Snapshots from the Tucson 2004 Gem and Mineral Show
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Hey rockhounds, greetings from Tucson and welcome to my online Tucson 2004 Gem and Mineral Show report!

Roughing It I

Friends Jerry Ferrin, a faceting protege of mine, and Rob Kulakofsky, fellow Old Pueblo Lapidary Club member and proprietor of the ColorWright group of online gem and mineral stores met for breakfast Saturday morning and then headed out to check out some faceting and cabbing rough at the Pueblo Inn show. Jerry and I met Rob at Werner Radl's room 101.

Werner's room has become a regular haunt of mine for faceting rough at the Tucson Show and should be visited as early as possible by any faceter shopping for some staple rough at the Show. Depicted above and at left are trays and bins of various species of faceting rough, which Werner sells on a you-get-to-pick basis. As a hobbyist faceter I prefer to cherry pick my rough, as I don't cut enough of any given material to be able to justify (or afford) parcels.

Hey faceters, check out that bin of 40 cents per gram garnets shown at left. That's just 8 cents per carat folks! I passed on it this year as I spent about an hour cherry picking from a bin of this same material a couple years ago at Werner's and still have a nice bag of it in my rough box. I almost bought more anyway as I am keen on these for cabbing as well as faceting, but dutifully held that nearly irresistible impulse in check... Rob spent a while picking through and buying some of this material, and some of what Rob bought this year will no doubt wind up in Jerry's embryonic rough box.

Among the other materials in these you-pick bins were tourmalines at 20 and 30 cents per gram, other garnets including almandine, hessonite, rhodolite at 18, 20, 40, 50 and 70 cents per gram, peridot at 12 and 40 cents per gram, zircon at 40 cents per gram, scapolite at 1.60 per gram, tanzanite at 1.80 per gram, aquamarine at 2.00 per gram, and tasavorite garnet at 2.00 per gram.

Werner also offers faceting rough on a pour or parcel basis, and this bin of sold-by-the-pour garnet behind the glass caught Rob's eye. After inspecting about 10 pieces picked out on a random basis with his Mag light, Rob declared "I'll take it" and snarfed up the entire bin. Some of this material will no doubt be making its way into my own rough box when Rob has time to accommodate me after the Show... :)

Mawingu Gems Ltd., Pueblo Inn Room 101 - Email: D-85301 Gunterdorf Am Weingrund 6, Germany - Phone: +49-(0)8444-91483 Fax: +49-(0)8444-91483

New Era Gems had numerous bins of faceting and cabbing rough set up on tables in the walkway outside their Room 101 at the Pueblo Inn show. Here's a peek into some of them.

Shown above left is Tundura gem mix. This material runs small but not every application calls for the 15mm and up size stones that I have am prone to cut and there was some really fine color in this mix. I saw chrysoberyl, spinel, garnets, zircon, topaz, sapphire and other species of cabbing and facet grade rough in this mix. It was offered at $5.00 per gram you-pick, 10 grams for $40 you-pick or a 100 gram pour for $200 basis.

Pictured above right is Tanzania chrysoprase which was priced at $60 per pound.

Depicted above left are some chunks of malachite which were going for $10 per pound. Above right is a bin of Madera citrine which was offered at $12 per gram you-pick or $4,500 per kilo on a pour basis.

Shown above left is Oregon sunstone priced at $10 per gram you pick or $3,500 per kilo for a pour. Shown above right is an amethyst mix which wanted $2.00 per gram on a you-pick basis.

Depicted above left are fire agates which were offered for $5.00 each. Shown above right are some blocks of Russian charoite which was offered at $60 per gram.

Pictured above left is black diopside which was going for $50 per pound. Above right is a bin of fossil coral slabs which were priced at 50 cents per gram you-pick, or $300 per kilo New Era's pick. I thought this fossilized coral was pretty and had some interesting potential.

New Era Gems, Pueblo Inn Room 110 - WWW: Email: 14923 Rattlesnake Rd., Grass Valley, CA 95945 - Phone: 800-752-2057 Fax: 530-272-2985

A little further down the walkway were more bins of rough offered by MJ3 Inc., an importer specializing in African rough and gem materials from whom I have purchased a fair amount of rough over the years at the Tucson Show. Here's a peek into several of their buckets, baskets and bins.

Depicted above left is a chunk of labradorite which was going for $7.00 per pound. Check out that color although you really have to see this material first hand to really appreciate the iridescence and play of color in labradorite.

