Stone Buying Trips, February 2024

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Stone Buying Trips, February 2024
People visit for the first time and are bewildered by the huge scale of the Tucson gem fairs, as I was when I first visited many years ago. I remember pre-registering at the JOGS tent, and being mildly disappointed that this was the entire exhibition. Thank goodness for Kathy and Martha who scooped me up in their mini hire car and drove me five miles down the highway to the other main important tents. In addition to these tents there is also the ‘Holidome’, almost a mini city, which at any other exhibition would be the whole fair (i.e. three to four tents showing different themes.) The gem fair at Tucson is spread out across the entire city with many, many tents that you see from the highway, and many that I have never even explored.

With my lanyards ready to explore

Multi-coloured sapphires

In addition to these monster marquees there are wonderful small mineral sellers who operate out of motel bedrooms, or in open sided tents. My Brazilian friend Antonio sells Paraiba tourmalines from one of these rooms. You almost feel as if you are in Brazil, as he speaks no English, and as you gaze at the beautiful mountains you have no real concept of being in Tucson. Over the years I have made very good friends with other Brazilians, and I find that the gem fair is a place to talk about other things in the world, not just gemstones. As my one of my good Brazilian friends said this time, ‘it is not all about selling, but it is about friendship’ as he showed me pictures of his daughters and his herd of goats!

Minerals and crystals displayed in the open air

Seeing Antonio, my Brazilian supplier, and his family  is always a highlight

I am very loyal to my suppliers wherever I go which is one reason why I can now visit Tucson for just two days. I am very organised with my stone shopping lists for both Tucson and Inhorgenta, which I visit two weeks later, so I can easily do everything I need to within two days. This is as I know exactly where I am going and what I want, and still find time to wander through the crystals. It remains an extraordinary place to visit, both in terms of stones and scenery.

The irresistible cornflower blue of a fine Ceylon sapphire

When I arrived in Munich two weeks later, I feel that Inhorgenta is so refined compared to Tucson that it feels like the difference between a hotel chain and a high-end restaurant. At Inhorgenta all the gemstones are concentrated into one hall instead of across acres of tents as in Tucson. The quality is superb. Everything about Inhorgenta exemplifies German professionalism, precision and top level of everything - from stones and jewellery to of course, tools and packaging.

Pear-shaped emeralds which will make perfect drop earrings

I first came to Inhorgenta 41 years ago, in the snow, so I had quite a romantic idea of it. It seems to have been a very long time ago now, but like a homing pigeon I seem to find my way back every year, and I am lucky that I have very special friends to stay with in Munich.

   Paraiba Tourmalines 

In Tucson and at Inhorgenta I learned that overall, and particularly recently, it has become increasingly hard to source certain precious gemstones. Paraiba tourmaline is the best example of this, as there is just no rough material coming from the mines. Every year there is less and less material on the market, therefore what I manage to find (and that which I am lucky enough to already have) becomes more and more precious.
South Sea pearls, which I use a lot in my designs, have also been adversely affected by three factors:
  • Workers leaving during Covid
  • Disease in the harvesting
  • The Chinese flooding the market and buying up stock
Therefore, the price of these pearls has jumped dramatically in just one year.
Even less precious stones have been affected in a lesser way, one wonders what the future might be when it is increasingly hard to source stones, combined with their associated price increases.