Tucson Gem Show 2017

The 2017 report took longer than usual to complete, partly because we’re also reporting on our experience of doing the show. I’m going to offer my personal perspective on the selling side as well as the buying side. I hope this is useful. Post some comments and let me know. My reports are through my personal lens. Your mileage may vary.


The Academy of Faceting Artists is a juried group of Faceting Academy graduates that formed a “show team” to achieve division of labor and costs – and to pump-up the fun-factor. I think our first voyage together was pretty great, and look forward to working with the (expanding) team more in the future.

Make sure to check out the Graduates’ Galleries to see more of these artists’ great work!


The AFA did both demonstration and commission faceting at our venue (the 22nd St show).

demonstrating facetron, tucson 2017

Justin Mynatt and Oke Millett did demos on Ultra Tec equipment and I did demos on both the Facetron and Ultra Tec. I think Oke sold most of his demonstration stones at the show. And, Justin smiled as he did commission work on-demand.

ultra tec demonstration faceting

While I was out sick for a couple of days, Ron packed my Facetron up so they could do demos with the Ultra Tec. When I returned, I came back to a half-dozen pavilions ready to polish.

Rather than breaking-down the UT machine and setting the Facetron back up, I just slid the Facetron dops into the Ultra Tec quill (HINT: They’ve got to be upside-down), found a witness facet and went to polishing.

ultra tec faceting demonstration

The next day, I transferred to Facetron dops, and set that instrument up to complete the crowns. If you’ve got good equipment, well-maintained, and work with care, this sort of thing isn’t a problem. It was actually fun to demonstrate!

Though several of the gems I cut at the show have gone to new homes, here are a couple that are still available (as of this writing). First a 1.65 ct, 6.9 mm Peridot from Pakistan. I created a design on-the-fly for this little guy to capture color and hide the inclusions. It was fun.

I bought this great little Tourmaline in a parcel early in the show, and just had to knock it out. It’s 1.01 carats, and 12.7 x 2.7 mm.

tucson tourmaline

The mate to this one – and from the same parcel. It comes in at 1.02 carats and 5.2 mm square. The C was ugly, so I did a demo of how to hide it.

2017 tucson tourmaline

After Tucson every year, lots of people ask what to do with the dark garnet they bought. So, at the show, I did these demos of using best practices to make dark material viable:

tucson garnet

The gems on the right and left were cut from preforms identical to the one in the center. Here, they’re all on a white surface to show the white paper test that should have been done before buying.

The design on the left is a 2.82 carat, 9mm “Ron’s Rondelle”, and is just a double-rose using the crown of the design on the right – an 2.68 carat, 8.2mm “Gunter’s Glitter”. The fun thing about doing a rondelle with dark material is that it looks good no matter the backing or lighting. Here are side-by-side photos against a white background and against a black one. With a light background or back-lighting, it’ll throw plum color; with a dark background it just reflects whatever you give it:

tucson 2017

The other design, Gunter’s Glitter, is an aggressive reflector with a shallow checkerboard crown. With strong light, the reflector flashes nice color; in weaker light the crown throws back whatever you give it.

If you want to learn more about these sorts of techniques and exactly when and how to do them, come train with us at a Faceting Academy live event.



We had a really fantastic and international parade of visitors at the booth, from Academy graduates to fellow faceting artists and rough dealers from around the planet, to brand new Academy students we’re looking forward to training in our May event.

Faceting Academy graduate Valerie Kasinskas of VK Designs dropped by with her sister, Rachel:

Soon after that, another Faceting Academy Graduate -and friend of 30+ years, Mark Stephan, came by for an all-too-short chat.

Academy Graduate Lloyd Addie dropped by to share some great rough he had acquired.

One of my favorite faceting artists, Derek Katzenbach, dropped by to talk shop and show me some incredible jewelry he was delivering to a client. Sure wish we’d had more time to visit.

What a group this is: My friend of many years, Farooq Hashmi, of Intimate Gems; my friend Doug Menadue – great faceting artist of Bespoke Gems; and my new friend, Lucas Fassari – the world’s best gemstone inclusion photographer.

Jeweler and lapidary artist Richard Hart and gold artist Gabriella Borsay dropped by for a long-overdue in-person meeting.

