This February (Soon!) we'll be working the Tucson Gem Show again, and we want to tell you about this mother-of-all-gem-shows and asking for your special requests on stock to pick up while we're there. As many of you know, we favor natural, untreated gemstone beads in many categories -- with some of our all-time favorites including Peruvian Opal, Lapis Lazuli, Moonstone, Larimar, Mexican Opal, Tourmaline, and...well, we could keep going. :-) In case you haven't had (and won't have, at least this year) the privilege of attending this incredible event, we're going to try to give you a virtual experience through our explorations. Here's how it all started --
The legendary show, officially named as the "Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase", has grown from a "club show" to a major show for collectors and enthusiasts from around the country and the world. Showcased here are the best gems, minerals, jewelry, lapidary and publication dealers from across the US. Also displayed are items from private collections and renowned museums worldwide, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
It all started in 1955 when a group of mineral collectors and rock hounds from the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society held a free exhibition at a local elementary school, open to the public. This show was an immediate hit, prompting organizers to make it an annual event. The following year, the show was moved to a Quonset hut at the Pima County Fair and Rodeo Grounds on South Sixth Avenue, where it stayed until 1972. The show eventually moved to the Tucson Convention Center Arena, where it is still hosted by Tucson Gem & Mineral Society volunteers.
The most important factors in building the show's early reputation were the variety and quality of the specimens on display. The show is known for bringing in prominent gem, mineral and fossil displays from major museums. Each year, a mineral or group of minerals is designated as the show's theme mineral. In the recent past, the show has highlighted minerals from Asia, Africa and China.
As a result of the interest generated by the original show, satellite shows have proliferated all over the city. These shows cater to the interests of the growing number of people coming to town. Today, one of the fastest-growing segments of the Tucson shows is beads - first-time visitors to a bead show will be dazzled by the array available here. Together, the original show and the satellite shows make up the Showcase - one of the largest and most popular events in the gem and mineral world, attracting an estimated 55,000 people to Tucson in a two-week period. This crowd fills hotel rooms, rental cars and airline seats many months in advance.
Education is a major function of the show, providing a variety of pertinent seminars by noted professionals in the field, hands-on demonstrations for children, and free organized school visits the Friday morning of the show. This is the main show at the Tucson Convention Center, and it is the largest, most-imitated and most-respected show in the United States, if not the world.
All the other shows and dealers scattered throughout the other Tucson venues (hotels, motels, tents, etc.) are drawn to Tucson by this successful and world-acclaimed show. They are from all over the world, are independent of the main show, and would not congregate annually in Tucson without the worldwide reputation of this event. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Society, an organization of passionate afficionados and volunteers, produces the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (a registered trade name).
Once when there was an (unfounded) rumor that the show might move to Las Vegas, Dick Gottfried (a member of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society's show committee and a retired marketing analyst) responded: "Move to Las Vegas? Not in our lifetime. We are a Tucson society and live in Tucson and surrounding areas. We, as society volunteers, put on the show (Our 2014 theme is "Sixty Years of Diamonds, Gems, Silver and Gold"), and we are already working on plans for the 2015 show. We are in Tucson to stay, and invite anyone interested in rocks and minerals, gems and lapidary, and any related field to join our society and attend our monthly meetings, field trips and educational classes, and enjoy camaraderie of like-minded "rockhounds."
If all this intrigues you, it should. And if you EVER get a chance to attend the event (and it's no small commitment in terms of time, money, and foot travel once you get there), DO IT! You won't regret it. This year, I'm going to take mom (co-owner of The Bead) on another inside tour of the American Gem Trade Association's show at the Convention Center, where they have the finest jewelry, gems and beads -- diamonds and rubies and pearls -- and did I mention armed guards? At this, one of my favorite shows, US and Canadian based companies display a huge array of colored gemstones, cultured pearls, the finest North American fine jewelry designers and manufacturers, color diamonds, both loose and mounted, and tools and equipment used in the industry. It will knock your socks off if you ever get a chance to see it. And should you really get carried away, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has a booth there, and can sign you up for training in gemology.
Who knows, if you get the bug, you might end up negotiating deals with jewelry executives in Hong Kong or charting sapphire mining trends in Tanzania. We're not in that league, but maybe someday...
Until next time,
p.s. If you enjoyed this blog post, you might also enjoy The Inspired Jewelry Designer, at this link: http://tinyurl.com/kcx2dfm