Guest Post: The Evolution of Collecting

I have a special treat today, a guest post from someone who has become a close friend through gemstones, and whose services I sometimes utilize as a gemstone personal shopper due to her connections within the industry.  So if you have ever asked me for help finding a gem, rest assured I have likely consulted her on your stone.
Please welcome Aimée!
I have been collecting gemstones for my personal collection for almost five years now. It has been quite a journey. My financial situation has fluctuated during that time, and my connections in the industry have strengthened. I never used to consider myself picky, but have discovered that when it comes to gems…I’m a princess. I want it all – colour, cut, and price. So…how does one do that?
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I started by buying everything that caught my fancy. I should specify at this point that my purchases happen almost exclusively online. This means a pretty large learning curve in terms of how to read pictures, specifically around colour, tone, and saturation ( a word I’ve only learned in the last four years). Also, some vendors have what I would call “frenzied drops”, where you have about 3 seconds or less to decide if you want something, regardless of price. I’ve returned many stones, and sold the ones I felt guilty about returning or that I realized ultimately weren’t for me. I’ve sold some beautiful stones, many that I’ve forgotten about, until I came across a picture on my computer. I’ve also developed realistic expectations. “A good price” is very relative. I’ve known people to drop tens of thousands of dollars on a diamond, then want a trade ideal coloured stone that is exponentially rarer than a diamond, with a maximum budget of a few hundred dollars. This type of search will usually lead to frustration and disappointment, and is quite simply a waste of time.
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I try not to develop emotional attachments to my stones. Oddly enough, that can be difficult. I have stones and/or rings that I have a really hard time parting with, even though I will probably never set them, or rarely wear them, but they are pretty, and the memory of how they came to be in my possession is too sweet to extinguish. Selling to a fellow enthusiast helps. If it’s someone I like, who really loves the gem, I have an easier time passing it on. At this point, I only sell to fund new projects.
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So, I’ve built my collection. What was once “the ultimate” moves on, once I find a “holy grail”. (Like stepping stones, except in a few instances, where…I hoard. I have several Mahenge spinels. My excuse is that they are all uniquely beautiful – pinkish red, reddish pink – I’m pretty sure I have every shade in between. Now, I’m aiming for cuprian tourmalines. Unfortunately, I came into the game too late for certain gems. But I digress…) I TRY to no longer buy impulsively (which can burn me in the case of, say…a holy grail that I try to think about for more than 3 seconds, and it’s grabbed by someone else in that time, during a frenzied drop). I try to accept what actually looks good with my skin tone – honestly, I have some stones which just aren’t flattered by my pasty hand…but are too pretty to sell!
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I have scored some wonderful gems, at reasonable prices. This is usually because a fellow enthusiast has either pointed me in the right direction, or sold me something they bought several years ago at a good price, and they’re passing on the deal. Sometimes, it’s because I’ve bugged a vendor somewhat incessantly about a certain colour, and they finally got something in that might shut me up. Sometimes, I’ve really lucked out when a stone has sat around for quite some time for whatever reason, and the price can be negotiated somewhat.
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If I was to have some advice for a “newbie” about collecting, it’s to have patience. “The One” WILL come along, at some point. You are better off socking away the money until it does. In the meantime, educate yourself, look at what’s around and at what price point, see as many gems in real life as you can, and when you see The One, pounce!
-Aimée
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A Year in Review

Happy first birthday to The Gemstone Project!

Lets see, the past year has been chock full of wonderful craziness.

August 2014
The first month started out with a lot of posts about various gemstones, including a colorless garnet, and gray spinel. It included an unheated Umba color shifting sapphire in a Harry Winston inspired halo that I helped put together for a friend. I posted a bit about myself and some about my photography. And I topped off the month with my first Gem Blast.

September 2014
September started out with a visit to Lang Antiques in San Francisco that took up three posts. September included three Gem Blasts, including one about considering gemstone recuts. I concluded September with my handy guide “Scale of Gray” for seeking out gray spinels.

October 2014
October gave way to talk about birthstones, including two antique birthstone rings, tourmaline & opal. I touched on gemstone cutting flaws and what to keep an eye out for. I posted a design I used for my first jewelry design contest with David Klass. I included posts about tsavorites, Mahenge spinels, and an evaluation I did for a friend on a red spinel. Two designs were posted, including a breast cancer awareness ring and a red spinel inspired by the Art Deco period. October only had one Gem Blast – sapphires and moonstones.

November 2014
I created a Facebook page in November! I posted my drawing process for my solitaire setting entry for another of David Klass’ contests, this time winning. I also featured willajunejewelry. A Gem Blast about diamonds, some rough ideas for a NYC ring, plus some random thoughts flowed through November.

