Gem Show Shopping

New Show: Denver and Beyond

New Show: Denver and Beyond

I'm excited to introduce a new travel and purchasing trip this year: the gem shows in Denver.  Every September, there are approximately 10 overlapping gem shows: The Intergem show, Denver Coliseum Show, The Denver Fine Mineral Show and the Denver Expo Fine Mineral Show, among others.

For a complete show schedule, go here: https://xpopress.com/showcase/profile/2/denver-gem-mineral-showcase

Most shows focus on minerals, but you can also get beads, gems and jewelry, as well as fake dinosaur eggs and all kinds of other entertaining stuff.  

My friend Jochen Hintze from Jentsch Minerals is exhibiting in the Coliseum show, so I've decided to hop along to check out what's happening. I will be attending shows from the 14th to the 17th of September, and on the 18th we are leaving on a road trip to Tucson crossing over the Rockies and turning south into Utah for a few days so that Jochen can put his minerals back into storage until the Tucson shows.  Jochen's promised me a couple of Canyons - as a rock hound, he's been through much of these areas with an RV, and I'm sure he will have a lot to teach me about the geological history of the region.  I'll be sure to post pix in addition the obligatory gem photos.

I am planning on a gem sale starting the 24th but you will see me trickle out listings from the show beforehand as time permits.  Karen, Debbie and Joanne will be working from New Jersey to continue with shipping and custom orders.  Items listed from Denver will be shipped after the 22nd.

The Denver shows do not have as many high end gemstones as Las Vegas or Tucson, but I will be meeting up with a couple of vendors that I don't otherwise get to see to stock up.

My friend Dudley Blauwet is exhibiting as part of the Main show and I have already requested sapphire pairs, sapphire singles, larger kornerupine (insofar as possible), Burmese spinel, kenyan tsavorite, and emerald.  Dudley said he was working on several parcels of Afghani emeralds, no oil, that he will have ready for me.  I get to come to the show during setup so I can pick from the rarer goods early!

At the Merchandise Mart I will meet up with my Benitoite supplier to get some more ombre suites (currently oversold), some larger (ish) singles, and also some Sweet Home rhodochrosite, which he cuts little by little only for these shows.  (Production of both benitoite and rhodochrosite ended a few years ago.)

In addition, Jochen has promised me some grandidierite from a recent find in Madagascar, the pieces will be larger but not as clean.  

I also plan on stopping by the Denver Expo in the Quality Inn to say hello to Steve from New Era Gems.  I'm sure he will have some nice new Mahenge garnets and other stuff.

So as you can see, I will be pretty busy, and I'm really looking forward to this because I've never been to Colorado or Utah.  

I will keep you posted on Facebook, Instagram and Etsy. Stay tuned.

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Upcoming Vegas Show: The Culture of the Gem Trade

Upcoming Vegas Show: The Culture of the Gem Trade

Upcoming Vegas Show: The Culture of the Gem Trade

This summer marks the 9th year of Cecile Raley Designs, and in August, I will have been on Etsy for 8 years.  As many of you know, I started out with beaded necklaces, only slowly moving to more fine jewelry, but from the start, I was attracted to working with real gemstones, no glass, resin, or other materials.  I almost never buy opaque stones like agates, jaspers, or turquoise.  I like faceted, glossy, vibrant, eye catching beauty that you can spot from afar in a gem tray – or on someone’s neck for that matter.

American Gem Trade Association Suppliers & Buyers at the AGTA show in Las Vegas
American Gem Trade Association

Last years AGTA show in Las Vegas

I went to my first real trade show in 2009: Jeweler’s of America in New York.  I love going to trade shows.  Not just because I love gem shopping, I also enjoy the interactions – the gem talk – and I love studying people and behavior.  The gem trade, to me, has its own unique sociology.  Its culture is ancient and many families have been in the trade for generations.  They size up buyers in a matter of seconds, and they trade information among one other.  While they are competitors, there’s also an understanding that the trade can only survive as a whole.  Competition is healthy, but the individual niches people carve out are also respected.  Before, during and after the show, the traders hand out among one another and exchange the stories of the day.

In its entirety, the American gem trade is dominated by no more than a couple of hundred sellers, and most know each other.  They buy and borrow from one another.  So as a buyer, going behind one seller’s back isn’t a recommended strategy.  Bad buying behavior, e.g. stretching out payment plans (if offered), putting too many goods aside for the day and not buying them, asking for the lowest and best price rather than waiting for an offer, trying to return goods, all those strategies get around. 

