stop. It was a neon teal color and I thought it was a tourmaline but more neon than any of the lagoons I had ever laid eyes on. I didn’t photograph it (dufus, I know, I could kick myself). I also didn’t buy it and when I wrapped back to it toward the end of the AGTA show it was gone. I really, really don’t need a big Kornerupine but I wanted it just the same. I have – no joke – never seen anything this glowy that wasn’t a Paraiba and didn’t even look like one: more clean, more teal. The seller told me he has some additional rough, two pieces, that just might cut with that color, and he will let me know. And in case you’re really interested, the price was not really in my “just buy it” ballpark. With a fair markup you would have had to pay me 20K for the stone. But I did consider it. Seriously.

Sidebar: I also have a small parcel of 2.5mm kornerupine in case anyone’s interested.

If anyone is attracted to other tones of cool colored green, I also purchased some nice clean tourmaline. A couple of the icy green colors, lagoon greenish blue, teal blue Namibian.

I also have two pieces of oval Chrome Beryl. Not all of this material will be on Etsy as I am interested in designing around some of it. Right now I am addicted to anything green and purple, or turquoise and pink – such as Paraiba tourmaline and Neon Pink Vietnamese Sapphire, or Lavender sapphire with Russian emerald, that kind of thing. So that requires cool greens or blue greens or greenish blue, even zircons and kornerupines are nice here, or the right color emerald. And of course lots and lots of sapphire melee.

With my favorite Thai melees seller finally back at GJX I bought quite a lot of sapphire melees, in as many different cuts and sizes as I could find. I love marquis these days, and I have some, as well as 2mm princess cuts, 3x2 and 4x3 ovals as well as rounds in 1.1-3mm different shades of blue, lavender, purple, pink, and ruby red. Not every color in every cut and size (impossible), but a selection that works well for designing.

I have, on memo, a few more pieces of Russian emerald as not all of those sold in Tucson. They will be hard to photograph because I am forbidden from using my hands. (?) Ok, I’ll explain that: a no oil emerald that certifies as a no oil emerald is unlikely to be an emerald that has been held in a hand because even the natural oils from a hand will leave residue and the machines that are now in use that detect the levels of fillers will pick this up. And then there goes your ‘no oil’ claim. That’s why the jars with the emeralds cannot even be opened without supervision. This is what I was told happened already, and so they are not taking any more chances. All handled emeralds that are no oil have to be cleaned with acetone after handling, but preferably it is to be avoided. (Another side bar: IF you own an emerald and you want to get it cleaned, DO NOT USE acetone. It will suck the gem bone dry and if there are fissures in it that contain filler or even residue of filler, that will come out and it can severely uglify the gem). That piece of information is a blog entry all on its own, isn’t it? I love rewarding you for reading to the end!

And now to the final honorable mentions: I have listed more emerald melees, more Paraiba melees (please inquire), matched pair of pear shape Paraiba I just happened upon – I have two pairs but intend to keep one. And some oddities in my favorite color range: cobalt spinel rough, non cutting grade but neon blue, Paraiba tourmaline slices, and somewhat of a Paraiba lookalike in opaque form: hemimorphite. (Here’s a reference to hemimorphite origin and properties: I do not know if they can be set, they are very soft. So I might try to make jewelry with them instead, because setting is harder on the gem than most of what it will suffer later in life.

Happy Shopping!


Continue reading

Stay Tuned for Tucson: Gems and Pricing in Spring 2023...

Stay Tuned for Tucson: Gems and Pricing in Spring 2023...

Do you have any gem related New Year’s resolutions? Are you saving up for that special stone, planning to make some jewelry with the gems you own, or are you just catching up on travel and life in general? My New Year’s resolution is simple: I want it all. New gems, new jewels, and new travel adventures.

While gem sales slowed down in 2022, jewelry sales and custom work have actually increased a little, despite it being a more or less sluggish year starting right after Tucson in February. Blame the war, the ensuing energy crisis, slow production of goods overseas and rising prices as a result, topsy turvy stock markets. One way or another, everyone has been affected, and uncertainty in general doesn’t make anyone feel bullish, even those who are financially stable. We’ve had some internal turbulence as well: Johanna, our social media person, is leaving us because her shop, Metal Cloth and Wood, is doing very well (I’m happy for her!). So we are hiring, or trying to. We’ve also had an addition to our workforce: Doreen K., my long time friend from Nairobi, is doing online work for us after some initial difficulties in the form of getting the right computer and high speed internet. But it’s all sorted now and Doreen is helping out with YouTube and sales analysis and soon she will take on additional duties.

I also have a summer trip planned: Sri Lanka. I’ve long wanted to see the mining on the ground there, especially Nivitigala (south of Ratnapura) where most of the sapphires I source come from. I also want to see the famous elephant rescue and the country in general – it is supposed to be beautiful. Plans are not firm yet and flights are not booked, but we have our dates and hotel reservations, so I am fairly firm about it.

But for now, there’s Tucson.

I am leaving on the 27th of this month so I can catch the weekend at the Pueblo and 22nd Street show where many vendors start exhibiting before they go to GJX and AGTA. I expect business to be back to normal in many ways: all the Thai vendors are finally going to be back, which is exciting news for me as they sell a lot of the melees gems I always look for, as well as the cuts that are in style right now: kite, Asscher, radiant, triangles, etc. Russian vendors, on the other hand, are obviously not going to be there as they are either trapped in Russia and/or unable to export new goods. I feel particularly bad for my friend Sergei who lives near Moscow and hasn’t had any gemstone income since Tucson 2020. “How are things?” I asked him in spring. “We are getting our news the same way you are - from the internet,” he replied. The “official” news is, needless to say, somewhat incorrect.

