|Jochen Hintze from Jentsch Mineralien|
Shopping for gems in Tucson is one of the most overwhelming experiences you can imagine. If you don't stay focused on what you want to look for, and if you don't keep an eye on your budget, you will spend everything on the first day. You also need a plan. Wholesale purchases are not refundable. On occasion you can exchange, but usually only if something's wrong with the product or if you have a relationship with the seller. If you have a customer who is interested in something but needs to see the stone first, I can memo it at the show from the sellers that I know and that trust me, I photograph it, and then return it after a day or two if there's no sale. That's the best way to do it short of buying a ton of stuff just so that you can send out photos. You still have the risk of return but I have to say 95% of my customers understand the risks I have to take and return only if absolutely necessary. Or they tell me ahead of time that they are not sure about a purchase so that I can make different choices. With some sellers I can memo gems for longer, which I do at the end of the show, then I can mail out the goods to my customers and pay only for what I sell after the return period is up.
The AGTA (the American Gem Trade Association) only allows US businesses as vendors. That means you see a lot of familiar faces there. Pala Gems, Prima Gems, and lots of other well known sellers have big exhibits there. Some do retail business online also, most don't. Some do retail shows but not as many as they used to because online business is often better than retail shows. The GJX show has a lot of international vendors, some of which I see only once a year, only at that show. For instance, there's a small Israeli company (two brothers) that specialize in Vietnamese (and other) spinel. They spend all year matching up pairs of lavender spinels for earrings, and they carry some very vibrant pinks also. I try to get to their booth on the first day. There is also a red beryl dealer in the GJX show - red beryl and paraiba and benitoite actually. I see him quickly as well though he will now occasionally send me things in the mail. It took two years to establish that but now we have a good "mail and email" relationship. When I have him ship me goods I make sure I buy at least one thing from each shipment so that the relationship continues.
|Red Beryl and Aquamarine|
|Lavender Spinel from Vietnam|
|Pink Spinel from Vietnam|
|Pink Spinel from Vietnam and Purple Sapphire|
I don't go to Tucson with a fixed budget, though I do go with a list of things, and I replenish what I am out of and what I cannot get elsewhere (except sometimes Vegas): hauynite (hauyne), Burma spinel melee, hopefully demantoid melee if any is left. Those three items are high on my list so I will try to do those on the first day also. Some booths get overrun the first day, so you can't even get an invoice made. But at one such booth I am a repeat buyer so I just put everything I am definitely buying into a tray with my business card and they make the invoice in the afternoon. Sometimes I start taking photos already before getting the invoice, and listing items. I tell them which boxes I am borrowing, go outside (there is an outdoor seating area with some food trucks) to photograph, then bring the boxes back and photograph the front and back to do the pricing and get the weights.
In addition to my purchasing tray, I make a second tray with things I may want but am not committing to. This tray I keep limited because it is rude to take inventory out of stock on the first day that you are not buying. So I usually tell the staff that if they have a call for it, put it back into stock. They normally don't but I want to make sure they know that they can. I've seen people go glitter crazy and stash stuff into trays and then not return to purchase. That sort of behavior is remembered and it is not likely that the person will get away with it twice.
At Dudley Blauwet's booth I will be getting sapphires - his are THE most well cut and cleanest on the market, and he's never wrong about whether or not they are heated. In fact Dudley boasts - correctly I believe - that he has the largest collection of unheated sapphires on the market. And he is well known for them too. If any of my buyers wants sapphires, in particular Ceylon, no heat, Tucson and Vegas are the best times to let me know because I will see the widest variety. JTV and other big online retailers visit booths like his on the first day and sometimes buy out entire productions (one year all the Kenyan yellow sapphires were gone when I got there).
I will also be looking for more Paraiba tourmaline, though one of the two largest sources I have is located in Manhattan and they call me when they cut material. The Brazilians incidentally, have been buying back their stock because there is such a craze out there and the material is no longer mined. Then they turn around and sell it for more. Prices have not stopped rising and most of the sellers that know I'm after any good Paraiba now let me know when they run low. For instance the melee's I carry are going to be gone soon. There are maybe 2-3 carats left of each of the sizes I buy and certain common sizes (i.e. 1.5mm) is out. The largest melee is 1.8mm and those I have to sell for $88 each, which is why I don't buy them. Though I can if I have a call.
|Paraiba Tourmaline Earrings|
|Benitoite and Rhodochrosite at GJX 2016|
More about Tucson coming up in two weeks....