Tucson Gem Show 2016

tucson gem show report

This Tucson Report is going to look at everything from the rock porn to a market analysis. There’s going to be something in here for you.

The Tucson Gem Show rock porn is first; the detailed technical and market analysis as at the bottom of the page. Scroll and enjoy.




Getting There is Half the Fun

tucson gem show road trip

On our way, we passed beautiful Walker Lake, with the water reflecting blue skies.

tucson gem show road trip

And, along the shore of Walker Lake, a real treat – a herd of bighorn sheep.

Gemstone Porn!

Small photos link to high-res images: Click them to get full-framed joy.

While negotiating over a different parcel with a dealer I’ve known for many years, I manged the chance to see (and hold) this incredible piece of Peridot. It was not the largest one of a large parcel of similar pieces that was going as a lot, and had already been spoken for. These things were incredible – all huge, blocky, perfectly-colored, and completely clean.tucson gem show peridot
Tucson gem show tsavoriteAs I mentioned in one of my live posts, the guys at S&S Gems over at 22nd St show had some really nice material, including the nicest Tsavorite I saw on this trip.
Rough was in the house – in cases where whole-parcel purchases were the only business….
tucson gem show puebloMore than in the past, dealers were selling “parcel only”. There were lots of signs reading “no selection”. And, when we could select, the premium for doing so was generally higher than in the past.
tucson gem show faceting rough parcelsStill, there were opportunities to find small parcels, perfectly-sized for the professional or hobby faceter.
Tourmaline was back in the market – with prices all over the map. This stuff was priced a bit high, but almost everything I saw was highly negotiable – more than usual.tucson gem show tourmaline faceting rough
tucson gem show faceting rough aquamarineI saw a great deal of super-color Aquamarine in the market. Some was from Nigeria, and some from the new workings in Madagascar. Prices on this stuff were also all over the place.

I scored this incredible “double-blue” Aquamarine from Madagascar:

tucson gem show aquamarine facet rough

These pieces are over 7 grams each.

I also found this really juicy Spessartite Garnet from East Africa.

tucson gem show spessartite garnet

Ethiopian Opal was again plentiful – and again, with prices all over the map. I picked through trays of this stuff both inside and outside, and saw prices ranging from $2 / gram to more than 10 times that.tucson gem show ethiopian opal
I did manage to score some of this stuff that’s just right for an upcoming collection of jewelry that’s on my drawing board…
tucson gem show opaltucson gem show opal
It’s always fun to find new interesting stuff, like this bicolor Beryl (Heliodor+Morganite)


tucson gem show Bicolor Beryl

Here, I’m checking out some really cool inclusion stones with the owner of that Beryl, Tom Epaminondas and his friend Ricardo Isy from Brazil. They had some really fun stuff.


tucson gem show brazil gems

At AGTA, I got a look at this gang-cutting CNC-based faceting machine for commercial cutting. It produces pretty good geometry, but the polish couldn’t match the commercial cutting I see coming out of China. I think the human faceters are in no danger from this thing.


automatic faceting machine

I mentioned there was alot of Aqua in the market? For those performing due diligence, the rewards can be sweet. Here are two parcels I high-graded from various sources.faceting rough selection
tucson gem show facet rough aquamarine tucson gem show aquamarine facet rough
Also saw this interesting blue lace agate with lavender drusy from Zambia. Got some ideas for this stuff…


blue lace agate drusy

spinel faceting roughWe found some of the usual suspects in the market. Faceting Academy resident training students will be cutting some of these Spinel this year.
And, we replenished our supply of Mexican Apatite clean crystals for Faceting Academy students to practice delicate materials work with.apatite faceting rough
When it’s snowing and dreary back home, this doesn’t seem much like work…


tucson gem show riverpark

We sourced some Songea and Tunduru Sapphire for specific client projects.
tunduru sapphire faceting roughsongea sapphire faceting rough
tucson gem show aquamarineI scored some of these – for a … special project that we’re not talking about yet…
Got to visit with my old friend, Pepe Geofil – who sold me my very first Tucson Tourmaline many years ago. He showed me this sample from this years’ production of Tourmaline – which was sadly for us, all purchased before Tucson.tucson gem show inn suites
From our friend Chris Rose, we acquired one of the trophies of the Spectrum Mine’s season – a flawless 48-gram dichroic green Sunstone. I’m seriously excited to cut this one!


oregon sunstone spectrum mine

Tucson Show Scam Report

You can’t have a Tucson Show report without the “scam report” section. And, everyone wanted to know what it was that was in this photo:

tucson gem show scam

Naturally, being Tucson and all, when I posted this on Facebook, people were guessing it was some juicy Tanzanite rough. But, of course, you could have had it for only $45 – and check out the great colored rough in the background!

This stuff was on a set of tables at Electric Park which were covered in SLAG GLASS fragments. But why was slag glass priced at $45 for a bit like that – and why is it a scam?

tucson gem show scam

It was marketed as “Andara” – a special gemstone with various magical qualities, depending on the colors. It is, according to the salespersons, “a gem of the highest vibrational energy – with a frequency higher than any other” … etc.

Here’s a photo of their poster for the “Celestial Heart Andara” (pink-colored slag glass):

tucson gem show scam

Clearly, the magical qualities described are contained in the pretty round bubbles we see in the gem material… So, this one gets my award for Tucson Scam of 2016.

Tucson Gem Show Peeps

One of the best parts of the Tucson Show is catching up with people you haven’t seen in … it’s always too long between visits with these people.

We negotiated with Wali at Five Lions. As always, he had some great stuff – and helped us out with the Aqua from Pakistan, among other things.tucson gem show five lions gems
We had dinner with long time friend, and world-traveling gem adventurer Farooq Hashmi of Mine Direct Gems, with several other friends, including several of the Faceting Academy Graduate posse (Kate Pleatman, Mark Stephan, Mark Raymond) – as well as Mike Puerta and Momtaz Dauwdza.


tucson gem show outing

Later, we caught up with fellow cutter Sheldon Douglas Sink from South Africa, and traveling gem trader Ian Kalway – and heard a story from one dealer about “the aqua that got away”.
sheldon douglas sinktucson gem show dealers
At AGTA, we caught up Menahem Sevdermish of Gem E Wizard, and old Sunstone-digging friends and award-winning artists Larry and Stacia Woods.
tucson agta Menahem Sevdermishtucson agta larry woods stacia woods
At AGTA, we also visited with the always inspirational as well as friendly Michael Dyber, and with gemstone carver and miner Richard Shull of Out of Our Mines.
tucson agta michael dybertucson agta richard shull
Over at the Pueblo, we connected back up with our friend Momtaz Dauwdzai of Nooristan Crystal, and with Indy Khurana and the inimitable gemstone carver Ron Stevens.
tucson show pueblo Momtaz Dauwdzaitucson show Indy Khurana & Ron Stevens
It was a real pleasure to go on the hunt with Faceting Academy Graduate Don Richardson – and to catch up with the very in-demand Chap Riedel at the S&S booth in the 22nd St Show.
tucson gem show 22nd sttucson gem show rappa river
I got to visit with Faceting Academy Graduates Kate Pleatman and Mark Stephan at their booths at the 22nd St. show and at Hotel Tucson, respectively. Both of them have work in the Graduates’ Gallery on this site. Check it out.
tucson show 22nd sttucson show hotel tucson
It was also fun to mug and promote for Faceting Academy Graduate and returning mentor Ron Skog at his 22nd St. booth – and to hang out with Graduate and good friend Oke Millet at the same location.
tucson show 22nd sttucson show 22nd st
The Faceting Academy Graduates’ Posse bringing the business at Pueblo, with myself, Don Richardson, Ron Skog, and Oke Millet. What a great time!


tucson show pueblo

tucson show inn suitesHigh School class reunion of two: Mark Stephan showing me some facet grade pieces of meteorite he’s borrowed from the great Victor Tuzlukov.
I scored more great included stones this trip than usual, including some Edenite in Quartz, and some larger needles. Here are just a couple of them.
tucson gem show edenitetucson gem show rutile
It was a great show in 2016. My only complaint was that I didn’t stay long enough to connect with everyone I wanted to see personally. I’m grateful to have had time with several people who mean a great deal to me – including Academy graduates – who are seriously kicking ass.