As you ponder what you might like to see me bring back from Tucson, here are some preliminary remarks regarding supply, prices, and demand for the shows.

  1. Russia (might as well start here): there will be no new imports of Russian emerald, alexandrite, and demantoid garnet this year, at least the way things are going. There are demantoids on the market still and I have found a new Russian vendor who resides in Hong Kong. He’s going to bring goods to the show, but he won’t have anything that I haven’t seen. His melee collection is big however, so please let me know if any specific sizes and colors are needed (more apple green or emerald green?) My emeralds, however, have to go back to the vendor for Tucson so my offerings in Russian emeralds are going to be reduced for the foreseeable future. Demand for untreated emeralds has increased and Russian emeralds are among the finest in the world. The diamond market has been affected by the embargo as well, by the way, as about 30% of the world’s diamonds are mined in Siberia (and the Argyle mines are no longer producing).

  2. Afghanistan: Speaking of low to no oil emeralds, we cannot expect much by way of new goods coming from Afghanistan (this includes purple spinels, rubies, emeralds, and green tourmalines, among others), because of the lack of international presence and the rule of the Taliban. Some larger buyers, such as Tiffany’s, will no longer buy Afghani goods for this reason.
  1. Mogok: You know how much I love the famous Jedi spinel, and while the vendors who carry them will be in Tucson, there is no new export due to the government crisis, so there will be no new goods. That said, it isn’t clear that there was more material available anyways. Jedi spinels were always expensive, and they are even more so now. The market, meanwhile, is wiped clean. Everything I have been buying, including the melees, is old goods, and the melees are drying up. There’s nothing left over 3mm, and I cannot replace the 2mm either. There’s some more in the 1.5mm range but that’s as big as I can source and I don’t expect that to change.
  1. Sri Lanka: Export is indeed running again but pricing of sapphire (blue for sure, but purple now as well) has gone through the roof. The hot cuts for the year are emerald cuts, radiant cuts, Asscher and anything else square and rectangular. One of my sources tells me he has sold everything blue, green, or teal in those cuts (which means mostly Montana and Madagascar). Teal has been a hot color for years already (except with my clientele for reasons I don’t quite understand!).
    Madagascar produces teal but there’s been a bottleneck and now demand has outstripped supply because specialty cuts, as well as teals, appear to have gained recognition in the mass market, and that’s always a bad thing because with quickly loading apps like instagram and whatsapp people in source countries can access market information and change pricing instantly.
    Keep in mind that if demand for bicycles increases, prices initially go up, but after a year or two, more bikes get produced and prices ease up. Gemstones, on the other hand, are not man made. Supply is what it is. And very few colored gems could meet demand if the commercial jewelry market tried to incorporate them.
    As it stands right now, colored gems are still a specialty market. However, in the last decade or so this has begun to shift for some of the stones, and sapphire is among the forerunners with emerald a close second at this point. Blue sapphires in particular are rising again in price after being stable for a few years between 2014 and 2019, but ruby is rising in price as well, especially unheated rubies. Two of my friends in the trade buy old mine materials from auction houses, essentially competing with retail buyers, and they are getting outbid (not sure if this is public knowledge but auction houses are a good source for older collectors’ gems such as Burma ruby and sapphire and Kashmir sapphires).

    This ruby in my shop is really well priced at this point.

  1. Madagascar: Finally, we get to some good news because export has started up again. I’ve written about this extensively so I’m not going to repeat myself here, but Madagascar is now a major exporter of sapphire, as well as many other gems: spinel, sphene, color change garnet, chrysoberyl, aquamarine and tourmaline (lots of light pinks) are just some of the examples. I think that except for sapphire and aquamarine – both of which are in commercial demand – prices here should stay stable.
  1. Vietnam: The news here is mixed. The good news is that one can travel to Vietnam again, and one of my sources just came back from a trip. The bad news is that there was not much to buy. Cobalt spinel is now even more expensive and there have not been any new finds since 2019 as far as I know. Mining is limited, however, and the government is doing nothing to strengthen the market.
  1. Tanzania, East Africa: Export in Tanzania is stable, but production is behind a bit like in so many countries right now. Mahenge spinel is only mined in miniscule quantities now and the find of blues appears to have been a single pocket. Because of covid, and now because of the cost of gas, mining is slow. Tsavorite and mandarin garnet are not produced in large quantities – indeed, mandarin garnet is hardly produced at all. Tanzanite is going strong however – please do not believe the hype that this stuff is running out, it is not!

In general, it is difficult to say much of certainty about many Sub-Saharan African countries. Droughts and internal unrest affect many of these countries on an ongoing basis, and that is a constant cause for bottlenecks. Alas, none of that is anything new.

