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
On our way, we passed beautiful Walker Lake, with the water reflecting blue skies.
And, along the shore of Walker Lake, a real treat – a herd of bighorn sheep.
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.|
|As 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.|
More 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.
|Still, 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.|
|I 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:
These pieces are over 7 grams each.
I also found this really juicy Spessartite Garnet from East Africa.
|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.|
|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…|
|It’s always fun to find new interesting stuff, like this bicolor Beryl (Heliodor+Morganite)
|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.
|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.
|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.|
|Also saw this interesting blue lace agate with lavender drusy from Zambia. Got some ideas for this stuff…
|We 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.|
|When it’s snowing and dreary back home, this doesn’t seem much like work…
|We sourced some Songea and Tunduru Sapphire for specific client projects.|
|I 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.|
|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!
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 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.|
|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.
|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”.|
|At AGTA, we caught up Menahem Sevdermish of Gem E Wizard, and old Sunstone-digging friends and award-winning artists Larry and 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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|The Faceting Academy Graduates’ Posse bringing the business at Pueblo, with myself, Don Richardson, Ron Skog, and Oke Millet. What a great time!
|High 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.|
|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…
Of course, no Tucson trip is really complete without some old-fashioned (free) rock-hounding. Guess what’s in the bag…
And, of course, there’s the scenery. Western sunsets are amazing.
And, when you get miles and miles of this, the trip never lasts long enough.
But, eventually, the Klamath Basin rolls out the white welcome carpet.
And the sun sets on the trip…
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.
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.