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.