Every year during the last weeks of January and into February, thousands of gemstone dealers and buyers converge on Tucson for the world's largest gemstone show.
Here, thousands of buyers and sellers converge to meet, exchange news and most important to buy and sell millions of dollars of gemstones, gemstones that make their way into the finished goods of the smallest mom and pop operations and the most exclusive and expensive dealers in the world.
Some buyers are there to purchase their inventory for the year. These purchases will be turned into handmade gemstone jewelry. Others are there to establish relationships with dealers so that when the need arises for specific stones for fine handmade jewelry, dealers can be contacted and goods made available "on memo," an industry term meaning sale pending approval by the buyer. It should also be noted that the giant educational organizations are also present. They dispatch representatives to buy new material and test it to authenticate claims of dealers thereby protecting buyers and consumers from misrepresentation.
Although industry reports have not been published yet, it was clear that attendance at the 2009 gem show was lower than in previous years. Parking, always a problem, was readily available. Lines for meals and restrooms were short. Buyers we talked to were buying for immediate needs, not stockpiling inventory.
Because demand was lower than in previous years, the prices of dealers were lower. What this means is that consumers can look forward to lower prices for handcrafted gemstone jewelry in the coming months as retailers pass their savings on.
One caution: Given the diversity of the shows … there were forty-seven this year … some such as the fossil and minerals shows are open to the public. However, in general, this is an industry only event and screening is rigorous. Without proper credentials, you will be turned away.