Well, we are back from the great Tucson Gem and Mineral Show and it was pretty much as I expected. It was a buyer’s market IF you knew what you were buying and what it SHOULD have cost. Our first-time students seemed to be very happy with their purchases, but are already anxious to prepare for next year with a better idea of what to expect in this overwhelming extravaganza. With about forty venues, you have to select the best sites for you. My tour provides expertise at the three major shows for loose colored gemstones – the sites where a minor miscalculation may cost you several hundred if not thousands of dollars. Many ancillary venues offer lower-end items, mineral specimens and fossils where the costs don’t impact a miscalculation as much but offer great fun and adventure.Our returning students gobbled up some great buys and commented on how certain major European vendors – some known for the finest product in the marketplace – were willing to negotiate their prices below previous show offerings. With their high cost of being at the show and the fact that many of their compatriots were not attending, European vendors were prompted to deal more freely with what many consider to be the high-end goods of the show.The number of students attending was one of our highest in years. We enjoyed a buyers’ market and the prospect of spending more time with the preeminent vendors of the industry. As a group, we certainly spent less money than usual but gathered more information and made wiser purchases in the process. First-timers saw the mechanics of this incredible show and returnees picked the best bargains from eager vendors. Our students this year included soon-to-be gemologists, stone cutters, collectors and future jewelry designers.But buying at low wholesale isn’t the only reason to attend. Where else can you speak face-to-face with award-winning gemstone cutters like Bernd Munsteiner and Constantin Wild of Idar Oberstein or American John Dyer about their craft, meet with the designers of SPECTRUM award jewelry and rub elbows with preeminent gemologists like John Koivula, Cap Beasley, Alan Hodgkinson or Dr. James Shigley? The people we talk about in class are accessible at this show!

As an example, at a chance escalator meeting, I introduced a few of my new students to Antoinette Matlins, an industry guru and author whom I attend conferences with. They were immediately treated to an impromptu gemological session as she launched into topics we had just discussed at our AGA conference the day before!

The educational opportunities alone make this trip worthwhile, as I have always advocated this to be the world’s best classroom for gemological education. You can learn about the pricing structure of colored stones by examining thousands of examples from live vendors. Actually buying at the best wholesale levels is just frosting on the cake.

If you are reading this and haven’t taken our gemstone classes, this is your opportunity to act on your passion. Take these two NGI classes – Gemstone Identification (usually offered three times a year) and Gemstone Evaluation (offered only once – in November) and you qualify for Ted’s Tucson Tour in February 2010. We will do a show preview in January and give you a two-day tour of the best gemstone venues when in Tucson. I will even negotiate with the dealers for you when you are ready to make that special purchase.

You will be exposed to industry giants and the most product – both loose gemstones (our forte) and finished jewelry at one gathering. Mineral, fossil and craft venues round out the best experience a budding gemologist, hobbyist or gem consumer could imagine. Start saving up.

Hope to see you there next year!


P.S. Did I mention the daytime temps were in the mid seventies and eighties?

Last February’s Tucson Gem and Mineral Show was the most enjoyable in my twenty years of attendance. While the vendors gave mixed reviews, our attendees seemed to find everything on their wish lists. This educational trip is gemology’s best classroom, but yes, we do let our students buy gemstones and jewelry from vendors who come from throughout the world. This makes any local gem show pale by comparison. Actually, the Tucson show is a collection of a about three dozen venues with dealers from every corner of the world. It is where many retail jewelers (even internet and TV jewelers) buy inventory, establish business relationships and keep up on trends in the marketplace. Most venues are set up only for the industry – not the public, ensuring true wholesale prices. We bring interested students who have completed Gemstone Identification and Gemstone Evaluation and then sign up for Ted’s Tucson Tour. Will we see you in Tucson next year?

Each year, I take a small number of my gem students to the world’s biggest gem and mineral show in Tucson, Arizona early February. This year our contingent researched gem prices, bought a little (some a lot) and made future contacts.
What’s Hot? After many years of speculation, Tanzanite has finally gotten a more solid base price – not as much from new material but the selling off of old stones at firmer prices. The future should be interesting, what with a push for more localized production, selling though a cartel style arrangement and price ”augmentation” to stratify the production into a wider range of qualities– we’ll see. And as prices for the best material approaches that of decent blue sapphire, why would one want a brittle, heat induced zoisite instead of durable sapphire, anyway? Maybe I will do an article on the tanzanite hype, next time.
Pink stuff is hotter than ever. Sapphires, tourmaline, topaz, spinel, etc. are still trendy. Last year’s Be-diffusion scare on sapphires seems to have subsided, but bear in mind it can take a pink sapphire to a 1/10th its apparent value. Be – ware. (Be means beryllium treatment, a diffusion process that induces color at a nearly undetectable rate and has made orange sapphire almost un-saleable). Because other colors can also be created the endorsement of un-treated gems has gained increased marketability.
Pearls are more stable this year, with better management of Tahitian production and marketing, more controlled Chinese production and sale and higher end products available. Interesting multi-color strands of mixed regions (Tahitian, South Sea, Philippine, etc.) were more prevalent. Some had natural and treated colors and a few were guaranteed to be of natural coloration.
Next year’s Tucson class roster is already filling, and with the right gem course prerequisites, you could join us.

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