Tucson Preview: 5 Things I Don’t Want to Miss

EditorsJan 25, 2024

Tucson Preview: 5 Things I Don’t Want to Miss

Live gem cutting, supply chain updates, and “the tents” are just a few of the things on Associate Editor Lauren McLemore’s to-do list.

Tucson Gem Hall
The Tucson gem and mineral shows are just around the corner, and Associate Editor, Gemstones, Lauren McLemore is gearing up for her first time attending. (Image credit AGTA.org)
For my first trip to the giant gem shows in the desert, I’ve been assembling a wish list of sorts. 

I won’t lie, I’ve been a bit intimidated by the size of the shows but as it turns out, the bigger the event, the more exciting things there are to discover.

With that optimism in mind, here are five things I’m looking forward to during my inaugural trip to the Tucson gem and mineral shows next week.

Supply Chain Research
At the Hardrock Summit last fall, I attended a session dedicated to updates on the data Colorado School of Mines Ph.D. student and research scientist Jenna White extracted during her field research as part of the Transparent & Traceable Gemstone Supply Chains Initiative, a joint project of the school and the American Gem Trade Association.

The fascinating session closed with a promise that more data would be shared in Tucson. 

I’m eager to hear more about the project (and colored gemstone supply chains in general), so I’ll be attending the AGTA seminar on Feb. 2, “Challenges and Opportunities in Responsible Gemstone Supply Chains.”

Participants will share field data collected over the past several months from select gemstone mining sites and give a platform to gemstone miners to share their experiences in the field.

Panelists include: White; Nicole Smith, associate professor in mining engineering at the Colorado School of Mines; Kimberly Collins, president/owner of Kimberly Collins Colored Gems and AGTA president; John Ferry, founder of Prosperity Earth; Bruce Bridges, president of Bridges Tsavorite and AGTA first vice president; John Ford, AGTA CEO.

Ethical Gem Fair
Speaking of responsible mining, I’m also looking forward to The Ethical Gem Fair Tucson’s fourth annual event featuring brands and professionals who are part of the Ethical Gem Suppliers Collective.

Participants include Agere Treasures, Anza Gems, Capricorn Gems, Columbia Gem House, Nineteen48, Perpetuum Jewels, Nature’s Geometry and Quore Jewelry, and Virtu Gem.

Columbia Gem House Montana sapphires
Colorful Montana sapphires from Columbia Gem House

The trade-only event is slated for Jan. 27–30 at Tucson Scottish Rite Cathedral.  

The fair provides a platform for discovering responsibly sourced gemstones while fostering a community committed to positive social and environmental impact.

The Big Winners
After the Hardrock Summit, I wrote about my delight at seeing so many unique gemstone cuts on display.

So naturally, I’m looking forward to tracking down the contenders and winners in the AGTA Spectrum Awards’ Cutting Edge division. 

In particular, my fingers are crossed for a glimpse at the suite of Paraiba-type tourmalines from Joseph Ambalu of Amba Gem Corp.

20240126_Tucson Preview-Paraibas.jpg
Joseph Ambalu of Amba Gem Corp.’s suite of four oval Paraiba-type tourmalines (31.01 total carats) from Mozambique won first place in the 2023 AGTA Spectrum & Cutting Edge Awards “Pairs & Suites” category.

Live Cutting
If I get to revel in the beauty of the cuts, it’s also important to see how the transformation takes place. 

AGTA has an intriguing lineup of Live Gem Cutting demonstrations to show just that.  

I’m looking forward to the Feb. 1 demonstration, “Recutting to Close a Window.” While there’s no reason I personally need to acquire this particular skill, I do want to observe the cutting process.  

 Related stories will be right here … 

Magus Gems’ Justin K. Prim, an American lapidary and gemologist who’s the founder of Faceting Apprentice, an online gem cutting school, will be conducting the demonstration. 

Working in Lyon, France, he’s studied gem-cutting traditions all over the world, and for this demo, he’ll show the process of recutting and repolishing using a Sri Lankan-style handpiece faceting machine.  
The faceting style and machine are not typical for gemstone cutting in America, AGTA said. 

The Mythical Tents

Last, but of course not least, I’m excited to see what this tent business is all about, as making time to explore those is the most consistent piece of advice I’ve received from past Tucson showgoers.

Being at one of the largest gem and mineral shows in the nation, I’m excited to explore various nearby shows like the 22nd Street Show and learn about things like fossils and other minerals that typically fall outside my range of coverage, as well as view specific curations, such as Native American jewelry collections.  

Now, after a sunny and humid press trip to Miami and a return to frigid, snowy New York, I’ll be spending the next few days trying to figure out what in the world to pack. 

See you in the desert!  

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