  1. Brazil: You’ve heard this for a long time: Paraiba tourmaline is being mined out. Well, it isn’t entirely, that’s not true, although production is quite limited and price increases are basically an everyday thing. I have not seen much new aquamarine or tourmaline from there, and do not actually know why that is but I am aware that some areas are pretty mined out. Back when I started buying more seriously, around 2010, you would get gorgeous Brazilian indicolite, and quite a lot of emerald, but those sources have dried up for me. I will try and find out more.
  1. Colombia: Not sure I should put this country on the list as it brings only one mineral to the world market: emerald. I have also written about it before, more than once. In short, production is ongoing, but hit or miss (right now Cosquez has material, Chivor does not). Muzo, which is a region of many different mines, is producing on a somewhat limited basis right now, but due to fuel and labor costs, prices have gone up just like everywhere else. 
  1. North America: I generally don’t report much on North American gems because the information is easily accessible to any of you, but I can make a few remarks. Montana sapphire has become very popular, I think mainly because of its teal colors, but I also heard that mining of Montanas has become very serious business with a lot of resources being poured into it. I also heard that the red beryl mines are supposed to be producing again but the yield is very low and that will keep prices up in the future. Most other gems produced in the US, such as tourmaline, is very limited. And don’t forget that labor costs in the US are higher than in any country mentioned above. Far higher in fact. Machinery is the most modern, but also the most expensive. You cannot bring a stone to market that costs $1 a piece, no matter how miniscule. Cutting costs, even if done overseas, are higher than that now, and production costs are waaaay higher. You just can’t expect that to happen. Even the Canadian rubies I have been getting cost at least several dollars a piece for the smaller low-grade material. Canada ruby deserves a blog entry on its own but that has to wait until after I get back and after I have interviewed the company.

I think this sums up most of what I know right now. I still plan to buy in Tucson, but I am as always on the lookout for older material at older prices. Any feedback by way of gems you continue to have an interest in is valuable to me because I hope to buy what I can sell.

Also note that I still have a lot of goods still and I have not yet raised prices of many of the gems online that are now too cheap. I am reviewing my pricing as we speak and you will see some necessary changes in the coming weeks, especially in ruby and sapphire. Some of the very old listings (2020 and before) have to be revised as the prices are now lower than what I pay in the wholesale market to restock.

And don’t forget the Russian emeralds because they WILL go away. I can negotiate payment plans that are more long term for serious buyers – like 6 months or so, but if I don’t have a sale to report to my vendor, I have to return them. I also have a few collectors’ gems available upon request: cobalt spinel, paraiba, sapphire, emerald, spinel. Not everything is on Etsy because the cost of selling there is 15% above what it costs me to sell direct (yes, yes, the website is coming. Hopefully product will show up there in spring).

One last question I should address. Will prices come down in the future? Well I have asked about half a dozen people in the trade now and nobody, not a single person, expects that to happen. Vendors continue to buy, even in this market, so that they can keep up with the demand they expect to increase in the next 2-3 years, when the retail market has recovered and caught on to the changes in pricing. 

Ok and that is all folks. This has been a long one. And more to come, stay tuned for Tucson.



Continue reading

Sparkling Treasures from Denver: Pinks, Purples, Blues... and Color Changers!

Sparkling Treasures from Denver: Pinks, Purples, Blues... and Color Changers!

You might think that Denver’s all about the Rocky Mountains and hiking, right? Not about going to gem shows. However, Denver is also an old gold rush town - the School of Mining is still located in Golden near Denver, and the name Colorado was even inspired by its colorful terrain, so of course one should go to Colorado for colorful rocks!

That said, trade is down, not just trade for bicycles or butter, but the gem trade has slowed down a bit as well. Rising inflation and fuel pricing, plus lingering Covid effects continue to be problematic for mining and thus production. Export can be difficult as well. Correspondingly, prices of gems are going up.

While I think that inflation will go back down, I do not believe gem prices will, at least not those of the major gems like sapphire and tourmaline. In the 15 years that I have been in this trade, the popularity of colored gems as well as knowledge about them, has increased dramatically, while supply has remained pretty much constant. In the long run, I am therefore bullish about the place of colored gems in jewelry, and that makes me bullish about where prices will be.

But I digress. Let’s get back to gems. Rising prices didn’t stop me from buying, though it did make me more selective and cautious. Nonetheless, I found some nice color change gems: a Garnet from Lindi, Tanzania, some color change Pyrope from Morogoro, Tanzania, and some smaller Alexandrite from Orissa. I did concentrate on smaller gems here because it makes them more affordable.




I also branched out with sapphires a little, getting more hexagons, Asscher’s, and a few teals and yellows from Diego, Madagascar, in addition to more purples and pinks – one can never have enough purple and pink. Sadly, the vendor that has the triangles and kites was not exhibiting so I will have to wait until Tucson for more - for now, what you see on Etsy is what I have. On the other hand, I managed to get quite a few (heated) blue sapphires in the 3-3.5mm range which is difficult these days. But I found a box from an older production and I snatched the whole thing.



zircon and pink sapphire
Zircon and Pink Sapphire



blue and pink sapphire
Blue and Pink Sapphire


Speaking of old production, I also got more lavender Spinel from Vietnam, mostly melee sizes ranging from 2-3mm, some smaller singles and pairs. Production in Vietnam is down as the government is not keen on supporting it, and travel there is difficult so old production is all there is. As one vendor who specializes in Spinel told me: I have money but there’s nothing in the Bangkok market for me to buy with it. However, Dudley Blauwet dug more deeply into his basement and unearthed several sizes of well- matched rounds.


lavender spinel
Lavender Spinel


In Spinels, we will also show more orange and imperial colors again as we head into fall color season. Additional Colorado Rhodochrosite will round out those tones, as well as some Spessartite and brown and orange Zircon.


orange spinel
Orange Spinel


On the green spectrum we will have some light Grossular, Tsavorite, and a couple more Russian Emeralds. My vendor for these has bought out the rest of the production that left Russia pre Covid so what I saw in Denver is what there is. There’s no further export at present and I don’t know when that is going to change. For now, therefore, I won’t be able to offer more. (As you may know, Russia is also one of the world’s largest producers of diamonds, which is why diamond prices have fluctuated upwards.)

