Thursday, February 12, 2015

Visit to the Tucson Gem Show

As an artisan jeweler I've always wanted to visit the annual Tucson Gem Show in Arizona, but the economics of travelling all the way from the UK to the USA mean I'm unlikely to get there for a while yet. The Tucson show itself is actually multiple shows, held at many different venues all over Tucson, and taking place over the course of several weeks between late January and mid-February each year. Today, four of our JET Team members share their experiences at this year's Tucson show.
Perusing the Gemstones
For Lynn this was her 4th visit to the show:
"Talk about being a kid in a candy store! For anyone who makes and sells jewelry, or sells jewelry supplies on Etsy, or is truly into fossils, gemstones, minerals and bigger than life rocks, the Tucson Gem Show is the place for you! This year was brilliant, as the organizers split the shows in to two categories, Gems-Beads-Jewelry and Rocks-Minerals-Fossils. This made it much easier to find what I was looking for, rather trying to visit all the shows for fear of missing something special!
Clockwise from top: Brooke of BrookeJewelry and friends; JET purchases; and Mexican and Ethiopian Opal Rough
The show weeks are quite overwhelming, with total and complete sensory overload. There are shiny things, sparkly things, silver and gold things, and everything you see you tend to feel you just can't live without. It's difficult to keep focused and not bring home boxes full of things you will never use, and wind up with an empty bank account. I have finally come to grips with staying focused on what I need to buy, rarely straying from the plan of attack. I am a pearl wedding bridal designer with a shop on Etsy, so I do my entire year's worth of pearl buying at this show. I must admit that some of those unexpected sparkly shiny things did happen to 'fall' in to my bag - but gosh, are they going to be pretty when made into bridal and bridesmaid jewelry designs! This year several of our Jewelry On Etsy Team members met up for dinner one evening, and it's just great to get together in person with those you work with online every day. It's the second year we have gathered together, and we all hope it is something we are able to continue in years to come."
Piles of Precious Gemstones for Sale
Susan of cserpent managed to fit in visits to many of her favorite shows, including Holidome, Gem Mall and the Howard Johnson GIGM show. Her favourite vendors include Toyo Feng of Feng's Trading and the Nevada Turquoise Co. You can read more about Susan's visit, and see photos of some of her gemstone purchases, on her blog: cserpentdesigns.blogspot.com. Susan shared the drool-worthy photo above, explaining:
"You see piles and piles of gemstones at the show. The ones in the photo include sapphires, peridot, citrine, amethyst, pink tourmaline and more, all high quality stones just sitting in plates for sale. Amazing to hear about and even more amazing to see in person! There are so many gemstones sparkling and winking at you from almost every booth as you walk up and down the aisles of the show! And next to them are strands of those same gemstones - beautifully faceted and sooo sparkly! Needless to say they have good security at these shows. Other shows that don't allow pictures have plates of diamonds sitting out!
Phylly
Phylly (pictured above at the 2014 show) is another JET regular at Tucson. Of the various individual shows, she says:
"I find JOG is good for buying individual gem quality stones, while G&LW is great for faceted gem strands. At To Bead True Blue you can find lampwork beads, beads made of many different materials, findings and jewelry supplies, polished stone strands and pearls. This show is particularly useful for bead weavers and jewelry designers as it introduces new findings from the big companies, as well as new and trendy processes - this year GlasClay was featured. My favorite show is Pueblo at the Riverpark Inn, where there are gorgeous, free standing mineral specimens in the parking lot! It has become my favorite place to buy gemstones and gem beads, and is also a favorite with the metaphysical gem crowd. There are many jewelry artists exhibiting their work for sale around a central courtyard, and it is an interesting place to see other artisans' work as well as a great place to find gifts!"
Last year was the first time Denise of LoveStoneArts had attended the show, and she was thrilled to be able to participate in the both first meet-up of JET Team members, and the second meet-up this year:
"The main show is known as TGMS, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, which has been held since 1946 by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society. TGMS features museum quality gem and mineral specimens, lectures and a whole gaggle of wholesale and retail sellers. The JOGS show features good dealers of fossils from Madagascar, carvings from Peru and specimens from Brazil. I’ve shared my rock-hound passion with my father since I was a kid, so when I found a cool fossil or specimen it was “one for Dad, one for me!”
​Clockwise from top: Cantera Fire Opals from Mexico; Ammolite Cabs from Canada; Large Fossil Ammonite from Madagascar
This year I received a pre-sale invitation to shop with IGM at the Gem Mall location, two days prior to opening day. I spent 4 hours in their vault, pouring over bins of gems, selecting my treasures and getting valuable insights from the owners on what the biggest selling jewelry items of the season will be. But beware how terribly confusing pricing can be in Tucson. Various venues have become more and more liberal about selling to the general public. As a result, you will see retail pricing interspersed with wholesale pricing. It is important to know what you should pay for the items on your wish-list in advance of the show, and if you know your prices you can make a reasonable offer when faced with an inflated price sticker. I take notes of the metric vs. carat conversions, because you will not find uniform methods of pricing or units of measure. I try to do the figures in my head and offer a carat/gram/unit price that is in line with what I’m willing to pay. You will find discounts, but you may have to ask for them. Most of my offers are cheerfully accepted, but I’m willing to compromise - or walk away if an item is over my budget. I may be a wheeler-dealer but believe me, I’m no match for the Chinese grandmother who knows her costs and will always make a profit!"
​Petrified Wood Dish and Madagascar Marine Fossils
If you'd like to attend the Tucson Gem Show, you need to know that most of the shows are wholesale only, and you must pre-register to qualify for admission. Starting to plan a year ahead is a very good idea, as the hotel rooms are available on a supply and demand basis, so rooms booked later on in the year cost premium prices. Lynn strongly recommends early booking at a suite hotel with a full kitchen or kitchenette: "This will not only help with expenses but will allow your tired weary bones to come home from a long day of work, make a bowl of pasta and flop in to a big comfy chair with a glass of wine". Many of the suite hotels offer free breakfast, and some have a complimentary manager's happy hour with a full dinner served. For more information, the Tucsonshowguide.com will give you some idea of the breadth of the show, while venue details and maps are available on TucsonGemShows.net. For hotel rooms and more details about Tucson itself, check out VisitTucson.org.

