Buying Frenzy Kicks Off AGTA GemFair Tucson 2015

Black Friday in Tucson? That was the scene yesterday during the AGTA GemFair Tucson at the Tucson Convention Center as a swollen queue of manic rock hounds clamoring to shop snaked up escalators leading to the buying floor, inadvertently creating a logjam that forced the moving stairs to stop in an effort to avoid a dangerous backlog of bodies. Security had to scan badges and admit guests just a few at a time to control the flow. AGTA CEO Doug Hucker was understandably enthused, crowing to JCK about overstuffed parking lots and halted people movers—both pleasant problems for a trade show to endure.

At Trigem Pearls, long strands of necklaces moved, fulfilling a momentum for the looks that have been building up for the past year. “Our customers tell us what they want—they are actively involved in the long-strand demand,” explains Leonard Federer, partner of the New York City–based firm. To wit, pieces priced to move at $2,000 retail and up sold well in South Sea varieties.

At Gangi Gems, people were lined up six deep, and shoppers were spending 10 times previous amounts—“with no explanation,” concedes a stunned Bill Gangi, owner. Among his best sellers for the day: boulder opal and meteorite, though he also sold the “best fire agate I’ve ever owned to the Carnegie Museum [of Art],” a sale made even more memorable with the promise of a corporate mention when the stone goes on display.

For up-and-coming commitment ring designer Laurence Bruyninckx, exhibiting in the designer section of the show proved to be a good move. “We met about 10 new retailers, and we have two to three potential orders,” she says. Meanwhile, neighbor Babette Shennan is invested in pieces with movement, as people typically like “anything to do with mechanics,” observed Elizabeth Rose, Shennan’s bench jeweler, who doubles as a sales agent during the fair.

And a growing trend among stone dealers: adding finished jewelry to inventories. This was the case for Raja Mehta of AG Gems, whose new candy-color three-stone rings offer fresh combinations of shapes and gems such as spinel, tanzanite, and tsavorite, among others, marking a somewhat unexpected presentation from a traditional gemstone house. But for these color experts, this handiwork and bending of business boundaries was overdue. “We could see how to set the gems according to color,” observes Mehta.

Fifty-one-inch-long strand of South Sea pearls from Tri Gem Pearls

Strands like this 51-inch-long necklace of South Sea pearls for $6,000 sold well for Trigem Pearls.