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February Travels: Come along on our trip to the Tucson Gem Shows

jennifer and christina in tucson with gemstones

If you’re someone who spends a lot of time browsing through jewelry on social media, we bet you’ve been wondering what’s up with Tucson. 

 
Each year, all of our favorite gem experts, jewelry designers, and even fossil lovers converge on this charming Arizona city to connect with exporters, discover inspiration, and celebrate our love for gems. It’s one of our favorite events of the year, and we were so excited to reunite with old friends and discover new gems at this year’s show! Now that we’re back in New York and dreaming up designs inspired by our Southwestern sojourn, we wanted to share a little bit about what makes the Tucson Gem Show so special—plus, the amazing design discoveries we can’t wait for you to enjoy.

Hands using tweezer and measuring gemstones

It all started back in 1955, when the Tucson Gem Show was held in an elementary school cafeteria. These days, the show has outgrown its humble beginnings, and become the must-do event for jewelry designers across the US and beyond. Each February, the world’s best gem dealers gather in Tucson for a series of shows all happening at the same time, each with its own focus. It’s the place where G.St finds many of the responsibly sourced stones we use in our jewelry designs, and is always jam packed with new treasures to explore.

Historical Tucson Gem Show Picture


There are so many reasons we were particularly excited to be back in Tucson this year. We love having the chance to learn from our industry peers and the amazing, inspirational artists who visit the show, and discovering new and exciting material and design concepts our clients will adore. And of course, there’s the gemstones themselves, a truly phenomenal collection that takes days of exhaustive wandering to fully explore!
 
Attending the Gem Show gives us access to an incredible array of opportunity it’s almost impossible to find anywhere else in the world. It’s like the most amazing jewelry treasure hunt you can imagine, and we always leave feeling enlivened and inspired.

Jennifer and Gem Gossip blogger taking a selfie next to gemstone beads

Why the Gandia Sisters Love The Gem Show
After the show took a hiatus in 2021, both Jennifer and Christina were overjoyed to have a chance to explore the abundance of incredible gems in person this year. Each of the Gandia sisters plays on their unique strengths as they work together to make the most of the show.

Graduate Gemologist Christina draws on her right brain logic as she identifies and assesses eye-catching gems throughout the day, discovering incredible gems she knows clients will adore, while creative, left brained Jennifer helps Christina source stones, and draws on her designer mindset to create new jewelry concepts on the spot. They visualize new concepts together, sitting down at the end of every day to sketch and assess the gemstones they discovered. 

What happens at the gem show is really special,” says Jennifer. “And you can’t always have that level of access without going to the show. Of course we can source gems throughout the year, but for us to be able to choose from a really big selection makes the whole experience so unique.”
 
Rough gemstones

Jennifer loves the unparalleled
opportunity to make discoveries that the gem show offers.
“It's a great experience for us to get out there and see what's new in the marker,” she says. “For us to learn and continue to discover what's happening in our industry. There’s so much important work that happens—like discovering a new stone or cut, staying connected with our vendors, getting inspired by phenomenal gemstones and talent, and just seeing what's possible. Each time we go to the gem show, we get the chance to gather important insight and best practices from industry professionals. It’s very informative.”

Jennifer and Christina sourcing gemstones


Exploring Ethical Gems
Intentionally sourcing gems is at the heart of the Greenwich Street team’s design process, and there’s a whole section of the gem fair set up to help us do just that. We always attend The Ethical Gem Fair, getting together with a collaborative partnership of the leading responsibly sourced gemstone suppliers. This year, it was incredible to connect in person with vendors we regularly source from for our Chroma Collection.

Ethical Gem Fair

Anza Gems  directly benefiting communities in East Africa, is an amazing, women-owned company we love to work with. Each year, Anza founder Monica Stephenson travels to Tanzania and Kenya, where she sources the most incredible traceable stones. And the best part? Ten percent of each Anza gem supports the communities where the gems are sourced.
Anza gems and miners

 

We were also able to connect with the Moyo Gems team, who works with female artisanal gem miners in the same countries Anza collaborates with. Named for the Swahili word for heart, Moyo works to empower female miners to improve their financial security and work safety levels, creating stable, equitable fair trade markets that support their communities. 

 

 

MOYO gems miners and loose gemstones

 

Lastly, we sat down with our old friends from the Gem Legacy team. They work to connect directly with people in the remote communities of East Africa where gemstones are sourced, helping to support the unsung heroes of the jewelry world. They focus on making a positive impact in gem mining societies, supporting education and entrepreneurship.

 

The Gem Legacy team

 

It was amazing to connect in person with these vendors, who we source from throughout the year, and get a chance to discover incredible new stones for our Chroma Collection in person.


Finding Inspiration in Relationships 
Christina Gandia says that she loves the opportunity the Tucson Gem show offers to discover awe inspiring stones to transform into designs for the clients we love. 
“At the Gem Show, we’re buying with our clients in mind,” she says. “It gives us the chance to offer our clients jewelry that’s in a class by itself, something they won’t find anywhere else in the world. And even better, when we source our stones from people we have relationships of trust with, they know that they're getting something that's responsibly sourced, supporting real people and communities, and in many cases obtaining a piece of jewelry that’s completely one of a kind. For me, it's all about creating jewelry that's really special and thoughtfully selected for all these reasons.”

Jennifer agrees that one of the best parts of the gem show is the chance it offers to strengthen the relationships that inspire her throughout the year. “I love being able to meet our vendors more intimately,  establishing and growing relationships that will serve Greenwich Street clients throughout the year,” she says. “We’re very intentional about where we get our stones, and revisit vendors each year to grow those relationships.”



Both Jennifer and Christina value the eclectic cross section of the jewelry world they encounter at the gem show. “It's a place where people from all facets and stages of the gem pipeline come together and have conversations - a miner, cutter, stone dealer, designer, jeweler, and beyond,” Jennifer says.

