Destinations

Live from Tucson, Ariz.: Mini Mabé Sea of Cortez Pearls Are the Cutest Gems You’ll See Today

Tucson, Ariz. Feb. 9, 2020. Iridescent purple, green, blue, gold, and peachy-pink overtone pearls from the Sea of Cortez already stand out in the sea of gems at the Gem & Jewellery Exchange (GJX) show for their unique colors and shapes, but the newer mini mabé pieces are next-level cuteness for making tiny treasures.

Douglas McLaurin is a co-owner at Perlas Del Mar De Cortez, at booth 508, and is from Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico, where Sea of Cortez pearls grow in the rainbow-lipped Pteria sterna mollusk. The pearls from this variety differ from other black-lipped-oyster pearls in that they consistently have silvery-pink colors and are often grown as mabé pearls, though rarer drops, semi-round, and baroque pearls are also available. Most of McLaurin’s mabé pearls range in size from a nickel to a half dollar, though last year he introduced a mini mabé at the request of a client.

“She wanted a tiny gem to set into jewelry with less metal, to let the pearls speak,” he explains.

He responded by custom cutting tiny mabé pearls from his regular inventory (he didn’t culture smaller sizes). He scalped mabé with flawless domes but defects around their base, a resourceful move that created a new size category. Mini mabé pearls are about the size of a pinky nail and super limited in quantity.

“We only have about 10 percent of everything we brought left,” says McLaurin.

Prices per mini mabé are $75 triple keystone. These pearls are not treated and are the only pearls that officially bear the coveted Fair Trade label.

The GJX show closes today at 4 pm.

Mini mabé pearls are about the size of a pinky nail and cost $75 apiece triple keystone; find them today at Perlas Del Mar De Cortez at booth 508 in GJX or email doug.mclaurin@outlook.com.

Mini mabé pearls are about the size of a pinky nail and cost $75 apiece triple keystone; find them today at Perlas Del Mar De Cortez at booth 508 in GJX or email doug.mclaurin@outlook.com

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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Destinations

Live from Tucson, Ariz.: Azurz’s 50-Year-Old Jelly Sugalite Finally Sees the Light

Tucson, Ariz. Feb. 8, 2020. Besides being one of the cutest couples at all the gem shows happening now, Azur (I’m obsessed with her stunning Sideshow Bobesque mop of hair) and Jesse McHugh of Azurz gems and minerals (AGTA GemFair Tucson booth no. 101) out of Rhode Island also happen to have one cool backstory on some sweet jelly (top quality) sugalite.

Azur’s onetime importer dad had the opportunity to bring some sugalite from the Wessels mine in South Africa to the States. This was in the 1980s, and the material was mined in the 1970s. But the story is that there was some drama surrounding imports at the time, so Azur’s dad officially imported some old cars—think Jaguars and BMWs—and filled the wheel wells with the stones. He brought in as much as he could, and then, as some dealers tend to do, squirreled away the top 20 percent of the rocks in buckets and sea freight containers for later investment. It’s this old inventory that Azur and her gem-cutting hubs, a U.S. Navy veteran and former journalist, are now sculpting and offering for sale.

Sugalite is a byproduct of titanium and manganese ore mining. When workers hit the vein, they spray painted it white and tried to extract as much as they could. The result of this hit was a large amount of jelly material—“Clean and glowing,” says Azur—as well as bustamite and richterite, which has peach and blue colors, respectively. Prices per carat for their inventory start at $30 triple keystone. Direct message Azur on Instagram account @azurz for purchase.

Fifty-year-old sugalite is top quality and available per carat starting at $30 triple keystone; direct message Azur on Instagram account @azurz for purchase.

Fifty-year-old sugalite is top quality and available per carat starting at $30 triple keystone; direct message Azur on Instagram account @azurz for purchase.

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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Destinations

Live from Tucson, Ariz.: Petrified Wood Is a Hit at The Clam Shell

Tucson, Ariz. Feb. 7, 2020. When shopping the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) GemFair Tucson, many know to hit up The Clam Shell for unusual finds. From water-included quartz to cloud-shape blue lace agate and more, this Oro Valley, Ariz.–based cutting house and stone dealer is known for funky finds. Yesterday on the fair floor, co-owner Gavin Lasater showed me a threesome of popular petrified wood varieties that are selling well.

The first type is called blue opal native copper. It’s found in Indonesia, sometimes needs to be stabilized with resin prior to resale, and is available in freeform cabochon shapes.

“It is the oddest petrified wood we’ve ever seen because of the geometric patterns in the matrix,” says Lasater. “It also has drusy pockets with high concentrations of silica and little pockets of copper.”

Prices per piece start at $195 triple keystone.

