Personalities at the Tucson Gem Show-Part 3: The Pueblo Gem Show

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This may be my favorite show because it has such an inclusive, comfortable atmosphere.  Held at Riverpark Inn, a conveniently located hotel near the convention center, this show has all the amenities you could ever want.  There’s lunch seating underneath palm trees by a clear blue swimming pool.  There’s a bartender who will happily get you a water, soda, or even something a little stronger.  The hotel is air conditioned so, if you get warm in the outdoor exhibition tent, you can always look at the many exhibits inside the hotel.

The show is open to the public, but many jewelry dealers come to the show, too, so vendors sell at both retail and wholesale prices.  In many ways, having the show open to the public creates a more relaxed atmosphere.  People come to this show for fun, not just for work.  The vendors, too, seem more at ease.  I had one vendor tell me to jot down the prices he was quoting me, because he might forget them if I chose to come back later.  He had nothing written down, and couldn’t even hand me his business card because he only had one left.  When I finally left his booth, I had a list of prices and a photo of his card.

There’s such a variety of merchandise at the Pueblo Gem Show.  While cut gemstones are certainly represented, there’s also a lot of rough, uncut stone for sale.  And there’s a huge selection of both large and small mineral crystals. (You can buy amethyst crystals in their 3 – 4 foot tall host rock, or you can buy tiny samples of emerald or ruby that show their natural crystal structure.) There’s also finished jewelry and even a place to buy props for displaying jewelry.

Variety is also a good word to describe the people you meet at the Pueblo Gem Show.  Ryszard Krukowski is a stone cutter/sculpter of fire agate, a brilliant stone that reveals its beauty as its outer layers are “peeled back.”  He and his wife live in northern Canada but travel to northern Arizona to mine the agate or purchase the rough from the Native Americans that also mine there.  A dedicated rock hound, he is passionate about his work.  Inspired by the stones and by other places he’s visited, he carves dragons, serpents, and sea creatures from the rough.  He talks about the “journey” he takes with each stone, and he has great stories to tell about the last 35 years of traveling.

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Mr. Krukowski fit right in with the Pueblo Gem Show.  Artsy and eclectic, passionate and fun are words to describe both.  Along with the A.G.T.A. and the G.J.X., this show makes the perfect trio for anyone in the jewelry business.  And, if you’re not in the business but go to Tucson for the fun of it, make sure to start with the Pueblo Gem Show.  I promise you’ll have a good time.

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Personalities at the Tucson Gem Show-Part 2: The G.J.X.

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The 110,000 square foot tent that houses the G.J.X. (Gem and Jewelry Exchange) is crowded, noisy, and busy.  Vendors’ booths are small and packed together like puzzle pieces.  Walking is treacherous with all the “speed bumps” covering the web of electrical wires that light each booth.  As you slowly make your way down the aisles, you’re likely to see jade bangles next to faceted gemstones and microscopes next to strands of pearls.

As you’d expect with a tent, creature comforts are at a minimum.  There’s no place to sit except near the food booths.  Choices for lunch are limited to foods like hotdogs and tacos.  The temporary restrooms are located outside the tent.  Inside the tent, the air is warm and a little stagnant.

Still, this highly reputable show is for wholesalers only.  You must present the G.J.X. sticker to enter.  Some of the vendors are A.G.T.A. members but, for whatever reason, were not able to be part of the A.G.T.A. show.  Other vendors are grouped together by geographic origin such as the Idar-Oberstein group from Germany, famous for its magnificent stone cutting.

It was there that I met a young gem cutter named Christopher Kreis.  Christopher travels with his mother and father to gem shows around the world, selling his creations.  Trained in traditional cutting methods, he felt that these methods limited the stones’ potential.  He wanted, like a sculptor, to bring out the natural beauty of each specimen.  This meant creating new styles of cutting that are actually patented under his name.  Creations such as “the fluid drop”, made from natural blue topaz, are the result.  Looking at the stone, you feel like you’re looking at a captured droplet of crystal clear water.

I asked him if he’d ever thought of another career.  At first, he didn’t seem to understand the question.  Of course, his father’s family has been in the jewelry business for over 200 years and his mother’s family for even longer!  Perhaps he never thought of working outside the jewelry industry.  But then he spoke of how he loved the variety of his work.  He gets to explore gem mines in the great outdoors, create beauty in the solitude of his workshop, and travel the world meeting people who love his work.  It does sound like a good life!

The personality of this bright man was distinctly different from the show where he was exhibiting.  Christopher was so unassuming and peaceful.  He seemed youthful but with a wisdom beyond his years.  The G.J.X. is robust and loud.  It lacks the sophistication of the A.G.T.A., but, with over 700 vendors, it makes up for it with energy, enthusiasm and wide selection.