Tucson Gem Shows 2020: The Ethical Gem Fair Explained



Here’s what we know about the Ethical Gem Fair happening Feb. 3–6 in Tucson this year. New to the gem show roster, it’s being held at the Scottish Rite Cathedral on Ochoa Street, about five minutes away from the bigger downtown shows.

The fair has existed for several years with exhibitions in the U.K. and Scotland under the same name, and the inaugural Tucson edition is a collaborative partnership of leading responsibly sourced gemstone suppliers Stuart Pool (Nineteen48), Ian Bone (Capricorn Gems),  Jay Moncada and Jared Amadeo Holstein (Perpetuum Jewels), Brian Cook (Nature’s Geometry), Hewan Zewdi (Agere Treasures), Eric Braunwart (Columbia Gem House), and Monica Stephenson (Anza Gems).

Obviously we had a few questions beyond the basics, so for that we hit up Stephenson (aka @idazzle), who is also a member of the Gem Legacy advisory board.

Monica Stephenson portrait
Monica Stephenson of Anza Gems: “Anything that can build consumer confidence in jewelry is a good thing.” 

JCK: Why should people make attending the Ethical Gem Fair a priority as they plan their already-packed Tucson Gem Show itineraries?

Monica Stephenson: I realize some might think, “Great, another gem show,” but why not add a show destination that adds a responsible element? If a designer or retailer has a focus on or curiosity about what ethical gemstones might look like, this is a very edited collection of like-minded suppliers who focus on transparency of their supply chains, and offer some assurances to buyers. We all have a commitment to ethics in the gemstone supply chain, including supporting artisanal miners and communities, verifiable origins and traceability, commitment to environmental, health, and safety regulations, and SCS-certified recycled diamonds and gemstones.

There will be a beautiful gems from artisanal communities representing at least five continents—one-of-a-kind gems that make the heart beat faster, plus some rough gems, calibrated gemstones, and melee. Eighty to 90% of the global gemstone market comes from artisanal miners, so supporting these communities is especially important, and some of the gems exhibited are from women miners specifically.

Some might think that calling the show the Ethical Gem Fair kind of implies that the other shows selling loose material aren’t ethical. Not to oversimplify, but what makes your stones more ethical than ones you’ll find elsewhere?

There is a community of designers and retailers with a commitment to ethics and responsibility in their business practices and supply chains and we want to make it easy for them to find us.

Disclosure of gemstone origin and mining specifics, procurement and cutting, and transparent provenance are not necessarily criteria required for exhibiting at most shows, so buyers have to do due diligence supplier by supplier—and possibly gem by gem.

What types of stones will Anza Gems be showing?

I am so excited to have a selection of Moyo Gems, from myself and Stuart Pool of Nineteen48, sourced from our collaboration with nonprofit international development organizations and the Tanzania Women Miners Association.

Moyo Gems from Tanzania
A selection of Moyo Gems are a highlight of the Ethical Gem Fair: “The Moyo Gems I will have for sale not only provide transparency back to the individual miner who dug them out of the ground in Tanzania, they also empower women miners through programs designed to educate, and that try to lift these women out of poverty,” says Stephenson
Anza Gems loose stones
A small taste of Anza Gems’s inventory

I will also have a selection of Anza Gems sourced from my 14+ trips to Tanzania and Kenya, exploring and supporting gem mining communities there: garnets, sapphires, tourmalines, aquamarines, zoisite, with 10% of sales supporting education and infrastructure in the artisanal communities they originate from.

Will there be any finished jewelry at this show?

Susan Wheeler, of Susan Wheeler Design, and the founder of the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference and the Responsible Gem Boutique that accompanies that conference, will have a table with her finished jewelry, which features [material] from most of the gem dealers present at the fair.

Do you think this show can be a one-stop shop for a designer, or are these specialty goods, specific to a certain kind of customer?  

While we aspire to be a one-stop shop for people—and for some we could be—what is the fun of that? Tucson is all about the circus of color and the thrill of the hunt! Come see us first, then go explore!

 

Attendees are encouraged to register here (it’s free) but you can also stop by the Ethical Gem Fair with your JCK/AGTA/GJX badges and be welcomed.

Especially at Stephenson’s booth: “We’ll have champagne available anytime for people who want to stop by,” she says.

 

Top: A selection of Moyo Gems—a special collection of responsibly sourced gemstones from the female miners of Tanzania, including many that have been custom-cut by U.S. lapidary artist Beth Stier—will be available at Anza Gems’ booth at the Ethical Gem Fair in Tucson (Feb. 3–6).

 

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All That Glitters writer