Just Ask Jeff: Tucson Gem Show 2006
Tucson Gem Show 2006
Left: A picture of the TEP ball park gemshow.
Another Tucson Gem Show has come and gone. This year the weather was really quite nice, sunny and in the 70’s. There were quite a few changes and new shows open this year (as usual) and it looks like there will more changes and shows next year, again.
Left: A picture of the Crystallite booth. This is at the ball park where all the lapidary equipment manufacturers are located. As you can see the Crystallite booth is fairly good size and Crystallite usually has a good selection of their lapidary and carving products for sale and for dealer pick up during the show.
Left: Zane of Polymetric and a couple Tucson show shoppers examining a Polymetric OMF curved faceting machine.
Zane as well as Johnny Tew from Facette were both set up in the main TPE ball park tent with Alpha Supplies.
Left: A picture of the Howard Johnson’s show.
Note: These pictures were taken early while the show was being set up. During the actual show there would be a throng of people wandering around up and down this area.
This is down along the I-10 freeway and where many of the shows open to the public are located. As you can see to the left in the picture is the freeway ramp. There are also many tents and enclosures set up temporarily just for the Tucson gems show. So there are basically venders and people selling stuff all along the freeway in the downtown area.
Left: A friend of mine from over seas. Katerina is the show chocolate connection. She packs bars of Swiss chocolate for a bunch of people who are all choco-aholics. Including me.
If you hear the Dust Devil guys talking about a crazy blond woman running the heavy equipment at the mine during their annual “Free Dig”. This is the lady they are talking about. You better not get between here and some Sunstone. You could get run over! Katerina and her husband Hubert are regular fixtures at the Tucson show and they travel a long ways every year to attend. They are both lapidary artists and they travel and teach classes through out the year.
Here is their website www.free-form.ch
Katerina is a carver and she is holding a piece that she just finished, although is a bit difficult to see in the picture. She usually brings a case of hand carved pieces to the Tucson show and is pretty well known for her creative perfume bottles made of various precious opal and stone.
What you really want to know is about faceting rough. Well here you go. Here is what I saw or did not see as the case may be. Not good news in general, again.
Apatite – There was a surprisingly good supply of natural unheated greens and heated blues. All about the average prices for this material. I really do not cut it because it is too soft for about any practical application, so to me it is basically “that is pretty color” but I am not interested.
Amethyst and Citrine – were available in about the same quantity and quality as the last few years. That is to say it was available, not too hard to find and up in price about 10-20% depending on what you wanted. All other Quartz was the same way basically.
Ametrine – Supply is zero, none, nada, zip. They are not mining a lot from what I have been told and what they are producing is being either cut and/or sold to strictly high end cutters to be cut and sold to the retail market.
Aquamarine – there was nothing available in good quality color from Africa. There basically is no rough available coming out from the mines right now. All I saw was a few small scraps from left over parcels from previous years.
Aquamarine – from Afghanistan and Pakistan was available, but not in large quantity and the majority of this material is light to pale in saturation (crystal shaped). Not much in large sizes and most of the large stones were dirty, but a fair amount in pinkie finger sized crystals, light color to pale.
Aquamarine – in small sizes 3-6 carats from Brazil in light saturation was around, if you were willing to work hard to find clean pieces in the piles of material.
Morganite and Emerald – was not available in faceting quality. That is I mean that they were around but in general the rough (especially Emerald) was so full of junk that it was worthless. No real faceting rough was available.
Goshenite – was around, but mostly small and not especially clean, an occasional large piece.
Helidore – was available in limited supply. Mostly the gold color.
Pyrope – Garnets were about normal, around and not expensive but dark and small. I did manage to get some nice Mozambique 1-3 gram material reasonably.
Spessertite – Mandarin orange Garnet was around but extremely few pieces are clean enough to facet. I did see some nice clean large pieces but the prices were very high. I passed.
Grossular – Garnets were very scarce and the price was VERY high. Nothing clean to speak of in mint (it is almost gone and they are asking Tsavorite prices). Tsavorite was available cut, I did get a little rough but that is pretty much a fluke.
Mali – Garnets were not available rough in general (I did manage to get a little from a regular supplier) and cut prices are through the roof in price and not available.