December 2014
A feature on Jewels by Grace brought December in with bang! Though the rest of the month I stayed a bit quieter due to the holidays, I still had a range of topics to cover. I wrote about design ideas and inspiration for my pad sapphire ring. A Gem Blast on Merelani Mint Garnets, my thoughts on what the New Year would bring, and a post about lapidaries fleshed out the end of the year.

January 2015
I brought in January with my own type of confetti: red spinel melee. A reader had suggested posting about a guide of what to look for in a gem. I announced that I was starting to design my own line of jewelry, posted a Gem Blast on the many gems at my beloved gem store and another Gem Blast celebrating January’s birthstone, several varieties of garnets. Then January closed with my declaration of opening an etsy store.

February 2015
February started with me changing to trade status on Pricescope and picking up a new username, and a post about fantasy cut gemstones. Pantone had announced their color of the year to be Marsala, and I have a few things to say about that. Sticking with the birthstone idea, I posted a Gem Blast about amethysts. I added a simple diamond pendant design, and a post about my most memorable Oscar jewelry.

March 2015
I brought in March with a post about a green beryl/aquamarine, another birthstone post. Some discussion about current jewelry trends took place, as well as a post about red spinel. I finally posted the finished product from winning David Klass’ contest. A more detailed post about my design aesthetic wrapped up March. But that wasn’t all! I also started a TGP Twitter account, and my 3rd ring prototype was completed, and the 4th one put into production.

April 2015
Since diamond is the birthstone for April, and also my birthstone, I decided to dedicate almost the entire month of posts to diamonds. Until recently I wasn’t a diamond lover, so I blogged about diamonds that really captured my imagination, including rose cut diamonds, a yellow diamond trillion, and a pinkish brown diamond. But I didn’t post entirely about diamonds – I added in a post with the end product of my David Klass contest band. My 4th prototype was completed too, and the 5th prototype was put into production! I also got a gem back from AGL as certified unheated. The event that took place that I was most excited about was a sapphire purchased from my shop being used as an engagement ring!

May 2015
Of course I would have to do an emerald Gem Blast for May, since it is the birthstone for the month and that seems to be the trend I picked up on! May was an incredibly busy month for me with JCK at the end, and preceding where to find me on social media, and a post about how I would be posting to instagram and twitter from JCK. I also finally posted a post I had made on sexism and gender issues within jewelry marketing and the jewelry trade. I also included a Gem Blast of the AGL certified violet sapphire. 5th ring prototype was completed!

June 2015
June did not get a birthstone post! Instead, I did a post about my jewelry line updates, a post on blue-green tourmalines, THREE posts on my experiences at JCK, including meeting lots of colored stone celebrities. I also did a post on metal color and how I prefer color flow to contrast, and how I like colors to work together. I also did a post about imitation and inspiration that had been writing itself on my phone for months prior. I finished the month with a Gem Blast on a stunning tanzanite from Precision Gems.

July 2015
July kicked off with a post about sending a sapphire to AGL and getting it tested. I then had a bit of an artistic funk and found myself writing about art of other mediums – Angie Crabtree and some chefs made some brief appearances and helped lift my spirits and inspired me further. I also got to the final stages of a big custom project, and took a fantastic mini vacation down to San Diego at the Vineyard Hacienda, which also helped get the creative juices flowing. I published a “living document” I had been writing about gemstone terms and vocabulary, and hopefully that will still be added to continuously. I finished off July with a couple of Gem Blasts – moving across state lines does not make for a lot of blogging time!

August 2015
August has only just begun again, but already this one holds a special meaning to me – I have never been good at continuing things – I have started so many blogs and stopped writing after a couple months, or lost interest, or whatever, so to reach and celebrate a year of posts, and all of the incredible things and wonderful people I have met – it truly is a remarkable milestone for me. So far into August, I have posted only one blog, but it has been one of the most important and edited (18 times! Two different highly educated editors!) items I have ever written – Gender Inequality and the Jewelry Trade. Oh, and I also moved across the country, a thousand miles to the north counts, right?

Here is to the future and everything it may bring!

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Gem Blast: Tanzanite

I love purple-blues, and nothing does purple-blue quite like tanzanite. I’ve seen super saturated vivid purples and blues, but nothing gets to me like the violet/lavender/periwinkle shades between. I don’t think cuts get any better than this, but unfortunately, it makes it incredibly difficult to photograph perfectly cut gemstones. I spent an afternoon struggling with photographing it accurately. Here are some of my attempts to capture it’s beauty.