If you haven’t been to the Tucson show, I recommend you go. It’s mind-blowing. If you’re lucky, you may even see a beautiful girl standing next to huge piles of uncut precious stones…

tucson gem show

Of course, no Tucson trip is really complete without some old-fashioned (free) rock-hounding. Guess what’s in the bag…

tucson show rock hounding

And, of course, there’s the scenery. Western sunsets are amazing.

tucson road trip 2016

And, when you get miles and miles of this, the trip never lasts long enough.

tucson road trip 2016
tucson road trip 2016

But, eventually, the Klamath Basin rolls out the white welcome carpet.

tucson road trip 2016

And the sun sets on the trip…

tucson road trip 2016

Tucson Market Analysis

strategy in gems is different from others. I’m willing to play a longer game than most. So, my analysis is reflective of that. This is also a snapshot of my thinking at a point in time. Any new information or lesson learned may change my mind…

Background (Global Financial Situation)

If you read sources like the Guardian and other major outlets, you’ll see things like this (on the day of this writing):

"Panicked investors sought refuge in the safe havens of gold and 
government bonds on Thursday as a fresh spasm of global selling 
sent share prices crashing in Asia, Europe and North America."

And, BBC said this (on the day of writing):

"The index of London's leading shares has fallen 2.4%, while US and 
European markets have also posted sharp declines amid continued 
anxiety about the state of the global economy."

But, on that same day, Gem World International published this:

"Yet the market turmoil has had little to no impact on the 
positive consumer sentiment about the economy."

In other words, people are buying.

While gloom and doom sells copy, what we’re seeing on the ground at the Tucson gem show is that people are buying. There was solid traffic from the start, with North American buyers driving the trade. The Chinese buyers were “clearly missing in Tucson this year” (GWI).

This view of the macro market is supported by guys like Cullen Roche, Founder of Orcam Financial Group, LLC and author of “Pragmatic Capitalism“. In 2015 he said of the U.S. Stock Market that investors should expect much lower returns going forward. “Lower” doesn’t mean negative. And, he recently posted this on his blog:

The situation in the USA is better than it gets credit for.  With 
Manufacturing PMI at 52.4 for January, Services at 53.2, very low 
jobless claims readings and growing employment, the argument for 
a recession in the USA still looks highly questionable.

He says: “The argument for a deep recession looks irrational.”

The Gem Market

People will always seek status – and across history this has been pursued through self-adornment – which is about setting oneself apart from the crowd – and about catching and holding attention of others.

Story drives attention: An obviously “bigger than yours” Sapphire tells the story more succinctly and with less work or jump-starting than a Clinohumite of unusual color.

So, in stronger economic times optimistic buyers use the “mine is bigger” strategy with better-known gems like “the big three” of Ruby, Emerald, and Sapphire – and other standards like Aquamarine, Zircon, Spinel and Tourmaline.

In weaker (less optimistic) economic cycles people attract attention to themselves with stories based on exotic gems and unusual presentations in the less-costly varieties.

With the current optimism, the demand for exotic or unusual gems has eased a little, and interest is returning to the classics.

Gem World International is reporting that: “Sapphire continues to be the top selling gem in the market” and also says “There is good demand for aquamarine, zircon, spinel and many of the tourmaline varieties among a host of other gems.”

That’s an optimistic market, and also a world-wide shift from the China economic bubble and fading the (mood of) recession in the USA. Just yesterday, my friend, Nikki Dunn, of Daily Trading Profits, said: “The S&P is holding support, but the market is very choppy – doesn’t know where it wants to go, up or down.” She said she’s “seeing volatility – with sell-offs in the AM but recovering to new highs in the afternoon.”

And, this is exactly what the Tucson market seemed like to me this year…

The Rough Market

There is a sea-change in buyer demographics and sentiments – which, I mentioned above also means a change in the style of goods in demand. Those kinds of changes create volatility and volume in any market.

Some people who bought “too high” in the bubble of the past few years are being forced to come off their prices – some at a loss – to get or remain liquid. Others are willing or able to hold the line, hoping to find a buyer with an out-of-date reference or a demand they can’t fulfill elsewhere.

tucson gem show electric park

This year, I saw prices on similar samples of Tourmaline running from above $200 / gram – down to less than $60 / gram. I saw LOTS of material in the marketplace. Even though most of it was older stock, LOTS of material was moving. But, the people working on the ground in producing areas were all singing the same tune: “Not much new coming out of the ground…

I think this means it’s a good time to …

Use the China-dip to get into the standard stones that are available – and to prepare to turn them while the USA market remains strong and optimistic.

I think it’s a good time to drive a hard bargain acquiring exotic stones that are currently not in demand, but which will come back into demand when the market cycles again.

I think it’s a good time to learn and build the skills needed to maximize the value of both these categories of gemstones. We can always add value – even to a marble – in a way that can be profitable. And, if we have the skills to maximize the value of high-end goods, we can do very well in good times.

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