Again, as in the past, the GIA Alumni Association Washington chapter drew a large turnout for the annual Tucson pilgrimage discussion. The speakers were great and very knowledgeable. The evening opened with some chapter business which included the current transition from snail-mail to E-mail and the many benefits of such a move.
Gem Fair welcoming sign at the Tucson Convention Center
Vice president Tony Conroy showed the two awards presented by GIA to our club. The first award was for the outstanding chapter of the year; the second was given to the outstanding chapter member of the year, Bobby Mann. Bobby had accepted both awards at the awards ceremony. He commented on the sorry turnout of our own membership at the event.
AGTA convention floor, booths, and dealers
Bobby was our first speaker. He gave a slide presentation of some of the 44 venues present this year in Tucson. There was an overview of the AGTA glitter at the Convention Center. It is mind-boggling to convert this to dollars and cents knowing that the most exclusive specimens were not even shown to the general public.
Bobby, Courtland, and friend at Pinnacle Peak DCGIA dinner in Tucson
Bobby then showed images of a large mammoth ivory carved skull he had purchased. He also displayed a specimen of Whitby polished jet, a carved horn dolphin figurine and a lovely synthetic pink Chatham diamond which he had won at auction; and his prize purchase, a $1.00 strand of mixed pearls. Way to go! Also present at AGTA were F. Cortland Lee and his daughter, Lindsay, showing a collection of Patuxent River stones and jewelry.
Bobby records his own history at Pinnacle Peak
Bobby told of the many fairly priced specimens shown at the mineral exhibition. There are plans to start a museum at the mineral show. This should be a great endeavor.
Shirlene Bradbury was the next speaker. She is an independent appraiser and a member of NAJA. This organization has two annual meetings one of which is held in Tucson at this time. They spoke of the life of George Kunz who had such an integral part in the rise of Tiffany & Company and for whom the lovely pink-lilac stone kunzite was named. Also discussed was the discovery of a 6-inch crystal of natural Moissonite, the great diamond caper of the 1950’s, the head of Medusa in pearls, the Arts and Crafts movement and finally, Indian jewelry with Golconda diamonds. The second day concentrated on appraisal methods and ethics.
Lois Berger, right, once again takes the main pearl buyers to the principal pearl dealers.
Tim Morgan, a new GIA alumnus and first time Tucson participant, spoke of the overwhelming impact of this annual frenzied ritual. He and his wife, Michele, were unleashed among the various venues without supervision. By the time their more savvy escorts had taken them in hand they had done much damage to their bank accounts. But undaunted they continued, shipping home many outstanding mineral specimens and beads. And they even had time for some sightseeing! Michele’s reaction was WOW!
And the annual Pearl Walk always begins with Gina Latendresse.
Our own pearl expert, Lois Berger, came next with a Power-Point presentation of her pearl findings in Tucson. There were no outstanding novelties to be found although there was quality and fair pricing particularly in the various South Sea specimens. There is still dispute over the term cultured, whether mantle tissue or bead. She explained the different multiple harvests and their end products. She showed fabulous strands of pearls with equally fabulous price tags. I concluded that there really must be buyers who can afford such goods otherwise why produce them. Ah! Envy. The only new types shown were the humongous, brown dyed South Sea pearls that commanded impressive prices, but very few dealers showed them. Also available this year were the unusual quohog clam pearls in muted eggplant colors from New England. Lois explained the difference between tissue activation and nucleation in reference to keishi pearls and noted the absence of Philippine pearls. The outstanding feature of Lois’s presentation was the depth of her knowledge and the ease with which she conveys it to the audience.
Pearl dealer Avi Raz always has new and interesting pearls as well as information about pearl pricing.
The final talk was by Cathy and Bruce Gaber. They attended various lectures given by experts such as Fred Ward, Helen Serras-Herman, and Courtland Lee. Bruce gave a talk on digital photography. They showed specimens of phrenite, cats-eye opal, and jet. Because 2006 was the designated year of Australian minerals Bruce showed two books on opals; one of them included published photographs by Bruce.
Golden pearls with and without texture were very popular this year.
So ends another year and another pilgrimage to the jewelers Mecca, Tucson.
Text by Lisa Carp
Photos by Fred Ward