It’s Tucson Time! 6 Tips for Attending the Gem, Jewelry, Bead, Mineral & Jewelry-Making Supplies Shows

Soon I’ll be walking the sparkling aisles at one of dozens of gem, jewelry, bead, and mineral shows in Tucson. And I can’t wait! If you’re heading to Tucson soon as well, here are six friendly reminders to help you have a better experience shopping for jewelry-making supplies.

jewelry-making supplies: selenite crystals at Tucson gem shows

Budgets are Green in Tucson

  1. Have cash on hand. Many vendors accept credit cards, but I’ve encountered some who charge a little less or even provide discounts on jewelry-making supplies if you’re paying in cash. Remember, some vendors are tech-savvy businesses who can process your orders on their smartphones–but not all!  You can find some fabulous cabochons and rough stone directly from the miner or gem cutter at a tent in a parking lot, so have cash for them and others who only deal in it. Plus, it’s best to have cash for small purchases that are only a few dollars–and you’ll probably be making lots of those bargain purchases on jewelry-making supplies.

    It’s also handy to have cash when you’re getting a bite to eat. I’ve enjoyed trying food trucks that park outside a few of the shows; it’s best to have cash for them. You’ll also need cash to pay for parking (and tip the valets!) at some shows.

jewelry-making supplies: lapidary slabs in Tucson gem shows

Take Care of You!

  1. Drink water. I live in the humid South, so I’m not used to the dry air in Tucson. I usually arrive in Tucson in the evening, and before morning, my lips are chapped. If you’re not used to a dry climate (or even if you are, honestly), you’ll need to make an effort to hydrate yourself. Whenever you see a water carafe or free bottled water, have some, even if you don’t feel thirsty. I’ve always heard that by the time you feel thirst, you’re already dehydrated. Drink up! Lip balm and hand cream are also nice to have around. I have a mini aromatherapy diffuser/humidifier small enough for travel that’ll be nice to have in my hotel room.

jewelry-making supplies and tools for sale at Tucson gem shows

  1. Pack two pairs of comfortable shoes. If you don’t have super supportive walking shoes, take two pairs of comfy shoes and change out mid-day or between shows. I keep an extra pair of shoes in the trunk of my car and change out when I go from one show to another–it really does make a difference to wear different shoes for awhile when your feetsies get tired. It would be a shame to miss out on finding more great jewelry-making supplies because you just can’t take another step! Some shows are in gravel parking lots, which can be difficult to walk on.

ID Required!

  1. Bring your credentials. Many of the shows in Tucson are wholesale only, so you’ll have to show a business license or tax ID to enter. Even some of the shows that are open to everyone have wholesale badges that allow you to get wholesale pricing on gems and other jewelry-making supplies (or you can show vendors your tax ID). Don’t forget your business cards, too, if you have them. Providing a card can save you filling out forms, and swapping business or artist cards with other jewelry artists and vendors you deal with is still the norm.

my favorite jewelry-making supplies: miles of pearls for sale at Tucson gem shows

Plan Ahead

  1. Make a wish list. Throughout the year, I keep an ongoing Tucson wish list in the “notes” section on my phone, to remind me of the jewelry-making supplies I want to look for in Tucson. When I’m working in my studio and I think, “I wish I had a _____,” I add that to my list. When I blogged about cameos recently, I added a reminder to my list to look in estate jewelry booths for cameos. I usually just buy gems, beads, tools, and other jewelry supplies–I rarely buy or even look at finished jewelry, but this might be the year I find my cameo!
  1. Create a show schedule. If you’ve never been to the Tucson gem and jewelry shows (and maybe even if you’ve been about a dozen times, like I have), it’s hard to grasp how big it is, how many shows there are. I think if I stayed two weeks instead of one, I still couldn’t make it to all the shows, and it would take a month or more to see everything. The various shows start and end at different times, so even a month wouldn’t help!

John Heusler, GG, jewelry featured in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist in Tucson

Time is Money

If you don’t have a month to spend in Tucson, you’ll need to learn about the various shows and determine which are most important for you, which vendors you can’t miss, and where to find the jewelry-making supplies you want. Plus, some shows are very structured with set hours each day (and not always the same hours every day). Some are open late on some nights. Make the most of your time by knowing where to go when, especially if you have a few extra early morning or late evening hours to spend. Evening show times are a great way to fit in another show–unless you have fun dinner plans!

You can find all of the info you need in the Tucson Show Guide, an exhaustive guide of all the vendors and exhibitors, show locations and hours, shuttle information, events, show and floor maps, and what’s new this year, to help you plot your plan of attack and make the most of every minute you have in Tucson. Even seasoned Tucson attendees use the Tucson Show Guide to be sure they find all the gems, minerals, jewelry, beads, and jewelry-making supplies and tools they want from Tucson and to learn about new products being offered.

Instantly download the digital version of the 2019 Tucson Show Guide so you won’t miss a thing!

Republished from January 2016. Updated January 2019.

Order the Tucson Show Guide 2019, Now!


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