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Tucson Gemstone Treasures

As usual, our annual pilgrimage to the Tucson Gem Shows in early February in search of the very best in colored gemstones was a fun mix of business and pleasure.

On the drive over, we stopped at Quartzite, home of the Pow Wow, licked a few agates and found some rough boulder opal, stalactite and geode slices. As always, the Quartzite scene is fascinating– it just blows my mind to see how the snowbirds drive all the way to the Arizona desert with their RV’s, trailers, and trucks crammed with barrels of rough stone, cartons of collectibles and their artwork.

During our first day at the AGTA show, we focused on red gemstones including spinels, rubies, and padparadscha sapphires, looking for specific stones for clients. One of the services we offer at Mardon is gem search and brokering— the Tucson shows are perfect for viewing lots and lots of gemstones, comparing prices and qualities so we can find the best values for our clients.

We had a call for a “chili pepper” red spinel and were able to find these three very gemmy Burma spinels at what we thought were good prices. Recent finds of superb spinels in Africa and central Asia have driven the market for red spinel to astronomical levels. The prices for these Burma gems seemed reasonable by comparison.

Lots of freshwater pearls everywhere.  Besides the big flat baroques (above), we bought this nice strand of “Kazumiga” style baroques.

My friend Paul showed us some really great zircons from Tanzania. Just killer bright, as you would expect from this gem of high refraction, in unique colors. This is a new source for zircon, offering really big stones at reasonable prices.

We met a number of the top Ethiopian opal importers and cutters and got really acquainted with that market– lots of truly great big stones, ultra bright and lively.  In a market where high quality gems are pricey because of rarity and great demand, we think these Ethiopian beauties are a sleeper value, at prices about 1/3 of what similar quality Australian stones sell for.

All in all, the mood at the shows seemed much more upbeat. In contrast to the gloom of the past few years, most of the dealers we talked to were having good sales and were optimistic- a good sign that perhaps the economy is recovering. Yay!

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