Tales from the Tucson Gem Show


The Tucson Gem & Mineral Show is the largest of its kind in the United States, hosting over 4,000 vendors in several locations throughout the city every February. The two most prestigious shows we visit are not open to the general public, requiring advanced approval and identity verification to be allowed inside. Sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and other fine gemstones can be found here at competitive prices and the quality we require for Vedic Astrology.

Buying in Tucson is both exhilarating and challenging. Studying the contents of brightly lit displays for hours on end, making note of pricing trends as we shop, memorizing booth locations in gigantic venues, maintaining cheerful relationships with important vendors and keeping feelers out for astrologically potent gemstones is a lot to be juggling all at once. I have no shame about the amount of coffee I drink on these trips.

It makes the world feel like such a small place when suppliers we work with from all over the planet come together to sell gemstones in the same location. Saying goodbye to trusted Sri Lankan dealers as we leave to visit our favorite Brazilian suppliers, in the span of a 10-minute walk instead of a 30-hour flight, is nothing short of a surreal experience.

tarah-inspecting-sapphire
Tarah, Astrological Gem’s resident gemologist, inspecting a Ceylon sapphire Jay has selected from a Sri Lankan vendor. Tarah confirms its quality under magnification as Jay negotiates the final asking price of the gem.

The end result of a successful buying trip is coming back to our home office, allowing ourselves to wind down a bit, unwrapping paper parcels in the comfort of a familiar environment, and feeling both relief and joy at the presence and power of the gems we came home with — and the competitive prices we negotiated on our picks.

Below are some tales from last week’s trip for those who are curious about these adventures in further depth.

Buying Gems Next To Jay Boyle

jay-buying-whites
Jay reviewing a selection of untreated white sapphires, looking for true colorlessness in addition to clarity.

Jay calmly looks at gems with the air of a seasoned veteran. He’s a well-known expert with decades of experience buying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of goods throughout his career. Silent and stoic as he inspects a beautiful stone, he’ll tell you that his lack of expression is intentional and serves an important purpose. “Don’t get too excited when you find something you love,” he’s advised me many times, “because the dealer will sense your attachment and assume you’ve already bought the gem in your mind. This weakens your power to negotiate the price you want to pay.”

Vendors treat Jay with a sense of reverence as he works. Even those who don’t know him personally have heard his name throughout the trade. Not only does his reputation as the senior buyer for a famous jewelry television network precede him, his dedication to spirituality is also quite well-known. I was amused by how many gem dealers found Jay’s unique practices both fascinating and worthy of lively conversation. Stories were told of him leaving social events early, turning down drinks or a night of partying in the city, just so he could go back to his hotel room and meditate.

This lifestyle has served him well. Of all the old-time dealers I chatted with, many slowing down and flirting with the prospect of retiring some day soon, he is definitely the healthiest looking 70-something of the bunch.

Jay introduces me to many people when we travel, describing me as the manager and Vedic Astrologer of his personal company. I loved how many gem dealers were instantly open to having their Jyotish charts read on this trip. Collecting a stack of business cards with birth times scribbled on the back, I gave casual readings and gemstone recommendations on the fly throughout the week. All precious gem dealers should wear Jyotish gems as far as I’m concerned, they’re selling them all day long anyway. Why not put the right ones on their own fingers?

Astrological Gem, promoting higher consciousness in the wholesale marketplace, one brave and curious sapphire dealer at a time. There might be a slogan in there somewhere.

Buying as a “Gemstone Whisperer”

Intuitively scanning a collection of fine Colombian emeralds to pick out the best for Jyotish, my own personal method that’s proven to be quite effective. Only two were selected out of the couple hundred displayed here.

In the astrological gemstone business I’m often referred to as the “Gem Whisperer.” I use Vedic Astrology to give recommendations but I also match people to their ideal gemstones using an intuitive sense I’ve developed over the years. (You can read more about that here.) Fortunately this sensitivity remains sharp in a fast-paced buying environment and I don’t feel burned out after making use of it repeatedly at a show. That’s important because tuning in so deeply here is only helpful if I can remain bright and clear afterwards.

