The 2016 Tucson Gem and Mineral show comes every February to Tucson, Arizona, and is the largest gem and mineral show in the world. This year's show was even bigger than last, taking place at over 45 venues citywide. It's an overwhelming experience to try and visit the majority of the show, but as it's mainly a wholesale event, most buyers go to the venues in which they have the most business.
The show, as always, has sections dedicated to cut gemstones, rocks and minerals, fossils, rough stones for cutting, spiritual items like crystals, native wares and a host of other things. My focus is mostly on the cut gems to the trade, and mineral specimens.
This show comes on the heals of a somewhat difficult fall selling season. Because of the turbulence in the stock market, ongoing political issues in Europe and the Middle East, and economic worries in Asia, the expectation were low but people were extremely hopeful. Dealers had hoped that this show would set the market back on track. To some extent that was true, but overall, it was a quiet show and many dealers were feeling the pinch.
The first few days of the show I tend to look at the mineral and rough rock exhibits, getting a feel for what new natural wonders I might see. This show had some truly fabulous specimens and it seemed, from what I saw, that the mineral side of the show did quite well.
I was looking around for large pieces of carving ruby, and what I found was pretty amazing. These ruby in zoisite blocks from Tanzania were amazing. Rarely do I see such large ruby crystals in these block. The zoisite (green rind around the pink/red ruby) is very limited in these pieces, which means carvings will display much more ruby than is commonly found. Also, the sheer size of the crystals of ruby means large amazing carvings are possible. These blocks ranged in size from about 2kg to about 10kg! I was really impressed!
Many of the mineral specimens, not for cutting or carving, were quite impressive as well. There seems to have been great finds all over the world of different minerals that were preserved in their crystal form. Purely for collectors, these types of gems sole purpose is to be gazed upon though display cases by knowing owner.
As for cut gemstones, it was an interesting show. I can honestly say that there were fabulous goods in abundance. Trade, however was brisk only for lower priced items. Normally, this means that prices might fall on the more expensive goods, but it doesn't appear to be dropping. Lower quality goods were being sold quite easily, but when it came to the top end pieces, the dealers were not ready to drop their prices. Will there be a correction? Hard to tell. High quality items are still extremely rare, and dealers are waiting for the right clients.
On the more everyday side, there were some great finds and beautiful pieces. One such item that I had not seen in abundance in years past were large and well cut natural brown zircon.
Keeping with the brown theme, one thing I saw was a great collection of morganites (pink and brown varietys of beryl) - well matched, and calibrated in larger sizes. Peach and brown tones seem popular recently, and these are a great option for jewelry companies looking to make up a nice line of repeatable pieces.
The sapphires at the show were great. I saw so many that I wanted to take home with me. Price was high however on the really great pieces. There still was an emphasis on the unheated variety, which has been a trend over the past few years. Though visually indistinguishable from heated gems, these unheated gems command a premium because of rarity.
Blue sapphires have a myriad of color tones. Some brighter, some darker, some more violet and some more green. My favorites have a pure bright blue, and are not overly dark. The larger of the 2 pieces below blew me away. Just such a special piece and color.
My personal favorite find at the show was this amazing purple star sapphire. While purple is relatively common in sapphire, the combination of clarity, depth of color, and very nice star made this a big winner!
As always the Tucson gem and mineral show has too much to see and look at. In my 7 days out there, I ran around almost continuously. It was, as usual great fun, and a lot of work. The best part of the show however, after spending the day viewing millions of dollars worth of precious stones and minerals, is to spend some quality time with friends I only see once a year, drinking beer and eating pizza.