Tucson 2019 - Day 2 - AGTA, GJX and Seminars

 Spectrum Competition Meeting

After another brisk sunrise walk around Sentinel Peak and the breakfast offerings at the hotel, it was off to the Tucson Convention center (a one mile walk from the hotel) for an 8:30 session with AGTA about their Spectrum Awards competition. I had never really read the competition rules – by the time my faceting was getting to the level where I might start considering it, life had me heading off in another direction.

Recently I heard that there had been some issues with how the competition was being handled that upset many of the US gem cutters and jewelry designers.  I was curious to learn what the situation really was. From what I could see of past award winners, it did seem like the one with the deepest pockets was likely to be the winner in certain categories. For instance, excellence of cutting did not seem to be obvious in the classic stone category (emerald, ruby, sapphire).  

There was a good dialog during the session. The AGTA staff listened to the complaints and seemed to be willing to address a couple of items. For instance, when a piece of jewelry was the result of a collaboration effort, the existing rules allowed for only one name to be placed on the entry. With respect to other issues, the AGTA told the attendees to come up with specific proposals for consideration.  They cautioned that they could not expand the competition to add a lot of additional categories.

Overall, a good hour for me coming away with a much better understanding of what goes on for a piece to win a Spectrum Award. Plus I got to meet some nice people who are among those who had won the Spectrum.


Then it was out to the show floor where there was booth after booth showing sapphires, emeralds, jewelry and other gemstones of all types. I was thrilled to meet Michael Dyber at his booth and find him so willing to share his experience. Several of his gemstone carvings were quartz with large flat beautifully polished surfaces. I asked how he managed to accomplish that as I have, like many other faceters, found that quartz can be troublesome. He explained, not only that he did all his “faceting” by hand holding the stones, but he described the tools he made and used for the process.

Colored Stone Price Guide Seminar

It wasn’t too long before another seminar of interest was scheduled. During the USFG talks there was mention of a colored stone pricing guide that a couple of the pros found useful. The company that creates that guide had a seminar explaining the various grading categories and how they interacted to come up with a grade for use with the pricing guide.

Their view of grading diverged from what my old GIA course had offered, but basically was closer to what I believed useful. The bad news was that their guide is not inexpensive and it sounded as if it required purchase of an equally pricey color guide in order to make use of the subscription.

More of the AGTA show

Next, back on the show floor to continue exploring the exhibits. Last year I bought a two pieces of sunstone rough there. The mine owner was quite friendly and gave out a GIA produced DVD about his operation. In the past year, we used that DVD as a program for the San Luis Obispo Gem and Mineral Club and it was a big hit with those in attendance. I stopped by the booth to let him know how much the movie was enjoyed. Also, I wanted to get his opinion on the one sunstone I had gotten around to cutting to be sure that I was on the right track for faceting those gems.


Then my schedule directed me to head across the street to the GJX tent. There the aisles were narrower and seemed more crowded. As I cruised along the first row of booths, I was surprised to see some folks there I did not expect to see until the TGMS the following week. After a brief catch up conversation, I got back to walking up and down the aisles.

prasiolite rough parcelEventually I reached the Brazilian vendor who had the nicest prasiolite last year. And there was plenty more this year. I came away with a few large pieces. These will get sawn into more manageable sizes and be perfect to use over the next few months as I learn to use some of the more advanced features of the Ultra Tec Fantasy machine I recently acquired.

At that point there was still at least have of the show to check out. In that second half I found an African rough vendor that I remember from last year having reasonable pricing and decent looking materials. I was planning to purchase something from them then, but the broken wrist issue got in the way and I did not have the energy to find their booth in the large hall. Their materials this year were similar, so I made some notes and got an idea of pricing before finishing my GJX scouting expedition.

Entry of Pueblo showI finished up the GJX a little ahead of my schedule so I was able to swing by the Pueblo show on the way back to the hotel and get some ideas of rough there and pricing.





Tucson 2019 - Day 1 - Meeting up with Online Folks

Somehow the year has flown by despite best intentions of posting more frequently. All of a sudden it was time again for Tucson.


We arrived at our hotel over an hour later than planned as a result of the Phoenix to Tucson flight delayed due to weather elsewhere. The room we got this year was not nearly as nice as the one last year. One of the bedside lights was missing the lightbulb, the microwave was missing the turntable, the heater was falling out of the wall, a non-slip pad had been applied in the tub in a sloppy way, etc. (The staff took care of the first two items the next morning.) Basically the room needs a complete update.

We headed off to a very late dinner at the Kettle, the diner located next to the hotel.  There, overhearing us talking about the gem shows, a young man from Mali came over to talk to us.  And of course he had some gem material to show us that he was hoping to sell. Tucson is like that.

Day 1 Thursday - Sunrise from Sentinel Peak

Sunrise from Sentinel PeakNext morning I got up early to meet Steve Ulatowski for the sunrise walk around Sentinel Peak. It was very cold - at least to my moderate climate sensibilities. The car windows were coated with frost.  It had been many years since I had to scrape the windows and the rental car did not come with a scraper.  I managed to clear just enough to see out using the plastic room “key” and made it to the meet up point in time. The sky was clear, there was a bit of a breeze and more than enough to get one wide awake.

USFG Seminar and First Purchase

After the walk it was back to the hotel for a hot shower to thaw out and have breakfast. Then I was off to the Old Pueblo Lapidary Club building for the US Faceters Guild talks.