Shown above right are some nice size chunks of rose quartz which were very suitable for faceting, cabbing or carving. This rose was wanting 50 cents per gram, just one thin dime per carat... I still have several nice chunks of this rose in my rough box which I purchased from MJ3 a few years back. This material cuts a nice stone although larger ones tend to look a little "sleepy" due to very fine inclusions, which just seems to be the way it is if you want to facet a rose. If my budget holds out I will probably pick up a few more chunks of this rose this year for carving and cabbing.

Above left are green turbos from the Mozambique canal. I am also a shell collector although all of the specimens in my shell collection have been picked up off the ocean floor my my own hand while scuba diving or snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez. Some rock collectors are that way about the rocks in their collection - it's interesting how we collectors seem to find our own boundaries regarding style and the means of acquisition for our own collections. While I don't collect silver picked shells as specimens, the application of shell as rough is not lost on me and I always check out shells for cutting up when I see them offered at shows and also in shell and curio shops. These green turbos had nice color and interesting potential as rough. They were offered at $30 each or 6 for $100.

Depicted above right are slabs cut from andalusite crystals. I thought this material would make interesting cabs for a unique piece of jewelry. They were priced at $4.00 each.

MJ3 Inc., Pueblo Inn Room 118 - WWW: Email: 570 5th Avenue, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10036 Phone: 212.730.6826 Fax: 212.302.7046

Across the walkway from New Era Gems and MJ3 were several tables piled high with rough turquoise, turquoise cabs and traditional Southwestern Native American style jewelry which were shown by Dayton Simmons of Silver Day Trading Company. I very much appreciate this style jewelry as I think it delivers a high aesthetic relative to the tools required to execute it. As my own silver working skills progress I have been developing an increasing interest in turquoise rough, so I always check out turquoise whenever I see it offered.

Shown above left are smaller pieces of turquoise rough from Carico Lake, Crescent Valley, Nevada. This material had very nice color and wanted $3 per gram for you-pick or $1000 per pound on a parcel basis.

Above right are smaller pieces of turquoise rough from Cripple Creek, Colorado. This material wanted 50 cents per gram for you-pick or $125 per pound on a parcel basis.

Depicted above left and right are some mouth watering larger chunks of Cripple Creek turquoise which wanted $2 per gram you-pick or $600 per pound on a parcel basis. Note the cabs which were cut from this material serving to illustrate the finished result.

Pictured above left are some large nuggets of the Carico Lake turquoise. The nuggets in this lot were priced at $2 per gram - the nugget in hand weighed in at 95 grams and wanted $195 to go home.

Above right are some chunks of something different - magnesite from southern Arizona. It was priced at 35 cents per gram you-pick or $100 per pound by the parcel.

Dayton was also showing some Australian turquoise, which I had never seen before, at least not identified as to its source. According to Dayton the bulk of this material has made its way into the hands of Chinese cutters and merchants, so there is a chance that some of the "Chinese" turquoise you may have or see on the market is actually from Rum Jungle, Northern Territories, Australia. Shown above left and right are several chunks of this Australian rough and a tray of cabs cut from it. The cabs were priced at $4 per carat, the rough was not for sale.

Silver Day Trading Company - Pueblo Inn Courtyard - Dayton Simmons, PO Box 22716, Santa Fe, New Mexico - Phone: 505.982.3310

After leaving the Pueblo Inn, Jerry and I stopped by to hunt for rough at the Ramada Limited show, which is the old La Quinta show reincarnated. We didn't find much worth writing home about in the way of rough at this show, but outside Mikon's room 169 we did find a couple of trays filled some nice sliced ammonite pairs suitable for making earrings, cufflinks or other jewelry. These are fairly ubiquitous at the Tucson show but what pushed my buttons on these was the price, which was only $1.75 per pair. I couldn't resist and snarffed up 3 cherry picked pairs of these. Jerry concurred and also cherry picked several nice pairs.

Mikon, Ramada Limited (formerly La Quinta Inn) Room 169 - WWW: Email: Steinslieth 11, D - 37130 Klein Lengden, Germany - Phone: +49 - (0) 5508 - 97 44 70 Fax: +49 - (0) 5508 - 97 44 71

Jerry and I traditionally browse the fossil show together at the Vagabond Plaza show (formerly Ramada Inn), so we headed there to finish off what remained of the afternoon. This show is focused on fossils rather than rough. But like gold, rough is where you find it, and while poking around there I found some interesting rough scattered about.

