Inspiration and Musings

Tucson Gem Show

Tucson Gem Show

Just in time for Valentine's Day, I’m in love —

With jewelry! I’ve just returned from Tucson, AZ, where each February, thousands of gemstone lovers, miners, lapidaries, collectors, and (fortunately for us) purveyors of fine gems take over seemingly every last corner of the city – from converted motel rooms and tents to the cavernous Convention Center.

I came home to Laguna Beach with some fine specimens and also with renewed inspiration, connections, and insight. 

You know that feeling you get from star gazing on a clear night? When you see your place in things a little differently? Like, you’re so small in relation to the whole that you feel both insignificant and important at the same time? 

Well, I had an experience a little like that. Only my Universe was the Jewelry Industry.

Our picture of the jewelry field can be flat — an image painted by mass marketers. But the reality of it is as multi-faceted as a brilliant-cut diamond. 

At the show one morning, I met an estate jeweler who offered me the opportunity to slip a red ruby ring worth 6 million dollars onto my finger (of course, I then slipped it right back off!).

An afternoon, I held rough mineral specimens handed to me by those who dug them from the ground, and saw fossils of fish that swam millions of years ago, unearthed from far away places.

I sorted through hundreds of cut faceted and cabochon gemstones, selecting the (I’m not telling how many) choice few to come home with me and inspire new designs.

I got to shop vicariously by accompanying a prominent collector through the finished jewelry collections of some of my favorite artists, with whom I got to connect and share tips and tricks for getting all our ideas made and out into the world.

We discussed tools of the trade, some of which have looked the same for thousands of years, and wondered at some new-fangled (and very expensive!) machines that seem to turn ideas into objects at the touch of a button (but do they have soul?). 

There’s a cadre of artists who work the way I do, one-of-a-kind and one at a time. We've been breaking up the solitude of the studio by connecting in online communities. Tucson brought us together face-to-face, or mostly, mask-to-mask. And now acquaintances are friends. 

Witnessing the vastness of the jewelry industry at the gem show, together with colleagues in my tiny niche of studio jewelry, I felt my place in the whole of it. Tiny but powerful.

I’ve come home connected and collected and ready to create.

Nov 16, 2022

Glad your Tucson experience this year was so rewarding

Tom Lamb
Nov 16, 2022

Thoughtful and beautifully written. We are so lucky, in this vast universe, to have landed in this fascinating community of creators. Thanks for sharing.

M A Upin

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