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Tucson Gem Show

Tucson Gem Show – Exploring The American Southwest

Tucson hosts the mother of all gem shows and, if you’re in town, it’s not to be missed!

Every type of polished or rough rock, mineral, gem, and fossil specimen can be found here. And, every type of shiny faceted jewel, in every type of imaginable setting, is being peddled all over town. You will find these treasures laid on blankets on the sidewalks and displayed in sophisticated, decadent exhibits. Some are in tiny hotels rooms and others in giant convention halls. But if you’re into this type of thing, I guarantee you, you won’t be disappointed. The Tucson Gem Show is one of a kind and the largest in the country.

A couple of days after we arrived in town, the 2017 Tucson Gem Show began, or I should say “Gem Shows”, with an ‘s’? That’s right, the gem show is actually made up of about 45 individual shows with different themes. Its official name is the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase. It is, also, home to the biggest and oldest gem show in the world, Tucson Gem & Mineral Show®, and attracts an estimated 50,000 of visitors every year.

Tucson Gem & Mineral Show

So, naturally, we had to go check it out. The shows go on for about two weeks in late January and early February. This year it ran Jan 17 – Feb 12 and it was an experience we will not forget.

As you can imagine, the city got a little bit busier when all the vendors and the visitors descended on Tucson. But, the experience was really cool, none the less.

So, how does the Tucson Gem Show work?

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase, and its shows all over town, essentially take over the city for two weeks. It is a time in Tucson when the gem, rock, mineral, and jewelry world align and gemologists, authors, researchers, miners, and artists, along with about 4,000 trade companies gather here to share their treasures. And, treasures they do have! Not just in the form of rocks and gems but also beads, jewelry, knowledge, and expertise.

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase

They display their glorious stuff in huge circus tents, expo halls, old movie theaters, warehouses, hotels, and in the city’s Convention Center. Nearly every hotel and every venue houses a “satellite” show. And I don’t mean just the giant conference rooms and convention centers, although those are full of shows too. What I mean is hotel “ROOMS”. Yes folks, you can walk down a hotel hallway, and the guest rooms will have a sign on them with the door open. You, literally, walk into a hotel room and you see that the sellers stuffed their personal belongs off to the side or the bathroom, covered them, and set up the rocks, gems, and minerals everywhere. Their beds, nightstands, dressers, are covered with gems. No joke!

It is just a little bit creepy but also fascinating. There are rooms that have a $10K minimum and there are rooms that sell tiny rare rocks. You name it and you can probably find it at the Tucson Gem Show.


Find Very Rare And Unusual Stuff

You will find vendors, gems, and minerals from all around the world at the Tuscon Gem Show. There is someone selling something from every continent. I found a Moldavite stone for a friend that asked me to look for it, on the first day I looked. Moldavite is a olive-green rock/gem found only in Czech Republic, formed by a meteorite impact. It is quite literally “out-of-this-world”, and I found it pretty easily in one of those hotel room shows, I mentioned.

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase

Some sellers are nice but some are jerks – honestly, though, most of them are nice but you will occasionally run into an ass. I encountered one in a hotel as we were looking for the Moldavite. The guy was from Germany. I walked into this “shop”, aka hotel room, and asked if he had Moldavite and he was like: “Not me, you need a Czech seller”. So, I said, “Would you know where I can find one?” and his answer was…. wait for it .. “In the Gem Show Guide”. Really?! He was curt and unfriendly. I left his room and went directly across the hall to a Russian seller’s room. And, guess what? He had Moldavite! Yeah, the German guy was just being a jerk.

How To Find Out What’s Going On

Tucson Gem Show Guide Magazines are available during the show and they are free. You can find them at the entrances to all the big shows (of which there are many). You can also see the schedule for the Gem Shows online.

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase

Most of the venues in the Tucson Gem Show are free. There are a one or two (that are just open to the public) that charge for entrance. The Tucson Gem & Mineral Show® is the original show and is part of Tucson Gem Show. It takes place the last weekend of the show in the Tucson Convention Center and it is also a show that charges a $13/person entrance fee.

Wholesale vs. Public

Most of the shows are open to the public but there are a few that are for wholesalers only. To attend the wholesale shows, you must have a business license, EIN number, and a business card that shows your business is related to the show in some fashion.

The Tucson Gem Show “satellite” shows that are open to the public, obviously, have higher, retail-type prices. But, walking around, we still saw some very good deals. The trick is to know what a good price is and not get taken in by the first vendor that has pretty, shiny things. When we walked around the main event, Tucson Gem & Mineral Show®, we saw copper cuff bracelets for $10 or $20 in different isles, and the bracelets were identical!

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase

Fall Gem Show

Yes, folks, there is a fall Tucson Gem Show. It is much smaller comparing to the winter show but it does host some wholesale shows, as well as, public ones. And you better believe, we plan on attending 🙂

In addition to the official events of the Tucson Gem Show(s), there are also, what I would call, complementary shows. These are not officially part of the Gem Show but they are going on at the same time and are pretty cool. For example, we went to a Native American Arts Expo that was amazing but wasn’t part of the official Tucson Gem Show.

Tucson gem show

Enjoy!

Joanna-

About Joanna Rolston

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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6 comments

  1. WOW! Thanks for the great write up! We had planned on going this year (and possibly moving to Tucson) but then I got a job just north of Denver. I even had hotel reservations that I had to cancel. We belong to the ABQ gem and mineral club. Its great and we use the lapidary equipment in the Natural History Museum in downtown ABQ. Take up lapidary, its fun.
    Jeff

    • Hi Jeff!
      Thank you for your kind words. Actually, dabbling in lapidary is on my bucket list 🙂 There are so many amazing stones and gems to be found here in the southwest!
      Joanna-

  2. I have a love for all natural gems and these photos show wonderful specimens. My daughter also, has developed an interest and she’d absolutely love to go to one of these shows. I get a bit overwhelmed with all the crowds so not sure how I’d do, lol.

    • Hi Barbara,
      I agree, at the bigger venues, the crowds are big. But, if you want to some of the smaller (usually hotel) or outside shows, you’d see much less people, especially on weekdays. The only place that I thought was really crowded was the main show but that’s to be expected. 🙂
      Joanna-

  3. Joanna, thanks for this interesting article- you write so “chatty”, I love your style!