I did not come home with many gems but I did fall in love with Tucson. When I got on the plane to Tucson, Colorado was buried in so much snow that schools were cancelled and getting up and down my driveway was risky business! This was my first trip to the renowned Tucson gem and mineral shows so it was more than overwhelming to navigate my way through all the shows. I rarely use gems or beads in my work. I was really going out of curiosity and hoping for inspiration. As it turns out, inspiration was found more on the streets and in the hills surrounding Tucson than at the gem shows.
One of my main criteria for looking for gems was to find fair trade and responsibly mined gems. This is no easy task! There were a number of small business that carried a handful of items mined in the U.S. and cut within their own shop. However, they also carried many items mined outside the U.S. and did not have any kind of certification. You definitely had to ask the right questions to understand the origins. More common were business out of New York that had factories in China.
Nonetheless, I did have the chance to meet face to face with a company that I have been using for quite a while, Columbia Gem House, out of Vancouver, Washington. So far they are the only business I have found that specializes in fair trade and responsibly mined gems. They have a fantastic selection of sapphires which I used most recently in my sapphire leaf ring. I am always drawn to the various subtle shades of blue and green sapphires that evoke images of sky and sea.