Treasures Await at the Tucson Gem Shows

It’s time for the annual Tucson bead, gem, jewelry, mineral, and fossil shows, starting at the end of January and continuing through mid-February. As the editor of the Tucson Show Guide, I go every year. This will be my 12th trip to the Tucson shows, and I’m still as excited as I was before my first trip.

ABOVE: Saguaro sunsets are magical in Tucson. Photo Courtesy of Visit Tucson. 

Tucson shows gems minerals jewelry

Tucson is the biggest gem show in the world, with some of the biggest gems in the world. Photo courtesy of the author.

You’d think that I’d be bored by the shows after all these years. But, no! With over 40 shows across the city of Tucson, there’s something new to see every year. There’s so much to see and do, but you can’t do it all.

Shopping the Tucson Shows

Of course, there’s shopping. Lots and lots and lots of shopping. The Tucson shows are the best places to refill your stash. And, if you’re looking for something new, it’s definitely the place for the latest beads, stones, findings, and what-have-you. You’ll find the latest must-have jewelry-making tools. (During my first Tucson trip—when I was a very novice jewelry maker—I was astounded when a colleague of mine bought a big box of hammers and had them shipped home. Now? I totally get it.) You’ll discover lots of cool things you didn’t know you needed—storage systems, bead boards and sorters, books and videos . . . and even that cute little purse you must have if you forgot to pack one for evenings out.

Truckloads of beads find their way to Tucson during the shows, with gemstones from around the globe. Photo Courtesy of Visit Tucson.

Truckloads of beads find their way to Tucson during the shows, with gemstones from around the globe. Photo Courtesy of Visit Tucson.

So . . . sure! You can spend a lot of money at the Tucson shows. But there is so much more than shopping. Some shows, such as J.O.G.S. and To Bead True Blue, have classes. There are day-long workshops for learning the latest jewelry-making techniques and hour-long make-and-take projects for experimenting with a new tool. If you want more in-depth educational opportunities, other shows like the AGTA GemFair offer fascinating lectures and presentations.

There are also a lot of amazing displays and special areas at various shows. My favorite? The showcase at the 22nd Street Show. They have real dinosaur skeletons! And meteorites! Plus moon rocks! And star dust! Yeah, I’m a bit of a geek.

Sightseeing in Tucson

While you’re in town, don’t forget to stop and take a moment to look around you and take in the beauty. Tucson is an incredible desert oasis. I can never get enough of the mountains surrounding the area. If you have time, check out some of the other attractions around Tucson, such as the Botanical Gardens, the Old Tucson movie set, and so much more. They are well worth a side trip!

An amethyst tower is one of the quintessential showpieces you’ll see at the shows. Photo Courtesy of Visit Tucson.

An amethyst tower is one of the quintessential showpieces you’ll see at the shows. Photo Courtesy of Visit Tucson.

With everything there is to see and do around the Tucson shows, it’s a crazy time. But I hope to see you all there! I’ll be the one lurking around the dinosaurs.

–Karla

Karla Rosenbusch is the managing editor of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and the Tucson Show Guide. She’s a jewelry designer and lover of cats, antiques, books, and cheesy disaster movies.

Make Jewelry Inspired by the Tucson Shows

There are so many projects from Beadwork that capture the feeling of the Tucson show experience. Anything with turquoise or amethyst immediately conjures the shows because those stones are so beautiful and abundant.

5 star pattern collection, Botanic Gardens bracelet beadweaving design

Botanic Gardens Bracelet from Beadwork June/July 2014

Botanic Gardens Bracelet

Make this stunning Botanic Gardens Bracelet using netting and fringe with an exciting combination of beautiful metallic gold iris, turquoise Picasso, light blue opaque brown luster, and matte metallic copper seed beads. The color palette and architectural feel would be right at home in the desert. Quick and easy to stitch up, enjoy the complimentary color and bead shapes of this aesthetically appealing piece.

Caliente Bracelet from Beadwork, October/November 2017

Caliente Bracelet from Beadwork, October/November 2017

Caliente Bracelet

This bold Caliente Bracelet is made of intricate medallions, the size of which can easily be altered with simple adjustments for a perfect bracelet fit. The color palette and sunshine motif is very Tucson. You’ll use circular peyote stitch, circular netting and picot to stitch the medallions and bracelet.

Beads in Bloom Bracelet Beadwork, February/March 2017

Beads in Bloom Bracelet Beadwork, February/March 2017

Beads in Bloom Bracelet

For the Beads in Bloom Bracelet, you’ll join SuperDuo flowers using seed beads, a two-needle right-angle-weave technique, and monofilament cord without using a needle. The result is a beautifully patterned beaded cuff bracelet.

Royal Amethyst Collar from Beadwork, February/March 2009

Royal Amethyst Collar from Beadwork, February/March 2009

Royal Amethyst Collar

This pretty Royal Amethyst Collar’s ribbonlike drape is achieved by weaving cylinder beads and crystals together using herringbone stitch and daisy chain. It gives the look of amethyst and all of the opulence that you find in the amethyst towers, beads, pendants, and more that are for sale at the gem shows.

Sunny Day Bracelet from Beadwork June/July 2014

Sunny Day Bracelet from Beadwork June/July 2014

Sunny Day Bracelet

Use seed beads and tile beads to create this Sunny Day Bracelet with Southwestern flair. The colorful, between-column accents are stitched with a very versatile technique that translates to many different styles. For this bracelet, you’ll use tubular-herringbone, ladder stitch, picot, and wirework along with the main stitch. Enjoy the alternating bead sizes and fun patterning of this colorwork bracelet.

Painted Desert Bangle from Step by Step Wire Jewelry December 2012/ January 2013

Painted Desert Bangle from Step by Step Wire Jewelry December 2012/ January 2013

Painted Desert Bangle

Mix hardware store wire and colorful seed beads in these fun Painted Desert Bangles. Start by twisting steel wire into a bangle shape and accent them with smaller coils of tiny glass beads. Desert-inspired colors make them perfect for a trip to the Tucson gem shows, or you can blend your favorite fashion-forward hues. Stack these bracelets together or give away as perfect gifts all year round.


Add these Tucson-inspired projects to your collection:

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