It seems that the giant Tucson show is just around the corner yet once again. Forty years ago, this nice little one weekend show at a Quonset hut out at the fairgrounds became a one week show centered on the new (at that time) Tucson Convention center. And we thought, “How could the show possibly get any larger”? As time passed, it has grown into the monster that we know today with a fleet of shuttle vans for customers who don’t want to fight the battle of finding parking spaces. Some of these shows each have several hundred dealers. The big Tucson Convention center has two shows. The first catering to high end gem dealers and shortly on its heals is the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society show that is oriented to mineral collectors who started the whole thing. Now the show requires more than a month of our schedule where we transport an entire show room full of merchandise to the Gold room (ballroom) at the Tucson City Center Hotel (Inn Suites). As the years pass, we have observed the musical chairs that seem to take place among show promoters. Opening one venue in a hotel and then another and another. As the ownership of these venues has changed along with their names, the show promoters have shifted their location to other venues. Some dealers feeling the insecurity of having to rely on sometimes not very constant show promoters have purchased real estate and built or modified buildings to suit their needs and to guarantee them a space sufficient to their needs. There are probably a dozen such establishments now in town owned either by a single dealer or a group of dealers. Last year there were more than 40 or 50 venues. I lose track, but no matter what, it seems to get larger every year. The old joke is that Tucson week was fun but Tucson month is not. One old quartz dealer from Arkansas said, “That Tucson show will make an old man out of you.” I can’t speak for others, but for me it has.
We will be sending our pallets off to Tucson in less than two weeks. As I walked into Jewel Tunnels warehouse I noticed that we had brought down another pallet load of sulfur specimens from Bolivia. Soon it will be pressure washed and put into flats that will undoubtedly make their way to my desk for pricing and packing into one of the 18 pallets that will go to Tucson.
What do we have that’s new? Well for us this year a fair amount will be old. The sulfur I talk about arrived at Jewel Tunnel several years ago and is just now seeing the light of day. The miners packed it in pop corn. Not the nice clean white kind we are used to getting from bags out of our microwaves, but a rather almost dirty brown variety that is usually sold in Bolivia. It is a mess to clean out of the sulfur crystals.
Also, “old” is the inventory of an old manufacturing jeweler and specimen digger in Beverly Hills, of all places. It was the inventory of Edward Swaboda and we bought several tons of stuff. It consisted of rough stones and hoards of little cut and polished stones that he used in the manufacture of his costume jewelry. Much of it dates back more than 30 years. It has been an ongoing process in hauling van loads of stuff to our warehouse and trying to prepare it for the Tucson show. There is so much stuff that we are not even sure just what it is we have yet. The last and final van loads of stuff came in just last Monday. We thought we had gotten everything but his son, Bryan who was doing the final clean out of the property called and said they had more. I drove my big SUV over and had a van follow. When we got there, we found that there was much more than one van could haul. I had to call for our other van to be loaded up with empty flats. We will try and prepare as much of it as we can for Tucson, but we have several pallets from previous trips that we have not worked up. Much of what we have will be ideal for people who make jewelry. Many, many small cut and polished stones (not faceted stones). They should have a field day because most if is it inexpensive and it should move out fast. We didn’t get everything as the family kept many fine things that they may sell at a later date.
Yesterday, I learned that Edward Swaboda, who was 95 years old, has passed away. We offer the family our condolences. I was partners with Ed in a couple of quartz mining ventures in Brazil and I learned a lot from him. Ed was a legendary in his own time. More than any other person, he probably was responsible for tumbled polished stones. He discovered the trick of polishing stones when he left some rubber tire rough grind tumblers run dry one weekend and came back to find the stones in the tires were polished. Ed sold his interest in the process and his equipment to Herb Walters, who then went on to create Craft Stones. He was a deal maker/mine developer more than a field collector. Ed was also responsible for operating the Stuart mine in Pala, the Queen mine in Pala that produced the fabulous blue cap tourmalines and for operating the Himalaya mine and starting Pala Properties, the well known mineral business with Bill Larson. He dug Boleites in Santa Rosalia, Baja California, wulfenites at the San Francisco, and quartz crystals and other things in Brazil.