Faceting artist Januscz Meier and his wife Lucja, came from Alberta to spend some time talking polish.

Javid paid us a visit, and brought some beautiful material (you’ll see below).

We were really happy to see Robert Mendoza from Ultra Tec. We always enjoy his great personal energy.

Robert’s timing was perfect – the minute we were placing a nice new V5 Digital model with happy faceting artist Murray – a student in the upcoming May event:

Our newest Faceting Academy student Kowei, spent time visiting, and sorting out logistics of his travel from Taiwan to attend our May event. We’re excited to have him in the class.

In all the time in Tucson, I managed ONE “night out” for a meal and visit with such a fantastic group of friends. Thanks to you all for being who you are.


We had a great team on site, with plenty of hands on-deck most of the time. Here, Richard Vogl, Doug Robinson, myself, and Frank & Julie Umberger are setting up to welcome visitors to the 22nd St. Show.

Faceting Academy graduate Oke Millett had a layout that included pieces from the 495-carat “Queen of Dushanbe” (here’s a piece) Spinel – including stones cut by yours truly:

But, how were the sales?

People who know what they want, and can afford it were buying. The serious gem and jewelry collector spent money to get quality goods. The professional jeweler bought for specific projects – and worked to build connections with artists they could meet – and whose skills they could review in person.

Member artists sold some nice pieces to customers who could appreciate jewelry art – and interacting with the artists.

“Joe the plumber”, unless he was shopping for a specific engagement or anniversary gift, just enjoyed the sparkle. I think the retail jewelry market from the middle down, is going to be soft for a bit longer, until the everyday working person is more confident about the economy.

At this writing, the Stock Market is continuing to set new records, so there are indications a stronger mid-level jewelry market may bloom as the year progresses. The higher end is always solid, and perhaps getting stronger. Watch the Graduates’ Gallery for collections that speak to these trends!


The Availability of rough in the market was, as always, up for some things and down for others. From Brazil, there was more Rutilated Quartz and Apatite than I’ve seen in a while. There was more – and better – Iolite than I’ve seen in a while. Other items were thin.

The Prices seemed to reflect the economy. That is, they could be nutty. For instance, on Tourmaline, I found a couple of great deals, but also met poor middle-men who had bought during the Chinese bubble and failed to liquidate before it popped. They were stuck asking $180+ for goods that could be found in the market at $50.

The Precious: Here follows a bit of what I brought back to the studio – and for students who attend Faceting Academy events. (Enough with the rest of it, get on with the rock-porn.)

This Dumorterite in Quartz from Brazil was just too tasty to leave alone. Anxious to do something fun with it…

The person who sold this to me told me it is a lock of hair that a beautiful celtic sorceress took from her own head and preserved, frozen in crystal. I believe that story.

This year was nice for Iolite – a gem I really like. I managed to acquire a couple of parcels, including these juicy select pieces:

I acquired this lovely 24 gram piece of Gilgit Topaz. I’m cooking-up the most interesting plans for it…
These showed-up early in the show – and reflecting the softening of Tourmaline prices. They each have a few issues that will reduce yield, but the color was … well … you see …

My friend Momtaz hooked me up with some little crystals I need for a special project:

This nice Sphene gave me an idea for another special project. Can you see it?

This nice 4.5 gram Aquamarine crystal will be a component of another larger thing I’m working on:

It came with this 17 gram piece that was just begging for some special treatment. I’m really anxious to do the thing with it:

These Madagascar Rose Quartz are destined to become something unusual – inspired by something I witnessed in New Mexico this past Summer. I’d been waiting since then to acquire them from the friend I knew would have them:

While shopping those Rose Quartz, I noticed these, truly delicious ones. They remind me of peach nectar:

This is a sample of some San Carlos Peridot that was on offer – and a 3.3 gram piece I couldn’t resist:

arizona peridot faceting rough

I high-graded some nice Rhodolite for Faceting Academy students to cut. If you’re “in the room” before this juice is gone you’ll probably be cutting some of it:

Faceting Academy students at the May event will have some of this Aquamarine on their dops:

There was some nice Welo flash right in the 22nd St Show tent with us. I’ve had a project in mind for pieces just like this. Now, we’re set!

ethiopian opan

This 104-gram Brazilian Topaz is going to become a really fun carving:

Some of the rest of the stones in that half-kilo parcel are going to be cut by Academy students this year.

