Lexi’s Lessons: 14 Tips for Shopping the Tucson Gem Shows

After many years attending the Tucson gem shows, I’ve learned a thing or two! Here’s my best advice to help you have a great time at The Show.

1. Bring your own water (and snacks), and don’t pay $3.50 to $4 a bottle. Tucson is dry and dehydration is prevalent. DRINK LOTS OF WATER. Go slow on adult beverages until you can acclimate. Water also helps prevent leg and foot cramps, which may not show up until you are asleep.

giant petrified wood slabs at the Tucson gem shows

2. Call your credit card company and let them know you are going to the Tucson gem shows, because you will be buying from vendors from Africa, Asia, the U.S., and maybe Europe, and that will raise a red flag to your credit card company. Your card will get declined, and vendors are used to this, but save yourself time and embarrassment. Let your bank and credit company know.

3. Some people set a budget, some don’t. Do what works for you. Just plan on spending more on things that you didn’t plan on finding!

4. Dress in layers. It may be hot or it may be freezing . . . I’ve seen both at the Tucson gem shows, sometimes in the same day.

5. The shuttle service for the Tucson gem shows is “iffy” at peak times. (There’s a shuttle schedule in the Tucson Show Guide.) Don’t be afraid to share a taxi and the fare with several people waiting for the same shuttle. It will get you to your next show faster and usually costs less than $5. It can also save you several hours a day waiting and riding the shuttle.

shopping for jewelry-making supplies at the Tucson gem shows

6. You will be touching table after table of beads, pearls, rocks, faceted stones in little bowls, Bali beads, etc., so bring baby wipes or antiseptic wipes and use them often. You will also need sunscreen. Get a flu shot to avoid the “Tucson flu.”

7. I’m not a doctor, but if you can, take aspirin every morning. It helps with swollen feet. Bring a change of shoes halfway through the day. It will avoid getting leg cramps.

8. Sit as often as you can, because it won’t be often enough. It’s going to be a long day, every day, at the Tucson gem shows.

9. Bring extra business cards for your business and a thin Sharpie to take notes on others’ cards (because a Sharpie will write on glossy cards). Don’t just pick up business cards from all the vendors at the Tucson gem shows without making notes on them, because you will forget who has what. Trust me! When you see something you really like, write down on the back of their business card what it is and where to find it or where to order after the show.

10. Print reduced-size (dollar-size) copies of your tax license and keep them in your checkbook or wallet, because sometimes the vendors need to keep the license.

11. A backpack that you can empty daily or a pull-behind case works best. In real tightly packed shows, the pull-behind can get tangled in people’s feet. Be mindful.

12. Watch for pick pockets. ALWAYS make sure you get your credit card or change back. Don’t flash large amounts of cash, and before you leave a booth, make sure you have ALL your packages. Always focus on your things, which is hard to do.

beautiful Tucson, AZ, home of the Tucson Gem Shows

13. If you are in Tucson long enough, take a day between shows for a massage or a bit of sightseeing. It breaks up the sensory overload of daily color saturation and noise. Also, take advantage of several chair massage places at different shows. Your body will thank you. It’s usually just $1 a minute plus tip.

14. Use a smartphone app to help you find your car. After days of shopping the Tucson gem shows, you will be exhausted and could forget where you parked your car, especially if it’s an unfamiliar rental car. (And ask me how I know that?) Believe me, looking for your car in these huge lots is exhausting, so find an app that works with your phone. You’re welcome!


Did you catch Lexi’s 9 favorite Tucson gem shows and more advice for attending Tucson?

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