Colla wood is the next type of petrified wood that sold well for The Clam Shell. Colla wood is also found in Indonesia, stabilized with resin (“How much depends on the porosity of the material,” says Lasater), and features azurite, malachite, and chrysocolla in it. “It’s unusual to have all three in one, especially in petrified wood,” he adds. “It comes in these big logs that you slice like bread. It looks delicate on the outside and when you start cutting, the inside is often just brown. We got lucky with all of these colors.”

Prices per pair start at $195 triple keystone.

Finally, petrified red oak from Oregon is another big hit. This material also comes in logs (or chunks) that is slabbed for sale. “You cut thicker slabs for pairs and thinner ones for single pieces,” says Lasater. Some of the material is stabilized.

What’s cool about petrified red oak is its herringbone pattern and colors. “It’s difficult to find red and blue and white, but we have these honeybee-type golden tones and fantastic lines running all the way through,” notes Lasater. Individual pieces start at $150 triple keystone.

Blue opal native copper is a type of petrified wood, and prices per piece start at $195 triple keystone; email glasater@gmail.com for purchase.

Blue opal native copper is a type of petrified wood, and prices per piece start at $195 triple keystone; email glasater@gmail.com for purchase.

Colla wood is a type of petrified wood, and prices per pair start at $195 triple keystone; email glasater@gmail.com for purchase.

Colla wood is a type of petrified wood, and prices per pair start at $195 triple keystone; email glasater@gmail.com for purchase.

Petrified red oak is a type of petrified wood, and prices per piece start at $150 triple keystone; email glasater@gmail.com for purchase.

Petrified red oak is a type of petrified wood, and prices per piece start at $150 triple keystone; email glasater@gmail.com for purchase.

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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Destinations

Live from Tucson, Ariz.: A Trio of Bill Gangi’s Biggest AGTA GemFair Tucson Sellers

Tucson, Ariz. Feb. 6, 2020. Longtime gem miner, cutter, and dealer Bill Gangi, of Gangi Gems, is (not surprisingly) having another gangbuster show at the American Gem Trade Association GemFair Tucson. Gangi, from Franklin, N.Y., routinely brings some of the most uncommon gem and mineral materials to shows, which is why he has such a devoted following (including yours truly). This year’s inventory includes a trio of relatively low-cost specimens that can help create big looks for a small investment.

For starters, Gangi cut up agatized dinosaur bone that had been sitting in his safe for 40 years. Once he dug in, he realized that some of the material was actually transparent chalcedony in the cell structure, making some of the rocks “look like a fishnet stocking” under light.

“The matrix around the cells is usually black, but we found some that was red and yellow,” he says. “We have some of the rarest colors this year.”

Further enhancing the dino display of freeform cabochons, calibrated shapes, and matched pairs are a tower of genuine dinosaur eggs, courtesy of a collector friend. The dino material, which has no treatment, was found in Moab, Utah, is upwards of 120 million years old, and has a triple keystone price of $6 per carat.

Next, Gangi has Gibeon meteorite fragments that have been forged, milled, rolled, and etched. This lot of largely funky sword-like silhouettes—some bent, some thin enough to serve as bezels—was acquired from a longtime buyer of Gangi’s larger samples. A well-known men’s jewelry maker who has been working with Gibeon meteorite for 20-plus years sold the dealer his scrap on request. Gangi’s idea: make the funky shapes available for resale. All the inventory is originally from Namibia, has been acid-etched to highlight the Widmanstätten lines—unique patterns that occur in iron meteorites—and has been forged by heavy-duty equipment from the auto industry. “We even have matched pairs,” says Gangi proudly.

Pieces are available for $12 a gram triple keystone.

Finally, Gangi recently purchased 126 pounds of watermelon tourmaline rough. The tourmaline is surrounded by feldspar and quartz and is sourced from northern Brazil. “It is stabilized because it’s too included to facet into fine gems, but it’s the color and patterns that everyone loves,” he says.

Finished pieces for sale include low-dome cabochons and cushion shapes. Originally, Gangi thought he would have it all cut in time for the show, but reality interfered with his ambition. He has sold much of what he brought—several thousand carats—with only several hundred remaining. On his bench at home? Some 400 hundred pieces that will yield hundreds of pairs.

The triple keystone price per gram is $6.

Gibeon meteorite fragments that have been forged, milled, rolled, and etched are $12 a gram triple keystone; email bill@gangigems.com for purchase.

Dinosaur freeform cabochons, calibrated shapes, and matched pairs are $6 per carat triple keystone; email bill@gangigems.com for purchase.

Gibeon meteorite fragments that have been forged, milled, rolled, and etched are $12 a gram triple keystone; email bill@gangigems.com for purchase.

Gibeon meteorite fragments that have been forged, milled, rolled, and etched are $12 a gram triple keystone; email bill@gangigems.com for purchase.

Watermelon tourmaline low-dome cabochons and cushion shapes are $6 per gram triple keystone; email bill@gangigems.com for purchase.

Watermelon tourmaline low-dome cabochons and cushion shapes are $6 per gram triple keystone; email bill@gangigems.com for purchase.

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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