Colored Stones / Shows

Opal Ring, Tourmalines Headline 2023 AGTA Spectrum Awards


There were two Best of Show winners at the 2023 AGTA Spectrum Awards, the annual competition held by the American Gem Trade Association. One was a spectacular 15.22 ct. black opal ring by Niveet Nagpal of Omi Privé; the other, representing the Cutting Edge category of loose gems and carvings, was a suite of four oval paraiba tourmalines totaling 31 cts. (pictured at top), from Joseph Ambalu of Amba Gem Corp.

AGTA OMI opal best in show
Best of Show (and best with my dress): platinum ring with 15.22 ct. black opal, tourmaline, tsavorite garnets, and diamonds; Niveet Nagpal for Omi Privé

While those two entries were “fire” in every way, plenty of other glamazon jewels lit up the room in the Omni Frisco Hotel last Thursday, when the AGTA Spectrum Awards for all categories were announced at the Dallas-area hotel.

“We had 100 more submissions than we did last year, so we’re extremely happy,” Kimberly Collins, AGTA board president, said at the unveiling of this year’s winners. “I think it’s just a testament to what AGTA is doing with Spectrum and beyond. Things are really moving in the right direction.”

In surveying the entries, Collins said green was the dominant hue: “There has been a very strong interest in green in the gem and jewelry industry. It’s been hot since the Tucson gem show—emerald, demantoid garnet, and we had tsavorite accents incorporated into the design of many Spectrum pieces, including quite a few of the winners.”

AGTA 2023 Green jewels
(Clockwise from top left) Fluorite from New Hampshire, Ben Kho, Kho International; emerald necklace with jade and diamonds, Erica Courtney; ring in 18k yellow gold with 2.39 ct. Colombian emerald, round emeralds, and diamonds, Gabriel Angulo, Pompos Jewelry Corporation (first place, Business/Day Wear); Moi et Toi Perfection in Green & White ring in platinum and diamonds with 3.49 ct. unenhanced Colombian emerald and 3.36 ct. emerald-cut diamond, Jeffrey Bilgore (first place, Classical category)

As far as themes and motifs, animals were a popular inspiration point among the entries. One that made a splash: this 515 ct. heliodor frog, which took first place in the Carving category.

AGTA Helidor frog carving
The Green Jewel: Frog on Heliodor; Patrick Dreher, Dreher Carvings

Another charmer flew away with the Best Use of Pearls award:

AGTA south sea pearl Fannie ring
Birds Eye View hand-carved ring in 22k gold with a cultured South Sea baroque pearl; Fannie Thomas, Fannie Thomas Jewelry

And look at a few more little friends that joined the fauna festivities (I myself am partial to Gus-Gus with his gold whiskers and cabochon sapphire eyes).

AGTA Spectrum animal collage
(Clockwise from top left) Painted Bunting Bird in silver with carnelians, black diamonds, cognac diamonds, tsavorite garnets, sapphires, and tanzanite on a base of lapis, Ziad Noshie, Almaza Jewelers (Honorable Mention in the Objects of Art category); brooch in 18k green gold with Mexican fire opal, rutilated quartz, tsavorite garnets, and diamonds, Mark Schneider Designs (left) and American Queen 2023 brooch in platinum with tanzanite, colored diamonds, diamonds, and tsavorite garnets, Helen Kim Currens, J.W. Currens (received a Platinum Honors distinction); Flipper brooch with 9.96 ct. opal, plus diamond, apatite, and moonstone accents. Jeffrey Zanger, Jimmy NG; butterfly brooch/pendant in 18k white gold with tourmaline, aquamarine, beryls, iolite, diamonds, and zircons, Brenda Smith Jewelry; Gus-Gus mouse hand-carved of green beryl with sapphire eyes and 18k gold whiskers and tail, Somewhere in the Rainbow

One of the most talked-about pieces in the AGTA Spectrum competition was a necklace featuring various species of garnet that won the Best Use of Platinum and Color award. The design is an impressive, gender-fluid platinum chain formed by hexagonal links, each housing a different type of garnet. Every link is engraved on the flip side with the species of garnet and name of the mine from which it originated.

AGTA spectrum platinum garnet necklace
Garanatas: From Rough to Cut necklace in platinum and 18k gold with 77.26 cts. t.w. garnets; Mary van der Aa Fine Jewels x Todd’s Gems

“I can’t wait to see that one on some baller celebrity,” said Collins.

Other standouts that caught this editor’s eye were a 10+ ct. rhodochrosite and a thick gold bracelet with more than 10 cts. t.w. diamonds. I had only seen rhodochrosite in its bubblegum-pink banded form, not faceted like this magenta fireball, which won the North American Mined Gemstones category.

AGTA Rhodochroiste from Colorado
10.42 ct. oval Portuguese-cut rhodochrosite from Colorado; Ben Kho, Kho International 

Here is the marvel of a bracelet, so lavishly adorned with fancy diamonds. It won the Best Fashion Forward Evening Wear award—but I would wear it with literally anything.

AGTA Jeffrey Bilgore bracelet
Greek Key Fancy Diamond Perfection bracelet in 18k gold and black ceramic with 14.82 cts. t.w. mixed fancy vivid diamonds and tsavorite garnet accents; Jeffrey Bilgore

Many of the winning pieces will be on display during the 2024 AGTA GemFair Tucson, scheduled for Jan. 30–Feb 4. Hopefully this preview will suffice for now!

Top: This quartet of paraiba tourmalines (31 cts. t.w.) from Joseph Ambalu, Amba Gem Corp., won Best of Show within the Cutting Edge sector of this year’s AGTA Spectrum Awards. All prices on request. (Photos courtesy of AGTA and @aelliott718)

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Amy Elliott

By: Amy Elliott

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