Tucson Gem Show Report 2018

Every February, Tucson Arizona becomes a rockhound’s paradise. Thousands of gemstone vendors come to the deserts of Arizona to sell everything from diamonds to dinosaur bones.

When I make my annual trek to the Tucson Gem Shows, my mission is to see what is new and interesting in the world of gems and jewellery, to take the pulse of the global market, and to find interesting gems and beads that either can’t be found in Toronto or can’t be found for the price. And yes, my mission includes trying on any spectacular piece of jewellery I can get my hands on, including this (surprisingly heavy) tiara.

Tucson is a rockhound’s paradise, but it can be overwhelming for those who don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. Luckily as a gemmologist, I know what rocks to buy. And as a goldsmith, I know what to do with the rocks.

As you’d expect, there was a lot of #ultraviolet at this year’s shows. Here’s why: Since 2000, the folks at Pantone declare a “Colour of the Year”, one that tries to connect with our prevailing global fashion mood and correlates with the colours that we can expect to see on the fashion runways. Ultra Violet is the 2018 Pantone Colour of the Year. Pantone describes ultraviolet as “a dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade” that “communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future” and “suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now.”

Since jewellery is worn as an accessory to clothing, Pantone colours – especially the colour of the year – has started showing up in fashionable jewellery collections around the world. Fashion hounds call this year’s colour ultraviolet, but we jewellers have treasured purple gemstones for years, including amethyst and purple sapphire, both of which I love and design with as often as I can.

For those who make their own way in fashion and are interested in veering off the beaten path, here are some of my favourite Tucson finds, soon to be made into jewellery and put out in the studio:

Picasso jasper is a colourful, opaque variety of quartz. The colours derive from the mineral content of the original sediment or ash that make it up, and the patterns are a product of fracturing and distortion deep inside the earth. Weathering is also responsible for some of the spectacular colours.

I brought this strand home because I loved the shape and variation of the beads. We knotted it simply on a 14K yellow gold toggle clasp because the stones really speak for themselves. The matte finish is understated but the overall effect is softly bold.

Rose cut diamonds have been a thing since Justin Theroux proposed to Jennifer Aniston with a rose cut diamond ring in 2012. Rose cut diamonds have flat backs and facets on the front that make them look a bit like faceted domes.

I chose these silver and black rose cut diamonds this year because they are evenly coloured and beautifully polished. I can’t decide whether to be practical and break them up into four engagement rings, or to use them all in one fabulous pair of earrings… stay tuned for more on these beauties!

Lapis lazuli is one of my favourite gemstones. Mined in Afghanistan for more than 6500 years, lapis is beloved by such illustrious celebrities as Blake Lively, Rihanna and the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate), and was incorporated into the Eygptian funeral mask of King Tut.  But I have had to be very careful about how and where I source my lapis since the Taliban took over the lapis fields in Afghanistan because it’s crucial to us in the studio to avoid conflict stones. Imagine my joy when I found out that one of my regular suppliers has a very-year old stash of lapis that they had been holding back on, at a good price no less. I love the colour of this strand, and the pyrite patterning adds a marvellous texture to it. I can’t wait to see it strung and finished!

This year’s show also had a few gemmologically noteworthy dazzlers that alas, I could not afford to bring home with me. I had to leave the tiara behind, along with this fascinating piece:

Conch pearls are natural and incredibly rare. They are produced by the Queen conch mollusc, a big, edible sea snail found mostly in the Carribbean. Technically, conch pearls aren’t actually pearls, but are still referred to as such by pretty much everyone, since “natural nonnacreous calcerous concretion” is a bit of a mouthful.

Conch pearls come in shades of pink, orange, yellow and cream, and these necklaces show off those colours to perfection. They have a phenomenally smooth and lustrous finish and are beautifully graduated. What a treat to see these necklaces, which were valued at about a half-million Canadian dollars apiece.

Those are some of the highlights of my trip, but I’ve got lots more that I’d be delighted to show you in the studio. If you’re interested, drop me a line and we can make arrangements to see what I brought back.

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