Better Than Expected: AGTA Dealers Had Decent Sales of Rarities in Las Vegas Despite Lower Foot Traffic

By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief

John Bradshaw of the eponymous wholesale firm had just five Benitoite gemstones left out of 70 by the end of day one of the AGTA GemFairTM Las Vegas.

“I didn’t sell enough to buy an island, but sales were definitely better than expected,” he joked. “In order of priority, I sold Montana Sapphires, gray Spinel, and Benitoite.”

Though a number of dealers grumbled about traffic that they perceived to be decreased this year, most said sales turned out okay. “JCK Las Vegas is a jewelry show, not a gem show like Tucson so expectations are different,” explains Joel Price of Joel Price Opals.

His is a point with which Shekhar Shah of Real Gems Inc. agrees. “This is more of a marketing, PR, and product display show,” confirms the Emerald dealer.


Demand for Untreated Gems

Trade show labels aside, demand for top-quality gems, including any material that’s untreated, continues.

“Our best sellers were Rubies and no-heat Sapphires,” says Pravin Mogha of Kasphul Jewels LLC. Something else that’s top of mind for Mogha? Cost of goods and the reason they’re climbing. “Chinese demand continues to push up prices,” he says. The challenge of getting rough also continues because of an erratic supply chain (Mogha has a manufacturing facility in Thailand).

Untreated Sapphire from Kasphul Jewels LLC
Untreated Sapphire from Kasphul Jewels LLC

Sailesh Lakhi of Sparkles and Colors USA/Lakhi Gems experienced some big-ticket sales, including an 8 ct. no-heat cushion-cut Ruby, among other gems. “High-end gems were in demand,” he says.

Fancy-color Sapphires, Emeralds, Rubies, and Alexandrite got a lot of attention at Gem 2000, according to Kambiz Sabouri, who noted time constraints on retailers at the show. “There was no socializing,” he says about his retail clients.

And at Equatorian Imports, clients tapped Ray Zajicek for his red Emeralds with no enhancements. “We did a larger volume business this year,” he notes.


Other Gem Sales

Montana Sapphires, Tourmaline (including Paraíba), and purple and pink gems, among others, were also hot-ticket items. Raja Mehta at AG Gems sold several rings with mixes of Paraíba Tourmaline and fancy-color Sapphires, while Pala International sold Paraíba Tourmaline and red Beryl, among other gems. Blue Zircon was another good seller for them. “This was one of the most successful Vegas shows we’ve ever had,” says Carl Larson.

Layout for a ring with lavender Sapphire and Paraiba Tourmaline
Layout for a ring with lavender Sapphire and Paraiba Tourmaline

At Intercolor USA, demand was strong for pink and purple Sapphires. “These were our hottest colors,” notes David Hackman.

Evan Caplan of the same-name firm experienced some sales of rubellite Tourmaline, Aquamarine, spessartite Garnet, and others. He even expected to conduct some more business—in Paraíba Tourmaline—after the show ended.

At Taj Co./Meraki Gems, Diamond beads, freshwater Pearls, Opals, and more sold, while Color Source Gems sold Montana Sapphires and Tourmalines, among other material “We also sold some Spinel and geometric cuts of gems,” explains Jeremy Chalchinsky, who was pleased with overall sales by the last day of the fair.

Calibrated goods were also in demand. Vin Kothari of Precious Colors and Real Gems’ Shah say calibrated heated Sapphires and Emeralds, respectively, were sought after. Kothari also saw sold some layouts of gems, which was unusual. “That does not usually happen in the U.S.,” he says. Among his specialties: Diamond-cut melee in Ruby, Emerald, and Sapphire.

Calibrated Rubies from Precious Colors
Calibrated Rubies from Precious Colors


Pearl Sales

Finally, Pearl sales at the show were remarkable. Yen’s Jewelry & Accessories’ Eric Yen confirmed that prices for cultured goods were still high, and that dealers who weren’t traveling to Asia to buy in person were not guaranteed to get inventory. “If you’re not showing up in person to buy, you’re not getting anything,” he deadpans about the lack of available goods.

Strand of 11–12 mm Hanadama Akoya pearls with a report from Pearl Science Lab from Yen’s Jewelry & Accessories
Strand of 11–12 mm Hanadama Akoya pearls with a report from Pearl Science Lab from Yen’s Jewelry & Accessories

Additionally, Chinese buyers are now attending non-Asian shows just to buy more Pearls that didn’t remain in Asia. Hardest hit are U.S.-based designers and mom and pop retail stores, who’re faced with Akoya Pearl prices, among other varieties, that are double last year’s prices. One of Yen’s best sales of the show was an 11–12 mm strand of Hanadama [top quality] Akoya Pearls with a report from Pearl Science Lab.

Perhaps one of the biggest novelties of the show was the stand of natural Bahraini Pearls set up by Rapaport, of magazine and price list fame, in cooperation with Danat Institute, a lab out of Bahrain.

Parcels and individual loose natural Pearls were available for bidding and/or immediate purchases. Natural Pearls under 4 mm in size were offered in lots, while those in excess of 4 mm were for sale individually. Top-quality loose natural Pearls started at $600 triple keystone per Pearl while parcels of smaller natural Pearls started at about $3,000 triple keystone. Shoppers could buy items outright or bid on goods; auctions were planned in Dubai and Bahrain in mid-June.

“The auctions are a tender,” explains Ziggy Spindler of Rapaport. “So, parties will name their prices and we’ll notify the highest bidders.” Pearl owners, meanwhile, are largely individual divers from Bahrain. None are obligated to accept bids if they deem them too low, and there are no penalties for non-sales.

Natural Pearls from Bahrain

Natural Pearls from Bahrain

Never have natural nacreous (not Conch, Melo Melo, or any other porcelain-like variety) Pearls been offered in any quantity to shoppers. The effort aims to both help the divers and spur interest in the category of rare gems. Upwards of a dozen seriously interested parties, a number from Canada, took special note of the gems and the opportunity to offer high-end shoppers a product that has not been on the market before in any serious amount.

Spindler and diver Mohamed Al Slaise were pleased with interest at the show.

“Retailers see potential,” says Spindler. “They just need to understand the product and how to market them.”


5 Big Sales from the Show
  • Cushion-shape 5 ct. Emerald from Zambia with minor oil at Precious Colors

Oval-shape no-heat 27 ct. Sapphire from Sri Lanka at Kasphul Jewels LLC

  • Oval no-heat 27 ct. Sapphire from Sri Lanka at Kasphul Jewels LLC
  • Cushion-shape 8 ct. no-heat Ruby from Sparkles and Colors/Lakhi Gem
  • Box of Sphene at Pala International

Strand of 11–12 mm Hanadama Akoya pearls with a report from Pearl Science Lab from Yen’s Jewelry & Accessories

  • Strand of 11–12 mm Hanadama Akoya pearls with a report from Pearl Science Lab from Yen’s Jewelry & Accessories

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