Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pretty rocks are forever

Warning: wanton materialism and shiny objects ahead.

Above is the lion's share of what I bought at the gem show yesterday.

After I took the picture, though, realized I'd forgotten the include the strand of huge amethyst nuggets, so I took the opportunity to photograph them along with some of my favorite finds. From top to bottom: the amethyst nuggets, apatite rondelles, iolite rondelles, spinel rondelles, and pink amethyst concave briolettes. The iolite rondelles were a great find because iolite is usually a dark navy blue, but these are a light blue - almost like tanzanite, but cheaper. As soon as I uncovered this iolite at the booth, several other people who were browsing also jumped on it and bought a strand or three. I started a trend!

Going into the show, I knew I wanted to buy as much multicolored spinel as I could get my hands on, as well as pink amethyst concave briolettes. Both proved very hard to find. I only found ONE seller with multicolored spinel - and she only had gem-grade stones at $75 a strand. What the hell, though...I love spinel and can do a lot with just one strand.

As for the amethyst, I looked and looked but no one seemed to have it in pink, much less pink concave briolettes. Just as I was about to leave the show, though, I discovered a whole new room of sellers (egad!). I gravitated toward a booth that had THE most stunning strands of top-quality gemstones, including strands of huge pink amethyst in various cuts, including concave briolettes. Oddly, though, there was no one manning the booth. I continued manhandling the strands as a man came up and quoted me a price of around $100 for the strand of amethyst. I enthused, "I've been looking for pink amethyst in this cut the entire day! No one else has it!" Just for that show of enthusiasm he knocked the price down to $72. Way to go, me.

The fair was held in a convention center-type building with a maze-like layout and room after room of sellers. Comparison shopping was near impossible, as prices were generally not marked. Sellers would often yell out prices to people as they touched particular strands. For example: "That's our last strand of green tourmaline! Nice quality! Only $22!" (I bought that strand, by the way.) Some sellers were annoying: one guy must have thought me an idiot or a newbie, because he kept yelling out "aquamarine! Rock crystal! Smoky quartz!" as I looked at strands - and trust me, I was well aware I was looking at aquamarine, rock crystal, and smoky quartz. Many other booths were staffed by entire families, with teenage children seeming just as knowledgeable about gemstones as the parents.

In addition to gemstone sellers there were people selling ready-made jewelry, chain, findings and supplies, and Swarovski crystals. There was a booth filled with nothing but amethyst, and one random booth selling cashmere scarves (it didn't seem very popular).

Even on a Friday afternoon/evening, the fair was pretty full (at 3:30 that afternoon, the parking lot was entirely full and I had to find street parking), but it wasn't crowded or frenzied - often there would be only one or two people browsing a booth at any one time. I'm truly frightened at how crowded it must be today - and hot! I think I made a wise choice in going yesterday.

So, that's a little sneak peek inside the bazaar-like atmosphere of a gem show. Even if you're not a gem nut like me, I'd encourage everyone to check one out if they have a chance. Seeing so many expensive, brilliantly cut rocks in one place is, frankly, a huge mindfuck.

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