Sapphire. If there was one word we heard over and over at Sparkle & Joy—the high-end gemstone portion of the HardRock Summit in Denver, which ran Sept. 8–11 at the Colorado Convention Center—that was it.
According to Misfit Diamonds, sapphires—green, teal, pink, and parti colors—have been “crazy” this year. “Montana is very painterly but has its own life flowing inside,” said Megan McGaffigan, pointing to the “interesting silk patterns” of those particular sapphires. “People are looking for fresh things,” she added, especially the “unique cuts” (think hexagons and portraits) for which the Vancouver, British Columbia–based brand has become known.
Returning exhibitor Parlé Gems “saw a huge increase in traffic and sales from the year before,” says co-owner and designer Brecken Farnsworth. The top sellers? “Montana sapphire, opal, and watermelon tourmaline.”
At B&B Fine Gems, vice president Dave Bindra told us that “spinels are really in great demand right now,” as are “paraiba tourmaline and blue sapphires.” There’s that S-word again! “I like our purple sapphires right now. We have some really beautiful ones.”
There was no shortage of sapphires at Mayer & Watt. “Parti-color sapphires are very popular,” said owner Simon Watt, pulling out a beautiful Australian stone with teal to yellow to deep green coloration.
Over at Kimberly Collins, the owner-designer reported selling “a little bit of everything” gem-wise, and doing a very good “rainbow business.” (Not surprising, considering that her cheery cases presented loose gems and finished jewelry in every color of the rainbow.) “People are looking for inspirational stones,” Collins said, citing hexagons and “funky shapes,” plus elongated cuts such as pears. “Anything to set them apart.”
Those looking for stones to set themselves apart would have done well to visit Columbia Gem House. The exhibitor showcased three new gem varieties at HardRock: Pomme Ruby from Madagascar and Rainbow Lattice Sunstone and Eclipsite from Australia. Even in very small sizes, explained brand and corporate responsibility manager Natasha Braunwart, the Pomme Ruby retains a “vibrant, apple red” color (hence its name…pomme = apple in French).
Rainbow Lattice Sunstone, she said, “has a little bit of a moonstone effect” and those “perfect little triangular inclusions”—not to mention the signature rainbow “flash.” As for Eclipsite: “Pretty much the way that it grew is moonstone and sunstone sort of blended together and created this totally different-looking material,” she explained. “It is truly a kind of hybrid.”
For both of the new Australian gems, “hexagon shapes have worked really well.” Those hexagons, and freeform shapes, proved popular with clients looking for Ethiopian opals as well. The booth also had lots of requests for its Neon Green Beryl, she added. (“It’s technically a light emerald but…but it just needs its own color name,” Braunwart says of the cool mint green gem.) And—oh yes—sapphires. “Lots of sapphire.”
Of course, gems and jewelry weren’t the only things on offer at the HardRock Summit. Across the hall from Sparkle & Joy was Evolution, an expansive ballroom filled with eye-popping mineral, fossil, and gemstone specimens selling for four- and five-digit sums. Some commonplace (amethyst, tourmaline), some rare (mimetite, Schaurteite), the pieces covered every corner of the globe, from Afghanistan to Zambia.
On display between the two shows was a literal treasure trove of jewels, including gold rings salvaged from the SS Central America (which sank in 1857). And upstairs, the Denver Gem & Mineral Show welcomed a room full of gem and mineral exhibitors, plus interactive family-friendly displays including a fluorescent room and a gem-cutting demonstration.
“It has the potential to be a mini Tucson,” said Bindra of the HardRock Summit. HardRock may be only in its second year, but consider that Denver hosts more than a half dozen other gem shows around the same time in September. “Tucson in February, Denver in September,” said Watt. “That’s the mantra.”
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