Editors’ Picks: What We Loved at the 2018 Tucson Shows

We say it every year: This year’s Tucson shows were the best! When the Jewelry team is in Tucson for the gem, jewelry, mineral, and fossil (etc.) shows, we have incredibly long days, very tired feet, shockingly little sleep, and ridiculous amounts of fun.

We also work really hard, really long hours to see as much of what the Tucson shows offer as we possibly can. Then we love to bring it home and share it with you! Among the four of us, we covered a wide variety of Tucson shows and got a great sense of what’s hot, new, and happening in the gem and jewelry industry this year . . . plus a good dose of things we love. Here’s a bit of all of that, from all of us.

Tucson Finds: Bones and Stones at the 22nd Street Show

By Karla Rosenbusch
Managing Editor, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

As the editor of the Tucson Show Guide, I’m always asked what my favorite Tucson shows are. It’s impossible for me to pick just one (they’re all awesome), but high on the list would have to be the 22nd Street Mineral, Fossil, Gem, and Jewelry Show. That one has a wide variety of very cool stuff. But this year? It was even better!

skeletons at the 22nd Street Show - Tucson shows

There was a new tent at the 22nd Street show this year–the Showcase tent. I entered it with my friend and former colleague Ashley Lauwereins, and we immediately geeked out. Dinosaurs! Big honking fully assembled dinosaur skeletons! Right at the entrance to the tent. I’m sure Ashley and I made a spectacle of ourselves as we immediately squealed, grabbed each other, and yelled, “Look! Look!” We did go a little nuts. I particularly loved the saber-toothed tiger skeleton. (Yeah, not a dinosaur. Still cool.)

giant plant fossil at 22nd Street Tucson shows

Once we could pry ourselves away from the skeletons, Ashley and I explored the rest of the Showcase tent. There were the most amazing fossils at a lot of the booths. My boyfriend had asked me to find him an interesting plant fossil–and I found one! Okay, it was about six feet long and mounted on the wall. I doubted that it would fit in my luggage for the trip home. So I left it–after drooling for a while.

Impactite Gemstones

Impactite. Photo: Courtesy Aeorlite Meteorites, Inc. Tucson shows

Impactite. Photo: Courtesy Aeorlite Meteorites, Inc.

Ah, but then! Ashley and I found another booth that made us geek out even more (if that’s possible). Aeorlite Meteorites had some of the most amazing examples of meteorites and other “space” rocks. You could even buy a piece of Mars (a very small piece, but still). What intrigued us most was the display of impactites, or Libyan Desert Glass. These amazing stones were created when meteorites impacted (thus, the name) the North African desert, turning the sand to glass and stone. They were stunning! Impactites are rare and expensive, but I want one! What an amazing piece of jewelry an impactite would make. I think I’ll save my pennies. Maybe next year . . .


The Purple Report from the Tucson Shows

By Merle White
Editor-in-Chief, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

I wasn’t planning on an all-purple peek at what I saw at the Tucson shows this year, it just kind of happened. Still, it’s a good way to convey that while Tucson is the world’s biggest gem show, there’s a lot more to see than just cut stones. Here are a few images of purple things I snapped while making my way through some of the 40+ venues this year.

amethyst boot geode Tucson shows

These Boots Say Tucson

You probably know amethyst as a pretty purple gem that is usually cut as a faceted stone, but that’s not its only available form. Geodes are hollow rocks, prized when they are lined with well-formed crystals. This one just screams “Tucson shows” to me: a geode that happened to take the form of a cowboy boot, no kidding. Saw it in half and what do you get? A pair of amethyst crystal cowboy boots. I love gems, I love purple, I love boots–I want them! From Artigas, Uruguay, as displayed at the Uncarved Block (their label!).

amethyst stalactite Tucson shows

Amethyst Stalactite

Sometimes amethyst takes on the long form of a stalactite. This specimen was included in one of the special exhibits at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, the original Tucson show presented by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society since the 1950s. The theme this year was crystals and crystal forms.

