The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show started as a local hobby show with eight dealers and dozens of amateur hobbyists in 1955 at an elementary school gymnasium. It grew in stature after the Smithsonian exhibited at the show in 1961. The show moved downtown with the completion of the Tucson Convention Center in 1972. "60 Minutes" covered the Gem and Mineral Show in 1980. By 1997, Tucson had expanded to 28 shows lasting 22 days. Today, the Tucson Gem Show is the largest gem and mineral show in the world. The shows began on January 25 and the last event ended on February 16. Numerous shows are held in outdoor tents and along a stretch of the freeway. Tucson officials predicted an attendance of approximately 40,000 from 20 countries and an impact of over $41.5 million to the local economy. There were over 4,000 exhibitors.
Two dozen universities and museums from around the world brought the finest collections of gems and minerals. They included the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, the Smithsonian, the Samotzvety Museum in Moscow, and the Sorbonne in Paris. This is the one show where you can see reptile and fish fossils, prehistoric insects encapsulated within amber, and matching crystal geodes of any variety up to eight feet tall. Tucson offers a market for gems I have never even heard of, plus any gem that is presently available on the world market. There are always a few six-figure Burma rubies, Kashmir sapphires, and Colombian emeralds. At Tucson, you can spend $5.00 on a quartz crystal or $100,000 on an alexandrite.
During Tucson '97, the three main shows for fine colored gemstones were the GLDA with 370 dealers, the AGTA with approximately 230 exhibitors, and the GJX with about 255 vendors. The hot new show is the three year old Gem and Jewelry Exchange (GJX). It is across from the Convention Center located in a tent, or as the promoters call it, an "ultrastructure". The GJX show has carpeting, paneled walls and the best light of the three shows for viewing gemstones.
The consensus among dealers was sales were down approximately 30% from last year at AGTA and 20% at GJX and the GLDA. However, this does mean that the gemstone markets are down, rather Tucson must now compete with the New York, Orlando, Miami, Las Vegas shows and a new show in Japan. Colored gemstone buyers cannot visit every show. Many chose to attend different shows this year.
There was some international buying at the Tucson show from Europe and the Far East. The numbers of Japanese buyers were down from years past. This is probably due to the weak Japanese economy and the new gem show in Japan.
I attend this show to find stones for my clients. Also, the show is critical to obtain market information to analyze trends. I query the dealers, mine owners, and international suppliers. Here is a gem by gem analysis:
I saw some pinkish Vietnam ruby at the show. Production is severely limited and asking prices reached $6000 per carat for carat sized gems. The amount of gem Thai ruby seen at Tucson was practically nil. Also, the amount of gem Mong Hsu Burma ruby is way down from years past, but availability remains good. Dealers stated it was increasingly difficult to find fine Mong Hsu ruby in Bangkok. What they rejected last year, they are now being forced to buy to carry an inventory. Dealers believed overseas availability is down about 80% and prices have increased approximately 20%. The Mong Hsu mine has been producing for four years without any shortages. For the first time, there are shortages of this material. Either the production of Mong Hsu material is truly down dramatically, or strong dealers are hoarding in Bangkok in anticipation of higher prices. Fine, gem quality Mogok Burma ruby is rising in price. The rarest of the rubies, unheated Mogok Burmas, have always been practically nonexistent in supply. The few stones I saw were up from last year's prices. As one dealer commented, "These unheated Mogoks are as rare as platinum ski tips. Tell your collectors to load up all the colors (red/magenta/pink), especially if they are unheated. Your clients will be sitting pretty when the Mong Hsu material is gone."
There were a few Colombian emerald dealers at the show. The vast majority of the goods were commercial quality. I found two stones of interest. The first was a killer, 3.5-4.0 color/70 tone, eye clean. It was $5000 per carat, but the problem was it was only .97. I also saw a 5 carat, 4.0 color/75-80 tone, Lightly Included. The Colombian wanted $65,000 per carat! We have seen 10 carat Colombian emeralds reach $75,000 per carat, but this holds the record for a five a carat stone. Dealers explained there was upward pressure on prices due to the deteriorating political situation in Colombia. For those of you with special orders for Colombian goods, you might want to consider the finest examples of African emeralds because they tend to be cleaner than the Colombian gems. As Cap Beesley of AGL said, "It probably makes sense to collect the finest from every mine anyway."
There was a good supply of Southeast Asian and African blue sapphire at the show. Prices are stable. Gem quality Kashmir and Burma sapphire are as rare as ever. I saw one unheated five carat Burma sapphire. It was a 3.5 color, 75 tone, and Moderately Included. I also saw a 6 carat unheated Burma stone, which was difficult to grade in the show lights, but I would say it was a 3/85, Moderately Included. Burma and Kashmir sapphires are up about 10%.