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This is what it looks like when the camera is 18 inches away:

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This is what it looks like when the camera lens is 1.5 inches away, and you photograph it head on:

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Another macro pic, but at a slight angle to avoid the look from the previous picture.

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Even less of an angle, still a lot of lens reflection:

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Almost head on again, or also known as “how to turn a violet stone black”:

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Oh hey, that looks pretty! Back to about a foot away:

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Still showing some black, but at least it’s not black edge to edge!

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Notice even the slightest angle can make a huge difference with a reduction in lens reflection.

This baby was snapped up quickly off of LoupeTroop, and it’s new owner was beyond thrilled with it (don’t blame her!) I hope that it will be cherished, as it is an exceptionally cut and colored stone! As lovely as some of these pictures make it look, it exceeds all of them in real life!

Viva Las Vegas! JCK 2015 Part 3!

So. It’s the final day. I would have loved to stay in Vegas longer, but my daughter was already having a hard time with me being gone. I’d had a packed schedule for three days and wasn’t able to talk to her as much as I (or she) would have liked.

Saturday

I actually woke up at a decent time, and got ready as soon as possible and made my way over to the convention center. I was alone because my companion from Friday had some other engagements, and I had put this day aside to spend at the show. I was determined to go up to the diamond levels, but had to go spend some quality time back downstairs with my beloved colored stones.

JCK Luxury Salon

So, one thing I wanted to point out is that security is TIGHT, of course. These security cameras were on the escalators up to the Luxury Salons. Security guards are everywhere, police are everywhere, it was kind of amazing. But I will tell you, I’ve never felt so safe.

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Now, one other reason I am showing the video cameras is that I wasn’t able to take a ton of photos. Luxury and the main floor of the show is nothing like AGTA – cameras and photographs are not welcome. Designers and jewelers are determined that their ideas will not be stolen. I may or may not have gotten yelled at at least once by a guy wearing a bow tie that was peddling 20+ carat antique cut stones. How can you copy something like that?!

So, I’m going to lay this out there and be flat out honest. I am a colored stone girl. I am so tired of diamond halos. And that’s what the vast majority of what was in the Luxury Salons. I don’t know that I should be apologetic about that, because it’s obviously what people want, but for the love of Pete, you can only do a diamond halo in so many ways! Having said that, I sometimes like diamond halos, but at least get creative with them!

NOW, one company that did something besides your every day diamond halo was Cicada Jewelry. Don’t get me wrong, they had some diamond halos, but that wasn’t all they had. So I wildly sketched some ideas and noted some color combinations. I wasn’t even tempted to take pictures, because I respected their work enough to not want to copy it, but to use some of the lessons learned while standing in that aisle admiring their work. They have a minimal presence online and on social media because they are so protective over their work and designs. They actually do not even photograph and publish most of their work so that they don’t get copied. And for good reason, their items were exquisite, definitely the best I saw at the show. I got a shot of their business card though! Their booth was what the entire section of Luxury Salons should have been.

Other companies need to step up their game.

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AGTA, Random Cabochon Vendors

I would have to go back through my business card collection to tell you who the vendor was, but they had some of the coolest stuff – adding some mother of pearl to the back of some translucent cabochons of different colors. I was fascinated by the resulting light play and will have to delve further into the idea of making jewelry with it when I have more resources to do so.

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This concave cut belonged to a HUGE vendor who had so many items out on their tables that they must have had a terrible time keeping track of everything. I was a horrible convention goer and didn’t grab one of their business cards.

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AGTA, Bruce Bridges

One of my most entertaining visits from this day was when I went by the tsavorite.com booth and happened to meet Bruce Bridges. So I asked him to pull out the biggest example of tsavorite he had in the cases, and he polished it up with a clean cloth while I pulled out my OlloClip and readied my camera. They asked to see the photos I took and were enthralled with the quality of the photograph I had just taken using just my phone and a relatively inexpensive macro lens. Bruce complimented my photography skills, and I taught him all about the OlloClip. I’m pretty sure he’s now a convert and will be purchasing one, if he hasn’t already. This stone is 12.5cts and I was afraid to touch it, knowing how rare (and expensive!) tsavorites are of this size. The photo does not do it justice, as the stone has less yellow in it than appears on my laptop, or on my phone, for that matter. Silly greens, being difficult to capture correctly.

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Blurrier pic, but I was trying to capture some sparkle.

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A horrible picture of some of what was in their display case. I only asked to see the biggest, but there were some heart wrenchingly beautiful spinels and tanzanites along with all of the greens.

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I hope that Bruce picks up an OlloClip and is introduced to Instagram, as I’d love to see more of those incredible gems all over the interwebs!