Running my hand across a lot of gems, I do an energetic “scan” to find the ones that will pass our strict quality standards. I don’t need to waste time scrutinizing hundreds of stones when I can find the very best in a matter of seconds. Premium untreated gems have a particular look to them, beautiful colors and exquisite cuts, but real Jyotish-quality gemstones possess the distinctive resonance I’m looking for.

If I’m in “scanning mode,” I pick out the gem or two that stand out to me and quietly pass them to Jay or Tarah to look at. (I’m always careful that one or the other is around to double-check me if I’m doing this because, in these moments, it’s no longer my eyes that are doing the work.) They carefully inspect my choices under magnification and confirm the quality from a technical standpoint, something that’s just as important as the energetic frequency of a stone.

I believe my physiology has developed this sense working exclusively with premium Jyotish gems for over a third of my life now. I’m not doing anything particularly magical, I’m just fine-tuned to the way a true astrological gemstone is supposed to feel.

Buying as an Expert in Quality

sattvic-stone
A lovely unheated yellow sapphire suggested for me by a dealer. He’s right that it’s beautiful – but viewed under magnification here, you can see it’s slightly too hazy for our liking. (See that silk on the bottom and right side of the gem?) It was pretty but I had to pass on this one.

Jay was only in Tucson for a couple of days this year, leaving Tarah and myself to shop on our own for the remainder of the trip. Ensuring we keep ourselves protected against deception becomes more important when Jay’s not around. We’re not as well-known as he is, even though we work for him, so sometimes it takes a bit of effort to earn the respect of people who aren’t familiar with us.

Tarah and I are (relatively) young women who might appear to be naive at first glance, but that’s only until we get to display how much we know within our particular field. We’re fresh faces to work with but strongly adapted to only buying and selling super premium untreated gems. A few times at the show I felt like we were the Charlie’s Angels of the gem world, two bright blondes representing a big-time boss, charming on the surface but clearly well trained once the small talk ended and the negotiations began. Gem dealers were surprised and impressed by our capacity to evaluate their selections and how we held firm on the competitive offers we made.

It’s always interesting to me how our standards differ from the traditional precious gemstone market, where the lines blur between that which is rare and valuable and that which is truly effective for Vedic Astrology. Vendors trying to be helpful often present us with their finest goods for consideration. These picks are usually beautiful to the naked eye but, after a thorough inspection, I find myself passing on nearly everything that’s suggested for me even if it’s of good taste. If it’s not of impeccable clarity, no matter how sweet and gorgeous it appears to be at first sight, it’s not for us.

Being so discerning is the reason we don’t have thousands of products for sale on our website. We’re only interested in carrying the best of the very best, even if it means having a limited selection to offer. To make our selection even more limited, we only buy if we can negotiate costs that allow us to sell to our customers at fair (and often wholesale) prices. Of the millions of precious gemstones available at these shows, probably less than 300 fulfill our specific criteria, the sweet spot where exceptional quality meets unbeatable pricing. The struggle of the hunt is real.

Knowing When to Walk Away

citrine-flipped
A selection of citrine we came very close to buying, viewed upside-down to ensure a lack of zoning (uneven color distribution). This has to be done when buying citrine and amethyst for Jyotish, even if dealers give us funny looks as we’re standing there flipping over all their inventory.

“Remember, there will always be other gems,” Jay has said to us many times in our training over the years. He’s embedded this into us to ensure we walk away if a supplier won’t meet us at the price point we expect for something.

Of all the shopping we did in Tucson, strangely, good citrine was one of the hardest to find at a competitive price. This is not an expensive gemstone, it’s for sale all over the place, and yet we only came home with two or three pieces this year.

On our last day of the show, we thought we struck gold with some material we really liked. We had never worked with this dealer before, a man from Jaipur with a blue tie cascading over his belly and a mouth full of (what we’re pretty sure was) chewing tobacco. Hunched over in his chair, not particularly interested in engaging, it took him a while to acknowledge us as we waved him over from across the booth.

Once we had his attention, we agreed upon a fair price per carat before picking out the citrine we wanted to buy. Liking what we were finding, we quickly began setting many gems to the side.

When it was time to weigh out our final selection, the dealer decided to double the price per carat we had agreed upon. We contested this in shock but he stayed firm – and not firm like this was a misunderstanding, firm like he was exerting an unpleasant power move over us. If he thought we were attached and would agree to this new price, he was sorely mistaken as Tarah and I packed up our gear and promptly left his booth.

