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Written by Marisa Howard


Posted on February 25 2018


I recently took respite from the Oregon drear to attend the Tucson Gem Show. It is one of those trips I had always wished I could take. In past years, January and February were crunch time for trade shows. Preparing the new collection and paying for the travel, never allowed me the time or the money to justify Tucson. 

When we moved wholesale sales over to a showroom last year, freeing my time up during trade shows, I promised myself a trip to Tucson.  This month is my ninth February in business (what!? Nine! I can't even believe that) and I finally made it to the Tucson Gem Show. 

I didn't give myself time to build up expectations (or plan anything at all). The new collection and prep for trade shows still took priority over planning for Tucson. I arrived for the show with nothing on the agenda and very little idea of what to expect.  But, I booked the sweetest little Airbnb and I had my best friend for support (also a jewelry maker). I gathered the few tips I had from fellow Portland makers and we set out.  Custom work was on my mind and my goal was to see three things in particular: opals, Montana sapphires and raw diamonds. I also had the usual suspects for the collection in mind; turquoise, lapis, moonstone and labradorite. 

Tucson did not disappoint. This show isn't just a convention center full of booths, it is a city wide take over. Dozens of shows in dozens of locations with stones, minerals and fossils from all over the world. We saw crystals that would require a semi truck to move, forests of fossilized logs and planters made out of huge rose quartz chunks, just to name a few. 

Staying focused on my (lack of a) mission proved to be difficult. My inspiration tank was spilling over at pretty much every turn.

I purchased Australian Boulder Opals from a father/son team that mined and cut all the stones themselves. They held each stone up to the hot Tucson sunlight to point out every little detail. At another booth, I meticulously dug through Mexican fire opals, falling in love with so many, to hand select just a few. 

Montana sapphires proved to be the elegant ladies I suspected they would be. Each uniquely colored from the deepest ocean blue to brightest Montana sky blue. I resisted the urge to hand the entire Seaworthy savings over to the stone cutter and whisper, I'll take it all. (Note to everyone reading, please let me make you an engagement ring with a Montana Sapphire. Please.)

I met an opal cutter from Ethiopia, whose booth consisted of a folding table with a towel on it. One side of the table was a pile of raw opals, the other side was a pile of opals he had cut. Opals just ignite something in me. Each one is like a tiny universe. The cutter told me something that I had never heard before. The language barrier left room for things to be lost in translation, so it is unclear  if this is his own process or every cutters' process (or maybe superstition). He said that once the opal is cut, it has to stay in the dark for a number of days before it can be exposed to sunlight. Has anyone else heard that? 

I came home with so many stones for the collection (SO MANY!) and we are now adding rutilated quartz and kyanite to our mix. Which I am so excited about. 

In addition, my collection of stones for custom work is very well rounded. A collection of daily-wear fine jewelry is in the works, with a goal of launching for Holiday 2018. For this I have sapphires, sunstones, raw diamonds, topaz, aquamarine and opal. I'm excited to share more with you over this year. 

If you're interested in something custom, please get in touch.

Thank you,