I Dream of Gemstones

So the other night, I actually dreamed about gemstones:

I was in a big shopping mall — one of those indoor/outdoor galleria-type ones, upscale — in a hurry, trying to pick a flavor of ice cream to get. I was looking in a display case at the different flavors… but every time I looked, the case was full of gemstones, and not ice cream. (Are gemstones better than ice cream? Depends on the situation, I think.)


I vividly remember the chunk of labradorite I kept seeing in the case (not unlike this one I dug up on Google Images.) The stone was palm-sized, and had a lot of blue-green flash in it. Lovely to gaze upon, and to hold.

I also saw a pile of peridot crystals and gemstones, much like an image that arrived in my Gem-A newsletter the other day (thank you, subconscious, for bringing that one up.) I’ve had peridot on the brain, lately. More so than usual.

Those are the only two gems I remember, and I don’t think I ever successfully ordered any ice cream. Every time I tried to look at some uber-chocolate kind, it turned into labradorite.


I’m experimenting with a new WordPress theme this weekend, to see how it feels. (I may or may not stick with it.)

PS: What’s detritus, you ask? Geologically speaking, a rock made of random crap.

Adventures in Tucson: GJX, Hotel Tucson City Center

Rutilated Quartz Sphere

Rutilated quartz sphere

As mentioned in part one of my adventures, one weekend in Tucson was too much fun for one post; here’s part two!

Before I go any farther, while researching the shop where I saw the quartz sphere to your right, I found that someone made a video of it. It’s much more impressive in motion; none of my photos really captured how cool it was. Saw this at Fine Minerals International, around the corner from Hotel Tucson City Center. Think bowling-ball size?

Across the street from the AGTA GemFair was the Gem and Jewelry Exchange, another wholesale show that I had been advised would be “colorful”, with many foreign vendors. Armed with my AGTA badge, I was able to exchange my business card for a GJX sticker, and waltz right in for free. Note to self: business card = legitimacy. Never mind that any idiot can have a business card printed… myself most certainly included! Unfortunately, GJX had a large “no photography” notice at the door.

GJX was quite different from AGTA. While browsing a dealer of included quartz, I cheerfully haggled with an Italian man whose span of English was the word “OK?” If I picked something up for more than a second or two, he would take it from my hand, calculate a price, and show me the calculator, saying “OK? OK?” If I took the stone back, or started browsing again, this process would repeat, resulting in a lower price. Eventually I caved and bought two stones (for the original price of the first stone.) It was too fun!

I stopped by the booths of two faceting rock stars. The first was John Dyer, gemstone artist extraordinaire. Mr. Dyer is self-taught, and has earned almost 40 faceting awards since 2002. He and his adorable wife Lydia were working the booth, both bubbling with enthusiasm (and who wouldn’t be, given the stones they were showing? GORGEOUS stuff.) I love what he does with ametrine.

The second was Constantin Wild, of the long Idar-Oberstein faceting tradition in Germany. Mr. Wild’s booth was quite posh (he even had a cushy couch for meeting with clients), his stones were insanely beautiful, and he has a beautiful book out. (Sadly I couldn’t pick one up; I had very few pennies left at that point.) I also visited Palladot, and saw a breathtaking display of extraterrestrial peridot. (The per-carat prices made me want to cry. Alas, earwax.)

The Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show at Hotel Tucson City Center

A hotel turns into multi-level rock shopping!

My second day in Tucson, I paid a visit to the Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show at Hotel Tucson City Center, which was a lot of fun, partially because the set-up is so unreal. Gem dealers book hotel rooms, move out the furniture, install display cases and open for business! (I think they sleep in there too, somewhere.) Patrons wander from building to building, room to room, and the hotel helpfully installs signs outside each room indicating what business resides there (temporarily.) I went there to meet Geoff Notkin, of the Meteorite Men tv show, and stayed for loads of interesting vendors. One was set up as a complete darkroom, selling fluorescent minerals! (I bought a few; once I get a proper UV lamp, I’ll attempt to photograph them.)

Animatronic dinosaurs at the Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show

Animatronic dinosaurs.

In the courtyard by the pool, and out front, animatronic dinosaurs hung out and roared at passers-by. I went on Sunday morning, and returned in the afternoon, which ended up being perfect timing, as the crowds cleared as soon as the Superbowl started. (Huzzah, a whole rock show mostly to myself!) I saw some amazing meteorites, and a lot of beautiful pallasites. There were many vendors dedicated to minerals from a specific locale (Russia, Ethiopia, etc), which were fascinating to browse through.

