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Tucson 2001  -  A Gem Odyssey

By  Judi Anderson

[Editor's note:  Each year Judi,  our Chief Gemologist,  travels to the annual Tucson gem and mineral shows in search of beautiful gems for our inventory and to find new gem cutters and dealers from around the world.  Below is her report from the 2001 shows.  Many of the gemstones described by Judi can be seen in our new  Gemstone Gallery.]
titania coated drusy quartz

This year my visit to the Tucson gem shows was an eventful and exciting journey ..... you could call it my 2001 Gem Odyssey.  Of course,  I was well equipped with sneakers,  lots of bottled water and my cell phone.  I spent a week in Tucson this year,  wandering through gem show after gem show,  visiting a sea of dealers' booths and examining an uncountable number of gemstones.  I was like a kid in a candy store ..... loving all the many wonderful flavors and treats.

One of my first tasks in Tucson this year was to find extra-fine grade Tanzanite with beautiful shades of blue and violet and superior cutting.  In spite of reports that top grade tanzanites are no longer available,  I was able to find some spectacular gems at reasonable prices.  The top material is still limited,  while lower grade stones are all too abundant.  However,  I work with some of the best suppliers and cutters of Tanzanite in the world and was able to cherry pick from the finest stones available.  I acquired several extra fine oval Tanzanites weighing 1 to 3 carats.  But my favorite gem is a gorgeous  3.4-carat emerald-cut Tanzanite that burns with the most luscious violet-blue fire you will ever see.  You might want to sneak a look at this spectacular gem.

Emerald-cut tanzanite.

Second on my wish list were blue and fancy color sapphires.  Sapphires are as popular as ever and we have trouble keeping enough of these wonderful gems in stock.  Last year the Tucson show debuted sapphires from a new source,  Madagascar.  This island off the east coast of Africa has since become a major player in the Sapphire market,  producing rich blues,  pastel pinks,  hot neon pinks,  deep purples and even yellows.  The range of colors and the quality of the stones from this new locale are the talk of the gem world.  Many of our regular cutters and dealers had plenty of fine quality Madagascar Sapphires from which I could select.  In fact,  the Madagascar stones are giving their cousins,  Ceylon Sapphires, a run for the money.

The influx of fine quality Madagascar Sapphires into the marketplace has had a positive effect on pricing ..... downward, that is.  So naturally I took advantage of this opportunity and came home with some great blue and fancy color Sapphires in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Purple and pink,  along with the traditional blue shades,  were the focus of my sapphire wish list.  You may want to  check out these colorful goodies  for yourself.

A striking 2.59 carat purple sapphire.

Next stop on my Tucson adventure ..... Red Spinel!  There is worrisome news that fine and extra-fine Red Spinel  (which hails from Burma, the same locality as fine ruby)  is in short supply this year and has significantly increased in cost.  But,  I was still able to find some exceptional examples from our favorite cutters.  In fact,  we can boast one of the best inventories of fine and extra-fine quality Red Spinel in our area.  I guess it helps that Red Spinel is one of my favorite gemstones.  Naturally,  I am always on the lookout for the finest examples of this fiery red gemstone and continually seek "the best of the best." Check out  one of the beauties  I found in Tucson.

A cushion-cut fiery red spinel.

After the daunting task of researching and selecting the finest Tanzanites,  Sapphires and Red Spinels in Tucson ..... I allowed myself a fun day of hunting for exciting and unusual examples of drusy gemstones.  Drusies are glittering gemstones covered with a layer of sparkling,  diminutive quartz crystals.  These exotic gems are often the focal point of the one-of-a-kind jewels we create.

Last year one of the newest drusies at Tucson was drusy onyx covered with a thin layer of  22 karat yellow gold.  As you can imagine,  these gems sparkle with a striking contrast between the black onyx crystals and the glitter of the gold.

Drusy Free Form

So,  what could be more spectacular than glittering drusy crystals covered with gold?  You guessed it .... platinum coated drusy!  This combination of drusy crystals and platinum creates a rich,  shimmering effect with cool light sparkling in all directions.  Also found in Tucson were titanium treated drusies that glitter with a spectacular rainbow of colors,  blue Chalcedony drusies with a sky-like baby blue color,  Iridescent Pyrite's from Russia,  and rainbow Hematites from Brazil.  Naturally,  I had to acquire a selection of these beauties.