Rhodolite – was available, but nothing like the quantity that used to be around and getting more expensive. At least in the short run. Still some decent rough around.
Malaya – this material is always rare in quality color, but there is a new find that is starting to produce material. The rough is mostly small under 1 gram with an occasional larger stone. I have not seen anything clean larger than 2 grams.
Typically this material is all 3 carats or under and has a lot of carbon spots and also included crystals as well as other types of typical Garnet inclusions. However I have managed to get a little bit of this material clean and in decent sizes. For more on these new Garnets look here… Spessartite 2 – Malaya Garnets
Note: This Garnet does have some color change, it is not strong, but enough to definitely make these stones look a little different depending on the lights.
This new Garnet is coming out only in very small quantities and the mine may or may not produce more, so while it looks a little promising for the future there is no way to tell for sure how much and exactly what may be available.
Tourmaline – No African material was around at all, with the exception of some older left over from previous years. There was some Afghanistan material but the prices and competition for it was fierce because of high demand and low supply. It is strictly a sellers market.
Rubellite – Not available. The Nigerian mine(s) are gone and prices are escalating very quickly for quality pink and Rubellites. Expect to pay a lot more for it, if you can find it. Indicolite – None available rough in general. There was some new finds but the material all was sold at high levels and nothing hit the retail market.
Green – Nothing nice available rough. I saw the usual dark “c” stuff.
All other types – None available rough.
Blue(s) – Still not available, sort of. OK, interesting story… India Indians and Chinese bought out the entire supply of blue Topaz before anybody else could get some. Both last year and this year, although there was some odds and ends available in lighter colors this year.
Particularly Swiss and Electric Blue. The irony is that they are now cutting and selling the cut stones at such a low rate that you might as well buy their crappy cuts as preforms.
It is pretty amazing to me, the Indians and the Chinese went to all the trouble and expense of trying to control the blue Topaz market by buying the available supply last year and partly this year. But once they got temporary market control they slashed the price(s) of cut goods to the point that cut stones are the same price as the rough originally was before cutting. Not a very bright marketing strategically, but pretty typical.
Note: I do not think it is possible to control the blue Topaz market for any long term length of time because the material is all man-made after all.
Colorless Topaz – available, but the price of clear is going up, particularly in 6g and over because of the run on treated blue Topaz from the low end cutting houses.
Pink Topaz – There was nice color small (nothing clean over a gram and not much clean anyway) pink from Pakistan. Very expensive.
Imperial – None available rough. I have been told the mine is basically not producing, I do not know.
Tan to peach/pink – A fair amount of Pakistan material. But most of it is not color stable and not much was clean enough to bother with.
Chrysoberyl – I did not see a single parcel. None, with the exception of the material available from a few select retail dealers.
Peridot – There was a some rough available but most of it was not clean. I did see some clean parcels but they were expensive and not something that the average faceter could afford. Cut Peridot in larger sizes has hit the big time price wise, it is expensive. The earth quake in the region was very destructive and it may be a while before the mine gets back in regular production.
Sapphire – None available rough. Generally the usual amount in native cuts were available. I call them pre-forms.
Spinels – None available rough. Generally the not much available cut either.
Sunstone – Available in about the same quantity and quality as the last few years. Probably slightly up in price depending on what you wanted.
Opal – Available in about the same quantity and quality as the last few years in small sizes. That is to say it was available, but higher quality/large material was not really around rough.
Blue – There was not much rough, a fair amount cut, but not a lot of any size.
All other Types – There was basically not much, most of the Tanzania areas are no longer producing material. Look for fancy Zircons to go up in price.
In general rough is on a down cycle and because of poor supply the rough that is available is getting more expensive. These cycles are fairly common in the supply of gemstones and hopefully this down cycle will not last long. Not every thing is negative, there was rough, some of it pretty nice. However there was, and is going to be significant price increase on quality commercial rough, like Tourmaline and Aquamarine. The good news is that there is some new production like the Malaya Garnets. There is not a lot available and it is too early to tell what those mines will do, but there is some new finds. Remember that. Amethyst, Citrine, Sunstone, Garnets (not green), and some other rough is still readily available and reasonably priced. So there is plenty to cut.
Below are pictures of carvings by Lothar Herrmann.
His website is www.herrmann-carvings.de