Zander Wackler quartz cabochon Tucson shows

Jazzy Quartz Cabochon

Zander Walker at Colorado Gemworks cut this pretty quartz cabochon that shows areas of amethyst as well as long thin reddish crystals. Amethyst is purple quartz; the reddish crystals are likely rutile.

colored stone pendant plus, front and back, Naked Matrix Minerals, Tucson shows

Colored Stone Pendant and Then Some

Though Naked Matrix Minerals was selling mostly mineral specimens, there were a couple of pieces of interesting jewelry there, too. The faceted amethyst in the center of this piece is surrounded by all kinds of colored stones–on the front of the pendant, on its sides, and on its back, too.

charoite wire filigree ring front and back, Uvon Chalenkov, Tucson shows

Filigree Wire Filigree Charoite Ring

This ring is a stunner. It’s as long as my index finger! The gem is exceptional in color and with a lovely play of light, called chatoyance. Charoite has been found only in Russia, so it’s not surprising that the elegant work by Moscow artist Uvon Chalenkov is done in a traditional Russian filigree style.


Highlights from the Tucson Shows

By Tamara Honaman
Editorial Director, Interweave Bead & Jewelry Group

Traveling to Tucson for the gem, fossil, jewelry, and everything-under-the-sun shows is a highlight and kicks off the year with a bang! It’s not only a great time of year to head out of Dodge, catch some warm sunshine, and hang out with friends and coworkers, but there is actually a lot of cool stuff to be seen, new things to be learned, and new people to meet! This year’s adventure did not disappoint–80 degrees, full sun, busy shows, and plenty of them to attend. Not to mention lots of new products to work into my studio!

Vessels and bracelets by Bill Fretz. Tucson shows

Vessels and bracelets by Bill Fretz.

Bill Fretz and Fretz Tools

I made a beeline to Bill Fretz’s booth on my first full day in town. It wound up being one of only a few booths I visited that day. I mention this as unusual, as you can see a whole show in a day, but when visiting and learning with Bill, one must change tack and focus on quality, not quantity!

Bill shared so much information with us, from new tools to new work he’s created. Speaking of new, I purchased one of Bill’s new annealing pans–cast iron with a cut out along to the top edge to fit a soldering board–brilliant!

More new: In the picture above, the tall piece of wood in the foreground is a magnet holder. This little tool, featuring Bill’s signature wood with a beautiful finish, is designed to help clean up your workbench! It’s also great at helping find things, so if you’re like me and drop this and that while you work, you too will soon fall in love with this device. The tools in the trays are new chasing tools! Stay tuned for more info on these babies.

Lapidary and Glass Artist Kevin O’Grady

The next maker on the list for this show was Kevin O’Grady. Many of you know Kevin for his amazing work with borosilicate glass.

Borosilicate earrings and bracelets by Kevin O’Grady. Photo David Orr Photography

Borosilicate earrings and bracelets by Kevin O’Grady. Photo David Orr Photography

Some may know him for his lapidary prowess.

Gemstone inlay cuff by Kevin O’Grady. Photo David Orr Photography

Gemstone inlay cuff by Kevin O’Grady. Photo David Orr Photography

We had the pleasure of spending time with Kevin, looking at his new work, his glass cabochons, and his beautiful line of gemstone jewelry. Kevin will be featured in the May/June 2018 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, along with a project by Lexi Erickson featuring one of Kevin’s cabochons.

Ranger Ink and ICE Resin

Another highlight this Tucson trip and a must on the list was to visit the Ranger booth. The buzz from the Creativation show, held two weeks prior to Tucson, was palpable. So I had to see the “new” in person!

Susan Lenart Kazmer brings her original bezel designs into a form that works with the full line of ICE Resin products.  Check out these designs!

Designs by Susan Lenart Kazmer, featuring a few new ICE Resin Rune Bezels along with other works. - Tucson shows

Designs by Susan Lenart Kazmer, featuring a few new ICE Resin Rune Bezels along with other works.

Other new products include ICE Resin Opals in Sand Opal, Cobalt Opal, and Silver Opal. You can add these under resin, on top of ICED Enamels, and on and on! Ranger also debuted new lusters in Red Quartz, Pacific Ocean, and Black Obsidian. Use these for a permanent, opaque shimmering effect on metal or in resin.

ICE Resin glitter tints opal inks - Tucson show

Now the fun is to work these new tools and products into our studios! (The not so fun is it’s still winter at home and snowing!)

