The Tucson Gem Show may be the largest show of any kind in the world. It is actually close to 50 officially recognized shows and dozens of other unofficial venues all happening at one time. Some are “Trade Only” and others are open to the public. The first shows start in late January and the last shows end in mid-February. To see everything is impossible… believe me, I’ve tried. There venues are scattered around the town but fortunately there is a free shuttle service that will get you to the more important shows.
Anywhere in Tucson that you see a big tent, there will be a show. Any hotels that host a show will have vendors in most of the rooms as well. Many of the shows will be familiar names to anyone in the jewellery and gem industries while others only exist for this gathering. Everywhere you look there will be something to catch your eye and empty your wallet. If you seek knowledge, there are plenty of seminars covering all aspects of the jewellery trades. Virtually every industry trade association will have meetings, educational opportunities and gala parties.If it is your first time in Tucson you’ll probably want to start at the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) show at the Tucson Convention Center. Once you have a badge from this show, getting registered at all the other “Trade Only” shows is a breeze. At the AGTA show you’ll find the finest in coloured gemstones and the latest in high tech toys for your shop.
Cross the street for the Gem and Jewellery Exchange (GJX) for a huge selection of gems, jewellery, beads and mineral specimens. A short walk under the expressway will bring you to several hotel shows offering everything from designer jewellery to massive mineral specimens suitable for display in the largest lobbies. Take a ride out to the Starr Pass Resort to attend JCK’s first venture into the Tucson arena.
Head over to the Holidome for the Gem & Lapidary Wholesalers (G&LW). While you are there, you can find several other venues within a short walk including some of the biggest bead shows in the world. Want fossils? I don’t mean just the small snails and fish you’ll find in most tourist shops. How about a full sized museum quality specimen of T-Rex or Stegosaurus? You can see (and buy!) them at the Mineral and Fossil Co-op.
Hotels are best reserved in advance as they fill up quickly. Be prepared to pay top prices for a room, bargains are hard to find. The AGTA website has a hotel booking engine with some pretty good deals. If you show up without a room you may have to drive an hour or two out of town to find anything reasonable. Consider flying into Phoenix and driving to Tucson for better fares. The two hour drive has spectacular desert scenery.
I truly believe that everyone in the jewellery and gem business should attend the Tucson shows at least once in their career, but be warned…it is highly addictive. I’ve been going for 31 years and find it hard to imagine not attending. It is the greatest show on Earth! I’ll be in Tucson next week and will report from there.