In many ways going to Tucson for me is like the movie Ground Hog Day. It's the same vendors in the same locations with what looks to be the same materials. A few items sprinkled in here and there.
This year at the AGTA and GJX shows, Mahenge Garnets are now being called Lotus Garnet, and the prices have gone right up with the new name. The increase does make sense, as the material is not being mined any more. What I did see new this year were Kornerupine. In the past only very small pieces were to be found but in a mix of greens, blues, and light purples, all pretty pastel colors that actually looked nicer together in a parcel than as single small stones. This year there was a new find in Tanzania of larger green stones.
You can buy a lot more than gems at the gem shows. In fact gems as used in jewelry are just a small fraction of what's available at most of the shows.
The two big shows, which are open only to members of the trade, the AGTA and GJX feature almost exclusively gemstone for jewelry. These shows are very strict about admission. I attended both this year, normally I don't as they start a day after I normally leave, but this year for a strange reason, I decided to stay home for the super bowl and leave on Monday, rather than the previous Thursday.
Below is a photo looking down into the AGTA show. It's tough taking photos in these shows, ever time you lift a camera someone in the booth says "NO PHOTOS!". You would think they would be happy.
Much is what is in Tucson is not gems, but minerals and other curiosities from the earth. Plenty of bizarre large crystal formations, fossils, and mineral specimens.
Tucson is not one show, but many many shows each at a different location. For some there are large tents, others are at various hotels, where the rooms have all the bedding and furniture pushed to the rear and shops set up. Most of the shows at hotels are open to the public, but for the most part you will not find higher end gemstones at these.
At the large tents that are open to the public you will find booth after booth of really cheap jewelry, beads and this type of thing.
These shows are certainly worth a visit and unique items are found. There are a few people at some of these shows that I get some of less expensive rough from.
This past year for me, lab created gems have been asked for more than anything else. They makes sense as you can get a bigger, absolutely beautiful stone, and a very good price. So I did buy a lot more material and some types I haven't had in the past.
Below are an Electric Blue Spinel and a hot Red/Pink Spinel. Both of these are produced by the Czochralski process. It is almost impossible to distinguish the crystals obtained from this method from natural ones. These crystals belong to a group of high quality expensive stones, which are also called recreated or cultivated stones.
A nice parcel of Sapphires from Ilakaka. These are natural, no heat stones. I was able to select from a parcel to get the more intense colors and better shapes. The shapes of these stones are almost always very flat, which makes the yield low if you cut to the correct proportions with out a window as I do. Most often these are cut for face up size and very shallow with a large window.
Below are some Blue Zircon that are a top color and nice size. I expect these to cut 3.5 to 6 carat stones. The green stones are the new Tanzanian Kornerupine gems. Mixed size, and all clean pieces.
I bought these 5 Opals from Ethiopia. They will be priced under $50 per stone.
This is a parcel of Mahenge Malaya type garnets in the peachy lotus color. These are smaller stones, so they will be affordable and I should be able to get some matched pairs from them.
A Blue Sapphire from Tunduru Tanzania, and Lake Baringo Ruby (Kenya)
Three pieces of really nice Chrome Green Tourmaline from Tanzania. East Africa is the only source for true Chrome Tourmaline. You can check your tourmaline for chrome very quickly and easily with a Chelsea filter. True chrome will be red under the filter, where normal green tourmaline will remain green.