Professional Jeweler Archive: Tucson Teaser

January 2002

Gemstones & Pearls/News

Tucson Teaser

Take a look at the predicted hot-sellers in the 2002 desert classic

Tucson might just take off this year, says Bear Williams of Bear Essentials, Jefferson City, MO, while preparing for the city’s gem and mineral shows in early February (see our calendar at for a rundown of show dates). “Supplies of all kinds of gemstones are strong, so there will be a lot of choice,” he says. “And by the time the shows start, retailers will need to restock their inventories from Christmas sales. Another factor is that color continues to grow in popularity everywhere.”

Even if manufacturers and retailers don’t buy, dealers expect to do a lot of business with each other. “One way or another, we will conduct some business,” says Lila Taylor, marketing director at Schorr Marketing & Sales, Santa Barbara, CA.

Here are the gems likely to be hot in Tucson.

Nigerian Indicolite Tourmaline

The Ibadan region of Nigeria, known recently for its rubellite and bicolor (pink/green) tourmaline, now also produces marketable quantities of saturated blue green tourmaline.

The material, recovered from granitic pegmatite deposits, has begun to appear in cutting markets such as Bangkok, Thailand. Dealers expect moderate to large assortments to be available in Tucson. “I have seen some large parcels and have cut some of the material,” says Steve Avery, a gem cutter in Lakewood, CO. “There are well over 200 tones of the blue to green material, some quite blue – really nice indicolite colors – and a lot of pretty greens and blue greens.”

Reports from the Gemological Institute of America Gem Trade Lab say some of the blue greens resemble Paraíba tourmaline. However, GIA’s chemical analysis found no copper, the coloring agent that makes the electric blue tourmaline from Paraíba unique.

Spessartite, Sapphire and Spinel

The supply of rubellite tourmaline from Nigeria has slowed to a trickle, but spessartite garnet from the same location is available and should continue to sell well, says Josh Hall of Pala International Inc., Fallbrook, CA.

Tucson also should see vivid blue and some unusual colors of sapphire from Madagascar, says Hall. He expects purple to be especially big, including purple sapphires from Madagascar, lavender spinel from Myanmar and some countries in Africa, fine amethyst and purplish tanzanite. “One thing to remember about this market is that fabric drives it,” he adds. “Colors you see in clothing stores are generally a good indication of the colors or complementing colors of gems that are gaining popularity at the same time.”

Not too far from the purple palette, Lila Taylor expects to receive requests for pink sapphire and red, purple and blue spinel.

Alexandrite, Aquamarine, American Gems

High-value collector gems such as alexandrite are regaining momentum, partly as a strategy for investors seeking to protect assets and partly because of interest in color-change gems (see photos at right)).

“The timing is right because Brazil is producing some of its best alexandrite ever at the moment,” says Renata Abrahami of ABC Gems Inc., Los Angeles, CA. “Prices can be high for the finest material, but a variety of sizes and qualities makes it available to a range of people who like to experience good color change.” Alexandrite is found also in the Ural Mountains in Russia and various locations in Africa.

Aquamarine is also experiencing a renaissance. “More people are recognizing its beauty,” says one Brazilian dealer. “Maybe it’s because material is available to fashion large gems or because people are looking for steady supplies of blue stones as an alternative to the once plentiful tanzanite.”

Eric Braunwart of Columbia Gem House, Vancouver, WA, offers a Tucson tip: U.S. consumers might sense a patriotic desire to buy American gems such as opal and sunstone from Oregon, sapphires from Montana and peridot, amethyst and turquoise from Arizona.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Matched pairs of Nigerian indicolite tourmaline are courtesy of Stephen Avery, Lakewood, CO; (303) 985-4005.

Photo by Robert Weldon.

Matched pair of pink spinel totaling 6.63 carats is courtesy of David Clay, Knoxville, TN, (888) 545-5441.

Photo by Robert Weldon.

Aquamarine from Brazil, courtesy of BrazRio International, Los Angeles, CA, (800) 610-2626.

Photo by Robert Weldon.

Different as Night and Day

The same pair of Brazilian alexandrites show color change from daylight (green) to incandescent light (purple). The gems (2.87 carats at left, 2.14 carats at right) are courtesy of ABC Gems Inc., Los Angeles, CA; (800) 634-4224.

Photos by Robert Weldon.

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications