Professional Jeweler | Trade Show News - Tuscon 2001

February 7, 2001

Tucson: Colorful But Cautious

Gem dealers who exhibited at the Tucson gem shows say they're moderately content with the sales they made to retailers and manufacturers.The buying mood was tempered by reported lackluster Christmas sales around the U.S. Retail jewelers are cautious, and aren't re-stocking at the same levels as last year, say gem dealers.

Some buyers say they expected better prices due to the apparent downturn in the economy, but in general prices for more popular gems including emerald, sapphire, ruby and tanzanite firmed up for better qualities.

Pearls in all categories, including cultured Tahitian and South Sea, seemed lower in price despite increasing sizes and qualities. Pearls of all sizes, colors and shapes, mostly Chinese cultured freshwater pearls, as well has highly treated pearls (by dyeing or irradiation), were plentiful at most major shows in Tucson. This bounty leads some established pearl dealers to suggest prices could be on a relentless devaluation path. But some pearl dealers say top-quality round large Chinese freshwater pearls are always considered rare and prices for well-matched strands have risen.

On the supply side, few new gem sources were reported. One new source is a mine producing brown andradite garnets and demantoids in Namibia. Traditional source demantoid from Russia were also seen in moderately larger quantities. In larger supply were bright green and brown cats-eye chrysoberyls from Africa, Madagascar and Sri Lanka; star sapphires, rubies and alexandrites from Africa; and color change garnets. Opals sold well again this year, particularly for doublets and triplets. Several superb black opals were seen at the show, though dealers agree new production of top-quality single black opals was limited. Red emeralds (also known as red beryls), mined in the U.S., re-entered the market after several decades absence. New production tourmalines from Paraiba, Brazil, were also seen but in limited quantities.

An emphasis on the quality of cutting was more apparent this year, and a variety of cutting styles and techniques were exhibited, including a line of top-quality gemstone micro-mosaics from Russia.

- by Robert Weldon, G.G.