Just Ask Jeff: Tucson Gem Show 2007

Tucson Gem Show 2007Inn Suites

Left: A picture of the Inn Suites fossil and mineral gemshow.

Rain and cold were the theme this year at the Tucson gem show. At least for the first 8-10 days. Near the end of the show it finally cleared and got back to warm days and cooler nights that Tucson is famous for this time of year. This cold weather while not uncommon was unusual because it was several weather fronts that came through and keep things cold and wet for longer than normal. Usually cold fronts only last a few days.

Fossil Fish

Fossil FishAbove: A picture of a prehistoric fish. I would not want to meet this guy while I was swimming. He was 8-10 feet or so at a guess.

Fossil plants

Left: A picture of fossil plants.

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, and kind of a mixed bag as far as rough was concerned. I know that there are a few people that have claimed there was plenty of rough available and the show was not much different from 8 years or so ago. Wrong, things are significantly different than years ago.

Was there rough? The answer to this is sort of. There was rough. But most of it was old rough, not new production. Many dealers spent a month or so before Tucson going through old parcels and clipping rough just to fill their show cases. No there was no where near the rough of any type around that was available during the high production years ago.

Note: There is nothing wrong with old rough or clipped material, it is just not new production which is what I am talking about.

I talked to Tom and Mark (both friendly competitors of mine) and they both told me this. Along with how there just was not much new rough to be had. Which I obviously was aware of. They said they went back through old cast off parcels that they had not bothered with before because there was much better rough being mined at the time years ago. But now the old cast off’s looked pretty good because there is nothing being produced. Although I had some of my regular people bring me some nice rough that I had contracted over the last year or so, there generally was not much new quality material around. So I suspect the people that made the “lots of rough like years ago…” statements did not and do not buy much rough (then or now) so they found what little they wanted and really do not know the differences in production and the business. Or perhaps they are small level faceters and not buying very much rough in the first place. In that case they probably saw plenty to make them happy. Especially if they had no idea it was old clipped rough from years ago. Like I said old rough, if it’s quality, is as good to buy as new production.

Some of these people reporting obviously did not know the difference between the types of rough, mines, and when particular types of rough was being produced. All I can say is that if they are newbies it is an easy mistake to make. If these people are supposedly in the business… Well they are not very good at the rough business and/or they are not very connected as far as rough is concerned.

Any major gem rough dealer (including me, Tom Schnieder, Steve at New Era, Mark Kaufmann, or almost any other dealer) will and would have told these people if they asked that all major types of faceting rough was down significantly over even last year and dramatically over 3 or 4 years ago. That being said Tucson is Tucson and there was lots of rocks around, just not all that many faceting grade rocks and definitely limited quality and quantity of what there was.

Was there some new procuction? Nothing new as in a new find. Yes, a little bit of new production as in recently mined. But not much.

Apatite – Same as last year… There was a surprisingly good supply of natural unheated greens and heated blues, like last year. 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/Citrine – Was available in about the same quantity and quality as the last few years. At least on the surface appearance. But most of my connections tell me that many of the traditional mines are having trouble producing for various reason. Some are just getting deep and too much water, some are just playing out. So while the material was available it was limited. What I mean by limited (a small buyer would not notice) is that while they had kilos, they did not have 10’s and 100’s of kilos like in the past.
Ametrine – Supply is zero, none, nada, zip… They are not mining a lot from what I have been told what they are producing is being cut and sold to the retail market. I have also been told they are mining and that the Chinese are buying all the lower quality material. Certainly possible… What I can say is there was certainly no rough around.
Man made colors – There was a significant increase in the types and colors available in basically “nuked” Quartz. There was a lot of the green/yellow, lemon/yellow, and green Quartz colors available. Readily available pretty inexpensive.

Aquamarine – There was nothing available in good quality color from Africa. There basically is no rough available coming out from the mines right now at least no quantity. With the exception of a couple parcels I bought from my regular suppliers before Tucson, 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 (over 10g) clean but this material was around. Not like in the past but decent supply.
Aquamarine – I did not see much aqua in small sizes 3-6 carats from Brazil in light saturation around, but if you were willing to work hard to find clean pieces in the piles of material, you could find some.
Morganite – No pink at all, there was some champagne rough from Brazil and Afghanistan, not a lot, but some and it was not generally expensive by the parcel. Which is the only way I saw the rough being sold..
Emerald – Was not available in faceting quality. I mean that they were around but the rough was so full of junk that it was worthless. Nothing I would call real faceting rough was available. This is normal…
Goshenite – Was around, but mostly small and not especially clean, an occasional large piece.
Helidore – Was available in limited supply. Mostly the gold color and mostly nuked but I did see some pieces.

