ZKD Life + Times: Tucson Gem Show 2020

Given the world’s trajectory in the last week, I’m feeling so lucky that I was able to attend the Tucson Gem Show Back in February this year. 

It was an inspiring trip in so many ways, and I thought it might be a nice distraction for you during these crazy times. 

Good Timing: Family, Friends + Gems

It was my first time back after taking last year off to tend to family illness and international moving pains, and I’m so unsure of what the future holds at this very moment. My shop in Berlin is closed for now, and last Saturday I moved a lot of tools and gems back to my home studio so I can work here in the coming weeks. I don’t know what things will be like in a year, but I’m feeling both humbled and fortunate that the timing worked out way it did for this trip.

Living so far away from family and friends back in the States means that it’s really important to be creative with my travels. Combining both work with family and friends on this trip seemed like a smart move, so my husband chose to join me. We landed in LA to see his family and our friends, then I made my way to Arizona for my family and to hit the shows.

It’s the largest of its kind in the world, and hosts over 50 public and private shows. With as many as 400 vendors each, there is roughly 65,000 people attending annually and the influx typically means hotels and accommodations are scarce or available at a premium throughout the month-long show. I have a feeling next year is going to be totally different, which makes me so grateful that I was able to spend the time staying with my aunt and visiting the shows. She’s a lifelong rock enthusiast, which makes her the perfect partner in crime.

When we first started going years ago, she would join me for fun, and snag some goodies for her personal rock collection. These days though, her knack for finding cool stones has grown into finding cool beads. Now, she’s an official buyer that helps me scour the shows for the best of the best!

Quartz geode slice. Brazil.
Hello, from Tucson!
Raw amethyst, aquamarine, and citrine.

Metal, gems and crystals are always high on my list, and I was particularly interested in gold-fill items this time around. I prefer to buy local as much as possible, and I have amazing sources Stateside. After moving to Germany, I’ve noticed that sterling silver is widely available, but have found that I can’t say the same for gold-fill. Mostly I’ve found gold plate, which won’t do for most of my work.  Luckily before moving, I had enough foresight to stock up. 

 Gold-fill has always been my metal of choice, particularly for my signature necklace and earring designs.  Although I use select plated details for a few designs, I lean towards plated items that feature heavy plating with anti-tarnish finish. Both gold-fill and gold plate that you’ll find in my work will always nickel free as it’s a common irritant for many.

While plated jewelry can be a reasonable alternative to real gold jewelry, it has limitations. Because of how it’s made, the gold can scratch off with daily wear, so tarnish is a concern.  This is a big reason for my preference for gold-fill.  It wears so much like the real thing, and a well taken care of gold fill piece of jewelry can last for decades. It’s still affordable, ideal for anyone with allergies or metal sensitivities, and because of it’s durability, it’s a more sustainable choice for those everyday wear pieces. 

I’m still looking for good sources in Europe, but since I had the opportunity I stocked up on just about everything including responsibly sourced wire and chain. I’m busy working from home these days, and for now I’m happy to be well stocked.  

Beautiful new beads. All are responsibly sourced.
New gems to work with! All responsibly sourced.

Ethical is the New Black

If you read my blog post about my environmental commitment, you’ll know that environmental concerns have been a part of my life and business since the beginning. 

It’s something that’s always evolving, and right now, my primary focus includes mining and cutting of gemstones. It’s never been a very transparent industry, so this has been a point of frustration for me in the past. The tide seems to be turning, and I’m so grateful!

At the shows this year, I found quite a few vendors that were already practicing the principles of sustainability and following ethical guidelines, which was a big relief. Many already belong to organizations that require these standards, which made me really happy.  Fingers crossed that this becomes the new normal! I was able to find some gorgeous new stones with incredible cuts. The pic above is a little peek at a selection of my favorite finds – moss kyanite triangles, fluorite baguettes, black star quartz petals gold, rutile quartz spikes, and of course a couple unique moonstone and labradorite cuts.

I’ve started researching more about the mining industry in general, and ethical and sustainability are becoming more important in developing business models, which is a very good thing for the planet. Things may not be happening overnight, and it’s still new, but it’s definitely a move in the right direction.

After shopping for materials and supplies, I hit the mineral and fossil shows with the last of my budget. Since I missed last year, I had a little bit more saved than normal, which was great in the long run.  I was so excited to find some amazing crystal curios and specimens for photography.  Over the years, I’ve managed to connect with some amazing suppliers whose values also align with mine and I picked up some great pieces to work with. If you follow me on IG or FB, you may have gotten a peek at beauties below already!


Take Care of Each Other

I had major jet lag after the trip, so of course I had just gotten everything to my studio shop when all the sudden I had to pack it all up to bring it back home to be able to work. My brick and mortar shop collective  is closed for now, but the online shop is still open for business.

New work will be added soon! I’m also looking into putting a few jewelry kits together and offering  free video tutorials or workshops since everyone will be spending so much time at home.  For now, I’m looking at a couple different projects with varying skill levels, so if you need a fun project to pass the time or work on with your kids while everyone is home, this would be perfect!  I’ll also be posting a short video of highlights from the Tucson Gem Show if you’re craving a little distraction in the form of beautiful crystal goodness while you’re stuck inside. 

Stay tuned for updates, and take care of yourself and each other.