The 110,000 square foot tent that houses the G.J.X. (Gem and Jewelry Exchange) is crowded, noisy, and busy. Vendors’ booths are small and packed together like puzzle pieces. Walking is treacherous with all the “speed bumps” covering the web of electrical wires that light each booth. As you slowly make your way down the aisles, you’re likely to see jade bangles next to faceted gemstones and microscopes next to strands of pearls.
As you’d expect with a tent, creature comforts are at a minimum. There’s no place to sit except near the food booths. Choices for lunch are limited to foods like hotdogs and tacos. The temporary restrooms are located outside the tent. Inside the tent, the air is warm and a little stagnant.
Still, this highly reputable show is for wholesalers only. You must present the G.J.X. sticker to enter. Some of the vendors are A.G.T.A. members but, for whatever reason, were not able to be part of the A.G.T.A. show. Other vendors are grouped together by geographic origin such as the Idar-Oberstein group from Germany, famous for its magnificent stone cutting.
It was there that I met a young gem cutter named Christopher Kreis. Christopher travels with his mother and father to gem shows around the world, selling his creations. Trained in traditional cutting methods, he felt that these methods limited the stones’ potential. He wanted, like a sculptor, to bring out the natural beauty of each specimen. This meant creating new styles of cutting that are actually patented under his name. Creations such as “the fluid drop”, made from natural blue topaz, are the result. Looking at the stone, you feel like you’re looking at a captured droplet of crystal clear water.
I asked him if he’d ever thought of another career. At first, he didn’t seem to understand the question. Of course, his father’s family has been in the jewelry business for over 200 years and his mother’s family for even longer! Perhaps he never thought of working outside the jewelry industry. But then he spoke of how he loved the variety of his work. He gets to explore gem mines in the great outdoors, create beauty in the solitude of his workshop, and travel the world meeting people who love his work. It does sound like a good life!
The personality of this bright man was distinctly different from the show where he was exhibiting. Christopher was so unassuming and peaceful. He seemed youthful but with a wisdom beyond his years. The G.J.X. is robust and loud. It lacks the sophistication of the A.G.T.A., but, with over 700 vendors, it makes up for it with energy, enthusiasm and wide selection.