Fabulous Gemstones at the Tucson Gem Fair

At the end of this month, Scott and Karen will be traveling to Tucson, Arizona to attend the AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) Gem Fair. This show features the largest selection of colored gemstones from all over the world. Some vendors even save up all of their inventory for this exact event once a year, and, once it's gone, it really is gone. This creates a unique opportunity for us here at Scott & Co., and you, as our customer, to purchase gemstones not typically available throughout the rest of the year. You may be asking yourself, "what is the difference, why is this such a big deal? Aren't all gemstones the same?" The short answer to that is: no. The long answer is, well, long. In this entry, I will try to convey how the differences between quality, color, and even cut can make such a huge difference when sourcing colored gemstones. 

Types of Gemstones

As most people know, there are hundreds of gemstones mined throughout the world. The most popular are what we, in the industry, refer to as "The Big Three." This includes sapphire, emerald, and ruby. Sapphires come in every color of the rainbow, except one.  That color is red. The reason for this is that sapphire is from a species of stone called corundum and red corundum is actually ruby.  The third of "The Big Three" is emerald. Emerald is known for its very distinct green color and is actually very difficult to find in very fine quality, which means the cost can be very high. 

Other popular and well-known gemstones are commonly used as birthstones for each month. In order, they are: garnet, amethyst, aquamarine, diamond, emerald, pearl, ruby, peridot, sapphire, opal, topaz, and turquoise. There are certain months that have alternative stones to the traditional just in case one is not your style or not a recommended stone to set in the piece of jewelry you have chosen.  June uses alexandrite as an alternative, October has tourmaline, August substitutes spinel, and December has several alternatives. These include blue topaz, tanzanite, and zircon. November interchanges citrine and imperial topaz, as both are orange stones with imperial topaz being more expensive and harder to source than citrine. 

There are, of course, many more gemstones ranging in color, value, and rarity but these are the most commonly set in jewelry. Some of these gemstones, such as topaz and garnet, each have different species in their group, making their colors even more diverse. No matter what color you are looking for, there is more than likely a stone to match your preferences. 

Quality & Color

Arguably the most important thing about gemstones is their color. With such a wide range of colors available, it goes way beyond finding a "blue" stone or a "yellow" stone. Not only do the hue and tone play a role in a gemstone's beauty, so does the saturation or depth-of-color. While some gemstones are considered "fine quality" here in the trade, someone looking for a colored stone may be looking for a color we perceive as "lesser" quality.  For example, most people know tanzanite to be a medium to dark violet purple color and this is what they look for when seeking out tanzanite. In the gem trade, however, tanzanites are considered higher quality the deeper the violet they are, making them almost indistinguishable from a fine quality sapphire.  For color, there are, of course, gemstones that are going to have a higher price tag because of their rarity, but it is up to the consumer to decide which colors are desirable to them.

Inclusions are the next thing you want to consider when looking at gemstones. Inclusions, also known as clarity characteristics, are marks in the stone that could compromise the beauty of the stone. These could be anything from a crack in the stone to a speck of carbon inside the stone. The exception to this rule is emeralds. Emeralds almost always have clarity characteristics affecting the stone's appearance and it does not always affect the value of the stone the same way it would in say, a topaz.  Some stones are also treated to make these characteristics less noticeable which can affect their value and must always be disclosed to a purchaser. 


When it comes to the category that lends the most to personality, there are so many options. When we talk about cut, there are a few basics that need to be addressed before we dive into the fun stuff. Of course you have your brilliant cuts. Most commonly seen in round stones, this is the cut most diamonds are fashioned in. Even when the stone is not round, a brilliant cut can be modified to cater to fancy-cut stones. This means that the facets are triangular and kite-shaped and spread out from the center of the stone. There are a few exceptions to this rule like those that utilize the other basic cut:  a step cut. The stones that are cut in this fashion are emeralds and baguettes. These facets have rectangular facets that move throughout the stone in steps. Sometimes these two cuts are combined to create a mixed cut.

Some not so common cuts include styles like rose, briolette, ceylon, barion, and checkerboard. All of these styles feature different size and shape-faceting techniques to create unique looking stones. Fantasy cuts are amazing feats of a gem cutter's creativity and something truly amazing to behold. I will link an Instagram page that has some of the most beautifully cut stones. Check them out! This is a vendor we have sourced stones from in the past and they often attend the Gem Fair.


Request Your Stone

Now that you have all this information, it may be a little hard to know what exactly you want from your stone. Being able to verbalize this can be difficult and overwhelming. That's why the Tucson Gem Fair is such a great opportunity.  You give us a basic request of the stone that you want: color, size, budget, type, and we do the rest. We can even take you along for the ride! Virtually, that is. If you are available during the show times when Scott & Karen are shopping, they can video call with you to make sure the stone is precisely what you are looking for! For more information, stop by or call during business hours!