This year was my very first time visiting the famous Tucson gem shows and I went straight to the top: to the crème de la crème of the colored gemstone and cultured pearl market at the legendary AGTA GemFair. I came into it expecting to have my mind blown, and even my high expectations were blown out of the water.
The AGTA GemFair is a closed show, open only to gem dealers, store owners, designers and others in the jewelry industry, so the beauties that you’re about to see are from a show that the general public usually doesn’t get to experience at all – at least until the jewels displayed there turn up on celebrities or socialites or go back to the museums they came from.
Enough chit chat. The reason I did my pre-AGTA GemFair post was so that I could dive right into the pretties in my recap without needing to take time for background. Let’s get to it!
The majority of photos I took at the AGTA GemFair were of finished colored gemstone jewelry, but I couldn’t do the GemFair justice if I didn’t play with some loose stones as well.
This particular stone looks to me like some kind of ethereal fairy dewdrop, rather than a rock from the ground – but it’s completely natural. This is a rare Mexican play of color fire opal, displaying an unusual effect called “rain” (video here).
Even better: this miracle comes from Columbia Gem House, a mine-to-market company who is leading the industry in responsible gemstone sourcing and fair trade practices. If you care about ethical sourcing, Columbia Gem House is a brand you should know.
Here’s something wonderfully unusual: The Queen of Tiye fire opal bracelet from Paula Crevoshay.
This masterpiece features five truly spectacular Mexican fire opals set among blue zicons and tsavorite garnets. The vibrancy of the stones, color contrast of the juxtaposition, and organic feel of the entire piece creates a dreamlike mix of organic lines and pure luxury that is emblematic of the famed Crevoshay’s unforgettable designs. This particular piece is named after the Queen of Tiye, the Queen of Sheba’s sister.
Look, I’m wearing a tiara!! I love when I get to wear a tiara.
This particular tiara – as well as the earrings and the necklace – are by Dallas Prince designs. I’d seen a Dallas Prince piece or two in past AGTA Spectrum Awards press previews, but I had no idea how utterly fantastic Dallas herself is until we spent at least an hour playing with her designs at the AGTA GemFair. We’re lucky I remembered to take pictures at all, I was having so much fun. (Also a sincere thank you to Mr. Dallas Prince, for assisting us so cheerfully).
These gorgeous things are by Dallas Prince as well!
The best news is that while many of Dallas’ designs feature fine gemstones, she has an affordable line too. This cuff in particular is from her chrome marcasite collection; which offers pieces that have a million dollar look at a price point with waaay fewer digits.
Are you familiar with Erica Courtney’s designs?
Either way, you’ll want to be now after seeing the piece above. Is it any surprise that Erica’s collections are called “Drop Dead Gorgeous?”
Here’s another Erica Courtney piece.
I loved a lot of Erica Courtney’s work, but I think this was my favorite of the day – the color contrast of the dark black jade with the piece’s bright gemstones, yellow gold, and shimmering diamonds is just too fantastic. Its geometry and hues almost have an Art Deco vibe, but in a completely modern way.
I didn’t realize how many great fire opal pieces I saw at the AGTA GemFair until I started writing this post (one more still to come!).
This glowing grouping of fire opal pieces is from Campbellian Collections: one pair of earrings, one pendant. I adore both Bella Campbell and her vibrant jewels.
While the fire opal pieces are pure smolder, these sapphire and pink tourmaline earrings are a fresh breeze of warm and cool color contrast.
These stunners are one of Bella Campbell’s newest creations. I think my very favorite part is the fact that the diamond outline doesn’t fit precisely against the sapphires; instead, the diamonds form a slightly wavier, slightly more abstract starfish-like edge.
You can’t talk about colored gemstone jewelry without talking about Omi Prive.
These were actually my very first stop: and it only took me about 3 seconds to fall in love with these rubies. Especially the one in the front here, with the deliciously opulent marquise diamond band.
Here’s something even more unusual from Omi: an exceptional cat’s eye chrysoberyl ring. I usually see cat’s eye chrysoberyl (and chrysoberyl in general) in antique jewelry – it’s often underappreciated by contemporary designers.