You can even find colored diamonds at the Tucson Gem Show. The action in the colored diamond market is becoming stratified. Dealers were searching for champagne diamonds because they are inexpensive. Dealers were also looking for top pinks and blue colors for their connoisseur clients. This market remains strong. Collectors seem to want the best colors irrespective of price or they want a colored diamond but have limited funds.
This was the show where the new Vietnamese spinel debuted. After much ballyhoo, I finally got a chance to view the material. I believe 99% of the material, while pretty and poppy, seems to fit in quality between the high-end Burma goods and the low-end Sri Lankan (Ceylon) goods. Although I bought a few of the finest examples, the majority of the stones are not good enough to collect. They tend to be hot pinks, not gem reds or oranges. Some Vietnamese goods change color from blue to purple. There was also a great deal of new African gems, however, they are not as good as the old Burma material. They are comparable to the Vietnamese goods. The pinks are pastel and the reds have too much brown. I talked to one spinel specialist who stated the only gem red spinel he sold were three stones recycled from his old customers and collectors. In Bangkok, Thai dealers want $2500 per carat for large, fine red spinels. If you own "old color" Burma spinels, hold on. If you want an "old color" Burma spinel, you must purchase the goods from collectors, not on the open market.
Mandarin Orange Garnet
Prices are stable but they may not be for long. Last year there were two orange garnet mines producing mandarin garnets. The original mine is now closed. Alan Roup of Gem Namibia is still producing, but is having problems. Like most new mines, the deeper the mining, the lower the quality. There is a fair amount of subcarat material, but stones above a carat are rare. Alan Roup showed us two 10 carat plus orange garnets. One was an included oval, and other was a flawless trilliant. Asking prices hovered around $20,000 total.
The tanzanite market seems to be a market of feast or famine. Either there is too much or too little production of tanzanite. If you study the tanzanite charts, you can decipher this from the dramatic price increases and price drops. Presently, there is too much production, and prices are weak. Lower quality light blue commercial goods are down about 25%, and fine supersaturated blue goods are down 10%.
Tsavorite production is small. Only one or two dealers at the show even specialize in gem quality tsavorite. Prices are stable. The new production is either too dark or too light in color. Collectors should stick to "Old Mine" colors. The largest gem tsavo I saw was 7 carats.
The red beryl production has always been nominal. I have always been disappointed with the quality of red beryls that have come through our offices. Dealers want exorbitant prices for material that is always heavily or excessively included. At Tucson, the Red Beryl Mining Company exhibited some of the cleanest and reddest beryl ever. The largest gems were 3 carats. The price for the best quality material was $20,000 per carat.
Big or Unusual
One outstanding gem at the show was a 10 carat Tundura alexandrite. It sold for over $10,000 per carat. The 100% color change went from blue green to rhodolite pink red. It was eye clean, well cut, with high brilliancy. The wholesaler immediately resold the gem to a collector. Another serious gemstone was a 14 carat star ruby. It had an excellent star and was pinkish. Also, we viewed an unbelievable green demantoid garnet. Almost two carats with a perfect horse-tail inclusion. Finally, the largest gem ruby viewed was a 10.49 African ruby, but a little too orangy.
Regarding the future trends in the colored gemstone market, prices are firm to rising for most gems. The only exception is tanzanite. You should expect the diamond and gemstone markets to continue to follow this pattern. This trending up market is not inflation driven. Instead, the supply of fine gems has declined and demand is strong due to consumer confidence. Vast amounts of wealth have been created by the stock market in recent years. Collectors, investors, and high-end jewelry buyers are profit-taking and diversifying into the diamond and colored gemstone markets. In 1997, do not look for a roaring bull market similar to the 1970s, just simple sustained solid growth.
As the French ambassador to Turkey, Nicholas Sancy bought the 55 carat pear shape in Constantinople about 1570 and took the gem to France. Nicholas Sancy was an avid collector of gems.
During this period, Sancy was a prominent figure in the French court. King Henry the Third was insecure about being bald. He borrowed the stone to decorate a small cap which he wore to hide his baldness. Sancy later became the French Finance Minister. King Henry the Fourth asked to borrow the stone as collateral for a loan to hire mercenary soldiers. A messenger was sent to Paris with the stone, but he never arrived. Sancy followed the route and found the messenger dead. Although the messenger was killed by robbers, Sancy knew the messenger was loyal. After an extensive body search, Sancy discovered the messenger had swallowed the stone, and Sancy recovered the diamond.
