All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Tucson Gem Show

Tucson Gem Show 2015 at the A.G.T.A.

Tucson Gem Show 2015 at the A.G.T.A.

Every year, in the first two weeks of February, the Tucson Gem Show draws about 55,000 people from all over the world.  The show means millions of dollars of revenue for the city of Tucson.  What is all the fuss about?


1) How did the Tucson Gem Show get started?

Back in the mid-1950s, members of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society decided to have a free exhibition of gems and minerals.  It was a big hit.  They had to find a bigger venue for the next year.  Today, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show takes over the Tucson Convention Center on the second Thursday in February.  And it’s still run by the volunteer members of the Society. Over the next several years, word got out that Tucson had a great gem and mineral show.  More and more vendors wanted to exhibit there, and, of course, that led to more and more people coming to visit and buy.

2) What is the Tucson Gem Show like today?

It’s huge!  There are now over 40 different venues with thousands of vendors and dealers.  Some shows, like the A.G.T.A. (American Gem Trade Association), get housed in a big convention center.  Booths are set up numerically, like city streets.  You need a guide book for navigation.  Other shows set up in hotels, big outdoor tents, or even outside.  These shows, which all seem to be named with an acronym, can be many miles apart, and shuttles are set up to take buyers from one show to the next.  Somehow Tucson finds room for everyone.

3) Who goes to the show?

People from all over the world come to Tucson.  You’ll see people from Germany, Hong Kong, Brazil, and Thailand. Buyers and sellers of gemstones and jewelry make the Tucson Gem Show one of their top priorities.  But lots of people who just love rocks and minerals also go to the show.  There are a few shows, like the A.G.T.A., that only admit people who plan to re-sell what they buy.  But many more shows are open to the public.

4) What types of goods are sold?

It might be easier to answer what ISN’T sold!  There are cut, faceted gemstones for sale as well as rough, uncut gems.  You can buy jewelry–finished and unfinished.  Millions of beads are sold, as well as findings (metal pieces used in making jewelry).  You can find amazing mineral and fossil specimens.  There are always items made out of rock–like carvings of animals, bookends, and bowls.  And then there’s microscopes, tweezers, and all the other equipment you use when working with stones.

5) What else can you do at the show besides buy and sell?

There are lots of educational seminars on topics in the gem and jewelry industry.  Hands on demonstrations of equipment are common.  Major museums like the Smithsonian bring in gem, mineral and fossil displays.  But the best thing to do at the show is people-watch.  It’s a show that brings in a wide variety of interesting people.


So all the “fuss” over the Tucson Gem Show is warranted.  It IS a big deal.  If you are searching for that special gemstone and you can’t make it to Tucson, remember to ask Teri or Matt for help.  They go every year.



The Life of a Bench Jeweler


Repairing a Wedding Ring

Repairing a Wedding Ring

Usually hidden in the back of the store, out of sight and unknown, bench jewelers work their wonders in mysterious ways.  In an attempt to shed insight on the incredible work that they do, let me introduce Nick, the longtime bench jeweler and co-owner of Dearborn Jewelers.  Known for his ability to work miracles with jewelry, he can create beautiful new pieces and repair treasured old ones.  And he does it with a sense of humility and humor.

He started engraving in his father’s jewelry store when he was 14-years old.  He learned a lot about making jewelry from his dad, Nick Pavlich, and from another bench jeweler in his youth, George Omelczenko.  While most of his mastery has been obtained on the job, he did take stone setting classes from the Gemological Institute of America (G.I.A.) back in the early 1990s.

According to Nick, the three most important tools of a bench jeweler are “good eyesight, a hammer, and  inspiration.”

His best advice to young bench jewelers is “Take care of your eyes.” But there’s a lot more to it than having a keen eye.  Nick is a perfectionist and he has the patience to work with the jewelry.  He says he’s not patient when teaching others, but I find him extremely patient with interruptions about whether some repair can be done or whether some design is feasible.

His most memorable job was a lapel pin he made for a gentleman whose last name started with W.  I asked him why it was so memorable and he said, “It just turned out really good.  It was a script W, in white gold, with graduated diamonds mounted in it.  It was really pretty.”   We tried to find a picture of it, but no luck.  So he drew a little picture for me.  It’s amazing how he can remember details of jewelry he worked on, even if it was decades ago.

A bench jeweler’s bench is his domain.  It can look chaotic but he knows where everything is.  If you spend any time around the bench, you’re likely to hear the sounds of hammering, drilling, filing and the occasional “ouch.”  You’ll see the torch fired up, steam coming from the cleaning area, and sometimes you’ll even see Nick down on the ground, searching for that stubborn diamond that simply did not want to be set.  Being a bench jeweler is not easy work.

Most importantly,  Nick is a family man, a religious man, and a man of integrity and honor. You can always count on Nick to tell you the truth and to do his best for you. His sense of duty is one of the main reasons, I think, that Dearborn Jewelers is so successful. Customers know that no one will work harder and with more experience on their jewelry.

So the next time you look at your ring or put on a bracelet, you’ll have a better understanding of the work that went into making it.  Think about the person that made your jewelry–a combination of artist and engineer– the bench jeweler.

Making a custom fit wedding band

Making a custom fit wedding band