Sunday, January 11, 2009

What is this Thing You Call the Gem Show?

This thing called The Gem Show is actually several shows. There are gems, fossils, rocks, minerals, beads, jewelry findings-if it has anything to do with gems and/or minerals, you can find it somewhere in Tucson during the weeks of The Gem Show.

This all started back in 1955 at a school where local rockhounds displayed their best finds. An immediate success due to the quality of specimens, the show has grown every year and is now held at the TCC Arena. Dealers from across the world bring their best to the show. A different mineral is showcased each year, this year being devoted to Mineral Oddities. The dates for this show are Feb 12-15. Most of the satellite show run from Jan 31-Feb 15.

Due to the success of the official Gem Show, small shows sprung up around the main show and for me that's the real fun. Driving around Tucson last weekend, I could see the tents going up and the signs of vendors coming to town. It's like a world flea market with the most interesting things at really great prices. Besides the gems, minerals and fossils, you can find rugs, furniture, clothing, jewelry, statuary, junk, junk and more junk. It's all here!

One of the most popular shows in recent years The Whole Bead Show at the Windmill Inn. This show boggles the mind at the variety of beads available. Here you will also find artists selling their wares as well as all the supplies needed to make your own art. This is a do not miss for the beading crowd.

And there are also beads available at the other shows so don't think this is the only venue with beads in town. Almost every show will have some beads; here's how to get a bead on beads during the show.

Anyone who's been to an event like this knows you must have a strategy or you will be easily overwhelmed. Let's face facts, this is major sensory overload. Study a map of the venues-here's one that may help. Some shows are only open to wholesale buyers and require credentials in order to enter. Registration for these shows can usually be done before or at the shows, but needs to be done separately with each show promoter. Bring your business license and some business cards.

Most of the gem and mineral shows around Tucson are free and hours vary. Google Tucson gem show or go to your favorite vendor's web site and you will get lots of info.

Parking can be a problem, so again know where you are going and where to park. In the downtown area there is a Gem Show Shuttle which is handy.

Take snacks, lots of water, maybe even pack a lunch but remember to pace yourself. Wear comfortable shoes and layer you clothing, it can be 35 degrees in the morning and 70 at 2pm; it could even rain. Bring a collapsible bag to carry your treasures home. Be careful with your money/purse, this is a perfect opportunity for opportunists.

Above all, have fun!

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