AGTA, Random Gemstone Vendors

I stopped by the Paraiba booth again to grab a couple pictures of a few of the tourmalines, the 3ct one in particular, as it is that famed “Windex blue” everyone always goes on and on about. The others weren’t too shabby either, but they really just aren’t my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn down designing around one, but I don’t know that I’d ever really want to own one.

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Chinastone is the place with the melee. I actually was planning to pick up some and then realized that I didn’t have the cash on me at the time. So much fun to imagine what to do with all of those tiny stones!

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Then a last stop back by Prima Gems to pick up this little neon red guy and a stone for my day 2 companion. I have no idea what I’m going to do with this thing, but I will do something with it at some point!

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I actually went upstairs and wandered through the tech/tools area for a bit and chatted with some friends/colleagues about tools, the trade and jewelry design, but didn’t take any pictures, so that’s a bit boring.

Pricescope Get Together

2015 marked the fifth year of the Pricescope get together, but only my second time attending. I went straight from JCK and arrived before anyone else did, so I managed to get a couple images of the suite before anyone else arrived. A giant thank to goes out to Andrey Pilipchak, his beautiful wife Linh, and Erika Winters, for putting so much effort into hosting such a great party every year. It’s your playground, we just get to play in it!

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I believe that there is an annual pool game that takes place, but I’ve always stayed away from it while it’s happening!

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Luckily, being one of the first people there has it’s perks, like I didn’t feel guilty about grabbing people’s bling as soon as they walked in the door, since no one else was there to look at it yet. For instance this amazing pear rose cut came through the door, and I didn’t want to give it back. I mean, look at it! I think that Jewels By Grace still has it, but it may have sold already. Unfortunately, not to me.

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This piece is wonderful, first of all because it belongs in a friend’s personal collection, but also because of the history. It’s a 1920s Art Deco brooch that was converted in the 1950s into a bracelet. I didn’t capture the bracelet details, but the brooch part is absolutely immaculate with perfect milgrain.

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Another Jewels by Grace item, this is a precision cut light pink garnet that was set into one of JbyG’s signature bangle bracelets, in brushed rose gold. Sometimes the simplest things are the best ones.

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Now, once I got this on my finger, I absolutely did NOT want to give it back. Another Jewels by Grace item, a to-die-for antique emerald cut diamond. Positively epic. I am such a sucker for the step cuts.

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This may have been the point where I started sending pictures of it to my husband. Who then laughed at me. 3.6cts doesn’t come cheap!

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Another wowza item that is a bit shy and not fond of the bling paparazzi is a stunning antique green chrysophase ring. This thing has presence in any room, and glows like it has a light on inside. From another personal collection.

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Also happening at the party was playing with loose stones. One thing I love about the camaraderie that belongs to Pricescope is that no one judges you for playing with little sparkly items when normal people might think you’re crazy for being so bling obsessed. For us, it’s just the best kind of party! A friend was asking advice for a potential three stone. By the end of the night she had completely changed her tune and was going towards something totally different.

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Now, towards the end of the evening, I happened to check my Instagram, and noticed that I had hit the 1000 followers mark. I had been intending to do a giveaway at 1000 followers, but considering that I was in Vegas, and would be traveling home all day the next day, I decided to postpone the giveaway until 1,500. So, if you’re an instagram follower, start looking for me to do a giveaway on there relatively soon!

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Not long afterwards, my roommates gathered me up, and insisted that we go back to our room, ending my mini-bling vacation. I had seen, experienced and learned so much that I couldn’t even begin to try to remember absolutely everything I had absorbed. I gathered a ton of business cards and made a bunch of new contacts, some very cool mentors and shared a bit of myself. I feel like I created some new opportunities and I hope that some wonderful things come out of it.

I want to send out a HUGE special thanks to Amy Phillips and David Klass of David Klass Jewelry. Without the kindness and generosity of these two phenomenal people, most of this trip would not have been possible. You guys are the best!

I hope you enjoyed a small piece of what JCK and AGTA were like through my eyes!

Viva Las Vegas! JCK 2015 Part 2!

Part 2. Or day 2. This is by far the most photo intensive post in this trilogy.

Friday

Naturally, after not getting to sleep until 3am, we slept in a bit, though that was not the plan. The plan was to get to JCK ASAP and start trawling through gemstones as early as we could. Instead we woke up and started looking at gemstones again, this time in daylight, before deciding it was time to eat. Of course I went for the color shifting 6ct violet sapphire first.

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None of the other photos came out well, so I’ll skip them in an already picture heavy post.