Gem dealers come from all over the world, and while sellers from the same countries often have closer bonds, respect for all cultures and backgrounds is crucial to the trade.  Most gems no longer come from the US or Europe, cutting is done either on location or on a large scale in Thailand and India.  Mining takes place in Africa, Asia and South America.  Many gem dealers travel and buy on location.  They understand the customs of their buying locations, they know the languages.  Dudley Blauwet speaks Hindi and several other Asian languages, my friend Jochen Hintze speaks French, English, German, Swahili, and can at least say polite things in Malgasi.  Vinod Kotahwala, who buys emeralds in Colombia, is fluent in Spanish.  Almost everyone knows at least a little bit of the local language of their travel locations.  It is polite and it furthers business. Skin color is not a barrier, I would go so far as to say it is of no consequence to the trade.  What may be more important at times is exact origin of an individual, because that informs you about the local culture.  Business practices in Hong Kong are not the same as in Tanzania. 

Aside from the main dealers who have booths at the big shows like AGTA, GJX, JA and JCK, there is also a vast network of smaller traders who sell out of their pockets.  While you are negotiating with a gem dealer at a booth, you may spot a person with a briefcase nearby who is politely waiting their turn.  That might be a seller who is walking the show floor.  Some of these sellers do cold pitches, others are well known to the exhibitor.  Remember that all gem sellers are also gem buyers, and the most successful gem sellers are excellent at buying.  It is fun to watch those interactions sometimes, insofar as they take place in a language I can understand.  Most of these sellers can be reached by phone if you know them, or know someone who does, and you can meet up in the lunchroom or outside, or after and before the show.  Some have low end goods, but others are well known for extremely expensive stuff. I’m not sure that show rules allow this kind of selling – I suspect they do not – but the goods often end up back on the dealer’s table and so it really furthers business and benefits the show hosts.  Many of these smaller dealers are international; they travel to the US just for the shows.  Others are from the US but they are smaller and not members of the AGTA, so they will be in Vegas during the show and you can make private appointments.

There’s so much more to be said here, but blogs are supposed to be short, so let me close with one final observation: while much of the trade is about sharing information, it is also extremely secretive.  Gem dealers do not give away their suppliers or the purchase prices, not even to each other.  You are not supposed to ask or try to follow the trail back.  Also, price negotiations are totally private.  I have almost never been asked by anyone what I got from whom or for how much.  And when other sellers are at the booth I politely step out of ear shot to signal that I am not going to violate the rule.  I also won’t approach that seller and try to make deals unless explicitly encouraged by the exhibitor (i.e. that person is a friend of mine or the seller has goods that they have no interest in but I do).

In the end, it all comes down to mutual respect. Passing up what initially looks like a good opportunity out of respect for the people you do business with only increases your chances for good buys at good prices in the long run.  I work hard to maintain my integrity in the business.  Good ethics is good business too.  It was hard to convince business students of this fact when I was teaching ethics, but now that I’m seeing it in the real world, I have no doubt it is true.

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Tucson Treasures

I got back from Tucson Tuesday night and the very first thing I did was sleep. First on the plane (1 hr the first leg, 2 hrs the second leg) and then 10 more hours at home. My assistant Debbie, who was with me till Saturday, took Sunday-Tuesday off to recoup. Yesterday, I got my little treasures from Brink, thanks to Prima Gems who did the transport for me together with their (considerably larger)... Continue reading

Tucson Prep

For those of you who travel "vicariously" with me to Tucson to hunt for gems, here's a little more of a breakdown of what I have now, what I am looking for, and what kinds of purchases I am arranging.

Let's start with what has been my main draw, and my personal favorite - Paraiba tourmaline. I've done a count on my melees and I have adjusted all the quantities in the shop to reflect what I have... Continue reading

Gem Shows: Past, Present and Future

Traveling to gem shows to shop was a new thing for me this year. I did go to the Springfield Gem and Mineral Show last fall but I exhibited with my jewelry and gems. Or rather, I pretended to exhibit because I shared the booth with Jochen Hintze from Jentsch Mineralien, and since nobody was interested in my jewelry (wrong audience), I shopped while Jochen watched my inventory. Other than that, I...
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