There were tents and tables set up in practically every empty lot in Tucson (that’s how it seemed), and I walked through some of them on “Hotel Row”. I walked into one tent and saw a fully-articulated mammoth skeleton, and a triceratops skull sitting on the ground. Other places had beads, finished jewelry, rough material, anything you could imagine.

In closing, I’d like to share my friend Robyn’s photo, as it’s hilarious (and also gives some scale for my final photo):

Dinosaur at Hotel Tucson City Center front entrance

Dinosaur at the front entrance - look out, FedEx guy! Photo by Robyn Hawk.

While you ponder the fate of the FedEx man, did you notice the blackish blob-thing by the dinosaur’s tail? It was a giant amethyst cavity. Here’s the one that was standing across from it, which was not quite as big (sorry for the poor photo, not enough light.)

Giant amethyst cavity, seen at the Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show entrance (Hotel Tucson City Center)

Amethyst cavity, 8-10 feet tall?

Adventures in Tucson: the AGTA GemFair

Entrance to the AGTA GemFair Tucson

AGTA GemFair welcomes you!

Even just one weekend in Tucson is too much adventure for one post, so first I’ll tell you about the AGTA GemFair, and show what bits I was allowed to photograph. The AGTA GemFair was my first stop in Tucson, and I spent the most time there, overall. It was a kaleidoscope of fine gems and finished jewelry, and (in my experience) very friendly people. I spent as much time chatting and networking as I did oggling!

The show floor, as seen from the Galleria

Just before the show opens...

I got to the show at around 9:30 am, Saturday the 4th, checked in, received my guidebook and fluorescent orange tote bag, and spent the time before show opening looking over the Galleria booths (societies, schools, and information-type things) and eyeing the GIA “Mega Gems” display (see last post.) I had some very good conversations that morning! I also strolled through the Designer Pavilion and admired some of the AGTA Spectrum Award winners. (What can I say? Not all modern jewelry is to my taste. I like my jewelry wearable, I guess….)

The Hooker Emerald, part of the National Gem Collection, visits courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute

The Hooker Emerald visits Tucson

One of my first stops on the show floor (and the only part I could take pictures of) was the Smithsonian Institution’s gem display. As I haven’t yet been to see the National Gem Collection in Washington, DC, this was my first in-person look at the Hooker Emerald. A 75.47-carat Colombian emerald (over an inch square, by my guess), the Hooker Emerald “was once the property of Abdul Hamid II, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (1876-1909), who according to legend, wore it in his belt buckle.” (Description from the Smithsonian Institution.) AWESOME.

Peridot, 100.15 carats, Pakistan

Peridot, 100.15 carats

I also enjoyed seeing some new donations to the National Gem Collection, including a faceted, extraterrestrial peridot (donated by Palladot); a gorgeous, 100.15 carat terrestrial peridot from Pakistan; and a colorful 43.52 carat sphene (titanite). I came back to this booth a few times. (And back upstairs to the Mega Gems display; the contents are exactly what it sounds like. Big stuff.)

I made a beeline for the Pala Gems booth, particularly to see this amazing bi-color topaz, but also to look around. I adore Pala’s website, and it was a treat to see some of those stones in person.

43.52 carat sphene (titanite)

43.52 carat sphene

I saw a lot of amazing opal: fantastic arrays of Ethiopian opals, lovely fire opals from Nevada (not so fiery, but a warm, sunny glow), and boulder opal from Australia. Some sellers had mined and cut the material themselves. It was a pleasure to talk to them; enthusiastic about their wares, and eager to share their knowledge. I was told before I went to Tucson that I could trust anything I bought at AGTA GemFair. I definitely felt that to be the case. Sellers were open about stone origins and treatments, and I think I learned a lot! I met some terrific people that day.

Among the terrific people I met was AGTA CEO Doug Hucker, who is also one of the first confirmed readers I’ve had here at Many Faceted (besides friends and family.) Hi, Doug! It’s a neat, and still pretty new experience for me, to meet someone who reads my online ramblings. I bet readership would go up if I rambled more often. Still working on a regular posting schedule.

It’s been nearly three weeks and I still feel I have a ton of experiences to sift through, mentally, all from that first day at AGTA. (Yes folks, we’re still on Saturday; haven’t even touched Sunday yet. Stay tuned!) So while I sift, and prepare the next segment of my Tucson adventures, I leave you with a faceted quartz the size of a football (okay, maybe not quite that big. But BIG.)

Note on photos: click to enlarge. If you got all the way down here without clicking on anything, please know that I would never deprive you of jumbo-size gem images. That’s mean.

Quartz, 21,299 carats

Quartz, 21,299 carats. Yes, you read that right. It's a big'un.