Sensory Overload! That’s the Tuscon Gem and Mineral Show

I have just returned from a most fabulous trip—spending lots of time with the Wubbers Women, seeing STONES and BEADS, teaching a great class of women, seeing old friends, buying STONES and BEADS, sharing lots of great meals with friends, and playing show and tell with our STONES and BEADS!

Plus going to Tucson is healthy for you, too and provides exercise…. like carrying around heavy bags and STONES and BEADS, and forgetting where you parked your car, so walking around Electric Park while carrying massive amounts of STONES and BEADS.  And did I mention there are more STONES and BEADS, not to mention finished jewelry, (and really bad hot dogs) at every show?

And (hanging my head in shame) I overspent my budget, so now for dinner I will cook Navy beans, mold them into the shape of chicken breasts, cover them with chicken gravy and cheese and convince my husband it’s some new chicken casserole recipe.  Yes, I embezzled from the grocery fund.  But did I have a blast!!!!!!

The World’s Largest Gem Show

You may never experience anything again like the madness and gloriousness that is Tucson during the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.  The Convention Center is packed to the gills, as are hotel lobbies, exhibit halls, big white tents, small striped tents, and funny looking brown tents.   People are selling anywhere and everywhere, anywhere where a dealer can rent a space for a table, someone is selling something interesting.

Always a favorite to see – Bill Fretz and his wife Marian. Of course I came home with some of his new stakes!

I’ve heard that over 90% of all the colored gemstones of the world are in Tucson during the show, and there are over 40 different shows scattered all over town.  Truly, the world meets in Tucson. Here you will find everything from sharp, steely eyed professional diamond dealers to cobweb encrusted grizzled old miners.

These watch faces were some of Patti’s favorite.

Patti demo-ed Wubbers Pliers, Gwen Youngblood demo-ed her new Riveting Essentials Kit, and I demo-ed my Solder Station, at Kent’s Tools, To Be True Blue (what a gorgeous and elegant show), and at the JOGS Show.

Patti Bullard demoing Wubbers pliers at the Weave Got Maille booth.

Gwen Youngblood demoing her new Riveting Essentials at the booth.

We met so many new friends and sold so many of our Wubbers Tools that we were all happy campers.  If you missed the announcement about Gwen’s new Riveting Essentials Kit, you can view it here on Wubbers U.  It has made riveting so simple and easy.

There are so many different shows, Tucson has something for everyone.  There are even museum type shows, and the Smithsonian Institution Show is one of the best.  It’s in the Tucson Convention Center.

One of the many tiaras on display at the Smithsonian show.

This garland-style tiara was made in France during the mid-19th century. The flower petals and leaves are pave set with 1,198 old mine and rose cut diamonds. It is fashioned “en tremblant” – the flowers are mounted on trembler springs so that every movement enhances the brilliance and sparkle of the diamonds.

Some advice from a seasoned pro

But I bet if you are reading this, your main interest is buying.  Some shows require advance registration, though you may be able to register at the door.

You will need to have several (like a whole bunch of) copies of your wholesale tax license.  What I do is photocopy mine down to the size of a dollar bill and they fit into my wallet very well. I give them to the vendors and they really appreciate it.  DO NOT take your original tax license.  My advice is to leave it at home and if you run low, make more photocopies.  More advice:

  • Set a budget.  In this budget, add in your transportation, hotel costs, meals, snacks, etc.  You can set aside a certain amount for stones and purchases.  Try to stick within your budget.
  • Cash “talks”.  Sometimes people will ask if you want a receipt, and that decision is up to you.  But, if security stops you, you’d better have a receipt.
  • Be prepared to wait in line at some shows, both to get in and also to pay for your purchases. Patience in abundance are key words here.
  • Take two pairs of shoes, and change sometime during the day to avoid getting foot and leg cramps.  Extra socks help, too. A lightweight rain/wind jacket helps, but you may be asked to check it at the door.
  • Always have water.  Buy a case before you leave and have in your hotel room and you will save a ton on buying water there.
  • Carry a backpack, it is more comfortable than the shopping bags vendors provide. Thought it’s never happened to me, don’t be upset if security says check it at the door or go through it as you leave.  They do spot checks sometimes.
  • And this is a biggie: Order the Tucson Show Guide early.  To try to just hit shows you think are interesting and have what you want is frustrating.  Save yourself,  not to mention your feet and back, and start planning your day or weeks ahead of time.  You will thank yourself in so many ways.  You can order a digital or printed edition.  With the digital edition, you will have it on your iPad and don’t have to schlepp around a big heavy magazine.  Believe me, it is overwhelming, and parking is a problem if you are driving, and you may stand in line to get in and find out you don’t have the credentials, etc.  Planning ahead makes a huge difference.

One great thing to note, my faith in humanity was restored when I left a bag of expensive beads in a taxi, and at 9:30 that night, the people who found it called me and said “I have your beads”.   Patti and I ran over to their hotel and the most gracious couple of stone dealers from Sri Lanka will be friends forever now.  Life is good. 

Color, inspiration and creativity abound at these shows, and while each of us have our own style, we enjoyed looking at all the new and inventive products, which has inspired us so much. So watch Wubbers University for new tutorials as we share what we bought and learned.  So we will all go rest for a few days, and soon start sharing what we learned, and saving up for next year.  We all hope you will join us.

Happy Creating—


Posted in Jewelry Tips, Lexi Erickson, Patti's Jewelry Travels, Tools

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