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Treasures at Tucson 2000

By  Judith Anderson  GG, CGA

[Editors note:  In early February Judi travelled to Tucson,  Arizona for the annual international gem shows.  Following is her report on the many exotic varieties of gemstone she saw and purchased.  If you have any questions for judi,  send her an email  or give her a call at (603) 624-8672.]

The international gem shows in Tucson this year were the largest ever.  There were over 25 shows spread through out the city.....thank goodness for sneakers!!!  Each show featured many beautiful and exotic gemstones.  Here is a report on some of my favorites.

Most notable this year was the new material from Nigeria.  Both Rubellite Tourmaline and Spessartite Garnet from recently discovered finds were plentiful and of very nice quality.  The Rubellite Tourmaline is the finest quality material I have seen in years.  The color ranges from hot pink and Fuschia to a rich, dark violetish-Red.   In daylight or fluorescent lighting,  the violet secondary color is most evident.  However,  in incandescent or artificial lighting, these stones look very red.

The Nigerian Spessartite Garnets range in color from a light yellowish-Orange to a medium dark, strong Orange.  The color does not quite reach the neon orange of Mandarin Garnet from Namibia,  but it is a very close second.  The Nigerian Garnets have a stronger color than the spessartite garnets from the Little Three Mines in California and the Amelia Courthouse area of Virginia.  Pricing for the Nigerian stones is still very competitive.

Another significant source of fine gems seen in Tucson is Madagascar.  The sapphires from Madagascar range in color from Blue to Violet,  Purple and Pink.  There was a great deal of fine grade Blue Sapphire from Madagascar on display.  Most of the dealers claimed that the blue Madagascar sapphire was completely natural and had never been heat treated.  One dealer suggested that this material had been heated,  but at a much lower temperature than normally used.  He suggested that the Madagascar material takes on a nice blue color at the lower temperature and,  therefore,  does not exhibit the usual tell-tale signs of common to heat treated sapphires.

[Ed. note:  Sapphires and rubies,  both varieties of corundum,  are often heated at high temperatures in an effort to improve their color.  This heat-treatment leaves tell-tale signs within the gem,  like altered inclusions,  and may affect the gemstones value.]

Being a good jewelry detective,  I questioned another dealer about this low heat process.  He said that he has seen the rough sapphire crystals come out of the ground in Madagascar with a nice rich blue color.  He believes the Madagascar sapphires are 100% natural and do not need heat treatment to bring out their color.  Further investigation into this matter will hopefully resolve the mystery.  I'll keep you informed!

Pink sapphires from Madagascar are available in eye popping shades.  There was also a large supply of purple and violet sapphires with deep,  rich colors.

Tanzanite prices are still high, especially for the scarce fine and extra fine grade stones.  Commercial (poor) and good (average) grade material is still plentiful and cheap,  but the better material is still limited in supply and more costly than in previous years.  There are rumors of a new deposit of Tanzanite being discovered on a privately-owned farm in Tanzania.  However,  that source has not yet proven itself and there is only limited new material coming out of other sources at this time.

I saw a popular new cutting style,  the Checkerboard,  in many shapes and gem varieties.  This new style of faceting was first seen last year,  and has grown in popularity with many cutters and designers.  The checkerboard cut  (also known as a honeycomb cut)  has numerous diamond shaped facets across the top of the gem and improves the stones color and brilliance.  We have a nice example of a checkerboard-cut rhodolite garnet  in the jewelry galleries.

Chinese Freshwater pearls were plentiful throughout the exhibitions.  The Chinese pearl cultivators have come a long way in producing round and nearly round cultured pearls.  They are nearing the quality of the Akoya pearls from Japan.  The Chinese pearls are available in a variety of shapes  -  round, nearly round,  tear drop, half round and button - as well as a range of hues  -  including white,  off white and natural fancy colors like peach,  pink,  mauve and violet.

Also popular and abundant this year are large,  fine quality South Sea and Tahitian Black pearls.  More and more pearl dealers,  as well as jewelry designers,  are selling these beautiful pearls from the exotic islands of the South Seas.

Emerald prices are erratic this year.  Some dealers have very low prices for this rich green gem while others have higher pricing for comparable stones.  The treatment controversy surrounding emeralds seems to be quieting down and could possibly be the reason some dealers are now asking more money for their material.

Ruby prices seem fairly consistent.  However,  more and more dealers are exhibiting lab certificates and country of origin reports with their larger,  fine gems.  Country of origin and proof that a gemstone has not been treated continue to be important factors in determining a gemstone's market value.

In Tucson,  I purchased several nice examples of the new Nigerian rubellite tourmalines and spessartite garnets for custom design projects,  as well as a diverse collection of Madagascar sapphires in blue,  purple,  violet and lavender.

I also added to our collection some rich red spinels,  crisp star sapphires,   colorful Chinese pearls,  checkerboard-cut gems in many flavors,  black opals,  boulder opals,  facetted pearls,  alexandrites,  Ceylon sapphires,  tsavorite garnets and much much more.

If you would like to visit and see some of these treasures from Tucson,  please give me a call (603 624-8672) or send me an email.

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