Not only do I prefer to buy gemstones from positive and transparent vendors, Jay is absolutely right, there will always be other gems. Even if it wasn’t in the way of very much citrine this year.

The Case of My Mistaken Identity

At a glance, my badge can be misread as April Raines, VIB (Very Important Buyer) for Tiffany and Company. What’s up, who wants to sell me some diamonds.

I’ll also share with you the funniest thing that happened on this trip. Still on the hunt for well-priced citrine, Tarah and I stopped to see what a team of Brazilian dealers had to offer. Seeing our VIB (Very Important Buyer) badges, they enthusiastically ushered us behind the counter and began showing off anything they might be able to sell us in addition to citrine.

Their English wasn’t exactly the best, and we’re certainly not masters of Portuguese, so our communication wasn’t optimal. One of them tried to strike up a conversation with me as he pointed to his bi-colored tourmaline. “See these? These are going to be on television!”

“Really?” I replied. I asked if Jay came by and did a deal for the television network he buys for.

“Yes,” he said emphatically, “Jay Boyle!”

“I work for Jay Boyle!” I replied with a smile, pointing to my badge.

Unfortunately, instead of his eyes landing on Jay’s name, they landed on the name of the holy grail of companies to sell to as gem dealer: Tiffany. 

His demeanor suddenly shifted, thinking I buy for Tiffany and Co., and he became equal parts starstruck and serious. “You are with Tiffany… oh my g… okay. Okay. Come here.”

He lead me to his collection of fine imperial topaz. “You see these? You select for Tiffany. I give you any price you want. What price do you want? You take the best, I give you my best price.” And in a flurry of Portuguese he summoned other dealers nearby to come and meet me.

I tried to clarify that I work for Jay Boyle and my name is Tiffany, but at this point it was just too late. With Tarah’s face buried in her hands in total embarrassment, sitting next to the handful of citrine she picked out, four or five dealers lined up to shake my hand right beside her. “I sold to Tiffany many years ago,” one of them said to me, “and this is such an honor. I am SO honored to open this door again with you.”

Figuring I might as well roll with it at this point, I asked what our special price would be on Tarah’s citrine picks. “We only need 4 or 5 of your best pieces today,” I explained. “For… market research.”

The looks on their faces quickly changed, eyebrows dropping, voices becoming serious. “I am so sorry, ma’am,” one of them answered. “Prices are firm on the citrine this year. I can’t give you a discount on these.”

I picked up my bag, a beet-red Tarah gave them one of her cards, and we said we’d back if they decided to change their minds on the citrine. We exited their booth, resuming our quest, and never heard from any of them again.

There will always be other gems.

blogheadshotTiffany April Raines is the Head of Sales at Astrological Gem International. Trained at the American College of Vedic Astrology and certified as a gemstone advisor through the Planetary Gemologists Association, she has served the Vedic Astrology community with research-based gemstone insight and advice since 2007. She can be contacted at tiffany@astrologicalgem.com.

Please note: In order to provide the most time and best service possible for our paying customers, we are no longer able to respond to all of the requests we receive for gemstone recommendations. We welcome you instead to try our Free Gem Report if you are still in the learning and research phase of your Jyotish gemstone journey. This can be found at AstrologicalGem.com.

3 thoughts on “Tales from the Tucson Gem Show

  1. […] The Tucson Gem & Mineral Show is the largest of its kind in the United States, hosting over 4,000 vendors in several locations throughout the city every February. The two most prestigious shows we visit are not open to the general public, requiring advanced approval and identity verification to be allowed inside. Sapphires, emeralds, rubies,… Read More Tales from the Tucson Gem Show […]

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  2. Nice! Thanks for the tour and glimpse into y’alls process! My yellow sapphire came from the Tucson Gem and Mineral show!! Bought on the last day by my then lover who had pestered him to death and got a great price on a sweet stone! I’m shopping for a ruby, garnet, diamonds or white stone for our future wedding bands! I got engaged on Valentin’e Day and am wearing garnets which are not likely as Vedic as I’d like but they are a place holder for now and I love the ring!

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