The Tucson Gem Show

The Tucson Gem Show

Downtown Tucson - GJX Tent and Community Center/gem show

350 Carat Santa Maria Natural Aquamarine 34mm x 53mm

Look for Jeff’s Tips on equipment and Buying Tips

Planning to visit the Tucson February Gem Show? Most of this advice can be used at any gem show. But I am especially talking about a large gem show like February in Tucson. Some of this advice obviously depends on your experience and budget, but. Be prepared when you come is probably the best thing I can tell you.

The Tucson show is almost over powering in both size and scope. Plan to spend at least a week if you can. I go every day (almost 3 weeks) and I still usually do not manage to see all of the show. The best time to plan to attend the Tucson show is probably the first week of February. The reason for this is that all the shows are open and going during this week. I would suggest that you check and see when the AGTA (American Gem Traders Association) wholesale show opens (usually the first week of February, but not always). All of the other shows are timed to be open during this show. Be sure and plan ahead, transportation and hotel rooms are often booked a year in advance.

Plan ahead. Do not plan on finding a room to stay in unless you have made reservations. You should make hotel reservations at least 6 months in advance of coming to the Tucson gem show. Hotels are all booked in advance and if you wait until too late you will end up paying a much higher room rate, assuming that you can even find a hotel room available.

Be sure and confirm everything before you come. There have been problems from time to time with hotels loosing reservations. Use a credit card to reserve your room(s), that way you will have a valid record and method to prove that you did make reservation in case of any problems.

Transportation is not a problem, if you do not mind using a show shuttle. Using a FREE show shuttle is a little more time consuming way to get around the show but for someone from out of town it is probably the best way to go. Parking around any of the major gem shows is very difficult and there are a lot of cops writing parking tickets (trust me, the city of Tucson often hires extra people just to write tickets that time of year. Our local politicians have a lot to learn about hospitality in my opinion). There are pay parking lots but they are not cheap and often full during the peak show times. So the show shuttle works pretty well overall and is certainly the right price, free.

Get a Tucson show Guide, if you are a subscriber to Colored Stone Magazine, they will send you one as part of your subscription. The show guide will have all of the show times and dates, shuttle schedules, routes and all kinds of other information. The guide is very handy to have around.

You can pick a show guide up for free at show time in almost any hotel in town, if you do not want the subscribe to the magazine.

Note: It is nice to keep a show guide around all year, it is surprising how often I want to look up a dealer, location, or something.

What Type of clothes? Tucson can be tough to tell this time of year because the desert weather can change fast. But I would suggest the layer method. Wear clothes that are warm, but can be taken off to cool you if needed. The temperatures are usually in the 60-80’s during the day and can get into the 30-40’s at night. It is also not unusual for us to get some rain and wind this time of year. Be sure and bring a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses also. Some of the largest tents in the world are used during the Tucson February gem show. It is hard to get a decent idea of the scale of these tents just from the photos. But notice the size of the crane and trucks inside the tent structures as they go up.

GJX tent setup... Notice the truck in the background...Holidome tent setup - one of 5 or so...

Business License and Business Cards (depending on what you want to do, you may not need these) – If you want to get into most wholesale shows, you will need them. They will need to be specific to the gem and/or jewelry trade, or most shows will not accept them. Some shows like the AGTA want a minimum of $10,000.00 in business receipts also. The best thing to do is plan which shows you want to attend and then contact the organizers for those particular shows.

Are there “real” deals?
In a show like Tucson in February there are always a lot of deals. But for the most part you will find that as the rough gets into the better quality commercial grades and colors, the prices are more uniform and there really are not many “deal” deals. The main reason is that any quality material is in high demand and will usually bring the going rate. That does not mean that you will not find a “deal” there are a few. But you will find (usually) that as you get into top material you will have to pay for it.

Then what are the “real” deals?
The “real” deals are generally found in lower profile rough (Feldspar, Quartz in unusual color less commercial demand, anything of this nature), but good cutting for the hobby cutter You can find things that you cannot believe for the price, which is actually why the Tucson show is so much fun. Do not be afraid to dig around, look for things.

The other “real” deals are what mine is producing.
By this I mean… Is there currently a new find (sometimes there is not one) and is it producing a lot of material? If so, this material is often at a depressed price because there is temporarily a lot of it on the market. This condition will not last long, but sometimes you can get some really nice material simply because it is available at the time of the show.

Where do I look?
Of course this depends on the show. But in Tucson most of the rough is along the freeway strip. Holiday Inn Express, Four Points and Discovery Inn are all on the strip and there is usually a lot of rough. GJX, GLDA, AGTA are across the freeway (within walking distance). Most of the major dealers are there some where, at least the ones that are showing. (I do not usually show, but can be contacted by email for an appointment)

Cash Talks B.S. walks. Ever heard the phrase? I cannot stress this enough. It applies to the gem show in spades. Remember a lot of the foreign dealers will not accept credit cards or checks for various reason. If you want the best prices, and deals you will always need to use cash.

Holidome LobbyFlawless Aquamarine Crystal - weighs ocer 500 grams

About the author
Jeff R. Graham
The late Jeff Graham was a prolific faceter, creator of many original faceting designs, and the author of several highly-regarded instructional faceting books such as Gram Faceting Designs.
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