Saturday, February 28, 2009

Was That The Tucson Show We Just Attended??

Well, the famous Tucson Gem Show is over once again. It has been held in Tucson for about 50 years, and many tens of thousands in the jewelry/gemstone trade typically attend annually. There are also shows that are open to the public, and so the city of Tucson swells until it is overflowing.

Last year, as in this year, construction woes of I-10 plagued attendees (whether exhibitors or attendees, but mostly attendees, as they are frequently found on the roads and highway attempting to drive to the many different shows). With the I-10 construction still continuing, and possibly going on for a number of years in the future, getting around if one stayed further north or south of the city, was a challenge due to traffic and lack of exits near the city center. Getting on north of the city meant getting off in the south of the city - no exits in the vicinity of downtown itself! The only way to avoid this was to take Frontage Road or drive through parts of the city.

We have attended and/or exhibited at the Tucson Show for over 20 years. This was by far the most different, if not bizarre Tucson Show ever attended. For the first time, hotels were not over booked. One could still find a hotel room! Usually, they are booked many months in advance. Hotel rooms, still seemed to be high, as prices always go up when the show is in town. Rental cars were available too. Restaurants were not as busy as they had been in previous years. Instead of an hour wait at some places, the wait was 15 minutes. Other restaurants were quiet or just downright dead. One associate of ours indicated that he had gone to a restaurant for dinner, and from about 6pm to the time they left about three hours later, there had been only three people in the restaurant - and that was in his party, at his table. No other people came into the restaurant during that timeframe. Of course, there are many of hundreds of restaurants in Tucson, and we had a wait of about 15 mins at one place, as it is popular with the locals and gem show people - that wait as stated above, used to be an hour in the past.

As far as attendance at the show, it was down as was to be expected. Though aisles had people, it was not overly crowded. At times, it was quite slow, especially if the show already had it's opening day and another show(s), were opening for the first time - the traffic, as to be expected, was at the opening show(s).

The most unusual story that we have, was regarding price quotes on items of interest to us. Since we really didn't need to purchase anything, as we travel abroad to purchase faceted gems and purchase rough so our cutters can facet it domestically, we were attending Tucson to see associates from other countries, find out what is being found/mined in other countries, learn about new treatments and also seeing what was out there on the market and what prices were. We would indeed make a few purchases if we found something of interest. In walking the floors of many of the shows, carat weights, descriptions and prices quoted by companies would be written down on their business cards noting what show and booth number we had encountered them at. There was nothing that we had to buy as we are nicely stocked in inventory, but notes were made and after walking a few of the shows, went back to make some purchases. When asking the price a few days later, on gemstones that were still available, we encountered something not expected. Prices were not the same as quoted previously. No, the prices were not less either. The prices were HIGHER! Yes, higher. On a new quote of 4 gemstones from two different companies, the price was higher. How much higher? In one case it was approximately 46% higher, and in the extreme case, it was 500% higher - yes, five times higher. So a quote in this one case went from $60 per carat to $300 per carat. Would they still honor the price quote of $60/ct? No.

Something else noticed this year and different from last year, the wonderful Mozambique Tourmaline that we have been bullish on, was in short supply. This is true not only of lower quality but also the higher quality that All That Glitters would stock in inventory. The nicer material was always scarce and now, it is non-existent. Though articles indicated that mechanized mining would begin in the mines over the past year, this apparently hasn't happened, or, the material is just not being found. All That Glitters has been purchasing this wonderful material, in the beautiful fuschia, magenta, purples, neony blues and greens. With less supply, expect prices to increase - we will attempt to hold prices steady, but wholesale prices of this material are, and have been, above what we are asking on line. Though our business manager wants to mandate that one cannot sell items for less than what it costs to re-purchase, we do try to hold our prices as long as possible.

A number of countries do not export their rough. One is Sri Lanka. Another one, is Madagascar, as the president put a stop to exports when apparently a gemstone that he was interested in, was sold and left the country. With rough not being able to be exported, rough stocks would have increased, and with the new law, the material would have to be faceted in their country. If rough is not moving in quantity to overseas buyers, continuing to mine it would produce a glut of material with no buyers. Therefore, people are not mining as they used to. With not being able to move quantities of rough, people are moving to other sources of income - thereby, decreasing rough available and even cut stones in the country. Good rough has always been difficult to find. The high end rough that All That Glitters seeks is even more scarce. Expect prices to stay firm and go up with time. This is to be expected regardless of economic factors - at least for the rare, unique, exclusive gemstones that All That Glitters seeks to have in inventory. Common gemstones that one can find in every store, on line, and just about everywhere, will stay low and will most likely decrease in value.

