Heading to Tucson? Here’s What You Need to Know About Gems in 2017

A closer look at the colors, gemstones, and styles that will drive trends this year

As you read this, I’ll be communing with nature in Sedona, Ariz., where I’m taking a two-day break before heading to Tucson for the annual gem shows. While I’ll spend most of my time at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa, home to the JCK Tucson show, I’m also planning to hit up the AGTA Gemfair, the GJX show, and the Pueblo Gem & Mineral Show; the last three are all located in downtown Tucson, within walking distance of one another and my favorite little lunch spot, El Minuto Cafe.

If you’re heading to Tucson, here’s what you need to know as you cruise the aisles:

The Gemstone: Ruby

“Burma’s back!” That’s the gem story of the year, says gem dealer Jeffrey Bilgore, president of the AGTA board of directors, referring to the recent lifting of the United States government’s 8-year-old ban on rubies and jade from Myanmar (formerly Burma). “Everyone’s eager to begin doing commerce again. Many of the major stores didn’t want to touch anything from Burma; it all had a cloud over it. Many people will be showing Burma goods because they can.”

Don’t be surprised, however, to see more Mozambican rubies in the mix, too. London-based Gemfields, the mining company that owns and operates the Montepuez mine in Mozambique, has put a lot of muscle behind promoting its supply of rubies—including a slew of designer partnerships that have yielded spectacular results, from the Fred Leighton yellow gold and ruby cuff that actress Ruth Negga wore on the Golden Globes red carpet, to more everyday pieces from the likes of Milan’s Lucifer Vir Honestus, New Yorker Michelle Fantaci, and Elena Votsi of Athens, Greece.


Fred Leighton cuff in 18k yellow gold with 25.51 ct. Mozambican ruby, price upon request; Fred Leighton

The Color: Greenery

Pantone’s 2017 Color of the Year looks like a Granny Smith apple tastes: crisp, fresh, even a little zingy. In practice, that refers to gemstones in greenish hues that lie more toward the yellow side of the spectrum as opposed to the blue. Think peridot, chrysoprase, jade, even green turquoise. As you peruse the goods in Tucson, keep in mind that Pantone is sometimes jokingly referred to as the “color mafia” for the forceful way in which its predictions take root in the marketplace. Don’t be left out!


18k white gold ring with 7.09 ct. peridot and diamonds, $8,660; Sylvie Collection


18k yellow gold earrings with 41.26 cts. t.w. chrysoprase and .30 ct. t.w. diamonds, $20,000; Vtse Jewelry

The Style: Statement Earrings

Oversize earrings are tougher to pull off in fine jewelry than in costume styles, but designers are committed to the bigger-is-better approach nonetheless. Worn with an insouciant air that owes much to the gilded door knockers of the 1980s, the earring trend du jour is also mismatched: One side makes a statement, while the other keeps its mouth shut.


Earrings in 18k rose gold with Mozambican rubies, price on request; Lucifer Vir Honestus

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JCK Editor-in-Chief

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