OPLC club roomThe first presentation was by Dan Lynch and Peter Toracca on faceting as a business. They shared their experiences, good and bad, and provided tips on tools, resources and other topics that would be valuable to an individual who is moving from hobby to professional level faceting.

Peter and Dan had been to Africa recently to help teach the miners in Malawi about the gem trade, gemology and geology.  Malawi is one of the poorest places in Africa, but the gem resources there may be a key to improving life there. They had also been involved for some years in the building of a library for the local children. It was close to completion now and Dan Lynch had several parcels of Malawi garnets available for purchase.  All the money from the sale of the parcels was going to finish the library.  That was a no-brainer for me -- and my first Tucson 2019 purchase was done.

Malawi Garnet parcel

AGTA and GJX Preview

I had expected to spend the entire day at OPLC, but the second presentation of the day was cancelled. I headed back to our hotel which was by the I10 freeway. There was just enough time to get my badges for the AGTA and GJX shows and take a quick peak. AGTA had white carpeting in the ballroom where the Spectrum Award winners were being displayed. I felt guilty walking in there with shoes that had not very long before had to walk through the muddy parking next to the hotel.

At GJX, I located a vendor who had the great prasiolite the previous year and then went by John Dyer’s booth to check out his fantasy cut stones. As usual, he had a couple spectacular gems.  One large morganite square cushion stone looked like fireworks went off in the stone.

Back to USFG Presentations

Then it was time to go back to the OPLC for a presentation on recutting by Boyd Fox. Boyd has been doing a lot of recutting and repair work on expensive gems. He described his approach to reviving a gem and finding the right angle for a particular facet.

The thing that he could not really explain was how he is able to dop the stone so accurately and do it multiple times in a complicated job since he removes stones to check progress. I think most of us in the audience were awed by that part. The best explanation offered by someone in the room was that it gets easier after about 500 stones.

GemologyOnline.com Meet Up

After that talk, I made a brief stop at the hotel to refresh before heading out to the GemologyOnline.com dinner meet up. There was a mix up with respect to the reservations for the group, but the restaurant managed to find space despite it being very busy.

A great group showed up for a couple hours of good food and lots of stories. As last year, it was great to get to know the faces behind the screen names.  And this year, since it was my second time, I got to renew a few acquaintances as well.  Some present had already been to several of the shows and had interesting finds to show off. There was an amazing amount of knowledge about gemology and related subjects in that group.  The evening ended way too soon!





February's Birthstone

Getting February off to a good start with the February birthstone, amethyst. This is a 18.0 mm, 21.92 ct. round cut with concave facets on both pavilion and crown.

The rough was one of the "ultravolet" amethyst pieces I got from Steve Ulatowski last February in Tucson. Heading to Tucson in a few more days to restock.



Sunshine for a Rainy weekend

This weekend we are having a welcome wet spell in this part of California. So here is a bit of sunshine for the rainy days.

This is a 12.14 carat citrine which is 15.0 mm in diameter. Concave facets were used on both pavilion and crown to maximize  the "sunshine".

Some of the final 2018 rough

Making some progress with the remaining 2018 rough. Three quartz varieties cut with concave facets pavilion and crown.

The largest of these is the prasiolite which is 23.70 cts and is 18.0 mm. in diameter.

Next is a 19.40 cts. amethyst which is 17.0 mm across.

And finally, the citrine which is 5.80 cts and 12.0 mm.


Smoky Surprise

I don't often cut smoky quartz. However, this one was a badly chipped stone that a local jeweler provided so it was a good "preform" use as a starting point for additional experiments with the UT Fantasy machine.

The end result is 22.99 carats, and 23.2 x 14.5 mm.

Citrines with an Angle

Here are a couple more citrines cut with concave facets on the pavilion where the mandrel was at an angle.

The first is 9.77 carats and measures 18.8 x 10.3 mm.

The second is 10.85 cts, 21.1 x 9.0 mm.

The Last of the 2018 rough

I will be heading off to Tucson in a few more weeks. Meanwhile I will be working on finishing off rough acquired in 2018. Only a dozen pieces left. But some are rather large so odds are, There will be some of them waiting for me when I return home.

Beginning with an Angle

Here is my first attempt using my new Ultra Tec Fantasy machine for something other than straight on concave facets.

This is a 9.49 carat lemon citrine which measures 14.9 x 10.8 mm.

Fantasy progress

Pictured below is a 10.41 carat, 12.9 mm. colorless topaz that was one of the batch of stones that I cut over the past few weeks while I was getting familiar with using my new UltraTec Fantasy machine to cut concave facets.

Most of the work was done with rose quartz which is not the most exciting material. However, the price is right for the practice situations where you expect that major errors are likely. And they did happen. I learned that timing is important when bringing down the stone to the mandrel as unlike the OMF where only the mandrel is moving in and out, with the Fantasy machine, the entire tool drive moves. I was not paying attention and collision with the slash guard took off a big chunk of the pavilion in one instance. Needless to say, lesson learned.

Now I have a more colorful and varied batch dopped up and ready to go for the next phase where I start exercising some of the options of the fantasy machine which go beyond what I had with the old OMF.

I am also getting used to being back in my workroom. We moved things around for remodeling a couple years ago and somehow just never got back until a new piece of equipment provided extra motivation.