Pictured above left is a tray of Australian opals which were offered by Kasper von Wuthenau on the Geofactum table in the courtyard for $30 your choice of the lot. The piece shown in hand above right jumped out at me as a fine ready to mount piece for a bola project.

The piece shown in hand at left was blocky and struck me as a nice one for a ring stone. With a thin gemstone blade in a 4 inch trim saw and careful cutting it would be possible to get about 3 nice slices from this block thick enough to be serviceable for mounting au natural, or even more slices for use in a doublet or triplet. That would make for a several rather nice $10 or less ring stones.

GeoFactum, Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show at the Vagabond Plaza Hotel (formerly the Ramada Inn) - WWW: Email: Kasper von Wuthenau, Diplomgeologe, DorfstraBe 13, 19246 Techin / Germany - Fax: +4940432554061

Ivory anyone? I would not carve or own ivory from extant mammals due to ethical problems with them being hunted to extinction for their tusks and horns. However, I don't have a problem with carving ivory from species which have already been hunted to extinction, such as this mammoth ivory from Russia and Alaska. And of course mammoth ivory has a much higher cool factor than elephant or rhino ivory anyway.

Canada Fossils was showing and offering a table loaded with smaller pieces of high grade mammoth ivory for 40 cents per gram. The clean creamy piece shown in hand above right weighed 40 grams and so wanted $16 to go home with me and it did. I plan to to try my hand at carving this piece and I also couldn't resist another larger but thinner piece at about the same weight and cost to be used in a still undetermined application.

Shown above left is another nice piece of mammoth ivory rough that weighed in at 179 grams, putting the cost of this one at $71.60. This one featured darker "grain" markings. Note the convex shape of this piece. The mammoth tusks apparently have "annular rings" somewhat like trees and the ivory seems to fracture along these rings as the tusk ages.

Depicted above right is one of several boxes filled with second grade mammoth ivory offered by Canada Fossils at $110 per kilogram. These pieces were in the 12-18" length range. Most of this material exhibited pretty severe fracturing around the rings and looked rather tatty to me. Maybe I will also pick up a smaller piece of this material to see how it carves sometime but in the meanwhile I think I'll stick with the 40 cents per gram grade.

Shown in hand above left and right is another piece of mammoth ivory from the Canada Fossils table that went home with me. This piece weight 35 grams and so cost $14. It is not committed to a specific project yet but may wind up cut up into little pieces for use as inlay.

Canada Fossils also showed a table covered with chunks of ammolite rough, which is derived from Placenticeras, a genus of Late Cretaceous ammonites which were widespread throughout the Earth's oceans. These Southern Alberta, Canada ammonites are known and coveted throughout the gem and mineral world for their spectacular iridescent shells, which are designated as the official gemstone of Canada.

The ammolite pieces offered on this table varied significantly in size and quality and wanted a spread of prices ranging from about $15 to $490. The chunk of green ammolite shown in hand above right was priced at $50.

Unlike most of those I inspected, the piece shown in hand above left and right was covered with ammolite on both sides. This one wanted $45 to go home.

The pretty green piece shown above left was asking $35. I think this one has great bola tie potential. The piece of ammolite on the right was priced at $85. Ammolite is similar to opal in terms of assessing the quality of a piece in that more colors and higher price go hand in hand.

The piece depicted above left wanted $30, the piece shown above right was priced at $45.

While this magnificent example of God's own ammolite handiwork certainly isn't a cutter, I just couldn't resist showing it off to illustrate where the ammolite rough shown above comes from. This particularly fine specimen is about 9 inches in diameter, but some Placenticeras grew shells exceeding a meter in diameter. Only a few percent of the ammonites recovered by Canada Fossils are intact and specimen grade. This one wanted $14,000 to go home, and while there was unfortunately no way it was going home with me, I was rather surprised not to see a sold sticker on this one already. The Tucson Show never fails to impress two lessons every year. The first is that the best of the best at Tucson invariably costs a lot of money, and the second is that there are appreciative and well healed connoisseurs scouring Tucson with the means to pay it.

Canada Fossils, Vagabond Plaza Colony Room - WWW: 536-38A Avenue, SE, Calgary, Alberta, Canada TG2 1X4 Phone: 877.242-6637 Fax: 403.243.3959

Need more input? For additional information on gemstones and lapidary materials be sure and check out the Books about Gemstones and Books about Lapidary in the References for Rockhounds catalog at Bob's Rock Shop!

Also check out my related article On Hunting Faceting Rough in the Backwater at Tucson.

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