“We’re up about 3 percent over last year—which was a very big year—in companies attending, and 120 percent in attitudes,” confided Doug Hucker to JCK during AGTA GemFair Tucson, Feb. 4–9. The president of AGTA credits the increase to buyers in a better frame of mind, overall, about jewelry sales.
“This is a major change in the past five years,” he explains. “We’re not seeing people come here and kick tires—they’re buying, and vendors are telling me there’s not as much indecision. We’ve also seen the average hotel stay increase from three days to four… People are cordial, feeling good, and not one single person has told me anything bad about business.”
One novelty at the fair this year included an on-site CAD-Cam studio for buyers to have custom pieces designed and wax models in hand before heading home in an effort to expedite sales and eliminate inventory piling up in vaults. In terms of product, blues were still the best sellers.
“Aquamarines continue to be our best seller,” said Robert Bentley of the eponymous oversize bead and cab business from New York City. Bill Gangi of Franklin Square, N.Y.-based Gangi Gems declared his best-ever opening day of business with sales of Ethiopian Welu opal, blue azurite with malachite and turquoise from Bisbee, Ariz., and drusy chrysocolla from the Atacama Desert in Chile that he’s “been hoarding since the early 1980s,” he dished. Other popular stones for Gangi included meteorite and Alaskan fossilized coral, which accounted for nearly half of all his sales last year. At Taj Co., small sizes of colored diamonds were selling well, as were big pearls and large strands of lapis, tiger’s eye, and malachite.
New material included prehnite spheres in a matte finish for Bentley, as they enabled the dealer to offer a look “as close to nature as possible,” he explained, as well as architecturally cut strands of orangey quartz with a decidedly Creamsicle-esque range of hues (which will color-block beautifully with all the blues in jewelry and fashion).
Prehnite beads from Robert Bentley
In pearls, meanwhile, there wasn’t a great deal of innovation happening due to a spike in Chinese buyers. “The Chinese are producing quantity not quality now because the rising number of Chinese buyers aren’t as educated yet,” observed Jack Lynch, owner of Sea Hunt Pearls in San Francisco. To wit, Lynch brought mussel-nucleated pearls (which are cost-effective for producers as they use existing mussel shell, not purchased shell beads, for nuclei), fireball bead-nucleated pearls, and a baroque freshwater variety that Lynch is calling Dragon Curl pearls, which is drilled horizontally to show off the most lustrous sections.
Dragon Curl pearls from Sea Hunt Pearls