SECOND ANNUAL HARDROCK SUMMIT SPARKLES IN DENVER, COLORADO
BY KYLE RODERICK
Featuring gemstone, mineral and jewellery exhibitors from over 25 countries, trade-oriented and academic lectures plus museum-quality exhibits and children’s activities, the second edition of the HardRock Summit concluded its 2022 edition with a 50% increase in total attendance over its 2021 figures.
The four-day event ran from September 8-11, 2022 at Denver’s Colorado Convention Center, and according to Wolter Mehring, one of the two co-founders of the HardRock Summit, “Building on the momentum of last year’s show, we expanded our reach and welcomed a wider range of attendees this year. These included independent boutiques and specialty stores, along with big box, online, and key regional retailers.” While the show’s artistic and educational programming and access to members of the trade make it a great event for jewellery enthusiasts, the multi-modal show also served retailers looking to stock up in advance of the holiday shopping season.
During the summit, over 6,000 people engaged with companies exhibiting fine jewellery, antique jewellery, gemstones, minerals, meteorites, antique coins and more. Along with first-rate gemstone, mineral and jewellery sourcing opportunities, the Summit also offered attendees of all ages the chance to view museum-quality exhibits, while educational gemstone, gold and diamond-themed seminars were open to those 14 and up. A trade show and interactive educational experience all in one, the HardRock Summit featured three key areas for attendees to explore.
The Evolution realm offered some of the rarest and finest minerals and gems ever unearthed from an international array of dealers. Sparkle & Joy presented fine jewellery, high jewellery, artisanal jewellery designs and high-grade gemstones with the cooperation of AGTA GemFair™ Denver and Brazil’s IBGM.
The Denver Gem & Mineral Show (DGMS) featured gems, minerals, fossils, jewellery, beads, décor and metaphysical products. For decades, the DGMS has presented educational exhibits and this year’s offering included interactive activations designed for families, such as live gemstone cutting demos, a black-lit fluorescent mineral exhibit room plus for children, there were rock hunting games and a gold panning room where little ones worked in simulated river conditions to search for gold.
“While this year’s Summit included many more designers, museum curators and collectors looking to buy and source,” Mehring said, “it also attracted scores of gemology enthusiasts, rock hounds and families who viewed and/or purchased some of the rare and precious gems, jewellery and minerals on view.”
One of the most compelling talks presented during the HardRock Summit included “Gem Legacy: A nonprofit’s story and successes supporting development for East African artisanal gem mining communities,” presented by Rachel Dery-Merisheki. Gem Legacy is a Michigan-based, non-profit organization of jewelers, jewellery designers and others who are committed to supporting the community development of artisanal colored gemstone mining regions. A key force in the realm of sustainable and ethical gemstone mining, Gem Legacy was founded on the belief that gems possess the potential to change lives for the better, and thus positively affect the communities where they are mined and cut. Toward that end, Gem Legacy works to improve working conditions and wages for miners and their families. What’s more, it also expands the natural benefits of gemstone mining on surrounding communities through long-term support to children, education, and entrepreneurship for miners and their families. While 100% of Gem Legacy donations are returned directly to the communities, the organization’s donors include U.S. jewelers such as Pocatello, Idaho-based Parlé, which was also exhibiting at the HardRock Summit.
Other important and value-added talks included those presented by John Pollard of the International Gemological Institute (IGI), a diamond-grading, colored gemstone grading and finished jewellery grading laboratory that operates 20 grading facilities and 14 gemology schools around the world. Pollard, who is IGI’s Senior Director of Education, delivered one presentation on the marketing of natural diamonds and another regarding lab-grown diamonds, which though relatively less expensive than naturally mined diamonds, can vary widely in terms of quality, environmental impact, and of course, price. (In 2005, IGI was the first laboratory to start grading lab-grown diamonds and furnish reports on same.)
Regarding the exhibitor experience, Atelier Tom Munsteiner of Germany riveted visitors with its array of masterfully cut, superb quality colored gemstones. Munsteiner, famous for his mastery of artistically innovative and utterly unique colored gemstone cuts, is responsible for cutting and owning the largest Paraiba Tourmaline in existence. It weighs 196.17 carats (39.234g), and its bona fides were verified on 5 May 2022. “This show is rewarding for us because it draws fine jewelers, great designers and serious collectors,” Munsteiner reported.
1)The educational jewelry non-profit Somewhere In The Rainbow allowed showgoers to try on its rare 1920 Cartier Paris-made diamond and platinum headpiece. This kinetic treasure can be disassembled and converted into bracelets, necklaces, dress clips and more. 2) The black-lit Fluorescent Mineral Room presented by the Denver Gem And Mineral Society offered a psychedelic experience at the 2022 HardRock Summit. 3) Colored Gemstone Dealer Kimberly Collins, President of the American Gem Trade Association Board of Directors. Photo credit: PhotographyG
AGTA member Robert Bentley, owner of New York-based Bentley Gemstones, noted, “I am having quite a good experience at this show because it is well-timed in the calendar year. I have also have made some new client connections with those who appreciate the unusual gemstones that I offer.” Justin Thomas and Ruth Benjamin-Thomas, co-owners of the heritage company Black Opal Direct, came all the way from Australia to show their Lightning Ridge opals, which possess superbly beautiful and striking attributes. “We are thrilled to be here as we are always looking to expand our global wholesale and retail business,” said Benjamin-Thomas. “Because of the international yet manageable scale of this show, we are able to hold substantial conversations with a broad range of people from all over the world.”