–Tammy H

Ranger Ink ICE Resin pacific ocean luster tint

A Few of My Favorite Things from the Tucson Shows

By Tammy Jones
Editor, Interweave Jewelry

One of my favorite new products from Tucson is the Pacific Ocean luster from Ranger that Tammy H mentioned, above. I swear if I looked at the sample very long, I could see waves crashing in those deep blue waters. We’ll have to figure out how they did that, ha!

natural pearls abalone, conch, melo, other rare natural pearls American Pearl Company, Nashville TN - AGTA Tucson shows

Natural pearls from American Pearl Company. Click the image for a close-up look.

Natural Pearls, Rare Pearls, and Some More Pearls

My Tucson shows budget went almost entirely to pearls. Collectible pearls, to be exact, from my two must-see vendors every year, American Pearl Company at the AGTA Show and Pacific Pearls / Kojima Pearl at the GJX Show.

Shopping for "lagniappe" pearls from American Pearl Company. - Tucson shows

Shopping for “lagniappe” pearls from American Pearl Company.

A highlight of this year’s Tucson shows was catching American Pearl Company owner Gina Latendresse when she was available to chat. What came next was a delightful lesson in rare natural pearls. It went like this: I asked to see one and she told me all about it; repeat, repeat. Pearl girl gem geeks like me call that heaven!

Cumberland Roses natural pearl from American Pearl Company Nashville, TN

The Cumberland Roses natural pearl from American Pearl Company. That orient! That color! Oh my.

Though I’ve studied them for years, I learned a lot about natural pearls talking with Gina and will share in detail in a separate blog soon. I also learned that I have very excellent, very expensive taste, ha!

But Also, Opals

Opals were really on my mind at the Tucson shows this year. I saw a stunning piece of opal jewelry on Instagram just before Tucson that got me on an opal kick. I didn’t find the opal for me this year, but I found a company I’m adding to my Tucson go-see list: Spencer Opal Mines.

American pink opals from Spencer Opal Mines. JOGS show, Tucson shows

American pink opals from Spencer Opal Mines. Click the image to browse a larger version.

At the JOGS show, these folks had a mesmerizing selection of pink American opals from their mines in Spencer, Idaho. I’m not even sure I knew that opals of this quality and beauty were mined in the U.S. But even more exciting was learning that you can go there and dig for your own opals. Field trip! Raise your hand if you want my boss to send me there, for research . . .yeah, that’s it, research. How fun would that be?! Plan your own trip at Spencer Opal Mines.

niobium cuffs by Marti Brown

Colorful Niobium Jewelry by Marti Brown

My first find at my favorite show were these colorful niobium cuffs by Marti Brown. I knew “of” Marti but had never met her, which was a bonus to seeing her work. These colors!! They look like gemstones themselves. Our online eCourse queen Kristal Wick was with me, and we chatted about the possibility of doing an eCourse on color niobium with Marti. Fingers crossed! Aren’t these lovely?

Swarovski Wanderlust Release

Each year, we meet with our colleagues at Swarovski to see their latest releases and learn from their extensive style and trend research. It’s a highlight to be privy to so much jewelry industry knowledge–but the sparklies ain’t bad, either! I was extra excited to see this year’s offerings, as there were some products that I think will speak particularly to our Jewelry audience.

Swarovski Wanderlust - fancy teardrop stones and crystal tubing, Tucson shows

Our Beading coworkers usually have all the Swarovski fun, but I’m happy to report there was a lot for us jewelry folks this year! I’ll be sharing more of them later, but for now, three favorites: giant princess-worthy teardrop-shaped Swarovski crystal fancy stones (above, left), deep faceted bezels that I dream of using with resin–no crystals needed!–and magical bendable Fine Rocks Tube (above, right) that comes in lengths up to something like 70 feet! Oh, what we could do with that. I see a necklace from which to hang stunning metalwork, enameled, wire, or resin pendants. Watch for these new Swarovski Wanderlust products and more in my future blogs and tutorials.

There was so much more to love at the Tucson shows–gorgeous new leather colors and finishes from LeatherCord USA; giant cotton pearl beads from Miyuki; Nunn Design’s new bezels with brilliant designs to inspire us (like textured resin, coming soon!); an interesting new torch-fired art clay (not metal clay!) from Ranger. And even more than that!

Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and Beadwork magazines at the Tucson shows

Finally, it’s always nice to see our own magazines displayed throughout the Tucson shows as a nice reminder of why we’re there. ‘Til next year!

–Tammy J

Learn more about working with products like our favorites from Tucson below and in the Tucson Shop!