We were fortunate enough to catch a segment on National Public Radio (NPR) regarding the Tucson 2009 Gem Show. To paraphrase, what was selling - the more unique and rare gemstones were of most interest. This is in keeping with one of the aspects of the All That Glitters Philosophy - we travel the world seeking out the Unusual, Rare, Unique, One-Of-A-Kind and Exclusive gemstones. (The common everyday merchandise is Always available and Everyone has it. There is far more supply than demand. For the unique, it is an entirely different story - if it is not available and not being found, it doesn't matter how much one is willing to pay, it just is not available!)

To listen to the audio of - Is The Bad Economy Tarnishing Gem Show?
Click on the link to NPR below. If the audio has been removed, one can probably find it through a search of the archives on the NPR website.

NPR/Ted Robbins, February 17th, 2009
Is The Bad Economy Tarnishing Gem Show?
(Note that the interview seems to be the retail show, open to the public, at the Tucson Convention Center after the AGTA Trade Show had ended. Comments would therefore pertain to the retail show. However, the wholesale/trade comments are similar from the feedback we have heard.)

If the above link is not found or is inactive, you may listen to the broadcast at the following link, which will begin to stream the audio, assuming that you have an associated application that can play wav files:
< NPR - Is The Bad Economy Tarnishing the Gem Show >

All That Glitters Website Changes and Info for March 2009

This Months Special: Clear Quartz with Black Tourmaline Needles - Approx 32x22x17mm 74.53cts

This material was purchased during our travels in Brasil back in 1984/1985/1987.
Up to that point, when this material was seen on the market, the quartz was typically cloudy and they were always cut into cabochons. This material was water clear, had distinct black tourmaline needles running through it and these gemstones were faceted into unique shapes. The price currently listed above represents a very large savings over the price that we
were selling it back 20+ years ago.

Was That The Tucson Show That We Just Attended?

This years Tucson Show was unlike all other Tucson Shows that we have attended over the past 20 years. Learn more about this years show as well as listen to commentary from National Public Radio (NPR) who interviewed trade attendees for one of their radio broadcasts.

Newly Faceted or Photographed Gemstones:

We have some really wonderful pieces to offer our customers this month - all very unique and in keeping with the All That Glitters philosophy of one-of-a-kind pieces priced below retail and with most in the vicinity of wholesale to just over wholesale. For this month, this includes the following:

A 1,105ct Madagascar Tourmaline Slice (Liddicoatite)

Bronze Donkey circa pre-1900 from the Senufo Tribe in Africa

Bronze Shiva originally from India circa 18th Century

Absolutely Unique Meteorite from Sikhote-Allin: This is in two distinct pieces that go together like a jigsaw puzzle!

8 Beautiful Mineral Specimens including Tourmaline, Smoky Quartz, Aquamarine, Green Beryl, etc.

Sterling Silver Agate Drusy Pendant

Purple Sapphire; Pinkish Orange (Padparadschah?) Sapphire; Neon Blue Glowing Sapphires (2) that look very much like Kashmir Sapphire; 6 Purple Mozambique Tourmalines (most likely Cuprian because this color has always come back with Copper found when certed) - this includes a MATCHED PAIR, which is something that we have never heard of existing; an incredibly colorful Matrix Opal from Australia; and a large bright neon medium green Tsavorite.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

ATG Blog Causing Talk in Africa!

Until late last month, January 2009, we did not know that anyone was reading the All That Glitters Blog. Though set up at the same time our website underwent an entire change in January 2006, we do not track the hits to our blog. Late in January, we received an email from one of our customers in California, who has made a few purchases of fine gemstones from us. His email has encouraged us, as for the first time, we knew that at least one person was reading our occasional comments - "...and even more importantly to congratulate you on your excellent blog site as well as the updates on many pertinent events occurring around the world and challenging the gemstone business. I read all of the information you publish on your updates as well as your blog; I wanted to make sure that you know I and hopefully others appreciate the work you do and your proven record of honesty and assuring what you have before you sell it. Keep these qualities up, as I am sure you will..."

