Cherry Blossom Time

It has been a cool, wet winter here and the stone fruit trees in our “orchard” are taking their time waking up.  There have been some years where they are almost all in bloom by the second week of February.  Finally the cherry trees are coming into bloom.

There are only a few cherry varieties that will grow in our climate because we do not get near enough winter cold temperatures.  The ones that do grow here require a second variety for pollination.  Initially we had the two available varieties planted together and after several years they finally bloomed and we got a couple handfuls of cherries.  Unfortunately, one of the pair died out over the next couple years as the other matured into a nice sized tree that is covered in flowers in the spring.  A replacement tree was obtained, but unlike some of the other types of stone fruit, cherries are slower to mature.  The newer tree started blooming a couple years ago — but too early for the older tree.  Thus only one or two cherries from all the lovely flowers.  Finally this year, the timing is overlapping.  Maybe there will be a cherry harvest in a few months.

Tucson 2024 – Part 2

I had a day to do laundry and pack for the return to Tucson to be a dealer in the TGMS show.  The first load of laundry was in the machine when the power went out.  As the next hour or so went by, the outages increased and the only explanation from the power company was it was likely due to the storm.  Being that we are in a rural area, it has in the past it has been a day or more before we have power restored.  We have a generator — but it refused to start.

So plans changed.  I packed for the coming week, loaded the car and headed south to LA where my daughter lives.  It was a miserable drive down US 101 in the rain..  Fortunately there were not that many others crazy enough to be out driving in the storm so I could usually keep lots of space between my car and other vehicles.  And the majority of the other drivers were being as cautious in their driving as I was.

Laundry done and a head start for the rest of the drive, accompanied  by my daughter who had been drafted to help at the show, I started out the next day for Tucson.  It rained until we were past Palm Springs.  Unlike the previous day, there was a lot of traffic. First it was just the normal LA traffic, and then more and more of it was big trucks going long distances on I-10.  It was a good feeling when I finally saw familiar Tucson landmarks and got to check in at our hotel.

The next day after I picked up our credentials at the Tucson Convention Center, the storm caught up with us.  The wind was powerful enough to move the orange barricades used in the parking lot and carried small bits that stung exposed skin.  It was the last day for the motel shows on the other side of the freeway and the storm caused some of those in more exposed outside spaces to pack up early.

The weather was definitely the significant feature of the week.   Wednesday morning was set up time.  We were lucky that there was a pause in the precipitation while we hauled things into the building.  As we were heading back to the car after the booth was set up,  a few drops of rain fell.  No sooner than we got in the car, the skies opened.  I decided, to just sit there and wait hoping the cloud burst would go as quickly as it came.  And then the sound of the storm got a lot louder. It was hail!  All we could do was sit there and laugh until it passed (and try to take a few photos of the hail on the windshield).

Thursday morning the show opened to the public.   The ballroom where we were located was opened at 9:30 while the big exhibition hall did not open until 10.  It wasn’t the out-the-door first day crowd I experienced as a visitor to the show pre-pandemic.  As the day went on people trickled through the ballroom.  Some of the other dealers complained that a lot of people just did not realize there were more dealers in the ballroom and only went to the exhibition hall downstairs.  It was interesting that most of the sales that day were cash sales.  We had done okay.  Enough excess cash to make a deposit in the bank before heading to the hotel and then out to dinner.

Friday the show opened at 9am for local school children to visit the show and participate in special educational programs.  The show dealer chair took note of the complaints about traffic to the ballroom and for the remainder of the show, the hourly announcements included mention of  more dealers in the ballroom.  That did seem to help bring more traffic.  Of course, there wasn’t all that much I had to offer for the kids to purchase so the increase in people coming by did not help overall sales.  The major difference was that on Friday, more of the sales were using credit cards rather than cash.

Saturday morning started with more rain and a much bigger crowd in line to enter the show.  However, our sales did not reflect that increase.  There were actually fewer sales and only two stones not from the $50 and under boxes.  Only one of the sales was a cash sale.  So the day was a bit disappointing.  Lots of people came by and admired what was on display, but they were not buying.  I was getting the feeling that the most of the people who would be interested in the gems I had to offer had already left Tucson.

As expected, Sunday was slow.  It was also Super Bowl Sunday, so there was extra completion for the public’s attention and our sales reflected that. As a result, I had a chance to make a quick tour of the exhibition hall.   Several of the dealers were already packing well before the 4pm official show closing.  Tear down always goes faster than set up and it wasn’t long before we had everything back in the car and were heading to the hotel.

Monday morning we started for home. This time the trip was a very long but uneventful drive in good weather.

Tucson 2024 was history.

Tucson 2024 – Part 1

Tucson 2024 started out much like my past few visits.  Everything was packed and ready to go the night before leaving home as I had a 6AM Saturday morning flight out of San Luis Obispo.  In Phoenix Sky Harbor airport I had the usual hike between terminals for the subsequent short flight to Tucson.  My seat was far in the back of the plane, so by the time I got to the baggage area my suitcase was already on the carrousel.  The rental car started out as a bit of a challenge.  The garage was very dark and since I saw only a key fob and tag on what was handed me, I thought it might be a keyless model.  Eventually, when I moved towards the garage entrance where there was enough light, I discovered that the key was tucked into the fob.

