Saturday, May 7, 2011

All That Glitters

Amethyst from Uruguay

This weekend I went to Gem Faire, which was showing in Costa Mesa. In the distant past, I was a student of jewelry and a fairly competent jeweler. It had been many a year since I last attended Gem Faire. But the flier came in the mail with a free day entry. So, I shook the mental cobwebs out and went to take a look.

It's a good-sized event with plenty of vendors and lots of shoppers. Yeah, there were lots of shoppers looking to pick up quality material at excellent prices. There are three primary foci to the show: gem stones, jewelry, and beads. These serve three distinct communities, although there is some overlap.

Pretty! Pretty!

The gem stone people come in two types, geology enthusiasts and gem workers. The geologists like buying or displaying cool mineral samples, like the excellent dark Uruguayan amethyst at the top of this post. They like crystal orbs and fossils. They like shaped or sculpted stones, maybe heart-shaped or as an eagle figuring. The hardcore geologists take 'em raw! Rough, unpolished garnets or chunks or iron pyrite.

The gem workers are looking for stones to set into jewelry. Sometimes, they've got a specific gem in mind and are looking for it among the massive selection. Other times, the gem worker is looking for a piece that "speaks" to them. They have no design in mind, but are "listening" to the gems to see if one will "call out" to them and inspire a design.

As regards exhibitors of jewelry, they come in two types. First, there are the "high end" vendors. They are like your typical jewelry stores, but with better and distinct selections. Sometimes they'll have a specific focus, like works in sterling silver or antique designs or pieces from Thailand. Interesting collections on display.

The second type of jewelry exhibitor is the independent craftsman. These are great to visit, especially since the jeweler is generally excited to talk about the craft. You can learn a great deal by striking up conversation. Moreover, these are pieces that are unique. You won't see anything like them at your local jewelry store.

Obviously, Beading is for Hippies!!! ;-)
 And then there are the Beaders. As you walk through the show, you'll come across exhibit upon exhibit of diverse strands of beads. They come in every color, size, and shape. They are in countless materials, from art glass to sterling silver with every stone type in between. And a small army of Bead enthusiasts will be looking over these bead strands, like a convent praying the rosary.

I wish I had more photos to share with you, but the official policy is that no photographs are allowed. I asked permission a few times and took a few shots on the sly, but I kept it to a minimum. It's one of those situations where if somebody sees another break the rule then they feel empowered to break it as well. Soon, the rule has been flaunted by all. That's not cool.

Anyways, here's an entrancing vid demonstrating the making of a glass bead:

Well, I'm happy that I went to Gem Faire. It's been a long while and it was nice to take a look around.

Here's the Gem Faire website.

Here's a link to the Beader's Showcase.

Here's a link to the Mineralogical Society of America.


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