As a little kid I collected rocks the way many kids do. Unlike some I never lost that childhood wonder and carried on through my teenage and college years. So it should come as no surprise that I still pick up pebbles on beaches and hunt for gems and rocks wherever I go. Chatting with one of the gem dealers in Tucson, he called me a “collector”. I suppose I am, but being a jeweler gives me a good reason (or excuse as my wife might say).
From January 30 to February 4, my wife Sue and I traveled to Tucson Arizona for the largest gem show in the world. This was our second trip. We were hunting for opals, sapphires, garnets, as well as diamonds, rubies, amethyst, turquoise and much more. We found a bounty!
When possible, I prefer to buy at trade shows. The vast variety of quality, value and the unexpected make it a fun experience. Unlike having material shipped in from distant suppliers, the choices are immediate. Price and quality are more easily compared.
I have always loved opals, but it has never been a real specialty. Since our trip to Australia in 2006 (to speak at a Celtic history conference) I have carried some excellent specimens. Every time we make something with opals it generally does not linger very long in the showcase, so I decided that I should listen to my customers and create more stunning jewelry with opal.
Going to an event like the Tucson show is a great way to develop new contacts, but also to keep up with suppliers that we have known for many years. We also had the chance to meet up with our former apprentice Danielle Mora and other old friends.
On our first day we were looking at some wonderful Australian boulder opal. When I looked up to read the exhibitors name sign I saw it said “Robert Shapiro”. Hey! I know you. Robert and I had friends in common and were part of a group of jewelers and metalsmiths that would have dinner together at the ACC Baltimore Craft Fair back in the 1990s. Some of the most exciting boulder opal from our trip was from our first purchase from Robert. By the end of the week we had bought opal from seven different suppliers.
Being called a “collector” got me to thinking. Sometimes people ask me how I can stand it to part with the things I have made. Back in the 1970s I spent some time working for a London antique dealer/collector. What I learned from him helped me form a very useful philosophy about collecting and selling my collections. If you buy things that you really love and it is part of your business, you can have the joy of owning them for a while. When you sell them you share your joy and enthusiasm with the new owner. I buy gems to make jewelry that I do not plan to keep, but I still get that emotional thrill from finding that amazing gem and making something truly special and seeing the reactions of the people who admire it. The joy I get when we find that perfect stone for someone and turn it into the piece they've been dreaming of is one of my favorite parts of being a jeweler.
Saturday, February 10 we will be having a “Show-and-Tell” open house to give folks a chance to see what we brought back from Tucson. Gemologist Peter Torraca, also just back from the Tucson show, will be joining us. Peter is a lapidary gem cutter and a graduate gemologist living right here in Allegany County. He will be showing his exceptional creations and sharing his expertise. The hours are 10 AM to 3 PM at our One Main Street shop in the Village of Andover, NY.