After locating acceptable fast food for lunch, I headed to the freeway show area, parked in a $5 lot and headed for the Ramada hotel and New Era at the Pueblo show.  On my initial trip to Tucson in 1987, New Era was my first stop.  I had been getting rough from Steve since I started faceting and New Era had a page of classified ads in Lapidary Journal.  So It just seems right to start off Tucson at the New Era spot.

For the remainder of the afternoon I did a quick tour of the Pueblo show, stopping to talk with a few dealers I knew from past years.  Then crossed to the other side of the I-10 freeway to the 22nd Street show for a walk around the huge tent as well as the “showcase” tent.  Eventually it was late enough so I could head to my hotel to check in and get settled for the stay.

Sunday morning I headed to the JOGS show, hoping I would be there early enough to avoid the horrible parking situation they typically have.  No such luck.  In the past couple years, I found some rough and saw material that might be appropriate for recutting.  As with the parking, no luck with those this year.  On the other hand, there was no shortage of parking at the G&LW show where I went next.  They had less empty space compared to last year, but the merchandise was pretty much the same.  I don’t know why I  keep going there!

Then it was off to RMGM show to catch up with John Garsow and check out what he had to offer in the way of rough material.  John was another dealer I have known since my 1987 visit.  He had some new rough as well as old material from estates that worked.  Last year the RMGM test was freezing when I visited it.  This year Tucson was having some comfortable temperatures in the high 70’s and low 80’s which made shopping a whole lot nicer. Finally it was time to wrap up the day at the Ethical Gem Suppliers Happy hour.

Monday was the day for going through the freeway shows — besides 22nd street and Pueblo, there is the GIGM show in three motels along the frontage road.  Almost immediately I ran into a friend from the SLO Gem and Mineral Club.  As I worked my way to the next motel, I came across another local, a dealer who does many club and commercial shows.  It seems that not much changes in the motel shows from one year to another.  Occasionally one dealer will be replaced by another, but on the whole nothing of note from one year to the next.

The 22nd street show is a bit harder to pin down — it is just so huge.  While the dealers in the showcase tent tend to be returning year after year,  it seemed to be much less so in the main tent.  In fact the tent itself grew since 2023.  There were several dealers who had many paper plates full of rough.  They had varying qualities but I remained unconvinced that I was seeing anything that was the size and quality combination that I needed.

Tuesday was the opening day for AGTA and GJX.  Unlike previous years there was no line to pick up credentials for entry into the AGTA.  Either they had gotten a lot more efficient at checking folks in or else the attendance was down.  I met up with my friend, Julie, and we spent the day there and across the street at the GJX show.  Neither seemed as crowded as I felt they were in past years — which is nice for the shopper, but possibly not so good for the dealers.  In addition to a second pair of bamboo tweezers (non-reflective, non-scratching and not effected by acetone) I bought a small bird carving from Peter Muller — the first souvenir I ever got from my Tucson visits.

That evening was the meet up dinner.  It was a small group, but as usual excellent exchange of information and an opportunity to put faces with names from the forum.

Rough purchased in Tucson

Wednesday was rough shopping day.  After a couple of purchases from AGTA dealers, I caught part of Tucson Todd’s faceting demonstration and then a seminar on CAD for jewelry design.  Then across the freeway to New Era rooms for a visit with Steve and picking out a selection of tourmalines.  Thursday was another day for 22nd street (confirming my opinion of the rough from the previous pass) and then Justin Prim’s demonstration of recutting a windowed stone followed by his presentation about the history of faceting in the US.

Friday was my day to go to the US Faceters Guild Symposium for a series of speakers.  Afterwards it was time to pack up in preparation to returning home the next morning.  I realized that I had forgotten to take photos of the shows, but it was too late at that point.

The flights returning home went smoothly as a series of storms were approaching the California coast.  I was in my home about ten minutes before the rain started.  The weather would complicate the next part of the Tucson 2024 adventure.  (more to come)



Before and After / Last Stones Before Tucson 2024

Of course, I didn’t get nearly as many stones cut in the past year as I had hoped. Life is like that.  But I did make progress including some items that had been waiting for years.  The last two stones cut were aquamarine recut projects.

The first of these is a stone I picked up in Tucson a few years ago from a dealer who was running a retirement sale.  The stone had a serious chip in the upper left corner (bit hard to see) and was windowed.  But the price was fine if it was considered rough or a preform.

It started out as 13.30 carats. The pavilion angle was about 30 degrees — well below the critical angle for beryl (39.5) and recommended angle for beryl.  After recutting it weighed 9.29 carats and measured 18.0 x 9.9 x 7.2 mm.  A pattern of concave facets were  used on the pavilion so it has a much more interesting look than a vanilla emerald cut.


The second stone is one that sat in the drawer for over three decades.  Originally it was a large triangular preform.  I had been faceting for a few years at that point, but did not have that much experience working on preforms.  I ended up following the depth of the preform too far resulting with too little material left for the crown.  The table was huge and the stone looked dumb.

So finally I got the courage to rework the stone.  The recut lost a couple mm. in the width and quite a bit of weight as a result.  The end result is still a big stone — 25.78 carats and 19.4 mm. across.


Happy Winter Solstice

The days will be getting a bit longer now.  Spaceship Earth completes another circuit around Sol and in a few day according to our calendars. Likewise, I will mark another year of my personal history between now and then.

The 2023 flight seemed to be a bumpy ride at times.   Many of us will be gathering in the remainder of the year with friends and family among lights and holiday decorations to counteract the cold and gloom.

May the warmth of that fellowship continue to grow into the new year and spread as goodwill to all our fellow passengers on planet Earth.