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TUCSON – THE LOST HEAVEN OF GEMS or dinosaurs did not care much about diamonds 
Apr 01, 2006 - You know, even in this day and age, every now and then somebody finds a hidden place on earth. A previously undiscovered land, with rare birds and trees; where strange looking animals roam; species unknown to science or species that scientists thought were practically extinct.

Naturalists and scientists from all around the world will come to admire the hidden world. Soon tourists will be clicking their cameras scaring these rare animals, and the whole world will be talking about it.

And yet, every year, for the last 25 years, in or around February a new world is re-discovered; an enchanted world, the ultimate Galapagos, and everyone takes it for granted.

Instead of walking through the jungles, picking up rare berries, and observing strange animals, the strange creatures I meet are my fellow human beings; each one of them from a different part of the world - some of them very rare species indeed.

I must warn you, that all of them carry the same type of disease that I suffer from. And friends, it is very contagious! Once you get it, it’s there for life. This grave illness is gem disease. And this gem heaven is the Tucson gem and mineral show.

Yes, I know you know that Tucson is in Arizona; and there is really nothing special there, save some odd cacti, the old Tucson Film Studios and Li’l Abner the Steak house.

What you may not realize is that every year this town is hit by a swarm of gem and mineral locusts, the likes of which the eyes have never seen before.

Every little motel, hotel, bungalow, tent or back of a car, turns into a treasure vault.

In each and every lobby, corridor, and room, tables are covered with layers of gems and minerals. Native Americans sell their beautiful gem set jewelry, Chinese come with amazing beads and carvings. Others display minerals from the tiniest micro-size to the size necessitating a truck to transport them home, from the most common to the most rare.

Others display gems found around their villages, in Africa, Madagascar and South America, while others, including myself, display OPV (gems found near other peoples' villages). Though some think that there certainly must be some diamonds mines near Ramat Gan - no real gems are mined in the Holy Land...

The amazing thing is that goods from a few cents to a few hundred thousand dollars are displayed for all to see in Tuscon. And those people selling the items that cost only a few cents are as enthused as those selling very expensive gems.

You can see the most humble small dealer having a gem discussion with the head of some of the most prominent companies in the world, all talking about gems and colors.

Some people bring dinosaur parts to sell. Under each of them, the estimated age and species is listed. As I wandered around the strange looking bones, one of their owners uttered suddenly, “you know, they never really cared about diamonds.” When he realized I didn’t know what he was talking about, he explained, “my dinosaurs were wandering around 100 million years ago, some of your diamonds were not even formed then, or were still soft!” I looked at the face of his 120 million year old big creature and knew I could not really argue about that.

And how was the Tucson show business wise? Very good. Walking through the booths handling semiprecious, it was clear that they were doing well. Also apparent was the use of plenty of ornamental material as part of gem jewelry. From amazonite to moss agate, from sugilite to chaorite, from fossilized coral and pieces of amber to wonderful shapes of baroque pearls to mother of pearl, it seems that corporating nature in jewelry was the theme of today.

The people in the booths just opposite us, who handle beads and strings, were always busy, selling thousands of all types of gems strung into colorful chains. It seemed that the whole world wants to surround their necks with beads.

Speaking to my fellow gem dealers, it was obvious that untreated gems seemed to be in high demand. Scarce natural ruby and blue sapphire, fancy sapphires, beautiful pink and fancy spinels. Aquamarine seemed to be plentiful and was selling very well especially in the higher grades. Tanzanite - my love - has shunned her face this year.

And how was Li’l Abner’s Steak house this year? My daughter had three steaks there out of the five she eats per year –so it is good.

And as for the gem disease, it can be cured quite easily, by buying gems. The trouble is that after three or four gems you get addicted for life, and nothing will cure you.


opyright IDEX Magazine 2006, all rights reserved.

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