Look how alluring it is, how charismatic! I just stood and stared it, letting the chatoyancy wink at me. Chatoyancy is the cool light effect that looks like a cat’s eye – it’s caused by the structure of minerals inside the stone, and it’s also what causes star effects in star sapphires and rubies.
Here’s something less flashy, but equally special: a strand of beads made from pure, rare Sleeping Beauty turquoise from Inner Circle, Inc.
You see that clear, bright robin’s egg blue color? It doesn’t get any better. This is what all turquoise dreams of being.
I know I’ve already shown you something from Paula Crevoshay, but I needed to show you this too. The designer’s figural work is as jaw-dropping as her more abstract pieces.
By which I mean: can you even with this dragonfly????
And a wing shot, because I can’t get enough. I challenge anyone who thinks they prefer diamonds to look at this close up right here and tell me that colored gems aren’t the best thing ever.
If you want to see more from Paula Crevoshay, you’re probably in luck: her work is frequently displayed in museums.
Have I mentioned yet that I met some truly fantastic people at the AGTA GemFair? It’s like colored gems inspire people to be happy and friendly – which, incidentally, is exactly how they make me feel.
Kimberly Collins was another one of my favorite new connections from the GemFair. I was predisposed to like her already because of this adorable cupcake photoshoot, and now I know the lady behind the gems is as vibrant and delightful as her vivid wares.
Much of her business is loose stones, but Kimberly Collins also designs some pieces herself and I fell in love with these rings. They’re navette shaped – a silhouette often seen in Victorian jewelry – but the bright, gorgeous pave here is all modern. They’re glamorous but light, and so easy to wear. I want them all.
My #1 geeking out moment of the entire AGTA GemFair was when I finally got to meet designer Naomi Sarna, whose work I’ve admired from afar for years. As of the most recent competition, Naomi Sarna has won more than twenty Spectrum awards.
Not only was Naomi happy to talk to me about her designs, she and her daughter were both unfailingly friendly (and fun to hang out with after hours, as I learned at the Spectrum Gala later in the week). Don’t worry: I plan on showing you more of her work soon.
These maple leaf earrings are one of Naomi’s newest designs. I flipped one over so that you can see the “NS” built into the back of the earring. You know what I always say about jewelry that’s beautiful where nobody’s going to see it – that’s how you identify true quality.
You can see gem setter Josef Klein bringing these beauties to life in this photo on Naomi’s Facebook page.
And here’s the third fire opal piece I wanted to show you. Naomi herself described this as the showstopper of her AGTA GemFair case. My photo doesn’t do it justice, but I HAD to show you anyway.
The fire opal is set in white gold set with diamonds, colored stones, and colored diamonds. The back of the setting is completely hand-engraved. The strands of the necklace are faceted lapis beads. The entire effect is startling in its vividness and allure.
Here are two rare natural pearls from American Pearl Company. I really don’t know much about pearls, myself – the opportunity to handle exceptional specimens in the presence of experts was really something I appreciated.
The left is pearl is remarkable because of its size and exquisite gray/purple color. The right is an incredible example of a natural river pearl from Tennessee: with its shape and exceptional colors, it’s not hard to see why this one is desirable. The more I learn about pearls, the more I want to learn.
If you followed my takeover of the AGTA account, you’ve already seen this photo – but it was too cool not to share again here.
This is a rare, completely natural pearl from a spiny oyster. You see those colored stripes on the pearl? They grew that way, inside the oyster you see on the right of the photo. That exact oyster. American Pearl Company had these with them and they were kind enough to share this exceedingly cool thing with me.
One more from Erica Courtney, because I couldn’t help myself!
Paraiba tourmaline perfection. Sigh.
And finally: here I am with my fellow AGTA GemFair Gembassador Hannah Becker at the Spectrum Gala, where we hobnobbed with all of the Spectrum award winners and just generally had the time of our lives! I hope you had a chance to follow along with our AGTA Instagram takeovers during the GemFair; if not, you can catch up here.
A huge thank you to the AGTA, specifically the incomparable Megan Whitmire, for coming to me with the opportunity to help share the wonders of the AGTA GemFair with the world. It exceeded my wildest dreams and I can’t wait to (hopefully!) visit the colored gems and gorgeous pearls of the AGTA GemFair again in Tucson next year and many more times.
This sponsored post is brought to you by the AGTA.