The Tucson Gem Show for Beginners
I have wanted to go to the Tucson Gem Show for years. My boss and friend Al, has asked me to go every year but I have had an excuse lamer than the dog ate my homework! This year he went ahead and made the reservations at the hotel and told me to grab a friend because we were going to the Tucson Gem Show. Our group included Al (fossil nut), Al’s brother Norbert (The Charmer), Sharon (friend, coworker, jewelry nut and Elizabeth Taylor lookalike) and me (Just Nuts) driving from San Diego in Al’s car. The other brother Reinhart (The Intellect) drove in from Albuquerque. An unlikely group but it worked.
The Tucson Gem Show is not one show, it is over 40 shows spread all over Tucson. The main show is at the The Tucson Expo Center. We never made it there. I saw and did so much that I will have to see that next year. Maybe. I have been shopping in gift shows, antique shows, souks and bazaars but nothing prepared me for this show. The dealers spill out of everywhere. Every hotel room is a showroom. They take the furniture out of there and put in tables to display their wares. Sometimes, the vendor would keep the bed in the room! Honestly, I have never been in so many stranger’s hotel rooms in my life.
The vendors are from all over the world. The wonderful things that were for sale boggle the mind. The first thing I notice is the large fossilized sandstone panels leaning against the side of the hotel parking lot. Unbelievable! I knew that I was like Alice in Wonderland and have fallen down the hole in to a wonderful, curious world. I also knew that 3 days was not enough and was plotting my return. And I have not seen anything yet! There are vendors selling minerals, fossils, gemstones, beads, carvings, crystals, finished jewelry, meteorites and treasure. Treasure is everything else. Treasure is stuff that you did not know that you needed but now you have to have. I did not bring enough money.
The first night we had dinner with Al’s friend Brock from Fossilogy. Brock is a young guy who has created his own company removing fossils from stone and recreating the dinosaurs for museums, collectors and businesses all over the world. Brock was very gracious answering all of our amateur questions. Think about it for a moment. Brock chips every bone, tooth and part out of a large rock, then he has to figure out what the dinosaur looked like and put it together. Before he can put it together he has to build and weld a metal structure to support the dinosaur. This takes years sometimes to construct. Unbelievable! There are dinosaurs all over Tucson. Wonderland.
Saturday morning we got up early and out we go. The boys are going fossil hunting. Sharon and I are meeting Kerith Graeber to go bead hunting. Kerith and her husband Cal own a Fluorite Mine. Kerith know a lot about gemstones. In fact, Kerith knows a lot about everything! Kerith brought along her friend Pat who is a gemologist. Kerith has been a long time customer and friend to Canterbury Gardens. She graciously agreed to be Sharon and my guide to the bead show portion of the Tucson Gem Show. We set off in her car and drove all over Tucson going to different shows. Many of the shows are wholesale and you have to register to even get in to shop. So, you have to come prepared with all your business paperwork. The Tucson Show has a website that tells you everything you will need. If you are a crafter, amateur paleontologist or are into crystals there are plenty of places to spend your money.
Kerith introduced us to the different bead dealers she has dealt with over the years. As Sharon and I would touch and ooh and ahhh over exotic beads of every color, Pat and Kerith would tell us if the stones were real. It is hard to know what is a good price and what exactly am I buying. A lot of the beads are dyed or color enhanced. That is ok but you should know what you are buying. I write on each bag of beads with a Sharpie Pen what it is because I will never remember what I bought tomorrow! Sharon and I were so lucky to have Kerith and Pat to shepherd us around like lost, drooling sheep. Next year I hope to be better prepared. I brought some projects that I have been working on that were missing elements. Since I love to craft repurposed jewelry, I thought I brought enough stuff. I should of brought all my projects to find different elements. Tucson is where you buy for the whole year and make some great contacts which we did thanks to Kerith. What made this show so different from a wholesale gift show was how nice everyone is. I mean these people are passionate about what they do and take the time to answer all questions. I learned more about fossils, gemstones and minerals then I thought possible. They have become treasure for me. I never knew I needed them in my life but now I have to have them.
Saturday night we had dinner with Kerith and her husband Cal. I learned a little about mining fluorite. I had no idea how difficult and dirty mining minerals can be. They don’t even know what they have until they clean and process the minerals. It was so interesting and makes me understand why gemstones are so precious. We all had a great time. Sunday we got up early and Al showed us the Pueblo Show and gave us a crash course on minerals. We stuffed in as much as we could see before we had to head home. It was not enough time but I am not sure my brain could take in much more. My wallet could not take much more either.
My favorite story: We were in gem wholesale show and Sharon walked up to a table piled up with loose gemstones. Sharon bent over and picked up a rather large stone, turned around to talk to me not realizing 5 Indian gentlemen swarmed behind her and told me that she thought the price on the sign was very reasonable for a stone that large. I told her to put it down the gem before she lost her hand! I had to tell her they were precious gems and sold by the carat!
In closing, I recommend the Tucson Show to everyone. It is a living museum where you can touch (ask first!) and everything is for sale. If you think you don’t care about fossils, minerals or gemstones you will after a trip to the Tucson Gem Show. These people will make you fall in love with their passion, the history of what they are selling and especially their treasure. See you next year. I am saving my money!
Thanks especially to Al and his brothers. They were great companions.