Poetry In Stone’s Tarun Adlakha of Delhi, India showed highly valuable collections that appeal to luxury jewellery designers as well as connoisseur collectors. Adlakha’s treasures include rare asteriated hydrogen-rich diamonds, which embody fine yet highly graphic star and cross designs deep inside them. While his epic array of dendritic agates, which appear to contain miniature landscapes, forests and other natural features within their depths drew designers to his booth like moths to a flame, Adlakha also showcased fossilized spiralite gem shells, which embody coruscating crystals, fossils and shells all in one natural artifact. “These I found myself while hiking,” Adlakha explained, marveling at his auspicious discovery. Along with being a published author, Adlakha also offers various Indian antiquities and pure gold Indian coins bearing Hindu astrological symbols from the annals of Indian history.
Based in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada, Ashkan Asgari, Founder & CEO of Misfit Diamonds, presented a vast variety of naturally mined diamonds, including those that have been extracted from vintage jewellery, along with sparklers hailing from Canadian diamond mines located near the Arctic Circle. Canada has some of the world’s most stringent environmental and workplace regulations and their mining industry employs numerous First Nations (indigenous) people who work under well-documented safe and well-paid conditions. These factors mean that Canadian diamond mines benefit local communities while leaving significantly lower carbon footprints than those made by mines in other countries.
Misfit Diamonds is notable for its environmentally responsible and ethically concerned mission. As Asgari relates, “It’s a matter of public record that most diamonds in the supply chain lack a documented proof of origin. Although the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, established in 2003, was created to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the global supply chain,” he explains, “it still never addresses diamond origin, mining labor practices or the environmental standards at any and all mines.”
According to Asgari, who is soon to open a London branch, “At Misfit we believe establishing documented origin is one of the first steps to creating transparency in the diamond industry. We offer our customers diamonds that have evidence to support their points of origin and we are pursuing the possibility of stocking third-party certified, sustainability-rated diamonds.”
One of the most compelling aspects of the Summit involved its historical and highly experiential components. An exhibit of more than 60 California Gold Rush-era gold and gemstone rings, gold nugget stick pins and gold quartz cuff links recovered from the 1857 shipwreck of the S.S. Central America offered a colorful, material visit into the past. The Central America steam ship sank off the North Carolina coast during an 1857 hurricane. Voyaging from Panama to New York carrying tons of California gold coins, ingots, and gold dust from Northern California, the wreck took the lives of 425 of the ship’s 578 passengers and crew members. The loss of gold cargo triggered the USA’s economically devastating financial panic of 1857. (In 1988, over 7,000 gold coins were recovered from the S.S. Central America, 131 years after it sank. The ship’s recovered artifacts are being offered in public auctions in October and November 2022 by Holabird Western Americana Collections.)
According to Christoph Keilmann, a co-founder of the HardRock Summit, “We love being able to offer HardRock Summit attendees the chance to meet with internationally esteemed gem dealers and jewelers plus view historical artifacts and great jewellery up close and personal. Some of our other unusual exhibits include those from the Scottsdale, AZ.-based educational non-profit Somewhere In The Rainbow,” Keilmann related. “Their expert Shelly Sergent displayed a rare 1920 Cartier Paris Art Deco diamond headdress that converted into several other diamond jewels while a guard stood by.” On loan from the Houston Natural History Museum was the crystallized gold boulder known as the “The Dragon” which is about the size and width of a bedside table and radiated golden light from its display case. Equally intriguing to visitors was the golden “Ausrox Nugget”. Weighing over 52 pounds, this is the world’s third largest gold specimen. Various specimens from Harvard’s Mineralogical & Geological Museum also graced showcases.
Part of the reason why the HardRock Summit offered so much value to the trade, and to the public, is that both Keilmann and Mohring are deeply experienced, international gem show directors who succeed at serving professionals and amateurs alike with unique business, educational and collecting opportunities. While Keilmann also directs the annual Munich Show, which he advertises as the largest European fair for minerals, fossils, meteorites, precious stones and jewellery, Mohring is also the director of the annual Pueblo Gem Show in Tucson.
As the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) CEO John W. Ford noted, “I think the HardRock Summit formula proved to be successful for all of us. We had an exciting international mix of buyers and exhibitors, all of whom look forward to doing it all again next year.”
The HardRock Summit will return to Denver in September 2023. Dates and details will be announced in the near future at www.hardrocksummit.com
Kyle Roderick is the author of Bejeweled: The World of Ethical Jewelry, an online jewellery trunk show host & Forbes magazine jewellery journalist.
Follow Kyle on Instagram @bijouxreview