Every year in February, the gemstone industry descends on the southwestern USA, in the city of Tucson for the annual gem shows. Retailers, traders, dealers and manufacturers from all over the world come to buy and sell every variety of gemstone, minerals, fossils, finished jewelry and more. Most trade fairs or conventions take place in one venue and the participants come in for a few days and leave. The gem shows in Tucson are a little different! In 2018, there were 47 shows across the city which feature nearly 4,000 different vendors. The shows take place in varied venues; from the convention center to makeshift tents, warehouses and even hotel rooms. An estimated 50,000 people attend the gem shows, and most of the shows are open to the public. Simply referred to as ‘Tucson,’ the event is much more than a trade show. It’s a three-week long showcase, and it’s a major happening that takes over the whole city.
I have always been an exhibitor working behind a booth, selling emeralds and other fine colored gemstones. However, this was the first year in my career that I was in attendance as a visitor in Tucson. This gave me an opportunity to visit many of the shows around the city which I never had the opportunity to do. I made the most of it and was able to visit about 7 shows over the course of the week. (So, I missed out on the other 40 shows!) I saw so many incredible things including; fossils, amethyst geodes taller than me, rough crystal specimens, carvings, sink basins and tabletops made of gemstones, loose gems including emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and many more. I ultimately spent most of my time between the GJX Show and the AGTA GemFair who host the top fine gem dealers in the world. These trade-only shows are an opportunity for buyers to see new gemstone productions and to find stones they need for designs and their clients. After a few days, your eyes can become a bit blurred to all the beauty as well your perception of value become a bit skewed. It’s just gems as far as the eye can see.
While at the show this year I was looking for various items for my clients and for my inventory. I was on the hunt for a 10 carat plus padparadscha sapphire. Most people only think of sapphire as blue, but in fact it comes in nearly every color. Sapphire is variety of the mineral corundum, and when it is red it is known as a ruby. Padparadscha is an extremely rare subset of sapphire which falls into the orangish-pink to pinkish-orange hue range. One that is of gem quality and over 10 carats is truly remarkable. I came across only a few stones that were somewhat close to the mark as per what I required, and only one that was truly magnificent. This 14-carat stone being offered by a notable European firm was simply staggering. The color and quality simply stopped me in my tracks. Only days before the shows in Tucson began, Padparadscha made the headlines. Princess Eugenie, Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter and eighth in line to the throne, received an engagement ring featuring a padparadscha sapphire. Colored gemstones are an excellent choice for engagement rings and this news will no doubt help expose the beauty and wonder of padparadscha and other colored gemstones.
Ultimately destined to become part of a piece of jewelry, loose gemstones are beautiful and magical on their own. There is no place like the Tucson Gem Shows to see loose gems. Here you can let your imagination run wild and embrace the mystery and wonder of gemstones.