When the pandemic forced the cancellation of the February 2021 Tucson gem shows, the industry’s colored stone devotees grieved the loss of a beloved annual ritual. Now, on the eve of next month’s event, the 10 designers and retailers we spoke to are looking forward to replenishing their stocks, discovering new stones and suppliers, and, above all, experiencing the thrill of the gem hunt.
When you see them in the aisles of the AGTA GemFair, the GJX show, the Pueblo Gem & Mineral Show, or any of the tented marketplaces that dot the Tucson cityscape, don’t forget to say hi. Then stand back and admire the frenzy of buying, selling, and partying they’re bound to engage in as they make up for lost time in the Arizona desert.
New York City–based fine jewelry designer
I have been going to Tucson to hunt for gems for nearly 40 years. My “stone cupboard” is bare, so I am very excited for this year’s show. I am looking for bright colors in calibrated sizes for pavé, new finds in organics and naturals, and I love rich natural color, so I am looking for big juicy cabs and faceted stones in interesting colorways. My favorite finds are the ones I literally spy across the room and run over to for a closer look.
Lauren Harwell Godfrey
Founder of Harwell Godfrey in the San Francisco Bay Area
I am planning to shop for intensely colorful, large-scale stones. I utilize all different shapes in my work, everything from rounds to emerald cuts to pears to marquises. I am also hoping to find some interesting colorful sets. And I’m always looking for good bead vendors!
Kevin R. Mays
Co-owner of John Mays Jewelers in Fort Smith, Ark.
We are excited to be heading back to Tucson and can’t wait to see what new things the show will have to offer. Spinels, sapphires, and rubies have been big for us, and we are excited to see what our friends at B & B Fine Gems at AGTA GemFair will have on display. I am anxious to be back on the show floor and looking for that next big trend or gemstone that fuels the passion we all have for this industry.
Los Angeles–based designer of Ark Fine Jewelry
I can’t wait to feel the energy of Tucson again! We’ll be on the hunt for beautiful, high-vibration stones, especially those that are untreated and unheated. My retailers and private clients love this time of year because they know I’m sourcing the best of the best for my Creation ring series at the gem shows. We’ll also be on the lookout for juicy gems in shades of orange, purple, and pink for several one-of-a-kind pieces I plan to introduce this year. Lastly, we’re keeping our eyes out for stones in unique cuts and seeing where inspiration takes us!
Operations manager of Underwood Jewelers in Jacksonville, Fla.
There is nowhere in the world like the Tucson colored gemstone shows for jewelers. We go with a large shopping list every February to replace the stones we sold the previous year. This year, the list will be bigger than normal due to the cancellation last year. Our main buys are always the big three: emeralds, rubies, and sapphires. And we have our favorite international vendors we stop in to see.
Other interesting items we’re looking for this year are coral, turquoise, and large sharks’ teeth, to name a few. I also always try to make time to buy a new crystal specimen for myself personally and am building quite the collection! Buying color for us is something that has to be done in person, so we are very excited for the shows this year.
Kim and Nicole Carosella
The NYC-based designers of Sorellina
We have a large shopping list this year! A number of our private clients have requested unique diamond shapes, so we will be looking for those. Pink and purple spinels of all shapes and sizes are also high on our list, since we use them for a lot of designs. We’re hoping to also find some unique polished slabs for a few one-of-a-kind guitar picks. Lastly, we’re sourcing a few special stones for our next Tarot card. And, of course, anything else that catches our eye and sparks inspiration!
CEO of Jack Lewis Jewelers in Bloomington, Ill.
For the first time in two years, we have the opportunity to once again immerse ourselves into our trade’s world of color. Tucson is my chance to buy from the finest colored stone manufacturers from around the world, and we only get this chance once per year. While I do need some color for my inventory, I would be there even if this was not the case. The gem lover part of my soul NEEDS the Tucson shows now more than ever to reconnect me with the colored stones that I have grown to love.
Co-owner of JTI Diamond Co. in San Antonio
I am on the hunt for colorful bling and rare gemstones to design fresh pieces for alternative bridal and colorful gemstone jewelry. I am looking for juicy watermelon tourmalines in shades from green to white or pinkish-red colors in fascinating shapes and color variations.
NYC-based founder of Renna Jewels
I often look for unique carved gemstones. I enjoy giving a subtle nod to vintage Tutti Frutti Cartier, a longtime favorite of mine. I’ll also be hunting for vibrant tourmaline beads, because I’d love to add some beautiful strung beads to the collection this year. I’m on a longtime hunt for the perfect cabochon paraiba tourmaline as well. Lastly, we are in the final stages of decorating our new New York–based brick-and-mortar space, Renna Annex, so I’ll be hunting for large rough crystals to help us set vibrations and intentions for the space.
We are retailers, not jewelry designers or makers. But we look forward to our trip to Tucson like kids waiting for Disneyland. The entire city is like a bazaar in some exotic foreign country. You see people that literally drove in from the mountains selling gemstones from the trunks of their station wagons. You see tents the size of a three-bedroom house with crystals the size of refrigerators, card tables with opals in brown paper bags, and petrified bones from creatures that never existed. Usually, we buy absolutely nothing but leave with massive hangovers—and we can’t wait to return.
Top: Designer Ray Griffiths in his Manhattan studio (photo provided courtesy of Ray Griffiths Fine Jewelry)Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
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