6 Trends and Observations from the 2020 Tucson Gem Shows

EditorsFeb 18, 2020

6 Trends and Observations from the 2020 Tucson Gem Shows

Gauging buying at the shows, the stones and shapes we heard about nonstop, and other considerations from the desert.

A selection of Montana sapphires—loose, rough and set in finished jewelry—from Earth’s Treasury (Photo credit: Jeff Hapeman, Earth’s Treasury)
Few places can give you a pulse on the colored stone market quite like Tucson in early February, when all the gem shows are taking place.

The sheer amount of material and members of the trade gathered together in one small city is incomparable, as is the desert in the middle of the wintertime.

This year, a decent holiday season seemed to roll into a great start to the year for many; the 2020 shows had plenty of activity and discussion.

Here are six things I noticed while walking the show floors and tents, attending education seminars and sessions, and talking with members of the industry.

1. The shows went well, and buying was strong. 

Ahead of the shows, I seemed to hear a lot of variations on one phrase—“cautious optimism.”

It’s a phrase we hear a lot at National Jeweler from industry members when we’re trying to gauge the months, or even year, ahead. 

And yet even with the positivity ahead of time, the 2020 Tucson shows seemed to do better than expected. 

Almost everyone I talked to near the end of the week said this year had been good for them, with a few even noting it had been their best, or one of their best, years ever.

A shot from the AGTA GemFair Tucson show floor this year (Image courtesy of AGTA)
A shot from the AGTA GemFair Tucson show floor this year (Image courtesy of AGTA)

2. In faceted stones, the trends were pretty much what I expected.

The beauty of Tucson is that you can see just about any colored gemstone while you’re out there.

But as I was walking around AGTA and GJX toward the end of the week and talking to exhibitors about what was hot, there were a few stones I kept hearing about again and again: spinel, sapphires and garnets.

This falls in line with what a number of exhibitors predicted ahead of the shows.

In spinel, the story was all about the grays and icy shades. For sapphires, purples and pinks were hot, but the real star of the shows appeared to be Montana sapphires.

Purple and pink garnets were hot too, but the stone overall is really finding its footing and currently holds the title of “trade darling.”

There was also a lot of talk about hexagon cuts, kite shapes and other geometric cuts in stones that offer an updated, modern look to a gem.

3. Freeforms and freeform rose cuts were prevalent. 

A few people also mentioned his trend ahead of the shows, but I was still surprised by how often I saw it. 

These unusual shapes didn’t make up a large portion of inventory at the booths, but I saw little selections here and there all over—freeforms, natural shapes, slices and the like. 

They’re perfect for the jeweler who’s looking for something unique and different. 

4. There is more attention being paid to not just cutting, but also the cutters.

Quality cutting has always been desirable, for obvious reasons, when it comes to fine stones.

But the past few years have shown that more attention also is being paid to the faces behind the stones, especially for cutters creating one-of-a-kind designs.

There is an increasing number of cutters whose names we now know and whose work we sometimes even recognize, just as you would a jewelry designer.

More and more, they’re marketing themselves as such. I think the trend has a lot to do with social media; being able to have an Instagram presence, for example, to showcase their work.

On the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 8, I went to the Somewhere in the Rainbow booth at AGTA to meet baby Jenova and take a picture of all the cutters involved in the baby mobile project called Grace, which I think is also a perfect showcase of this evolution in the market.

Nearly all 20 cutters showed up, and what struck me was not only how friendly and happy they all were to be there, but also how the project showcased their importance in the market today.

5. There is a lot of conversation around, and focus on, countries of origin and their development.

This shouldn’t be surprising, given the importance origin plays in the sales of colored stones in the market today.

Yet it felt like there was even more talk about important source regions this year.

Education sessions at AGTA GemFair, for example, included an update on sapphires from Madagascar, as well as a session from GIA on rubies from Mozambique.

I also learned some industry members were organizing a gem exhibition and conference this summer in Zambia, in the same vein as the Kenya Gem and Jewellery Fair. (I’m working on gathering all pertinent details and hope to have a more formal story on the launch soon.)

There also were numerous conversations throughout the week about expanding programs to travel to the source and discussing developments in source countries affecting the market.

I’m happy to see the emphasis in this area.

Ethical sourcing and sustainability are among the industry’s most important topics these days, and I don’t think that conversation can fully happen without members of the trade ensuring they understand how these markets are developing and how those playing a vital role abroad are faring.

A mint-green tourmaline from Pillar & Stone International
A mint-green tourmaline from Pillar & Stone International

6. The time is right for colored stones. 

The past few years have paved the way for colored stones to continue to emerge as a solid option for jewelers. They offer margin, they offer something different, and they provide a story. 

Combined with the strong buying activity and enthusiasm I saw for the sector in Tucson this year, I’d say there’s nothing but upside for colored gems. 

I look forward to watching the market develop. 
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

The Latest

Model Wearing Eat Cake Collection
CollectionsApr 16, 2024
Akaila Reid Launches ‘Eat Cake’ Collection

It’s ultra-feminine and filled with gold, pearls, and soft pastels.

Emily Highet Morgan, Emily Bennett
MajorsApr 16, 2024
Loudr Adds 2 Directors

Emily Highet Morgan and Emily Bennett have joined the agency’s team.

Stuller catalogs
MajorsApr 16, 2024
Stuller Releases First Lab-Grown Diamond Jewelry Catalog

Its updated book for mountings is also now available.

