The Paradise of Gemstones and Beads – My trip to Alsace, France – June 2014

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Hello everybody,

Today I would like to share with you my last trip to Alsace at the end of June. It all started 15 days before the D Day when my friend Evane, the jewellery artist behind the brand Misty Sunday, told me there was one of the worldwide biggest minerals show in Sainte Marie aux Mines. In less time than it takes to say it, we had taken our train tickets. Let’s go!

Huge opportunity, I couldn’t miss it. I heard about this kind of showrooms and craftshows in the US, bringing together thousands of sellers from all around the world. And this time, it was only few hours from us!! Gemstones and minerals on sale, exhibitions, conferences, workshops, a veritable treasure trove for us! For those of you who would like to know more about this Mineral & Gems Salon, here is the link : http://www.sainte-marie-mineral.com

June 26th, 6AM, departure from Lyon. Destination : Strasbourg. Strasbourg, just the time to grab a coffee and a croissant and let’s go. We jump into a second train. Sunny day, I would have loved to go for a walk in this city. This city that I truly love after these three wonderful years I spent there as a student…Anyway, we take a nice regional train to Selestat. In Sélestat, last step, the bus to go to Sainte Marie aux Mines. Some people told us about some local Silver mines that would be soon reopened, but next time!

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Arrival in Sainte Marie aux Mines under a blazing sun (thank you to my weatherforecast app that mentioned lower temperatures, so I’m wearing jeans, leather shoes and I’m boiling). Charming little city in a very green countryside, that gives us the feeling of being on vacation. But no time to dream, it’s already 11AM and the clock is ticking. We finally found one entrance at a street corner. LET’S GO.

…but here starts the “mess”…Hundreds of stands all around us, gemstones everywhere, each even more beautiful than the others. Sellers from everywhere on the globe but a majority of indians. We hear talking many languages. We don’t know which way to turn but we already know it will be an amazing day. Let’s talk about strategy. First step, we go for an overview tour (very ambitious and not at all realistic), just to spot the best stands where we’ll go for shopping then. Next step, a little lunch break (too ambitious too) and then shopping phase on the stands we have spotted (we love dreaming..). And icing on the cake, we’ll quickly go to the exhibition hall to admire the huge minerals displayed on the flyers. Ok, this is theory, now I’ll tell you what really happened.

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We start by the first aisles. We see gemstones, not beads. Honestly we don’t know how it works in craft shows like this one. So we observe, eyes wide open. We would love to touch. I don’t see any price. Question to Evane who starts brainstorming about that. Apparently we can ask for every gemstone price, as it depends on the number of carats and the price per carat. Of course. But the mountains of colors certainly shaked our brains up a bit. Now we know how it works for gemstones. Let’s go for real.

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One aisle, two aisles, X aisles…it never ends. One hall, two halls…It looks like infinite, for our greatest happiness. We finally spotted the best stands for us. But there is also this one, and this one..and this one too. OMG. And little detail that can be non negligeable, all the aisles are not at all aligned, and I don’t have any sense of orientation. So what a labyrinth for me to go back to any one of these stands. But don’t we say that when we want we can? And oh yes, I want these beads and gemstones!!

Break. It’s hot and we’re starting to get hungry. Time checking…OMG! It’s 2.30PM but our overview tour is not at all finished, and we’ve got to meet our carsharing driver outside the city at 5PM.Everything’s fine. Deep breath. Ok, now let’s go shopping, following our intuitions and we’ll see. In the starting blocks.. (yes, I really ran)

Finally, I find most of my treasures at an indian place, an Aladin’s cave built for 4 days…

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Again, I discover a new world. Hanging on the walls, all the beads strands. Do I take them by myself or do we have to ask somebody for it? I see some little baskets, so let’s start shopping. Unfortunately, the beads I want are hanging too high or the strands come by packs of 10. I ask for some help. Funny part : the eyes of the seller when I ask for only one or two strands of some beads. Yes, most people in this shop buy for thousands and thousands of beads (with bundles of bills). I’m still at the beginning of my project and can afford only a part of that, but I don’t care. There’s always a beginning for everything.
Zut, I’m a bit over my budget of the day, but I refuse to leave any one of my coups de coeur behind me. I ask for a payment by credit card. Yes, of course, it’s possible. But it’s an additional 16% on the total. Ok…I run to the city center to find an ATM. I find Evane. Everything’s all right. Very happy Sophie.

Really tired but still with stars in the eyes, we walk through the halls a last time. We admire one last time some diamonds in display cases and some jewels with 5 or 6 numbers on the label..

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Then, we decide that a good ice cream is well deserved. Sporty day. It’s 4PM, ice cream in the hand. We’re good.

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Half an hour left before leaving the show. Last stop at a hall where Evane wants to show me a stand where she bought some gemstones earlier. Not very surprisingly, I also fall in love with some lovely ones. Especially with a tiny Tourmaline, that I already know I want on a ring. I can’t wait to make it at Cécile’s place. Based on the choices and the prices, I could have bought mre. But I didn’t because I want to keep the pleasure of every step. This tiny gemstone will ever remind me of this beautiful day in a unique world.

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Time for us to go and meet our car driver to go back to Sélestat. Very nice person, this man works at Baccarat. What a coincidence.

Departure from Sélestat, then change in Strasbourg and arrival in Lyon at 11PM. All the way back to lyon, we chat. Tired but sooo happy with this marathon day. A bit of frustration for all the exhibitions, conferences and workshops we missed. Nevermind, next year we plan to go there for three days. And my mum’s coming. She fell in love with all these colorful gemstones she saw on my pictures. It will be a great “Girl” trip, like we love them!

In the train, we look again and again at our shopping treasures. We talk about our next designs for the next season. These beads are so gorgeous…

Here is a snapshot…Amazonite, Iolite, Pyrite, Tanzanite, Labradorite, and more…

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Back home I didn’t create new designs immediately. I’ve wait for the end of the summer. Now I know what I want to do and I’m making them. I just need to take some pictures to share all of them with you online. Very soon I promise.

Thank you my friends! See you soon! I’ll tell you about my next adventures! <3

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