 Thank you all very much for sharing your photographs and experiences with us!

20 comments :

Jean Sandell said...

Jealous, drooling, and just jealous. . . ;)

Gloria Flynn - EarthEnergyGemstones said...

I think I will definitely need to save up--both money and energy--to go to one of these shows! Really enjoyed reading about it!

Urban Pearl Studio said...

Thank you, Erika, for such a great post! I'm still tired from this year's show and this just reconfirmed why! SO MANY GORGEOUS THINGS!!

Michele said...

Looks like a great time!! I see can lots of money being spent such a variety of lovely gems to choose from. I wish I could join, maybe one year.

Cher said...

FABulous... I am so drooling... and that's exactly the reason I don't attend these shows... the sensory overload would be too much to handle. Awesome feature!

Beadsme said...

I was lucky enough to meet up with a few Jets last year. Yep it's like a candy store. I was in awe, hopping from one stall to another. Spent way too much.

jemsbyjb said...

This just makes me want to go there even more~ Thanks for sharing your experiences.

SendingLoveGallery said...


Great post Erika! It IS quite a sensory overload and like a luscious candy store. Also be prepared to wear your feet out :)

capitalcitycrafts said...

Thanks for sharing your shopping experience!

LoveStoneArts said...

Erika, what a lovely job you did of sharing the Tucson Gem experience! Thank you so much for another wonderful blog feature.

Jet Central said...

Thanks to all the JETs for this fascinating post!

Erika Price said...

I'm so jealous of you guys - perhaps one day I'll have saved up enough to join you in Tucson!

Ida said...

Great to read about your experiences...thanks for sharing!

Keystring said...

Wonderful show, wonderful article, and I want to go to Tucson!

WanderingJewel said...

Great tips for visiting the show

Donna Arena said...

Tuscon is on my bucket list, but I appreciate all the great tips for the time when I do get there, I'll put them to good use! It's so neat you all got to meet...soooooo JEALOUS!!!

Brooke said...

Thanks to everyone sharing their experiences and Erika for the wonderful post. It was great fun meeting up with everyone and the shopping was good too:)

Mollie Ann said...

I've always wanted to get to the Tucson show but have never made it. And having enjoyed all the great reports and photos here, I'm greener than ever with envy! Thanks so much for the mini-tour! Temptation ......

Julie Tarampi said...

I wouldn't even know where to start! I'm actually attending a local bead show in a few weeks and already excited about that!

MadeByTammy said...

Wonderful blog article!
One of these years, I'm going to make it to Tucson and meet-up with JETs. Looks like soooooo much fun!