“You have opportunities to come together. It’s a community. We also get to learn all about the communities we're working with. For example, we’ll often meet someone who owns the mine we source gems from, and through that conversation get to learn more about what their community is like, and the communities their stones impact. We also learn from our vendors, experienced cutters, and dealers.”

 

Each year, these conversations lead to some extraordinary discoveries that inspire our designs throughout the seasons to come.

Sharing Our Most Exciting Gem Show Finds

Just like we do every year, we made some incredible finds! Here are a few of the notable pieces we stocked up on, which you’ll see coming soon in G.St designs:

Leopard Opals 
One of our favorite recent Tucson discoveries has been the jaw dropping beauty of the Leopard Opal. Jennifer was walking through the show when she glimpsed a gemstone she had never seen anything like before.

Leopard opal in case

She was immediately struck by its appearance, a psychedelic rainbow effect that swirled through a dramatic black background, resembling the spots of a leopard. And when the vendor told her the story behind the stone, she was even more inspired. The Leopard Opal was mined by the Aztecs, who believed it had magical properties. It was rediscovered in the 1960s before falling off the scene. In 2019 it was rediscovered again in a single mine in Mexico, which has a rich history of opal mining traditions, but since there’s only one known source it’s an incredibly rare find.
 

Jennifer was thrilled by the opportunity to create a Leopard Opal Collection inspired by her discovery, handmade by G.St’s expert jewelers in our NYC boutique. The elongated spear shape drop earrings are one of Jennifer’s favorite designs, showcasing this dramatic stones’ fabulous rainbow play of color in a recycled gold prong setting.

 

Leopard Opal earrings

 

New Chroma Inspiration
The Chroma Collection is where we showcase many of our most inspiring Gem Show discoveries, and this year we were on the lookout for new gemstone additions for the line. 
emeralds on christina's hand
Each piece we design for Chroma celebrates the natural diversity of color found in nature, making the gem show the ideal playground to dream up new designs. 
This year, we revisited one of our favorite vendors and had the opportunity to meet the owners of a family-run mine located in the Minas-Gerais state of Brazil. 
 
They helped us track down some incredible stones for our much-loved Chroma Emerald Rings, specifically our gorgeous three stone Grand ring.
emerald Grand ring
We love sourcing emeralds to showcase. Each stone is completely one-of-a-kind, selected for its evenness of color, cut, and responsible sourcing. We’re so excited to showcase this family’s passion for spectacular gemstones in this beloved design.

Two-Stone Rings 

 

 

Speaking of expanding the Chroma Collection, we were so excited to have the opportunity this year to source new stones for our romantic two-stone Toi et Moi rings, growing the line by introducing stunning new color palettes and cuts.

This trend has been getting a lot of love lately because of Megan Fox’s engagement ring, but two-stone rings actually have a history dating back to the 1700s! We love the meaning of this trend, which represents two souls becoming one, and can’t wait to design more that explore this timeless style. Each gemstone is traceable, telling a story about origins and responsible craftsmanship that makes the romantic symbolism even more impactful.

We sourced some fantastic ombré hues of sapphire that play well together, selecting colors that looked even more gorgeous when paired together than they did alone. Christina spent time hand-selecting gemstones and closely matching them together to create the most gorgeous clusters and eternity bands—we can’t wait for you to see the new variations she’s dreamed up!


Beaded Necklace Inspiration
Last but not least, we were on the lookout for new stones for our ever popular beaded necklace designs.
      

 

One of the earliest known jewelry designs, there’s something incredibly classic about a beaded necklace. Worn on its own, it summons up a youthful charm, and paired with other pieces can add sophistication to a layered look. Our clients adore a good beaded necklace, and so do we! So the gem show always finds us on the lookout for new beads we can use to inspire our designs. This year, we were able to add new beads in different sizes, gemstones, and colors, so that there’s fresh options for birthstones and color lovers to add to their layers - just in time for the spring and summer months.

Our Tucson Travel Tips 
If all this has you dying to visit Tucson, we don’t blame you! Sandwiched between the two sides of Saguaro National Park, this UNESCO world heritage food city is an enchanting desert gem. We love revisiting the city every year, staying in the incredible Lodge on the Desert, where we soak up the old school, pueblo vibe, and, of course, revisiting all our favorite restaurants!

We always stop off at Mayer Avenue Cafe & Mercantile for lunch between shows. It’s a really peaceful, aesthetically pleasing and delicious spot with fresh food. And with the Gem Show magic in the air, inspiration strikes in some unexpected places—Jennifer’s Jamaica tea looked like the watermelon tourmaline gemstones we sourced earlier that day. 

 

Brunch table


This year, we had dinner at Augustin Kitchen with The Gem Legacy team, who you can learn more about in this post. We were joined by founder Roger Dery and his wife and daughter, who is married to a Tanzanian miner, who all work in their business together. Two family businesses meeting was really special! 


We’ve supported their mission for years, but really enjoyed the opportunity to spend more intimate time with them in Tucson, comparing stories about being part of a family business. 


Christina and Jennifer sourced a selection of their responsible gemstones together during the trip. Not only are they gorgeous stones, their gemstones make an impact on the East African artisanal colored gemstone mining communities their non profit supports. We were so happy to spend some time with gem experts who share our values, as responsible sourcing is a priority with our Chroma line. We can’t wait to incorporate these gems into our Chroma designs and Jennifer was already sketching up some new ideas the next morning!

 

Moments like these are what make the Tucson Gem Show special. From discovering gorgeous stones to finding inspiration, it always brings us a welcome boost of creative energy we take back with us to New York. We can’t wait to share our new finds with you in the months to come!

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