What else? A new shipment form Uruguay and Rio Grande do Sul (RGS), Brazil. A beautiful lot of dark shiny extra quality amethyst from Uruguay. There was one lot of more than 100 pounds of “formations” knobs and bumps of the highest quality amethyst. It is expensive but we haven’t had this quality amethyst in many years. Some very nice pretty amethyst crystal hearts with polished edges. We got some very long high quality wands of quartz and rose quartz. Again, these are things we have not had for a long time. A half dozen flats of extra quality geodes from RGS with the tops cut of (lids). They originally were called chamber pots, but to help them sell better they changed the name to jewelry pots or boxes. Some of them are really amazing. We got few flats of mini coco geodes that have been completely polished all the way around that have water inside them. When you shine a light through them from the bottom the whole interior lights up and you can see the bubble moving around freely. A few of them have pale amethyst interiors and are very pretty when you shine a light through them. We have about three flats of quartz and amethyst pyramids. We have not had any of these for quite a while.
We also have a nice fresh shipment of polished hand size and smaller pieces of malachite. Also, there are a number of flats of specimens of fibrous malachite. The DRC Democratic Republic of the Congo seems to have an inexhaustible supply of this material, though over the last 20 years or so it has become gradually less and less and of lower quality. But it still keeps coming. We received new batch of aqua aura quartz. I wish we didn’t have to sell this kind of thing, but our customers get upset if we don’t have it. We also have a fine shipment of clear over polished calcite rhombs from Bolivia, via Brazil. Many of them are clear enough to cut clean faceted stones. Some of them show twinning planes and show a rainbow play of color. We have a whole hoard of small specimens of Aegirine and feldspar specimens. Many are cute and not expensive. Several flats of single crystals of Aegirine, many terminated that some or our customers are using to make pendants from. Last, we have a nice selection of pale amethyst cactus quartz from South Africa.
What! Are you still reading this? You must be real glutton for punishment. We have a big swag of tiny tumbled polished Burmese gem gravel and some bags of small tumbled polished tourmalines. We received a sizeable shipment of various kinds of stone hearts that we still sell for $1 each and a lot of prehnite and epidote and garnets from Mali. Considering the developing conditions in Mali we wonder if we will ever get anything more from that country. We received a shipment of stone skulls of various kinds including some quartz ones with a simulated brain cavity. Yuck! Some are carved from gnarly vesicular basalt that looks incredibly primitive. A few flats of rough precious opal, not all that great, but some boulder opal and other strange stuff from Australia. Even some flats of cheap sea shells. I wish I knew what they are. They are sure pretty and interesting. We also have little “gem bottles” pendants full of tiny tumbled gem stones. We didn’t know what to do with the stuff, so we put it in little bottles. We have too much more to list here.
The Tucson Gem and Mineral Society has asked me to give them a talk about some of the places I have gone to get specimens and I will have to get busy about creating that lecture pretty soon. Also one of the new mineral magazines wants to interview me about the same sort of thing. There may be an article about that.
See you soon at Tucson
New Drilled Polished Stones
JTI will now be selling a new line of drilled stone products. Over the years we have had many customers ask about stones with holes predrilled for making into necklaces, pendants or bracelets. We are exicited to announce we will now have polished stones of various materials with holes drilled through them. The materials include: Quartz, Amethyst, Tigereye, Smokey Quartz, Blue Tigereye, Bloodstone, Dyed Howlite, Lapis, Red Tigereye, Ruby in Fuschite, Rhodochrosite, Tree Agate, Mookaite, Chrysoprase, Howlite, natural Quartz crystal points and natural Dravite Tourmaline crystal points.