Brought to you by
The Blueprint for Success in Scalable, Personalized Jewelry Retail

With Ho Brothers, you can unlock your brand's true potential and offer customers the personalized jewelry experiences they desire.

Headshot of Karen Rentmeesters
SourcingApr 16, 2024
Karen Rentmeesters Takes Over as Interim CEO of AWDC

She has been with the organization since 2010, most recently serving as its chief officer of PR and industry relations.

Weekly QuizApr 11, 2024
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge with this seven-question quiz.
Take the Quiz
Joyce’s Jewelry
TechnologyApr 15, 2024
Judge Rules Jeweler’s Lawsuit Against PNC Bank Can Move Forward

Joyce’s Jewelry sued the bank after cybercriminals drained its accounts of nearly $1.6 million through a series of wire transfers.

Alfred W. DeScenza
IndependentsApr 15, 2024
Alfred W. DeScenza of DeScenza Diamonds Dies at 95

He is remembered by loved ones for his loyalty, integrity, and kindness.

Jewelers of America Fly In Washington, D.C.
Brought to you by
How Jewelers of America Represents Your Business

For over 30 years, JA has advocated for the industry, fought against harmful legislation and backed measures that help jewelry businesses.

Madeleine K. Albright
AuctionsApr 15, 2024
Madeleine K. Albright Jewelry, Pins Coming to Auction

Hosted by Freeman’s | Hindman, the sale will take place May 7-8.

Audemars Piguet circa 1985 emerald car watch
AuctionsApr 15, 2024
All of Sotheby’s ‘Rough Diamonds’ Sold in Less Than an Hour

The auction house said all 24 timepieces offered in its underground sale of rare and avant-garde watches quickly found buyers.

AGS Conclave 2024 logo Austin
Events & AwardsApr 15, 2024
10 Can’t-Miss Sessions at AGS Conclave 2024

From lab-grown diamonds and AI to the inevitable Taylor Swift mention, here are some of Conclave’s most intriguing educational offerings.

My Next Question webinar
Recorded WebinarsApr 12, 2024
Watch: What Jewelers Need to Know About Insurance

From cybersecurity liability to trade show coverage, insurance experts share tips on how to build the right policy.

Evil Eye Charm with Turquoise Disc
CollectionsApr 12, 2024
Piece of the Week: Lionheart’s Evil Eye Gemstone Charm

The charm is a modern rendition of the evil eye amulet that has been worn for thousands of years.

The Jewelry Symposium scholarship winners 2024
Events & AwardsApr 12, 2024
The Jewelry Symposium Announces 4 Scholarship Winners

Ahead of its trade show next month, TJS awarded free registration and accommodations to one jewelry professional and three students.

SRK Empire and SRK House
Policies & IssuesApr 11, 2024
SRK Exports’ Journey Toward Net Zero Impact

By the end of this year, SRK’s diamond manufacturing complexes will achieve net zero emissions, one of an impressive array of achievements.

AGTA logo
Lab-GrownApr 11, 2024
AGTA Bans Lab-Grown Diamonds, Gemstones at GemFair

Members can still sell lab-grown stones, it said, but only natural gems are allowed on the show floor.

Steven Rosdal
IndependentsApr 11, 2024
Steven Rosdal, Co-Founder of Hyde Park Jewelers, Dies at 77

He is remembered for his charisma, passion, integrity, kindness, and wit.

Macy’s Herald Square store
MajorsApr 11, 2024
Macy’s Opens Books for Possible Buyout

The retailer also appointed two new board members, avoiding a proxy fight from a potential buyer.

Sylvie Jewelry model
CollectionsApr 10, 2024
Sylvie Launches New Nature-Inspired Collection, ‘Tulira’

The bridal collection consists of 35 engagement rings and seven wedding bands.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deepsea in 18-karat yellow gold
WatchesApr 10, 2024
These Are Rolex’s New Watches for 2024

The crown introduced a dozen timepieces in Geneva, including a heavy metal version of its deep-sea divers’ watch.

Levy’s Fine Jewelry diamond education
IndependentsApr 10, 2024
Levy's Fine Jewelry Explores Diamond History

The family-owned jeweler has a new education section on its website dedicated to the history of diamond cutting.

With Clarity NFL wedding bands
CollectionsApr 10, 2024
With Clarity Partners With NFL on Wedding Bands

The limited-edition men’s rings can be customized with one of 12 team logos.

Asian Star’s diamond manufacturing facility in India
SourcingApr 10, 2024
Compliance, Caution, and Concern: The Current Outlook of Indian Diamantaires

There is a willingness to comply with new government-mandated regulations, with an insistence that they should be practical and realistic.

Chrono24 watch inspection lab
WatchesApr 09, 2024
Chrono24 Debuts Pre-Owned Watch Authentication Program

The program, now live in Europe, will roll out to the U.S. this summer.

6.21-carat fancy vivid pink diamond
AuctionsApr 09, 2024
Phillips to Offer 6.21-Carat Vivid Pink Diamond

Colored gemstones and signed jewels are the focus of its upcoming Geneva sale.

Lucapa rough colorless and pink diamonds
SourcingApr 09, 2024
Former De Beers Exec Appointed to Lucapa Board

Stuart Brown, who was De Beers’ CFO and interim CEO, is now Lucapa’s independent non-executive chairman.

Jewelers for Children POS System Donations
MajorsApr 09, 2024
Jewel360 Announces New POS Integration, JFC Partnership

The point-of-sale software can now prompt customers to round up their credit card purchases as a donation to Jewelers for Children.


This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy