Gemshow Tips: Tucson


Gemshow Tips: Tucson

If the deal is too good to be true, it probably is. Remember for the most part you are dealing with people that do this for a living, they are not in business to give you a great deal. If the material in question is way under the going rate, especially if it is a commercially viable stone (Tourmaline, Sapphire, Tanzanite) There is almost for sure a problem. Buyer beware.

Should a bunch of us get together to get a better price?
Well this sounds like a good idea in theory, but in practice it tends to not work. There are several reasons for this.

Here are a few of them

If you buy, say a kilo to get a better price. It will be mixed in sizes and quality, sorting it out is usually a problem (assuming there is someone with the skill and time to do it). Naturally, everybody wants the best ones and not everyone is going to get the one they want. What do you do with the material in the parcel that nobody wants (small, flawed…), especially to pay for? Not everybody will pick the same kind of rough for various reasons… How do you make everyone happy? If you want top rough, buying in quantity is not really the way to do it, at least in a group. Buying hand select parcels would be a better option.

Should I buy in Parcels?
Depending on what you are trying to do. This is generally the right way to buy good rough and get a decent price.

Notice I did not say cheap. You will not get good top rough cheap. Remember that if you are buying parcels the dealer is giving you a break on the price. But you could and probably will be getting into expensive territory fast, most dealers want to sell a decent quantity in a parcel to make it worth their while. Be prepared to have to spend a reasonable amount of money. “Parcel” does not usually mean hand picked by you, they are two different things and prices. It depends on the dealer, most of my rough is already hand selected, which means it is good rough. I sell it in parcels, but they are parcels I have selected.

If you want to cherry pick (all of the large rounds for example), well that is a different price and I think most dealers are going to tell you the same thing. To most dealers a parcel is exactly that, a group of rough in mixed sizes and shapes.

Man-made and Synthetic at the show (Is all that Amethyst and Citrine real?) There is a lot of man-made and synthetic around, and a lot of it is being sold as real. You can and will get burned if you are not careful. Amethyst, Citrine, Ametrine, are very common. Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire, and Tanzanite are also starting to be seen pretty often. I have brought this subject up before, in a lot of cases the majority of these stones are man-made (as high as 60-80% of the time, especially in cut stones). I think that the trade is going (already is really) to have a major problem with this. In general nothing is being done about it and every year I see more and more problems.

Be aware that there are man-made materials being sold as natural rough and check carefully. If you are not sure, or the dealer seems a little off, then do not buy it.

Ask – A lot of dealers (jewelers too) are going with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” theory on man-made stones. Remember not all of them will tell the truth or sometimes even know if the stones are natural. They may have bought them from someone else and assumed it was real. The funny thing about the “Don’t ask, don’t tell…” way of doing business is that a lot of dealers get caught also. Always ask even if you think it is a dumb question ask anyway. Questions are free.

Should I buy a Native Cut Stone and use it as a preform? The answer is a cautious maybe. Remember that there is a huge amount of man-made material being sold as real, especially cut (it is a lot harder to tell when cut). Quartz is not a good idea, neither is any type of Sapphire. It is just too easy to get taken. Tourmaline is a possible, there are no good fakes yet. Garnets are also possible, but usually anything good is expensive. Unless you are very good at judging shapes and yields. I would say proceed with caution. If you are not careful, the yields will come out a lot lower than you think. The main reason for this is that you will have to cut off a lot of rough to get the proper pavilion angle, on a bellied cut. It ruins your yield. A lot of times you really would be better off paying more for what you want in a piece of rough material that seems more expensive, but really is not when you figure it all out.

Look at all rough in different lighting conditions before you buy it. Get it out from under the show case lights (where it is at it’s best) and look at it in normal mixed conditions. Also check under incandescent and florescent, this applies to Sapphires and Spinels in particular. These materials tend to have pretty dramatic color shifts depending on the light. They often look nice one way and bad another, in mixed light the stone should look good to you, color wise. If the color is dark or ugly in mixed light you probably do not want the rough. If the rough looks oiled or treated, walk away. Period. The only real reason for oiling rough is to hide flaws, they will tell you it is to help keep the dust down or some other excuse. The dealer is already lying to you. Do you want to do business with them?

Watch carefully, look and see what the dealer has cut in his cases. The vast majority of dealers have cut stones for sale, both foreign and American. It is very common practice for them to go through their rough and cut the best stones (I call them cherries, as in cherry picking). Usually the rough that they have out is the leftovers from this process. Often a piece of rough that may look pretty good to you, has a hidden problem. That is why it is still rough and not cut in the case for sale for a lot more money. Be very careful and check the rough thoroughly. This does not mean that you cannot find something that you want to cut. But it does mean that the odds are not on your side.

Note: I have personally noticed a trend that almost all of the rough dealers have started cutting the cherries. This includes all of the American dealers. Watch for this, especially if they are having the material cut by a “cutting house” or over seas. This is one reason the top material is really getting tough to find and expensive. There is just too good of a finished market to not do this.

I do not sell any cutting but my own, so I am obviously not selling all of my top rough cut, I cannot cut that much. Yes I naturally like to cut top material, in case you were wondering, but I usually end up cutting problem rough that I cannot do anything else with.

Know the prices. Watch for “Show Fever” Do not get show fever, do some research, know the going rates on the material you are looking for. Just because it is at the show does not mean it is a good deal. Be very careful about rough that is not clean. Sounds obvious, but let me explain. I have a student, lets call him Frank. He recently went to a gem show and bought some rough. He did “OK” but he did not get the “deal” he though he was getting, he did get a learning experience which is actually not a bad thing.

He bought some pink Tourmaline nodules (3-4 gram) that were $20/gram. Sounds good? Well, the problem was that they all had a fairly thick green rind and some stress cracks that he did not really realize could cause problems. By the time he cuts all of the rind off he will have considerably more money in the rough ($40/gram probably).

Also there is a distinct possibility that the stress crack on the rind will split the stone in half on the “c” axis when he relieves the stain from the rind. If this happens he will loose another half of the rough weight and size. So this stone will actually only have about 1/2 of the cutting area he thought, and if it splits he will be down to two stones that are 1/4’s of the original. His $20/gram piece will cost $40/gram if it hangs together and it will cost him $80/gram is it splits.

The point here is that he could have bought a sure thing with no risk from a regular dealer he does business with. Pay attention to what the actual rough you can really cut is costing. If it is anywhere close to what you would pay regularly, do not take the chance. Walk away. Pay attention to what the prices of cut goods are going for. This is a very good way to get a handle on what you should sell your stones for, if you are so inclined. Make notes on the clarity, quality, size, and color of the cut goods in the show (remember the paper and pen in your pack?). This will give you a good idea of what things are selling for wholesale/retail (depending on the show). I do this every year, it is really the best way to find the average per carat prices of cut gemstones.

About the author
Jeff R. Graham
The late Jeff Graham was a prolific faceter, creator of many original faceting designs, and the author of several highly-regarded instructional faceting books such as Gram Faceting Designs.
All articles by this author