Professional Jeweler Archive: Coyote Crossing

April 2002

Gemstones & Pearls/News


Coyote Crossing

Tucson's gem and mineral shows in February point to a buyer's market for colored gemstones. Blue sapphires are especially popular


The coyote, resident of Arizona and crafty nocturnal visitor in towns such as Tucson, knows just when to nab a meal. Chihuahuas – strolling innocently under the light of the moon – beware.

The city of Tucson recently witnessed another opportunistic interloper: The two-legged gem buyer, flying in from the far corners of the earth to nab a deal. The first two weeks in February turned the normally placid desert town into a busy collection of gem bazaars where haggling for geodes, wrangling for gem minerals and flat-out horse-trading for rubies, emeralds, sapphires (and dozens more gem species) were the order of the day.

The Mood

There was less frenzy for gems than in recent years, say dealers. “The number of buyers was definitely down, but those who came knew what they wanted and went right for it,” says Josh Hall of Pala International, Fallbrook, CA. Dealers blamed the slowdown on retailers’ desires to be in their stores for Valentine’s Day sales, the aftereffects of Sept. 11 and lingering concerns about the economy. “As a result there is a softening of prices for gemstones,” says Bear Williams of Bear Essentials, Jefferson City, MO. His advice to retailers: Take advantage of the abundance of gems and soft prices.

Among the best deals in Tucson were sapphire, ruby, emerald and tanzanite. “Sapphires of all colors are selling very well,” says Joe Kast of Joe Kast Co., Albuquerque, NM. He says the trend will continue because of ample supplies from new sources and sapphire’s status as a classic gem.

Madagascar gets credit as a major source of corundum (which includes sapphire and ruby). It’s also is a gem-lovers’ paradise because of its sphene, moonstone, color-change garnet, amethyst, emerald,

morganites, aquamarines and tourmalines, says Tom Cushman of Allerton Cushman, Sun Valley, ID. Most were present in commercial quantities at Tucson.

What’s New

Tucson’s gem and mineral shows are a chance for exhibitors to highlight their best, most interesting pieces and for new sources to debut their yields. This year brought out interesting examples in both categories.

Bill Heher of Rare Earth Mining Co., Trumbull CT, exhibited two very rare gemstones: An Australian boulder opal with an unusual dendritic pattern and amber with an included feather. He says it’s one of three known primary feathers in amber.

William Rohtert, a geologist/gemologist consultant, introduced new finds of Guatemalan jade, subadamantine Mexican black spinel and Canadian emeralds. “The black spinel is particularly beautiful because of its uniformity and high reflectance,” he says. “It’s also very desirable now – so much black material is being used in fine jewelry, and this is uniform in color and consistency and reasonable in price.”

Gemstone dealers also caution that not all “deals” are good ones. “It’s important to look at items that are too good to be true,” warns a dealer who recently bought a low-cost gem represented as padparadscha sapphire. “It turned out to be a padparadscha ‘wanna-be’ sporting the new Thai treatment,” she says (“A Diffuse Description,” p. 42).

The Tucson experience teaches buyers and sellers many lessons. Chief among them: In this climate, you want to be a coyote, not a Chihuahua.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

All photos by Robert Weldon

A rare Australian boulder opal with a limonitic iron oxide dendrite pattern. It represented a one-of-a-kind gem that its owner, Bill Heher, calls Coral Sea Opal. Rare Earth Mining Co., Trumbull, CT; (203) 378-8672.
Black spinel discovered in January 2000 in a volcanic environment in Acaponeta, Nayarit, Mexico, made its debut at Tucson this year. While 15-20-ct. stones have been found, the majority of rough yields 0.50-1-ct. cut stones. William Rohtert, Hermosa Beach, CA; (310) 376-4310.
High-end gems such as this natural 5.01-ct. Kashmir sapphire were popular in Tucson. Pala International, Fallbrook, CA; (800) 854-1598.
Amber from the Dominican Republic is one of only three known to contain a primary flight feather and is thought to be over 30 million years old. Rare Earth Mining Co., Trumbull, CT; (203) 378-8672.
Madagascar’s gem bounty was well-represented by Allerton Cushman. Pictured here, a highly dispersive, bright green sphene. Allerton Cushman, Sun Valley ID; (208) 726-3675.
Emerald crystal from the Cosquez mine in Colombia weighs over 31 carats and was sold by Ronald Ringsrud Co., Saratoga, CA; (408) 741-9082.
While noting a slowdown in Chinese freshwater pearl sales, Gina Latendresse of American Pearl Co. says unusual shapes such as this “wing pearl” remain popular with designers. American Pearl Co., Nashville, TN; (615) 353-1231.

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications