A collaborative effort by: Victoria Rendon and Lisa Jo Roden.
Walking into the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show can feel a little like traversing caverns throughout the world, it’s like an urban mine! Your eyes fill with shimmering gems and each one captures your full attention, but only for a moment until the next gem twinkles.ArtFire’s very own CEO John Jacobs, a local, grew up attending the Gem Show, his father would purchase and cut down larger raw gemstones so that his mother could transform the smaller stones into cabochons for jewelry. This experience eventually inspired him to open ArtFire.
“I remember the good ol’ days of going through all the gems with my Dad and taking to all the people from all over the world. I don’t get to go as much as I want now.” – Says John.
For the past 61 years, Tucson has hosted the Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase, which has become the number one playground for the world of international gem and mineral trading, buying, bargaining and collecting. About 55,000 thousand people are expected to come to Tucson for the 17-day event (via TucsonNewsNow).
The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase happens all across town at more than 40 sites, from giant halls to hotels and sprawling camps of roadside exhibit tents. Almost all shows are free and open to the public.
“It must be February in Tucson,” says one Tucson resident about the Gem Show. You can tell when the Gem Show is near, white tents start sprawling up all over town, mostly near the I-10 highway. Soon after that the streets become crowded with out of state license plates, RVs and campers, which is a great thing for Tucson businesses and temporary employees. Being one of the biggest (dare we say “the” biggest) gem, mineral & fossil show in the world visitors are bound to hear a variety of different languages in one single tent. Moroccan rock dealers chatting it up with the Australian rock dealers is one common example of cross cultural trading and story telling.
Each booth holds something unexpected to behold… pyromorphite minerals from Australia, Lolite from Brazil, Malachite from the Congo, Azurite from China, Jasper from Romania, Rhodonite from Nevada…the list goes on and on. The Tucson Gem & Mineral Show has rightfully earned the title of “the world’s largest treasure hunt,” but it’s not just for collectors, jewelers or rock nerds, the Gem Show is eye candy to just about anyone.
Some of the exhibitors are gem hunters who have mined their own minerals and there is nothing quite like buying directly from the person who searched for hours before discovering something worth digging up. On a trip to the 2015 Ramada Inn Gem Show, ArtFire Content Writer, Lisa Jo Roden, encountered a Fossil Dealer who found and dug his own fossils out of Texas, “At first, I wasn’t sure if the fossils were legit, then I saw a small fossil with an $8,000 price tag on it and a SOLD sticker. I also overheard a conversation of the Fossil Dealer and a Frenchman who was lamenting over not being able to buy the specimen for his museum, then I realized the true value of what I was seeing.”
The benefits of hosting a Gem Show in your town…and for everyone involved
The Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau conducted a thorough survey and found that the Gem Show brings in a total of 120 Million dollars into the local Tucson economy. Expenditures included lodging, food and beverage, entertainment, transportation, shopping, equipment rentals, security, temporary employment and sales promotions. Remember, this is all in a matter of two weeks!
VisitTucson.org published a study showing that 8 of 10 Exhibitors at the 2015 Gem Show said they would be returning to the 2016 gem show and that they had made significant profits in this year’s show. Each exhibitor we talked to concurred that the Gem Show always yields profits and is well worth coming back for each year, many of them already returning for 6 or more years in a row.
The buyers range anywhere from rock collectors, shop owners buying wholesale items to sell at retail, and independent jewelry sellers who purchase specifically for making jewelry, no matter what line of business you are in–you are getting amazing deals at the gem show. In fact, a number of ArtFire sellers traveled to The Tucson Gem & Mineral Show this year to scour for gems and findings, including Penny from PennysTreasures!
The Gem Show on ArtFire
Penny attended the showcase and had only good things to say about the event, some of her jewelry is actually made with gemstones she got at the Gem Show! Penny was kind enough to tell us a bit about her experience at the showcase:
“When it comes to gems and minerals, I am like a kid in a candy store! So when the opportunity arose to take a trip to Phoenix to visit my mom, I made sure to plan my trip for February to coincide with the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show. We had a great time and I discovered all kinds of interesting finds that I had not seen before.”
“Arizona is so beautiful, it was my first time there and I loved it. The only thing I would change about my trip would be to allow WAY more time! We only spent two days in Tucson which was not nearly enough to see everything. Because of the sheer size of the show, it has to be spread out into different locations around town. I live in Houston, Texas and we have the International Gem & Jewelry Show that comes to town 3 times a year, but it takes place inside one big exhibit hall, which can easily be navigated through in one day. That’s the kind of show that I am used to, so I had no idea what to expect when I went to the Tucson show.”
A chance for ownership and a permanent venue…
Although the Tucson Gem & Mineral show has been around 61 years, it has a very temporary feel because there are very few permanent venues, most of the booths are set up in large white tents, hotels, parking lots or as a special event in larger buildings such as the Tucson Convention Center. But that feeling of impermanence will soon be changing with the construction of a dedicated 3-Story, 150,000 sq.ft building called “The 22nd Street View” which will house business condominiums that dealers will be able to own.