Sancy was later the ambassador to England and he sold the stone to James the First in 1604. Queen Maria, the wife of Charles the First, took the Sancy to France in 1644 to raise money for the royalist cause in the civil war. The Duke of Epernon used the Sancy as security for the loan. England never repaid the loan, and the duke kept the stone. Epernon sold the diamond to Cardinal Mazarin. In 1661, he bequeathed the stone to the French crown.
The French crown jewels were on display in eleven cabinets in 1792. Some of the more famous jewels included the Hope diamond, the Regent, and the Sancy. The jewels were appraised at $30 million francs. On September 16, 1792, thieves broke into the Garde-Meuble and carried off all the jewels. Marie Antoinette was accused of instigating the theft. Sergeant, the head of the Treasury was arrested. He took the police to a tree where most of the Crown Jewels were recovered. However, the Sancy and the Hope were not recovered. In 1828, the Sancy turned up and was sold by a French jeweler to Prince Demidoff. It was renamed the Demidoff and was given to his wife, Princess Matolde, niece of Napoleon.
In 1865, it was purchased by a Bombay merchant for $100,000. It was shown at the Paris Exhibition in 1867. The asking price was one million francs. In 1906, the Astor family purchased the Sancy. It was purchased by William Waldorf Astor as a wedding present when his son married Nancy Langhorne of Virginia. Lady Astor often wore the diamond in a tiara on special occasions. It was shown at the "Ten Centuries of French Jewelry" at the Louvre in 1962. After Lady Astor's death in 1964, the stone was inherited by her third son. It is set in a mounting that allows it to be worn on the head.
Interestingly, the Maharaja of Patiala also claims ownership of the Sancy.
At auction, jewelry stamped with Tiffany, Van Cleef and Arpels, and Cartier receive bids 50% higher than equal jewelry without these famous signatures. Cartier has become increasingly alarmed over the number of bogus pieces bearing its name that move through the auction houses. According to Ralph Destino, chairman of Cartier, "People take no-name jewelry from the 1920s and 1930s and engrave our name on it or assemble jewelry from a small piece with an authentic Cartier stamp in hopes of getting the high premiums our name can bring." The recent Antiquorum Cartier sale looked at over 1000 pieces and Cartier found numerous fakes. Even authentic pieces can be altered substantially. A major jeweler recalls buying a Cartier emerald at auction. Later he saw the piece again at a Sotheby's auction without the emerald!
Treatment disclosure is another problem. Catalog disclaimers state the gemstones may be treated and that they cannot make warranties for any stone they sell. Christie's recently began submitting its most important stones to the American Gemological Laboratories in New York for testing and noting unheated gems in its catalog.
Antiquorum (November, 1996)
A 65.15 carat Kashmir bracelet was stolen from the recent "Magic Art of Cartier" auction held by Antiquorum. The sale raised $15 million. On November 14, 1996, it was reported missing from a showcase at the Four Seasons Hotel in Milan, Italy. It was reported missing at 2:20 while 50 people were attending the exhibition. The case was forced open. Police sealed off the area but did not find the bracelet. It was going to be auctioned on November 19 in Geneva, Switzerland. It was produced in 1923 and was considered one of Cartier's most important pieces. The piece was estimated to be worth $2 million.
Christie's (Fall, 1996)
Christie's sold 76% of their lots for $6.1 million. Christie's sold the following colored diamonds: A round 4.53 Fancy Intense Blue-VS2 sold for $291,942 per carat or $1,322,500. A 3.28 marquise Fancy Blue-VS2 sold for $165,091 per carat or $541,500. A .25 oval Fancy Red-SI1 sold for $326,800 per carat or $81,700. An 8.45 oval Fancy Vivid Yellow-VVS2 went for $81,006 per carat or $684,500. A pear shape 13.03 Fancy Intense Yellow-VS1 sold for $39,025 per carat or $508,500. A radiant 6.55 Fancy Yellow-VS1 went for $12,977 per carat, or $85,000. A kite 1.71 Fancy Intense Green Yellow-SI1 sold for $30,263 per carat, or $51,750.
A 8.75 oval Burma Ruby, 4.5-5.0/75-80 tone sold for $38,00 per carat, or $332,500. A 7.44 cushion Kashmir sapphire, 4-4.5/75-80 sold for $13,642 per carat, or $101,500. A 5.36 octagon Colombian emerald, 4.5-5.0/70-75 went for $25,093 per carat or $134,500.
Sotheby's (Fall, 1996)
Sotheby's sold 78% of their lots for $6.6 million. A 9.98 oval Fancy Light Pink-VVS1 sold for $33,317 or $332,500. A 10.15 heart shaped D-IF sold for $40,345 per carat or $409,500. An emerald cut 14.81 F-IF sold for $32,107 per carat or $475,000. The 4.05 & 4.02 matched pear shaped D-IFs sold for $200,500.
Go To Part Two
Return To Home Page