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These people range form curious laypeople to professionals in the gem and mineral industry. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is the largest gem show in the world, and it draws visitors and vendors from all over the globe.
I spent a week in Tucson last year, and that was not nearly enough time even to see a small portion of the show. To call it a show is actually a little misleading. It is actually a collection of shows, spread throughout the city of Tucson. These shows occupy parking lots and whole hotels full of hotel rooms, each room its own store. Some of these individual “shows” are housed in multiple tents, each as big as a football field.
Needless to say, I was completely overwhelmed. I was lucky that I had been traveling with some friends who had been to the gem show in previous years, and they helped me to make a plan and get my bearings.
In addition to being a travel writer, I am a massage therapist who specializes in offering massage with heated and chilled stones, so my main focus when going to the gem show is purchasing stones for massage (generally polished, smooth stones, not rough stones or beads).
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In preparation for the 2012 Tucson Gem Show (where I will be during the week of January 27th-February 3rd) I am going to be making a series of posts to help you prepare for the mother of all gem shows!
This post is going to be about planning your gem show visit to get the most out of your time in Tucson.
Make a plan and a shopping list: Make a list of exactly what you are looking for and make a plan for where to find it. You could start by searching the Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau website. They have a handy form on there to search all of the individual shows for various things (ie: Beads, carvings, classes, jewelry, etc).
These are some the types of things that you will be able to buy at the gem show: Beads, carved stones such as spheres or wands, rough or specimen stones, jewelery, lapidary stones, gifts and home decor, singing bowls and other imports from all over the world (if you are coming, plan on doing all of your holiday and birthday gifts for the entire next year!)
There are plenty of websites and blogs with advice for where to look for the best beads and fine jewelry type stones, so I won’t go over that info here (as I don’t really know anything about it). I will say that if your interest is beads, my experience is that you will find them EVERYWHERE, at every show. The JOGS show in particular did seem to have a nice selection of beads, but you will be able to find beads in every show and tent that you go into (there are even separate shows just for buying beads).
Most of our time at the gem show was spent in one of two places: Electric Park and Hotel row. My friends knew from years of experience that these were the best places for buying the carved wands and spheres and soap shaped stones that we use in our massage, as well as Native American crafts, gift items and home decor.
Electric Park is a huge parking lot with lots of free parking and multiple HUGE tents with stone vendors. There are a lot of rough stones here, as well as carved stones and gift items. We spent at east two days here.
Hotel Row is located along the west side of Interstate 10 in Tucson. It consists of hotels along approximately a 2 mile stretch that have moved all of the furniture out of their rooms to accommodate gem vendors. The courtyards are also filled by gem vendors, as are the parking lots in between. This is another place with a good variety of different things, and less fine jewelry and beads which are great, but generally not what we are looking for. We spent at least 2 days at hotel row, and still didn’t see all of it.
We also visited the Gem mall show and the JG & M show. They are right near each other and in the same vicinity as electric park. These shows deserve an honorable mention because of their convenient, free parking and their proximity to Electric Park. This is another great place where one could wile away most of a day.
One last tip to leave you with until my next post: If this is your first time at the gem show, I recommend not making any purchases on your first day of shopping. Write down what you saw, what the price was and its location. The prices are so good here that you will want to buy everything in sight.
Once you have a day under your belt, you will have some basis for comparing prices and you might see that what you thought was a good price you have found for a much better price somewhere else. This was advice that was given to me before I went last year, and I was very glad I followed it.