Jewelry Designer Nina Runsdorf’s Favorite Finds from the Tucson Gem Show

Well-known tastemaker Nina Runsdorf shares her highlights from this year’s big fair.

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase Photo: Nina Runsdorf

Nina Runsdorf’s first trip to the world of wonders at the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase was in 2006. Twelve years on, the designer—who launched her eponymous collection that same year—continues to visit the desert to discover the precious stones that inspire and define her collection. Having just returned to the frozen streets of New York, Runsdorf looks back on her latest treasure hunt among giant minerals and piles of diamonds, turquoise, and malachite.

“In order to be successful at the Gem Show, one must be organized and have a list of what exactly is needed,” says Runsdorf. “Otherwise, it’s like being in a giant candy store and not knowing where to look first. These days, I actually like to start off exploring the off-site tents—seeing new dealers, new takes on materials and non-traditional cuts. After I have my fill of inspiration and some of the most interesting conversations, I head over to the American Gem Trade Association and Jewelry, Gems & Minerals tents.”

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase

Gemstone display  Photo: Nina Runsdorf

“This year, I’ve launched my first and perhaps most iconic design, the Flip Ring, in a variety of semi-precious stones. So on this trip, I was scouring the dealers for stones the right shape, color, depth, and fire for the rings. I found a pile of tourmaline beauties here.”

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase

Tourmaline stones  Photo: Nina Runsdorf

“Of course, there is always space for the unexpected wow item,” says Runsdorf. “This year, I scored a 60-carat pair of unheated Colombian emeralds. Their color was beyond amazing. I’m going to live with them for a while before making a final decision on design. I’m thinking of doing amazing earrings. Lately, earrings have been performing really well for my retail partners.”

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase

Colombian emeralds  Photo: Nina Runsdorf

“This one dealer had a rainbow assortment of the most vivid stones. In the overwhelming chaos of Tucson, he stood out with a wonderful eye for display.”

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase

Gemstone display  Photo: Nina Runsdorf

“This year, I was after the largest sliced diamonds I could find,” Runsdorf notes. “Back when I first came in 2006, diamond slice was hardly used in the industry. Not many designers or consumers understood or knew what this material was at the time. Now it’s very hard to come across large slice, so when I find it, I buy it all and hoard it! On this trip, I was able to secure a few hundred carats.”

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase

Sliced diamonds  Photo: Nina Runsdorf

“In addition to gems for jewels, there are always fun home items to be sourced at Tucson. I’ve been rather taken by malachite, so I was immediately drawn to this gorgeous heart.”

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase

Malachite heart  Photo: Nina Runsdorf

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