Last but not least, I rekindled my relationship with a gem that I had neglected for most of my gem buying life: Rubellite Tourmaline. I think that because Tourmaline is usually heated and otherwise usually a paler pink, it never peaked my interest for very long. But I was unfair, lol. I found a supplier with beautiful material, so you will see two more (affordable) ovals and a large round hitting the shop. The large showstopper is already here on Etsy!


rubellite and hexagon sapphire
Rubellite and Hexagon Sapphire


In the Paraiba department, I got smaller material only, ranging from 2mm-4mm, and some 5x3mm pears and oval. But the colors are exceptionally vibrant and the material is clean, thanks to my new supplier directly at the source.

While these are available just upon request for now (or check out the YouTube channel), you will see more and more jewelry with Paraiba gems as I feel that I know how to make these babies shine without breaking the bank!


Continue reading

Putting the Color in Colorado: Denver Gem and Mineral Show 2022

Putting the Color in Colorado: Denver Gem and Mineral Show 2022

Yes, CRD is travelling again, to Denver this time. The gem shows there in September have become a staple of mine ever since my friend Jochen asked me to join him in 2017. The show landscape is a bit different from Las Vegas where you can find a lot more high-end gems and finished jewelry. It is also different from Tucson because it is much smaller. Tucson draws tens of thousands of vendors and has over 60 shows running from late January into mid-February.

However, there are several events worth attending in Denver: the newest kid on the block arrived in 2021, in the form of the AGTA. After much debate among the board of trustees, the AGTA decided to join forces with the organizers of The Munich Show to form the HardRock Summit show which takes place in the convention center in the heart of Denver (September 8-11). In addition to the Summit, which is open to the trade only, there are two other subsections of the show that are open to the public: The Evolution exhibit, which displays mineral specimens, and Sparkle & Joy, which also welcomes international vendors (remember the AGTA is the American Gem Trade Association so it doesn’t allow businesses not in the United States).

International vendors are always interesting for us because we do not get to see them nearly as much as the AGTA members, many of which have their main offices in New York anyway so we can shop there anytime we wish. I am, as always, hoping to find more spinel, especially the red Jedis as those are pretty much wiped off the market at this point. Everything I have been buying is old goods, and they are dwindling. I am friends with a Bangkok vendor who is attending and he may bring more Vietnamese goods as well if I am lucky.

At the AGTA, I am planning to meet Dudley Blauwet who informs me that he has cut a lot of melees in recent months, particularly Madagascar sapphire. He has been cutting specialty cuts as well, such as teal-colored kites and hexagons, which I am very interested in seeing. He also bought up the rest of the Russian emerald production from his Russian counterpart, so all these sparkly Paraiba-like green beauties that reached Hong Kong before the close of all Russian import and export this year are now in his hands. Production may be continuing but with the travel ban in both directions it is unclear when more material will be able to leave the country - Russia is also one of the world’s largest diamond producers, which has caused the present diamond shortage and rise in prices.


Dudley Blauwet's Booth at Crowne Plaza
Dudley Blauwet's Booth at Crowne Plaza


sapphire rough for cutting
sapphire rough for cutting




.81-Carat Unoiled Russian Emerald Malyeshevo
.81-Carat Unoiled Russian Emerald from Malyeshevo



Dudley will also be exhibiting at one of the smaller shows located in the Crowne Plaza, Aurora (near the Denver airport). This is the Colorado Mineral and Fossil Fall Show, also open to the public. The show itself is not super interesting, although if you like to buy facet grade rough, Steve Ulatowsky from New Era Gems usually has a presence there, which draws a lot of traffic. I have also met Tucson Todd at this show, and occasionally I have found some small and unusual lower value stuff.

The final show worth going to is the Denver Mineral, Fossil, Gem and Jewelry show (I know, what a name…). This is the largest open to the public show in Denver, and organized by the same group that owns the 22nd Street show in Denver and the Edison Gem and Mineral show. Consequently, many of the vendors that exhibit at these other shows will be there. This show takes place at the National Western Complex, a kind of warehouse district with two arenas, and it runs from September 9th to September 18th.


Gem Show at National Western Complex, Denver CO
Gem Show at National Western Complex in Denver


This show houses many of the vendors that do not want to pay for the more luxury-oriented shows like the AGTA, which can cost up to 10K or more per booth. I will meet Adam from A&S opals there and stock up, as all the black opals I source from him are selling extremely well, either in jewelry or loose. Adam travels to Australia every year, and he gets a lot of goods shipped. He loves cabbing opals and he has a wealth of knowledge that is fun to tap into.  If you haven't watched it yet, check out my interview with Adam from last year on my YouTube channel:



Opals on daps ready for polish
Opals on daps ready for polish


For the time being, I do not plan on getting more Paraibas there as I have two new Brazilian sources who will not exhibit there, and my other vendor resides in New York anyway. Plus, I have been stocking up quite a bit, as you can see, because I am releasing new gems fairly regularly. I have tried to lock in last Spring’s prices with as much as my finances allow (which also means I will be attending the Denver shows with a fairly low budget, lol).

