Tucson Gem and Mineral Show
Every year for about 2.5 weeks in January and February — the rock, gem, mineral and jewelry worlds cosmically align in Tucson. Researchers, gemologists, authors, artists, miners and nearly 4,000 trade companies gather here from every continent to share their treasures, knowledge, and expertise with the show’s tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of attendees. Earth’s gem and mineral riches are on display at over 40 venues unfurled all over town, for sale in huge circus tents, expo halls, hotels, warehouses, and in the city’s fine Convention Center. Every type of polished and rough rock and fossil specimen and every kind of faceted jewel that you can imagine is being peddled everywhere — on blankets on sidewalks or in sophisticated exhibits brought in by the world’s finest museums and collectors. All of the shows are free except the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show® held at the Convention Center. Indeed, Tucson hosts the Giant of all Gem Shows, the largest of its kind in the universe.
It all started pretty small, back in 1955, with a free exhibition put together at a local school. In later years the event that started it all moved to a spot in Tucson’s Rodeo Grounds. Over the years, additional shows sprung up and collectively grew into the largest and most amazing display of rocks, fossils, gems, minerals, jewelry, beads, dinosaurs, and meteorites of all time. Conservative estimates put the annual number of show visitors at 50,000, and that’s a big influx for a city with an urban population of about 550,000. Today, the Tucson shows consist of about 45 separate events running concurrently in hotels, parking lots, and tents from the end of January through the middle of February. Admission free except for one show at the Tucson Convention Center, and most are open to the public, though a few are wholesale only and ID may be required for entrance.
Here are some tips by Gloria Knott of the Arizona Daily Star from the 2018 gem show that may apply to this year. Keep it on your radar!
FIVE MUST-SEE SHOWS:
1. Tucson’s New Mineral Show is said to be affordable for vendors and attendees alike. Organizer Marcus Origlieri told the Arizona Daily Star last year that if you can afford a cup of coffee, you can afford a rock at his show. It’s at West Grant Road near North Flowing Flowing Wells Road.
2. The 22nd Street Mineral & Fossil Show welcomes more than 200 vendors and features incredible finds such as meteorites, dinosaur fossils, Himalayan jewelry, and minerals from Madagascar. It’s at West 22nd Street and I-10.
3. The Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, the big event that closes out the showcase at the TCC, is a must-visit. This is the oldest of all the shows and charges a $13 admission fee. The show is home to more than 250 dealers.
4. The Tucson Kino Gem Show hosts more than 230 vendors across the Kino Sports Complex on Ajo Way. Highlights include pearls from Hawaii, minerals and fossils from Morocco, rainbow-colored gemstones, and Native American drums.
5. The Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show also welcomes hundreds of vendors and has three locations: Hotel Tucson City Center downtown, the Ramada Limited Tucson West, and the Mineral & Fossil Marketplace on Oracle Road. Folks can find African art, minerals from Russia, gold nuggets, and beautiful stone creations.
Five things that aren’t gems or jewelry
1. New Mexico-based Sweet Medicine Drums is known for handcrafted Native American drums. The drums are said to have healing power and are common at weddings, births, and other ceremonies. Find them at the Tucson Kino Gem Show.
2. The American Indian Arts Exposition at the Flamingo Hotel on Stone Avenue features Native American arts and crafts including jewelry and handcrafted baskets.
3. Butterflies, scorpions, and spiders. Not the live kind. These have died and been framed and are ready to grace your wall. You’ll find them at Butterflies by God at the 22nd Street Mineral and Fossil Show.
4. How about a rubber duck? You can get that, as well as crystals, minerals, knives and knickknacks at Blue Star Traders at the Rapa River Gem & Mineral Show.
5. Food! Many shows are in close proximity to local restaurants, but some shows will have entire food courts.
For those of us who are crystal crazy, this is got to be the most incredible event on earth!
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