Professional Jeweler Archive: Desert Rose

April 2003

Gemstones & Pearls/News

Desert Rose

Despite a weak economy, war jitters and terrorism warnings, Tucson's annual gem shows bloom with buyers and goods

Tucson confounds the experts. Just about everyone in the gem industry predicted a gloomy outlook for the annual gem and mineral shows, but they attracted a surprising number of buyers. The American Gem Trade Association’s GemFair says attendance was up significantly over last year, with nearly 10,000 qualified buyers on hand. Seminars were packed. Glorious gems made their Tucson debut at shows across town. And most importantly, buyers bought. For 10 days, at least, major worries evaporated like a mirage into the desert sands. Still some uneasiness lurked, like baby rattlesnakes coiled beneath a cactus.

Beryllium-diffused corundum was the No. 1 worry, with concerns about how labs and retailers should deal with the treated gems. Fears about the treatment were largely put to rest by a summit of lab representatives and an industry coalition statement regarding disclosure of beryllium diffusion (see “Code Orange, Yellow, Blue and Red ... for Corundum,” p. 12, for details).

Top Picks

Blue zircon, spessartite garnet, moonstones and sunstone from a variety of sources were popular this year because of widespread availability and moderate price points, say dealers.

Tanzanite, still on the road to recovery from its unproven terrorist ties last year, regained value in the 5-10-ct. top color range. “Prices are fluctuating and are still at levels below that of a few years ago. But the prices for top goods are definitely on the rebound,” says Michael Avram of GemTech International Corp., New York City. “Buyers are seeking mainly top quality items – and all of them are asking for dealers’ warranties about the gems’ provenance.”

Introductions & Curiosities

New and unusual gems showed up in the desert as well. A new cesium-rich red-to-orange beryl, which some dealers labeled red morganite, is one example. The material comes from an undisclosed locality in Madagascar’s high country, and the reliability of future supplies is in question.

Sapphires were readily available at many booths in an array of qualities and natural or treated colors. New finds in Madagascar and consistent supplies from Sri Lanka are influencing the market in natural and heat-treated colors.

Selling Tactics

Beryllium-diffused sapphires were available too, and some dealers grumbled disclosure was not always being done, particularly at booths with overseas dealers who may not understand U.S. requirements for disclosing the treatment. Dealers experienced in the treated sapphires warned buyers if the price seemed too low and disclosure was not forthcoming, it was better not to buy.

Other dealers, such as Robert Kane of Fine Gems International in Montana, used the controversy to a marketing advantage. Kane called a press conference during the shows to state his company’s opposition to the use of chemical additives for the color enhancement of sapphires.

Kane markets sapphires from Montana, which are color-enhanced only through heat treatment. Other dealers confirm a market for certified, non-treated sapphires is growing.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G

This 2-in. high contra-luz opal from Oregon, carved by glyptic artist Thomas Ames, was a welcome rose in the desert as the Tucson gem and mineral shows saw better-than-expected business.
A fine tanzanite crystal and these faceted 11.11-ct. cushion cut gems were seen at AGTA.

Barker & Co., Scottsdale, AZ; (480) 483-0780.

The quantity and diversity of jade from Guatemala is rising, including commercial quantities of lavender jade and the bright green jade seen in this gold-and-diamond necklace. Rarer, deep translucent greens are also being found.

William Rohtert, Hermosa Beach, CA; (310) 376-4310

Agate contains a combination of natural and dyed colors to simulate a landscape. The blue sky and the green grass are permanent dyes added to porous layers in the agate.

Rare Earth Mining Co., Trumbull, CT; (203) 378-8672.

Gem artist Glenn Lehrer carved his signature Torus Ring designs in these extremely rare particolored tourmalines from Paraíba, Brazil.

Glenn Lehrer Designs, Larkspur, CA; (415) 461-2212.

45.11-ct. tourmaline from Paraíba, Brazil, was discovered some three years ago. Dealer Sergio Martins says the stone was recently recut to make it more attractive. It remains the largest faceted Paraíba tourmaline in the world.

Stone World, Sao Paolo, Brazil; (55-11) 3259-5966,

This 12.41-ct oval red sunstone comes from an undisclosed African location, possibly the Congo. Pala International says much more material of this kind is available.

Pala International, Fallbrook, CA; (800) 854-1598.

These unusual red cat’s-eye morganite beryl cabochons, 3-4 carats, are from a new deposit in Madagascar. The gems are said to be cesium-rich and highly dichroic.

Kaufman Enterprises, San Diego, CA; (619) 238-3880.

Copyright © 2003 by Bond Communications