This time I will try to post more video on YouTube and Instagram while I’m there, so stay tuned. You can also follow the gem shows directly on Instagram: @the_munich_show @hardrocksummit @denvermineralshow


Continue reading

Desert Treasures: Juicy Gems from Sin City

Desert Treasures: Juicy Gems from Sin City

This was my first time back in Las Vegas since 2019. In 2020, the JCK and AGTA shows were cancelled, and in 2021 it was scheduled for late August, nearly overlapping with the September Denver shows, so I went to Denver instead. This year the show was back in the same fashion as 2019, except all under the roof of the Venetian and Palazzo Hotel – the largest hotel in the United States with 7118 rooms, over 40 restaurants, 2 spas, around 10 pools and any upscale shopping you can imagine.

My friend and assistant Karen and I went in style this time as the JCK offered discounted suites at the Palazzo (also it was my birthday weekend). Our suite was amazing, sunken living room and all, but our suitcases did not make it to our hotel until the next morning. United airlines forgot (!) to load about 50 suitcases on a cart next to the plane! Um…

We made up for that by buying matching Las Vegas t-shirts (and toothpaste) at Walgreens, and doing touristy things on our first day. A morning at the pool, then Freemont Street, the older Las Vegas strip where the Golden Nugget is located; then the Mob Museum (highly recommended), the Stratosphere, Las Vegas’ largest observation tower. Attention tourists: just to get to the top floor bar now costs you $23 each, and there is no more table service. Thumbs down there, although the views are fantastic. In the evening we had a lovely dinner at a fake fish market in the fake Venetian Plaza next to the fake canal. Dinner rocked, though. Nothing fake about that!

But let me get to the important part - gems. I didn’t make much by way of announcement that I was going to go to Vegas this year because I didn’t have very high expectations about what I might find. I mainly came for one thing: vendors from Hong Kong and Thailand that had not yet come back to the US in 2022 (recall that back in February, much stricter quarantine laws were in place for both of those destinations). I was hoping to find a lot of different gemstone melees at good prices. In the United States, you can pay generally up to double for well sorted and pre sifted melees, sapphires and rubies in particular, but also others such as spessartite or demantoid or spinel. 

And in that regard, we lucked out. I found two new vendors from Hong Kong with extremely well sorted and priced sapphire melee and I have been filling the store very quickly with those. I found demantoid garnet from Russia as well. I was really pleased with these finds.


I also met with my benitoite vendor at their suite in the Venetian. They do private appointments only at this point, but I got some good nice smaller gems including an orange colored cushion and two color suites with orange pieces. At the show, I also bought some mid-priced rounds for designs, as I never seem to have enough of those: sapphire mostly, some spinel.

Heat Treated Orange Benitoite
Heat Treated Orange Benitoite


Speaking of sapphire, I met up with the vendor who had all the fun shapes like kites, triangles, trillions, hearts etc., and I grabbed a few of those as well.  I expect sapphire prices to rise over the next few months as supply is still very sketchy. Pinks and light purples are coming out of Madagascar and will do so again once export is back on track, but the bright blues are getting very difficult to come by.


A particularly interesting find occurred on my last day there (Saturday), pretty much in the last hour when I was just browsing. I found a company that sells Greenland ruby from Aappaluttoq. It looks very similar to Sri Lanka material to my eye, but all the Greenland rubies are heated with high heat. Prices were competitive for the quality, and I got just three boxes of melees. If you are interested in this, let us know. It is rare to find any kind of gemstone material that is 100% traceable from mine to market, and it is more or less impossible outside of what we refer to as the West: Australia, Canada, Europe, the United States. Labor laws and safety laws, even high pay, are very difficult to maintain unless you are a rich country in the first place.

Canadian Ruby Melee
Canadian Ruby Melee
Canadian Ruby Melee
Canadian Ruby Melee


Speaking of new finds, there’s another one I want to mention at least briefly: blue cobalt bearing Mahenge spinel. I don’t know if you read about it here. According to one of my sources, this was a single find (for now) with very very few truly cobalt looking spinel, and it hit the market at a very high price point, close to the medium colored (not as neon) cobalt spinel in Vietnam.

I had a chance to examine this find in Las Vegas. The best I can say here is that I really wanted to like them. I did. But the high price point did not convince me. At their best, they looked closer to Sri Lankan cobalt spinel than to even a mid-range Luc Yen. There were some exceptions, very few pieces, but those were priced the same as its competitors, so I didn’t see the point in investing. Lighter cobalt spinel from Luc Yen, a kind of powder blue (like the one on my site) would still be a better value at a better price imho.


Of course my parting thought in this blog is going to be about Paraiba – Brazilian Paraiba. There was some possibly promising movement on that front. I met with two new players in the market, both young women entrepreneurs, Brazilian, and I was able to secure some melees lots at lower than previous market prices (some of them have been on Etsy already as I received a shipment about a month ago). I also bought a couple of better quality cabochons but they have to go to the lab first by way of my vetting these new sources.


That said, just about every person I have spoken with about Paraiba that either sells or buys it, or both, has told me the same thing. “Raise your prices by 30%” or “You are too cheap”. This regards the single pieces, not the melee, as prices for those fluctuate but I seem to be lucking out here and there. I assume the reason continues to be the same as I mentioned in a previous blog: larger jewelry companies are buying up the better quality items. After all, for companies like the top jewelry designer brands (Tiffany’s, Cartier, Harry Winston, Van Cleef, Bulgari etc.) who know very well how to evaluate the market, it’s money better spent than on stocks these days.

Continue reading

Show & Tell: 2022 Tucson Treasures Revealed!

Show & Tell: 2022 Tucson Treasures Revealed!

Everyone wants to know about what I saw, how it was, who was there, how busy it was, etc. in Tucson, so I will postpone my third blog about color and talk about Tucson instead.

In reverse order, then: it was busy. Not pre-pandemic busy, but busy. Most everyone reported that purchasing was up, that while the “just looking” crowd stayed away, serious buyers were there and mostly bullish. Not all traditional trans-Atlantic vendors came, though. Many planned very short notice. The most missed crowd at this point is Asian. China, HK, Bangkok, Japan, Singapore all have stricter entry requirements as of now, although they are loosening up slowly. The restricted participation of the Asian market is problematic because many gem businesses store their inventory in Hong Kong and/or Bangkok, both major production centers for gemstone cutting and jewelry. That means the vendor has to first fly to HK or BK, pick up their merchandise and then fly to their conventions, and the same in reverse. But with a quarantine added twice, that makes the trip weeks longer.

Overall the buying and selling mood was very positive, more so than I had seen in several years. The constant sun and comfortable temperatures were helpful in this regard! So is the excellent (but not as well known) cuisine of Tucson. I thought that overall pricing of inventory was good. Only my moonstone vendor had raised his prices. There is much concern over rising prices of gemstone rough, and I think that made some sellers insecure, lowering prices in the hope to turn them into enough cash to absorb the increases.

As you know from my prior blog posts, there’s been much disruption to the supply chain, and the latest smuggling fiasco in Madagascar is only another addition to the problems that already exist. At this point some of the world’s most important producing countries of gemstone rough are Madagascar, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia (in Africa), then Brazil and Colombia in South America, Sri Lanka, Burma and Vietnam in the Far East. There’s also Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan in Asia. They have all undergone lockdowns and had major Covid losses, but some also have unstable or corrupt governments, others are too poor to provide a vaccine, and therefore had longer border closures and stricter quarantines. Because of the economic and political instability of a lot of these places, messes are countless, but now some of the already difficult pathways have really gone to pot.

As a result, there wasn’t that much new inventory but lots of older inventory at good prices. For me, that’s a treasure. I don’t have to convince my clients of the value of an untreated red beryl, a Paraiba tourmaline, cobalt spinel, Burmese Jedi spinel or even my beloved kornerupine. You guys know that stuff well! So if it comes my way at a good price, I will make sure to secure it. And I think I got some good stuff.


5mm Bright Red Burma Spinel Cabochon



3 Piece Cobalt Spinel Suite from Luc Yen Vietnam


On the first weekend, I met with my Benitoite supplier and was offered my usual small parcel. I backstocked on a little bit of moonstone, and you will see more Madagascar lavender sapphire, mostly specialty shapes like kites, hexagons, triangles, marquises. I bought a few specialty cuts in blue zircon.


Hexagon Pair Lavender Sapphire


Lavender Sapphire Baguette Suite, 1.1 Carats TW


Paraiba tourmaline remains down to a trickle, and nobody expects a change. One of the (few) vendors I know had chosen to present a little bit more of his older stock, so I invested in small cabochons, small singles, and a matched pair, at slightly lower prices. He also had some other very vibrant pieces in the 1 ct range, among them a 6.5mm round, but it would set you back 12K/ct. I didn’t buy those but they were worth it.

I did find a new kornerupine supplier but I was hesitant to buy because the lots were of more mixed quality (lower price too, though). However, I do have the seller’s info, so if your opinion is different from mine, contact me. Also contact me if you think you’d like a small, expensive but untreated, vibrant red Beryl. I might be able to help.

But now for the grand finale of this quick Tucson overview. SPINEL.

First, the bad news. Mahenge spinel has gone poof. Most of what’s left is not so pretty and is expensive. The same goes for Burma spinel - I found just some octahedrons, and another small lot at an older price that I have to separate out. Up until 2020, there were still quite a few vendors, who had the truly vibrant Jedi spinel. This time, nothing, except some of the small melee. So my advice to you: if you have it and it glows, keep it, it’s worth it, and will be worth more later. The melees I buy is also from older lots, and it will eventually sell out.

The good news, I thought, was the sudden availability of some really old colors, like lilacs and peachy pinks, like the pink Vietnamese oval I listed. That’s very old mine and rare. I have a pair of elongated pear shapes that I am trying to convince myself to list. And then I think I should keep them.

My best buy though was a small lot of cobalt spinel – blue spinel from Vietnam, in varying degrees of saturation. A vendor had opted for a slightly underhanded “cash sale” to loosen up funds. You didn’t see it unless you turned the boxes over, and the sale tray was tucked slightly under the counter. I think I know why: it was gonna sell anyway. And it did, all in the first day, even one of the vendors I know who sells cobalt spinel, bought one, as did the vendor next to the vendor with the cobalt spinel. He showed me proudly, and said: tomorrow this will be in my booth at a higher price. I was really lucky I happened past the booth on the first day.

