Well, the famous Tucson Gem Show is over once again. It has been held in Tucson for about 50 years, and many tens of thousands in the jewelry/gemstone trade typically attend annually. There are also shows that are open to the public, and so the city of Tucson swells until it is overflowing.
Last year, as in this year, construction woes of I-10 plagued attendees (whether exhibitors or attendees, but mostly attendees, as they are frequently found on the roads and highway attempting to drive to the many different shows). With the I-10 construction still continuing, and possibly going on for a number of years in the future, getting around if one stayed further north or south of the city, was a challenge due to traffic and lack of exits near the city center. Getting on north of the city meant getting off in the south of the city - no exits in the vicinity of downtown itself! The only way to avoid this was to take Frontage Road or drive through parts of the city.
We have attended and/or exhibited at the Tucson Show for over 20 years. This was by far the most different, if not bizarre Tucson Show ever attended. For the first time, hotels were not over booked. One could still find a hotel room! Usually, they are booked many months in advance. Hotel rooms, still seemed to be high, as prices always go up when the show is in town. Rental cars were available too. Restaurants were not as busy as they had been in previous years. Instead of an hour wait at some places, the wait was 15 minutes. Other restaurants were quiet or just downright dead. One associate of ours indicated that he had gone to a restaurant for dinner, and from about 6pm to the time they left about three hours later, there had been only three people in the restaurant - and that was in his party, at his table. No other people came into the restaurant during that timeframe. Of course, there are many of hundreds of restaurants in Tucson, and we had a wait of about 15 mins at one place, as it is popular with the locals and gem show people - that wait as stated above, used to be an hour in the past.
As far as attendance at the show, it was down as was to be expected. Though aisles had people, it was not overly crowded. At times, it was quite slow, especially if the show already had it's opening day and another show(s), were opening for the first time - the traffic, as to be expected, was at the opening show(s).
The most unusual story that we have, was regarding price quotes on items of interest to us. Since we really didn't need to purchase anything, as we travel abroad to purchase faceted gems and purchase rough so our cutters can facet it domestically, we were attending Tucson to see associates from other countries, find out what is being found/mined in other countries, learn about new treatments and also seeing what was out there on the market and what prices were. We would indeed make a few purchases if we found something of interest. In walking the floors of many of the shows, carat weights, descriptions and prices quoted by companies would be written down on their business cards noting what show and booth number we had encountered them at. There was nothing that we had to buy as we are nicely stocked in inventory, but notes were made and after walking a few of the shows, went back to make some purchases. When asking the price a few days later, on gemstones that were still available, we encountered something not expected. Prices were not the same as quoted previously. No, the prices were not less either. The prices were HIGHER! Yes, higher. On a new quote of 4 gemstones from two different companies, the price was higher. How much higher? In one case it was approximately 46% higher, and in the extreme case, it was 500% higher - yes, five times higher. So a quote in this one case went from $60 per carat to $300 per carat. Would they still honor the price quote of $60/ct? No.
Something else noticed this year and different from last year, the wonderful Mozambique Tourmaline that we have been bullish on, was in short supply. This is true not only of lower quality but also the higher quality that All That Glitters would stock in inventory. The nicer material was always scarce and now, it is non-existent. Though articles indicated that mechanized mining would begin in the mines over the past year, this apparently hasn't happened, or, the material is just not being found. All That Glitters has been purchasing this wonderful material, in the beautiful fuchsia, magenta, purples, neony blues and greens. With less supply, expect prices to increase - we will attempt to hold prices steady, but wholesale prices of this material are, and have been, above what we are asking on line. Though our business manager wants to mandate that one cannot sell items for less than what it costs to re-purchase, we do try to hold our prices as long as possible.
A number of countries do not export their rough. One is Sri Lanka. Another one, is Madagascar, as the president put a stop to exports when apparently a gemstone that he was interested in, was sold and left the country. With rough not being able to be exported, rough stocks would have increased, and with the new law, the material would have to be faceted in their country. If rough is not moving in quantity to overseas buyers, continuing to mine it would produce a glut of material with no buyers. Therefore, people are not mining as they used to. With not being able to move quantities of rough, people are moving to other sources of income - thereby, decreasing rough available and even cut stones in the country. Good rough has always been difficult to find. The high end rough that All That Glitters seeks is even more scarce. Expect prices to stay firm and go up with time. This is to be expected regardless of economic factors - at least for the rare, unique, exclusive gemstones that All That Glitters seeks to have in inventory. Common gemstones that one can find in every store, on line, and just about everywhere, will stay low and will most likely decrease in value.
We were fortunate enough to catch a segment on National Public Radio (NPR) regarding the Tucson 2009 Gem Show. To paraphrase, what was selling - the more unique and rare gemstones were of most interest. This is in keeping with one of the aspects of the All That Glitters Philosophy - we travel the world seeking out the Unusual, Rare, Unique, One-Of-A-Kind and Exclusive gemstones. (The common everyday merchandise is Always available and Everyone has it. There is far more supply than demand. For the unique, it is an entirely different story - if it is not available and not being found, it doesn't matter how much one is willing to pay, it just is not available!)
To listen to the audio of - Is The Bad Economy Tarnishing the Gem Show? - Click on the link to NPR below. If the audio has been removed, one can probably find it through a search of the archives on the NPR website.
NPR/Ted Robbins, February 17th, 2009
(Note that the interview seems to be the retail show, open to the public, at the Tucson Convention Center after the AGTA Trade Show had ended. Comments would therefore pertain to the retail show. However, the wholesale/trade comments are similar from the feedback we have heard.)