When you have a chance to see something like this…

…You probably just have to have some:

And, if you’re a true Tourmaline freak, you just keep finding …

… and you keep finding (for the Academy students intermediate class) …

… and you keep finding …

… and then you find another one you just have to cut …

… and instead of helping you find some sort of 12-step program, your good friends bring you this:

And, that’s the way it was … on my Tucson Tourmaline bender, 2017. Keep an eye on the Gemstone Artist web site for photos of these same gemstones as they’re transformed into polished gems and finished jewelry. Keep an eye on this site and our newsletter to see some of these same gemstones after students cut them at the Academy events.


I’ll plead sick for neglecting to get photos of some things like some of the great new Emerald coming out of Ethiopia. I didn’t manage to acquire any of it, but I’d say watch the market. The production sounds like it’s going to be strong – and the quality is looking impressive. We’re going to see some pretty Emerald – and from what I’m hearing, lots more stuff, from that country, soon.


Again, I’ll plead sick for neglecting to get a photo. A description will have to do. A rough dealer I know showed me a Ruby crystal and told me he paid too little for it; asked me what was wrong with it.

Cursory examination looked like standard hexagonal-habit Ruby. The faces were rough, the clarity was pretty nice, and good color.

Examination under a 10x loupe disclosed the spherical gas bubble signature of glass-filling. Close study showed a couple of divots on the surface where the usual “candy coating” hadn’t been sanded away – perhaps on a sidewalk. Whoever sold it to the dealer had taken a standard glass-filled stone and knocked the shiny surface off to make it less obvious.

Remember that glass-filling is really common – and in every color of corundum, now. Have a look at a presentation I did back in 2009 for the CWFG, which includes material on glass-filled corundum.


I got to see and hold a wonderful, top-color and top-clarity Emerald crystal from Panjshir, Afghanistan. It’s about the size of my little finger. The asking price was $60,000.

And, there was this great chunk of Peridot from Pakistan. I think it was 60-something grams. Unfortunately, it had some issues that would have required breaking it into pieces. Otherwise, I would have had to buy it.

Don’t laugh. You’d grin all goofy too, if you were holding that one…


Besides special thanks to my close friend Ron Skog – and to all the members of the Academy of Faceting Artists – and the other artists who visited with us, I want to express specific gratitude to rough dealers who helped source material for students of Faceting Academy students to train on.

This generosity helps us graduate students ready to work with a wide variety of materials  – and to manage a wide range of features and challenges. It also greatly increases the excitement and enjoyment of learning with colorful and exotic stones from around the globe. They’re competent to evaluate a rang of rough for future projects. And, they get to go home with beautiful and interesting conversation-starting gems. So, we want to thank and recommend these “friends of the Academy”:

Mamadou Jallow DONATED some luscious garnet. (technical name “luscious garnet” <lol>) that our Faceting Academy resident training students will soon be cutting and enjoying:

Dave Wheatley, of the Sunstone Butte Mine DONATED some nice chunky Sunstone rough for Faceting Academy students to hone their skills on:

Farooq Hashmi of Intimate Gems helping us source some very specific material for teaching some very specific technical skills is just Farooq’s latest assistance. (Don’t you wonder what it is?)  Students will be cutting it soon…

Others helped us source various materials this year, including this great Garnet and Iolite:

Students in some upcoming Faceting Academy events will be cutting this lovely Iolite – some of the best I’ve seen in Tucson:

Nirinjan Khalsa, of Suncrystal Mining, helped source some Oregon Sunstone rough that fit our very specific training needs.

Thanks again to all the rough dealers who helped us find special training materials, who provided us great deals on training materials – or who even donated roughs to help us deliver the highest-quality and most complete training possible for our students.


Expect us: The Academy of Faceting Artists is currently in planning for Tucson 2018. And, we might just drop by – even when you aren’t home, Chelsea.

Expect more of us: The Faceting Academy is currently training faceting artists and coaching existing faceting artists to improve every part of their game.

Expect more collections: The Academy is facilitating new and exciting work by its members. The membership is synergistically sourcing, designing, and creating. Look for some interesting new things.

Until then, watch us on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram – and our own dedicated newsletter (sign up at the top of our home page).

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