Here’s what I think is the finest specimen of my little purchase: 


And here are two more Tucson Treasures:

Cobalt Spinel Suite



Cushion Cut Cobalt Spinel from Luc Yen


And finally, some honorary mentions so you can look forward to future listings: more diamond pairs in specialty cuts, including white diamonds. Elongated pear shapes for earrings (tourmaline, spinel, zircon), and some more cat’s eyes and stars. Two extremely rare tanzanites, and some other this’s and that’s.


Teal Colored Tanzanite


Continue reading

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:

Continue reading

Sea Change in the Desert: True Signs of Gem Show Recovery in Tucson

Sea Change in the Desert: True Signs of Gem Show Recovery in Tucson

I really didn’t expect it but Tucson was hoppin’ this year! Yes, there were fewer shows, fewer vendors and virtually no international business except for a small boatload of Russians that came here via Los Angeles they said. And much of the “just looking” crowd was missing too. But the people who did come out for the shows were ready to spend, and the vendors were ready to sell. You could definitely sense change in the air.

With regard to available inventory, the main two things I noticed were that a lot of vendors dug deep into their vaults and unearthed gems that hadn’t seen the light of day in years. I was able to find Mahenge, Tajkik, Ceylon and Burma spinel, as well as a stunning bi-color unheated ruby oval that is hanging out at AGL for a cert as we speak. The owners of this material were ready to move it out and made me fantastic prices. The second thing was that a lot of vendors had inventory shipped from their international partners. My opal guy – Adam S., was displaying gems from his friends in Australia, for instance. And Steve U. from New Era Gems, who happened to sit across from the aisle from me on my hopper flight from Denver, told me he had spent the last few months sitting in Bangkok buying gems while getting a knee replacement (in fact, he had not been in the US in over a year!).

There was also a bit of a shift in what was available. Madagascar for instance does not have any safe shipping methods, and with the borders closed, there’s no new inventory. Sri Lanka meanwhile is shipping out a lot (though much of it to Hong Kong). Burma is a political mess, so there’s no production there and Brazil is shut down. But there are exports through Tanzania.

Aside from this, the shows had a fun old school “ad hoc” feeling to them.From what one vendor told me, many people exhibited, and also attended, on very short notice. Information gets around by word of mouth. The first weekend might be slow because the buyers are checking out what there is, but then they are letting other buyers know that there’s inventory, and then those buyers fly or drive out for the second week. That way, the shows gain momentum over the course of the 2-2.5 weeks they are running.

And which shows were open? Here’s my list: 22nd Street show, Pueblo Show, Mineral City, JOGS, and Inn Suites at Tucson City Center (which goes by a different name almost every year). There was also a show next to the Pueblo show but I didn’t go to that. All the shows were pretty much “open air”, either in huge tents or in well ventilated motel rooms that were open from both sides. Many attendees and vendors were vaccinated so the atmosphere was more relaxed than I’ve seen since March 2020. It was a nice vibe and I was so happy to be out there. I was sorry to hear that the AGTA was not running with only 14 people signing up, but the parking lot at the convention center was under construction anyway, and with so much short notice attendance, I don’t see how the more expensive shows could have pulled it off, organizationally speaking. That meant that the vendors with high value inventory (which requires the security of an AGTA show) could not exhibit, or at least they couldn’t exhibit high value goods.

But let’s talk some more about my purchases. If you followed my YouTube postings, then you already have a good idea. I got a lot of black opals this time; the material was just so wonderful I couldn’t resist! I purchased a new batch of Benitoite (nothing large though, my biggest is a matched pair just under 3mm), some Rhodochrosite from the Colorado Sweet Home mine - each time they blow up a pocket my vendor gets the pick so every few months there will be a batch. So hopefully there will be more rhodo to come.


Black Opal


While in Tucson, I also got the chance to interview Adam Sawiki from A & S Opals and we had a lovely chat about Australian opals:

You already know about the Gahnite, but I found a few more cabs and even some gahnite melee that I will be listing out when I get a chance.  I bought more unheated sapphire pairs, both blue and purple/lavender, and a gorgeous pair of white sapphire stars. I also found some lovely tourmaline from Afghanistan, and even some older tourmaline elongated pears for earrings. That material is no longer available and has correspondingly gone up in price but I love those long narrow earring sets! 

Gahnite Cabochons


White Star Sapphires


Indicolite Tourmaline


Bicolor Tourmaline from Afghanistan


Green Tourmaline Matched Pair of Elongated Pears


And because I love those types of earrings so much, I couldn’t help fall in love with this opalized wood that has varying shades of blues and greens.  I bought a small boatload of matched pairs that would make lovely long earrings.  They can be set in a simple pronged wire frame with an accent stone on top that’s rare, like paraiba, or demantoid, or benitoite – this would make a larger earring, yet with rare gems.

Yeah for Tucson! Let’s hope it’s a sign of a true turnaround... 

