Hi Amy, As a certifiable gemstone addict - no interest in
rehabilitation - one of my greatest passions is a gem show. You get to
see what you’re buying, and can usually find some great bargains and
unusual stones you might not otherwise buy. You have to have a handle
on the relative value of stones, but since you’ve been buying from
Rio, you have a benchmark in mind.
There are, in my experience, two types of gem shows. Retail shows,
usually sponsored by a local gem and mineral club, and wholesale shows
(most notably G&LW shows). To access the wholesale shows you normally
have to have some sort of formal business, and register when you
enter. I prefer the wholesale shows - for hopefully obvious reasons -
but still attend and buy from retail shows. Sometimes you will find
retail and wholesale shows in conjunction with each other.
I also love to attend these shows to obtain slabs of cabbing rough.
You really get to see what you’re buying, and buying slabs minimizes
waste and may eliminate the need for a hefty slab saw. Also, buying “a
slab of this and a slab of that” allows you to have a greater variety
of material than buying a multi-pound boulder of one material.
I believe the best resource for finding shows is Lapidary Journal.
They maintain a list of shows around the country (and world) and it’s
published every month in the magazine. I haven’t checked, but it might
also be available online on their Web site. And there is usually a
G&LW advertisement listing their shows in the coming year.
Just an afterthought… you might also consider eBay - I’ve purchased
some great rough and finished stones there. Keep your wits about you
regarding your maximum bid and you can really get some great deals. If
someone is getting in a bidding war with you, let it go and try
another day. There’s enough stuff on there that you can usually get
what you want, at the right price, if you’re patient.
I should also give a plug for Robert Lowe, an American expatriate in
Brazil, who is also on Orchid (email@example.com). Now,
there’s a man who understands the gemstone addict’s weaknesses and
exploits them! Truly awesome tourmalines, quartz family gems and
just about anything else coming out of Brazil. Maybe not the guy to
contact for a single 4mm round amethyst (although he’d certainly have
’em), but a valued resource in my gemstone palette! If you’re a
high-end designer looking for awesome stones, I’d definitely drop him
a line! He does come to the U.S. for the Tucson shows, and potentially
other times of the year as well.
Hope this helps!
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)