Mind-blowing and busy – that’s how we would describe the 2015 Tucson Gem Show. A celebration of all things Gem, Mineral and Fossil the choice and variety is unimaginable. One dealer remarked that at least 80 percent of the black opal must be in Tucson. I don’t know about his percentage but it sure was popular! A big thank you must go to all our clients who took the time to visit us. You came from near and far and without hesitation we would say that you are all super wonderful people that we are honoured to call our friends. It was gratifying to know that people out there are reading and watching our crazy posts and YouTube videos. We were also very humbled to be recognised for our contribution to opal learning – in and around the shows but also on the trolley car and in the local bar!
The wholesale shows
The main international wholesale show is the GJX. Housed in a massive temporary tent, it’s like a mini city with some of the best food on offer (I was surprised!) This was probably the most concentrated area of black opal with many of our colleagues reporting that business was good. On the whole it was dominated by loose stones. There was also lots of Boulder opal as well as Ethiopian opal for sale.
The AGTA occupies the prime spot in the Tucson Convention centre across from the GJX. Here dealers have to be US businesses to show. There were a few, exclusively opal, dealers but many of the booths had at least a few loose opals which was great to see. The exciting thing here was the number of opal jewellery pieces I spied. Not as stand out pieces but simply as part of the standard offering. This is gratifying as we see opal returning to the wholesale inventory – a sure sign that this very unique and precious gem is in demand again. My favourite booth for opal had to be Erica Courtney. It is so lovely to see her design with amazing black opal and her love for the gem really comes though. Which leads me to the fun part of the trip.
The AGTA Spectrum Design Awards
All I can say is oh my goodness. The gems, the designs, the craftsmanship – all of it was truly amazing! We were lucky enough to sit with a few of the award winners – Gil of Gil International who designed a ring around the most magnificent Alexandrite. This gem was breathtaking – even before you saw the color change. Mimi Favre was also on our table and designed the most darling set of tourmaline earrings which won the Platinum Innovation award. The second placed winner of the Carving award was Bernie Benavidez of Master Jewllers in Rochester, Minnesota. Bernie is such a joker and we even forgave him for using Ethiopian Opal in his winning piece. Extraordinarily unique, it is a large piece of Wollo opal with an opaque egg within. The piece was truly beautiful.
Saving the best until last the following two pieces were the highlight for me. A pair of earrings that I would happily own by Deidre Featherstone of Featherstone Design in New York won for Best Use Of Platinum and Color and Best Bridal. A combination combination of multiple types of gems including Tanzanites, Purple Sapphires, Blue Zircons and Tourmalines. The skill and craftsmanship were on full display. The final piece we loved came second in the Evening Wear category. Designed by Erica Courtney, these opal drop earrings were a triumph. Utilising Crystal Opal and Paraiba Tourmalines they just floated magically. I fully expect to see these “Milky Way” earrings on some young celeb on the red carpet this year. What was so great for Erica is that she also won the Buyers Choice Award – the once voted on by all wholesale buyers. “This was the sweetest win by far”, she said.
You can see all the winners from the 2015 AGTA Spectrum Awards here.
OPAL IS KING: The jewellery world is once again excited about using opal. It is fast becoming a go to gem for many designers and the public are hungry for more. Douglas Hucker, CEO of the AGTA, remarked that this year is all about opal. Many dealers were happy with business this year and selling was brisk. Prices are certainly higher with good black opal becoming harder and harder to replace as mining slows due to rising costs and reduced access to prospecting.
CABOCHONS ARE HOT: The cabochon shape is hot right now. The Spectrum Awards featured many cabochons of different gems. Many of the awards judges come from a fashion world and so this has translated directly to the finalists. As opals are predominately cabs we can expect to see more and more designs utilizing our favourite stone.
All in all the 2015 Tucson Gem Show was a blast for Justin and I. We enjoyed our time meeting you all and will definitely be back next year. We hope to see even more of you all then!
Did you go to the shows? What were your highlights? Are you intending to go next year?