This year the traditional randez vous of mineral fans has been held at St.Marie aux Mines in French Alsace from June 26 to June 29. Well,these are the official dates but really things are a little bit different as we will explain soon.
First some numbers : more than 650 dealers from Europe and extra Europe Countries and some 25.000-30.000 visitors.
An increasing number of tents to give the show a unique appeal like a big open space rock bonanza.
Hot weather ,some thunder storm during the week to refresh everybody,good food and wine from Val DArgent and Alsace wine area,everything respecting St.Marie rules.An event unique and absolutely a must for rocks lovers,different from Tucson (huge) or Munich (serious) but a base stop in the endless trip of the never satisfied mineral collector.
When we arrived Tuesday 23th afternoon we thought to be early for set up and ready to come again the next day.
But we noticed immediately a great rush and soon realized that the show had already started.
From noon it is allowed to enter (without cars) and many exibitors were preparing tables and starting to present minerals.This is permitted by the organization due to the limited space for cars and trucks around and inside the show to avoid congestion during the official set up day,wednesday and certainly is good for this but as immediate consequence it has increased the show duration changing the habits of many dealers and visitors.
In fact walking to our table we saw many curious that were really collectors from Europe,U.S.A.,Japan browsing to tables, looking for new things even more numerous than dealers exploring for good buys.
This creates some confusion,also because during set up (tuesday and wednesday) entrance is not strictly controlled and curious of this type were many. So only a question :Is there still necessary to have a division between professional and non professional days,if the entrance is not strictly controlled during 2 set up days ?
A part from these considerations, every year the show is growing: new areas are set up and the feeling is to be really inside a huge stone market,with a grest deal of business dedicated to wholesale and to other activities.(teaching,meetings)
One could immediately see that there was an increased number of dealers from China probably for the problems related to Sars scare ,with lots of minerals unfortunately often of low quality and not of bargain price indeed (why?)
The usual number of people from Rumania and east Europe ( a lot of false Realgar,not controlled), but very few minerals from Russia (low production or high cost?)
Several Maroccoan dealers, (but without the abundance of Vanadinite ) spread in single tents and in small corners,always trying to catch the customers.
Indian dealers were present some in large tents,other small on one or two tables,but often with very good price/quality balance.
The theatre is taken as usual by the Top dealers from Europe (mostly France,Italy Germany ) and ,no way it is the expensive place to find excellent minerals (Webminerals had his position this year in the stage, a quiet,not busy ,fresh place..,you will find us there also in the future.,keep in mind )
We noticed also 2 large tents completely dedicated to cut stones and jewelry, very specialyst and out of our present interest.
A good wholesale business. was going on everywhere and this is positive indication of the health of the market,obviously the winners are medium-cheap quality products.
Another consideration is the effort to education that the Organizers are putting towards general understanding of minerals and fossils.There was the area dedicated to french fossils , space for crystal healing and therapy,meeting on gemmology and atelier for artisans.Interesting to see and welcomed by the visitors.
The days of Saturday and Sunday where absolutely crowded,almost impossible to look quietly at a table.Good for food sellers,certainly, and for minerals? The impression is that the vastness of the show was in someway dispersing the visitors/buyers ,maybe also for few money in the pocket,.Conclusion low business, but this is the general trend my friends letwait 2004.
By the way if you have some day to spend Alsace,go to visit Strasbourg the capital. This beautiful,fascinating city at 120 Km.from the show has a wonderful old part with houses well mantained and an important cathedral.
Or if you have less time Selestat or Colmar are good stops,too.But the small villages are the most charming ; go to Ribeauville,Riquewhir,Kayserberg,Kienzheim to really appreciate this region.