I was also lucky to find some luscious green drusy Uvarovite Garnets in wonderful shapes and matched pairs.  These incredibly rich green garnets are found mainly in Russia,  but are in limited supply.  But when available,  they offer an intoxicating vibrant color that rivals other green gemstones .... a great option if green is your favorite color.

Drusy Uvarovite Garnet Drops

After a day of playing with exotic drusies,  it was time to get back to researching more traditional faceted gemstones like Emeralds,  Rubies,  Tsavorite and Mandarin Garnets.  There was very little extra-fine Emerald at the major shows.  Most of what I saw was in the lower grades.  With the recent scandals about treated Emerald,  it is little wonder that many dealers are carrying less of this beautiful green gem.  However,  I have always been fonder of Tsavorite and Demantoid Garnets,  because they offer a more intense and brilliant green than Emerald and have far fewer inclusions.  Our regular cutters of Tsavorite and Demantoid Garnets had a great selection this year,  which allowed me to bring home some very nice rich green gems.

Amethyst torus with demantoid garnet.

The supply of extra-fine Mandarin Garnets was also limited at Tucson.  Even the main supplier of this striking neon-orange gem from south-west Africa had fewer exceptional stones.  With the scarce supply of Mandarin Garnets,  there were even several unscrupulous dealers trying to pass off lesser quality Nigerian material.  Luckily,  these pretenders have a tell-tale brownish overcast and lack the fire of true Mandarins.  They can be easily avoided.  We acquired several wonderful Mandarin garnets from Namibia.  The intense, neon-like orange of these African beauties is amazing!

We continue to get numerous requests for nice star sapphires.  So I spent several hours locating several beautiful examples of this phenomenal gem.  They will look wonderful in a custom designed jewel like our  "Star Light, Star Bright" ring.

Platinum Star Sapphire and Diamond bezel set ring

You may think that Tucson is just for colored gems, but that is not so.  There is one other dazzling gemstone that I look for in Tucson .... fancy colored diamonds.  This year I found a spectacular array of fancy yellow,  blue and pink diamonds ranging in size from 1/4 of a carat to several carats.  If natural colored diamonds tickle your fancy,  please give me a call (603 624-8672).  We work with the finest cutters of fancy colored diamonds in the world.

I also acquired a sparkling assortment of unusually cut colorless diamonds.  Half moons,  trapezoids,  bullets and kites are among the shapes that caught my eye.  These innovatively cut diamonds are the perfect complement for a fancy colored diamond or other fine gemstone.

Last,  but not least,  on my shopping list were pearls.  But,  not just your everyday,  run-of-the-mill Japanese akoyas!  This year,  I looked at thousands of Tahitian black pearls,  Chinese freshwater pearls and,  my personal favorite,  faceted pearls.  The Tahitian pearl farmers are producing spectacular black pearls in large sizes and with incredible luster and striking overtones:  while the Chinese are producing tremendous quantities of beautiful,  nearly round fresh water pearls in soft pastel shades of peach,  lavender and mauve.  I purchased several matched pairs of lavender pearls to be set as earrings,  a gorgeous strand of beautiful purplish-mauve pearls,  and wonderful iridescent black pearls in matched pairs and tear drop shapes.

I also found some incredible faceted Tahitian pearls that I just could not resist.  These dazzling pearls are meticulously faceted with a honeycomb-like pattern of tiny facets that will shimmer and sparkle with your every move.  You really have to  see these wonders  in person!

Faceted Tahitian pearl drop.

Consumer Alert:  Be wary of lower quality faceted pearls.  One Chinese manufacturer has started copying the faceting technique,  but is using lower quality pearls and taking short cuts.

Thank you for reading about my latest discoveries and adventures in Tucson.  If you would like to see any of these gems in person please  send me an email  or give me a call  (603 624-8672).  All of our gemstones are available for purchase and await your creation of a custom designed jewel.  Whether you want to add to your collection of loose gemstones or create a new jewel featuring a fine quality gem,  we will be happy to assist.

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