During a conversation over dinner in Tucson with a person whom had been working for a gemstone/jewelry trade magazine, he too indicated that he followed our blog. More positive response and at least another person reading what can be a timely and costly undertaking for us to put comments into a blog, especially if only a few people do indeed read it!

Today, we have taken in a few phone calls and emails from Africa. Apparently the blog on the new find of what turned out to be Color Change Garnet, is causing talk and controversy in Africa, with people accusing others of having written the emails to All That Glitters. There has been accusations, even to the point where apparently there are rumors that the persons name, email address, and photos related to the find were displayed in the blog - All Untrue... Our goal for this article was to discuss what happens when a find of costly gem material is discovered; discuss the current situation; lament the fact that many of the miners will be taken advantage of; indicate how difficult it is to discuss rough, prices, etc. without seeing the material; the heartbreak and frustration of always hoping to see material after one hears that something interesting has been found, and never actually receiving anything; attempting to discuss Fair Trade Practices and the desire to send funds back to the person who supplied the rough and to the person who found it, if the price paid for the material ended up returning more in profit than expected; discussion of the frustration of not being able to be present to ID gem material, discuss fair prices, insure that no one is cheated along the way and most importantly, to build a business relationship and trust between individuals for future business.

For the Africans, it seems that my hopes to divulge this to the public has failed, due to the problems this is causing to individuals in that area of the world. Apparently, a big issue might have to do with the word "unlearned" that our contact used. Personally, I feel this is a great word and better than "ignorant", which has negative connotations, but means - "lacking knowledge". ( I am certainly ignorant or unlearned or lacking knowledge of the dangers of animals, insects, etc. when in the African bush. I have no issues with this word as it is an accurate description, because in that case, I am ignorant of the dangers or potential issues of being in the bush. That is why I would have to depend on others. In a similar way, those selling rough in the bush, would depend on me to not cheat them. They do not have the skills to determine what the material is - and even a gemologist in the bush without equipment could be guessing at times.
Though someone has identified a 'rock' as a particular mineral, the size, clarity, weight, orientation, cleavage, etc. has to be taken into account, if possible, to determine rough value - and that can be hard even for someone with decades of experience. To take offense at words such as unlearned, ignorant, etc. is a shame because it really shouldn't have the negative connotations that one might initially think. I am ignorant or unlearned about more things than I am even cognizant of! The person whose emails indicated that those finding rough are unlearned, is indeed accurate, and since he understands that, is trying to do his best to help them out also. Instead of those looking down on the writer of the emails, they should be thankful that there seems to be someone over there who understands the issues and is looking to correct them and do his best to help them, as well as himself.

As it is said, any news that keeps a business in the public's eye is good for business and controversy will certainly do that. It seems that miners/sellers of rough and others in Africa are checking into the All That Glitters website for prices, information, updates, etc. We welcome all those visiting, as that is why we started our website 10 years ago!

The blog that has caused talk and controversy is accurate and true, and will remain posted so people understand what it's original intent was meant to cause - thought, consideration of Fair Trade Practices and knowledge.

Update on the African Gem Find of January 2009

During the Tucson show this year, we did some scouting for any gemstones from the new find in Africa that occurred in January. This material was thought to initially be Alexandrite, and then possibly Color Change Garnet. In viewing material and discussing the trade/new finds with many hundreds/thousands of dealers, we did see some dark 'Color Change' Garnet from supposedly this new find. It was unimpressive, too dark and not a great color change, not to mention that it was poorly faceted and did have some inclusions.

In talking to a person whose family lives in that area of Africa and is in the gemstone trade, he indicated that there is some fine material being unearthed, and it is indeed Color Change Garnet and NOT Alexandrite. Not much of this material is being sold or seen in the market because the local miners believe that the material is Alexandrite and therefore are asking prices that are too high for what this material actually is.

The gemstone trade will likely see this material in the future, but unless it is really super material in size, color change, clarity, cutting and price, this, like many gemstones on the market currently, will not have much demand.

The gemstones that are selling are those very unique pieces that are considered to be unique, unusual, rare and in keeping with the All That Glitters inventory and philosophy.