Meeting with Amy Phillips of David Klass Jewelry

First thing we did after gathering our badges to go into the show was meet with Amy with David Klass Jewelry. She was showing us a wax for a ring David is making with the emerald from the first post. A client had been working with them on a diamond halo design, but had kind of hit a brick wall after a few CADs. I made a couple of tweaks to make the design a little bit more delicate and feminine. Since it’s not complete yet, I’ll keep it to a more boring view. I will say that I am so excited to see this project completed!

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AGTA Show: Prima Gems

From seeing the wax, we went downstairs to the AGTA show, otherwise known as colored stones! So you already know I was so excited!

Of course I studied the map and made a beeline for Prima Gems. I browsed for a while, bumping into a few people that I recognized, including Yvonne Raley.

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I just want to say that Nattalie Shah is an angel. My companion was seeking out red spinels and green garnets, but in the meantime, I had every single spinel pulled out of the case and had them spread out all over the counter. Not joking:

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Here is a 12ct Mahenge Spinel, moderately included.

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Same stone, being a show off.

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While my companion was digging through red spinels, I was amusing myself going through a massive parcel of smaller red and pink spinels, pulling out stones that talked to me and putting them on a gem sorting tray. Most of these were the largest in there, but there was one that had color that just popped out at me.

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The entirety of the parcel I was going through:

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Playing with the UV flashlight.

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Some of the red spinels that were being scrutinized.

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No, really, scrutinized!

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At one point, I got tired of red spinels, (though not tired enough to ask them to put them away!) and asked to see this really awesome blue-green tourmaline. This stone needs to be made into a necklace.

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From the red spinels, we went to green garnets. Check out these mints!

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In the meantime, I had put this little guy to the side for myself. Tiny, but you can see the neon color from across the room.

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I’d forgive the shape for this color, the perfect blue-green for a mint.

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Then Nattalie pulled out the UV light to play with a 4ct tsavorite. It was like Christmas in one stone!

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Doing a mean impression of an emerald. Inclusions didn’t hinder the performance of this stone at all, though magnification makes the inclusions look worse than they are. This is one of those stones that doesn’t show it’s true beauty in photographs.

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AGTA Show: Random vendors

At this point, we had spent so much time pouring over Prima stones after our late start, that we had run out of time, so we raced around just a bit looking at a few other booths. I took some photos of items that caught my eye.

A couple little rose cuts.

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Colored stone melee, starting at .8mm to 3mm.

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Untreated emerald rings.

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Brazilian Paraiba. I should have inquired about pricing, but didn’t have time to stop.

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Managed to have Gem 2000 pull some larger light pink sapphires to view for a client.

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Ogled Gem 2000’s emeralds. The emeralds were everywhere!

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And their spinels. Spinels were also everywhere.

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I was also on the look out for blue sapphires for another client, so we checked these out with Gem 2000 as well,

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The Other Roommate’s Arrival

After hopping on the shuttle and rushing to meet our other bling sister, we found her, and of course helped ourselves to her jewels. I know you’re surprised, but I took a bunch of photos:
Blue zircon.
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Green sphene earring drops from Prima Gems. 
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Tanzanite double halo ring. 
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Vintage ruby and diamond ring, Love Affair Diamonds. 
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Ideal cut diamond earrings with ideal cut diamond halo jackets, ID Jewelry.
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Mint garnet from Prima Gems
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Spessartite garnet from Prima Gems
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Ideal cut diamond
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Dinner time: Texas de Brazil

So, by this point, it was time to grab dinner. We were picked up in a limo, and taken to Texas de Brazil. I hadn’t had Brazilian in several years, and this Brazilian put THAT Brazilian to shame. If you have the opportunity to go to one of these restaurants, do it. And hit up the salad bar in a major way, because it’s so so so good. Just as good as the meat, which is, of course, the main attraction.

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The table in our private room was made of one giant piece of wood, and I loved the contrast with the lucite chairs. 
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My favorite dinner companion. Diamonds. 
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And to finish up the night, some random colored stone rings, including a couple of mine. 
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Yet again, we didn’t end up falling asleep until 2am, and there was no partying involved! The last day was fast approaching and I was determined to get to the show earlier than I had today.

Day 3! Blog post fast approaching! Tomorrow!

AGTA Spectrum 2015 Awards

A huge congratulations to all winners of the AGTA Spectrum Awards, but especially to Mr. John Dyer, of whom I currently have one of his gems in my gembox. Well done sir! And sweeping the entire “Innovative Faceting category at that!

To see the entire list of winners, please check out the full list:

AGTA Spectrum 2015 Winners pdf