Pyrope – Garnets were about normal, around and not expensive but dark and small.
Spessertite – Mandarin orange Garnet is pretty much played out. A few odds and ends.
Grossular – Garnets were very scarce and and I saw very little rough and what I did see was mostly old production.
Mali – Garnets were not available rough in general 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. Still some decent rough around. There was a bit of darker Rhodolite around from non traditional sources, like Madagascar, and Nigeria.
Malaya – This material is always rare in quality color, very little around.

Sunstone on matrix

Tourmaline African – Almost no new material was around. With the exception of some older left over from previous years there just was not much. I did seem some dark green closed “c” junk.
Afghanistan – There was some material but the prices and competition for it was fierce because of high demand and low supply. It is strictly a sellers market. I did see some gorgeous parcels but the prices were way above what the average person could afford to pay and they were almost always parcels only.
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 from Brazil. There was some nice Afghan material but again it was all kilo parcels and expensive.
All other types – None available rough generally. I did see a few pieces of Mozambique copper bearing, but the pricing was very high and not really any thing worth buying. A fair amount of “eye” clean copper bearing I would call cabbing.

Blue(s) – Pretty much back to normal, there was plenty of material around, although I would note the prices are up about 30% on the rough. Colorless Topaz – Available, but the price of clear is going up, particularly in 4g 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 – None, with the exception of the material available from a few select retail dealers and all pretty small in size.

Peridot – There was a some rough available but most of it was not clean. For large material prices are very high and nobody would pay them, so there was not much around large.

Sapphire – None available rough. Generally the usual amount in native cuts were available. I call them pre-forms. Prices for the cut seemed up but nothing major.

Spinels – None available rough. Some available cut, but not a lot. There was a few smaller unclean parcels of Vietmanese parcels around, nothing much.

Sunstone – Available in about the same quantity and quality as the last few years. Probably slightly up in price depending on what you wanted. There was a good supply of average color and shiller. But larger top color watermelons, reds, and greens were not really available in general.

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, a few have been bought and are only producing for Bangkok cutting houses. Look for fancy Zircons to continue going 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.

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.

One last thing, which is good news / bad news. There was a very limited amount of cut stones, especially in Rubellite. The good news is there was not much of some types available cut and the prices are all up. If you have the rough you will make good money on the cut. The bad news is if you do not have the rough you are out of luck.

Here is what I saw in cut stones…
Virtually no natural Rubellites available cut at all, so price are going up. Plenty of the nuked Brazil junk in this color. Also some of the Nigerian Rubellite that is all shot through with rutile needles and flaws in general. While some dealers are selling it as facet rough, in my opinion it is really cabbing rough only.
Mints and greens in Tourmaline were so/so. Some around but more expensive and nothing spectacular.
Blues were very scarce with the exception of the Mozambique copper bearing material. The copper bearing stuff was about every where cut and while available, pretty darned expensive. Normal blues were very scarce as usual. Blue/greens were around and slightly under normal.
In Garnets there was not nearly as much Rhodolite and Spessertite as in the past, but there was some.
Green Garnets there was a fair amount of Tsavorite in smaller sizes cut, some larger.
Mint Merlani, not a lot of rough or cut except in small sizes
Reds were around but not all that interesting.
Aquamarine was around in cut stones, particularly in the lighter shades. There was good color available but not very much. Up in price.
Morganite was not really available in the classic pink, there was a fair amount of the champagne color available and not all that expensive.
Emerald, what can I say, the normal junk.
About the same supply cut as usually and prices were up but not all that out of the usual.
About the same supply cut as usually and prices were up.
Cut stones were around, the prices up a bit, but there did not seem to be as much as I would come to expect.
Cut stones were around, nothing like they have been in the past. Prices are up a bit, but still a pretty good supply of cut stones. I would expect this to change in the future especially in the fancy colors because of lack of supply.

Gram Faceting Archive of Information
This edited version of an article by the late Jeff Graham is part of a special archived informational series from Gram Faceting. Used with permission.