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Trending in Tucson: Buyers snap up exotics and one-offs for bespoke pieces

By Diana Jarrett

Platinum cufflinks by Mark Schneider accented with 18-karat yellow gold. Featuring a 19.12-carat and a 19.15-carat rutilated quartz, tsavorites (.22 ctw),  and yellow and white diamonds (2.17ctw).
Platinum cufflinks by Mark Schneider accented with 18-karat yellow gold. Featuring a 19.12-carat and a 19.15-carat rutilated quartz, tsavorites (.22 ctw), and yellow and white diamonds (2.17ctw).

Each February like clockwork, the faithful and the curious make their way to Tucson, Ariz., for the American Gem Trade Association’s (AGTA’s) GemFair and other shows to seek out new stones and jewellery. This year’s events brought a steady stream of buyers, and not all were bargain hunting. Many were steeled to pay dearly for important one-offs from favoured designers, and the turnout supported that stance. “We’re up over five per cent in attendance from last year,” said AGTA chief executive officer (CEO) Douglas Hucker. “It actually exceeded our expectations.”

Veteran pundits noticed Thai and Chinese buyers early on picking up anything and everything in coloured stones. “The Chinese know they are not buying at the lowest prices, or even the best of species, but they can still make money back home,” says gemstone dealer Paul Levin, owner of California-based Tairona Co. Toronto native and gem cutter Sherris Shank found that easy to understand. “The Chinese have new money to spend and they’ve long valued gemstones,” she says. “They’ve also been focusing on buying rough, which has driven up the price on many coloured stones.”

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