1. Tucson is not just one show
Unlike most jewellery tradeshows with a single promoter, The Tucson Gem Show is a gathering of approximately 45 officially organised, mineral, and bead shows spread all over the city of Tucson. Dozens of unofficial shows spring up in almost every part of town. Everywhere you look there will be rocks, gemstones or jewellery for sale.
2. Rent a car or not?
The City of Tucson provides a free GemRide Shuttle. The shuttles stop at some of the hotels. If you book a room at or near a shuttle stop, you may not need to hire a car. However if you will be buying heavy or bulky items, the shuttle may be difficult or impossible. A rental car is your only cost-effective option. Taxis are available but can be expensive. Having a car gives you the freedom to explore the city and beyond. There is a lot of history and scenic beauty within a short drive from the shows.
3. Dress for comfort
Nobody expects you to be fashionable while exploring the shows. Wear sturdy, comfortable, all-terrain shoes. Only a few of the shows are inside buildings with hard floors. The rest are in tents with carpet over bare ground, on lawns, or on bare dirt and rocks. Expect your clothing to get dusty so save the nice stuff for the evening cocktail events. Wear comfortable clothes in layers. It could be cold outside and hot inside the shows. It may be hot during the day but it will still be cold at night.
The most valuable thing you can bring back from Tucson is knowledge. The bigger shows have free seminars and workshops. GIA has classes to help get your Gemologist diploma, and several tool and supply manufacturers have ongoing demonstrations with tools you can try for yourself. You will be surrounded by brilliant minds wherever you go. Ask questions of every vendor. They are passionate about their gems or rocks, sometimes doing all the mining and/or cutting themselves. They are experts and love to share their knowledge. Keep your ears open. You never know when a lively discussion about a particular gem or skill will break out near you. If you feel you can add to the conversation, jump in and join them. Almost everyone at the show wants to share their specialty and learn something new from you. It is rock and gem nerds’ heaven.
Visiting Tucson for the shows can be good marketing. Keep a running dialogue on your social media sites. Share photos of your newest finds. Even if you hate taking selfies, it is OK to succumb to the temptation to post yourself standing inside a 12 foot tall Amethyst geode. You want your customers to share your excitement of being at the show. But don’t forget to share of a little yourself while in Tucson. You will be meeting people from around the world. Share your culture with them and you will have new friends. Share your own special knowledge and skills with others. You’ll bring value into conversations with your peers. Tucson is a gathering of people with a passion for gems and rocks. Share your passion.
Due to a conflicting obligation I, sadly, will not be in Tucson this year. I am envious of those who can attend. For the rest of us, it is not too early to make plans for next year.