In case you missed it on YouTube, here is a short video previewing some of my newest acquisitions:

And here are a few more of my fave Tucson treasures:

Princess Cut Ceylon Spinel (Sold)


Lavender Spinel Cushion (Sold)


Lavender Spinel Cushion - Sold


Peridot Round from Pakistan


Matched Pair of Pink Mahenge Spinel


Burma Spinel Cabochon


I also found some other really interesting pieces that are mostly a bit of a departure from the fine rare gems you are used to seeing from me, but I thought they were quite lovely and had to share as well:


Continue reading

A New Year, a New Dawn... And A New Tucson

A New Year, a New Dawn... And A New Tucson

Ok so it’s a kind of mini-Tucson.  There will be several shows: 22nd Street Show, Mineral City, Pueblo Show, JOGS, Holidome show, and others.  And YES, unless something very drastic happens in the next few days, I will be there on the weekend of 9th April for a couple of days.  There will not be any international vendors of course, which is always the fun part for me.  I see many of the US vendors throughout the year as they are in NY, and/or I get shipments from them.  However, as you know, we try to curate special pieces and small melees selections, not move entire parcels regardless of quality, and this has been tough to do in the past year.  Like many other sellers, we’ve had to rely on what is being sent to us by mail and occasionally commit to larger purchases to keep supplies moving.


Platinum Spinel, 4mm Round


Speaking of supplies, many are running a bit low these days and prices have risen accordingly.  Just last week one of my vendors asked me where he could get larger peridot (really, peridot???).  He had sold out! 


Kornerupine from Tanzania


Countries like Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania and Brazil are not producing gems; export from these countries has largely been via direct travel, not the mail system.  Because some countries cannot afford the vaccine, or because they have corrupt governments that deny COVID’s existence, many of these countries are getting hammered by the third wave.  Rumor has it that the death of Tanzania’s president was due to COVID (he claimed that it wasn’t real), but the official story is that it was a heart attack.  My friend Doreen in Kenya told me she’s stuck in Nairobi with no job because the University is closed, and the roads to the country, where she and her son would be safe, are blocked.  My Paraiba gemstone supplier has placed calls to Brazil and the story is much the same.  There’s zero production, anyone who can hide is hiding. Burma is in the midst of a military coup, and Bangkok, Thailand, the main cutting center of colored gems, is not getting its usual influx of rough. Vietnam is closed, both in and out, and Vietnam’s gem trade has always relied on cross-border travelers.  So, we all have to make do with what there is.


Burma Spinel Oval Pair



Madagascar Sapphire Mismatched Pair


But yours truly always holds back a few treasures, and I get contacted by my overseas vendors regularly, so I am managing to keep things trickling in.  I can’t wait to hear Tucson news, and I hope to do some live interviews.

Now, specifics: I have made an appointment with my benitoite vendor and until then I am putting up what I had held back. I’m down to melees though, so don’t expect to see anything else before Tucson.  I hope to get a few bigger pieces there but I will only be shown a selection based on my requests.  The production is divided up among those of us who specialize in benitoite (that’s just a handful of US sellers) and usually doesn’t make it to the general public.


Benitoite Pair


I will of course see Dudley Blauwet and hope to score more spinel and more unheated sapphire pairs, as I am down to my last one on Etsy, and there’s nothing left here, either.  Dudley has had to match them from his stock because he has been outbid by the Hong Kong market so he’s not able to purchase more for the time being.  Larger than 5mm pairs are next to impossible to source unless they are already in the United States.  There are available pairs, but they go at a premium.


Afghanistan Spinel 4mm Round


As I mentioned above, Paraiba tourmaline supply is way down with no new materials coming out of Brazil until they figure out what to do about COVID.  I am holding back some smaller stuff; email me for more info if you are interested.  I can still get melees here in NYC.  


Paraiba Pear


Some more smaller silver and platinum spinels will be available in the shop soon, as I am processing those as we speak.  From what I was able to gather, the true greys from Burma – the ones that have little to no secondary colors – have become scarce.  There used to be oodles of this stuff because it was used as practice material when teaching cutters, then discarded.  But a couple of years ago it had a sudden surge in popularity and now it’s hard to get.  Go figure.

I expect to be able to source more black opals as one of my opal suppliers is in New York State and he has much of the rough here in the US also.  Plus, you can still ship from Australia.  Not sure I will be buying any, as I still have some material here, as well as boulder opal.


Free-form Boulder Opal


My special treat for you, however, is not going to come from Tucson.  It’s in the mail to me, from overseas: a small parcel of faceted gahnite!  I’ve never had it or seen it, so your guess is as good as mine regarding how it looks in real life.  A vendor I know listed 4 parcels and 3 were gone before I could get a keystroke down in my email.  I secured the last parcel, and this will be a one-off.  It was spotted on the Bangkok gem market, bought, cut, and now it is owned by me and only one other person.  Gahnite is from Pakistan and loosely belongs to the spinel family. It is ocean blue with some hints of teal, good saturation, not too dark.  It is cobalt-bearing and open color but not neon.  Just a nice color from what I can tell.  The per carat price will be about $1500 and the pieces will range from .1-.22 carats.

And that’s it for now, folks. More reports will come directly from Tucson.  Wish me luck and safe travels.  (If you are concerned, I have an AirBnB to myself and will be cooking for myself, all the shows are outdoors or in larger tents, and the weather will be nice, so there will be plenty of ventilation.  Arizona has just dropped all COVID restrictions which means I will be extra careful and wear a mask at all times, regardless of the rules.)  

If there is anything in particular you would like me to keep an eye out for, email me before I leave for Tucson, on April 8th, and let me know!


Coming Soon: Emerald, Sapphire,18 kt Yellow Gold



Rhodochrosite, Paraiba, Green Gold


Continue reading
  • Page 1 of 5