Five years ago I made my first trip to the world famous Tucson gem shows. I was a freshly minted GIA graduate gemologist and was excited to be in Tucson. Traveling from Worcester, Massachusetts, just exiting the airport in Arizona was a treat in itself - sun, warmth and saguaros!
Being the type to research the hell out of everything, I did my homework before my trip to decide which shows I wanted to visit. Even having done that, I experienced a bit of sensory overload. I had a wonderful trip and went back to Worcester wanting to move to Arizona. Several years ago my husband and I did just that!
Now I go to the shows twice a year - the giant winter ones in January - February and the more limited ones in September. I work as a gemologist for a local jewelry store and attend the shows as a professional buyer, not just a hobbyist. Even though a couple of days of shopping with a mission can be exhausting, I still love it. I love seeing what is out there and getting inspiration. I buy what I need and also usually a treat or two for fun.
If you are traveling to Tucson for the shows, read up on strategies for shopping. First, attend to your comfort - bring good shoes for lots of walking and gravel, removable layers (chilly in the am and warm in the afternoons), a hat, sunglasses, water and snacks. If you are looking for finished jewelry, JOGS is a must. If you want finished gems there are lots of options. I like the Holidome shows, the convention center and the Pueblo shows.
I return to the 'motel shows' every year for fun. These are the small shows that are set up along the highway that runs through Tucson the in old roadside motels. There are a couple of vendors there that have unique gems I look for, altho since Covid some of them have not been able to make it. But mostly it is a fun place to look at giant geodes, funky stuff from overseas, the giant pearl tent and Indian food from a food truck.
Across the highway is the huge 22nd St show, which is getting bigger every year. This is a fun place to go with non jewelry or gem people because you can see dinosaur skeletons, carved gem balls, perserved butterflies and tie died clothing, in addition to lots of beads and supplies. I never leave empty handed.
Two more interesting shows are the Miner's Show, where you can talk to people who actually mined the gems they are selling and the American Indian Exposition where you can find beautifully done jewelry, crafts and turquoise direct from artisans.
Which ever shows you choose, you will not be disappointed! Get out there, talk to people, buy some stuff and eat some great Mexican food!