The Tucson Gem Shows Survival Guide: How to Have a Great Time

Got a chance to go to the Tucson gem shows? Lucky you! If you’re an avid jewelry maker, it’s an event not to be missed. But before you go, check out these insider tips, which will make your visit even more enjoyable.

ABOVE: Registration clerks use American flags to wave a line of customers forward at the G&LW Holidome show on opening day.

1 Download Interweave’s 2020 Tucson Show Guide

For planning, you can download this guide instantly. Then put it on your smart phone for instant access at the show. It’s searchable and includes everything from venue floor plans to shuttle information. You can also order the print edition.

A cell phone camera and a few notes scribbled on a business card is an easy way to document a find.

A cell phone camera and a few notes scribbled on a business card is an easy way to document a find.

2 Pack your paperwork

You’ll have more fun if you have business cards, a tax ID number, a copy of your current wholesale or retail business license, and a web site or Facebook page. This means you’re a “pro” and you’ll get into wholesale-only shows.

A pearl expert matches gems together for a customer at the Pearlman booth at GJX.

A pearl expert matches gems together for a customer at the Pearlman booth at GJX.

3 Dress for Success

I dressed up for my visit to the AGTA show, wearing polished shoes and a fancy scarf thrown over comfortable jeans and a T shirt. I also put on makeup and carried a nice handbag. These props were tucked away at other venues where I dressed down for more negotiating power and carried a ratty backpack.

Rare botryoidal turquoise.

Rare botryoidal turquoise.

4 Stay healthy

Be prepared to walk long distances between various Tucson gem shows. Take some cold medicine in case you get a tickle in your throat, and drink plenty of water.

5 Plan your parking

Get an online GPS smartphone app designed to pinpoint exactly where you have parked your car on a large lot, especially if you are driving a nondescript rental. In a pinch you can use google maps on your Android phone. Tap the blue dot that shows your location, then tap “Save Your Parking” as your reminder.

Jeff Theesfeld demonstrates gem faceting at one of the hotel venues in the Tucson gem shows.

Jeff Theesfeld demonstrates gem faceting at one of the hotel venues.

6 Be polite

Vendors are really, really busy, and have a lot of packing, unpacking and repacking to do in order to participate at the show. The Tucson gem shows are one of their best opportunities to make a profit for the year. Some of them have purchase minimums. In other words, they want you to buy a hank of beads, not one strand. So, ask quietly and efficiently what their ground rules are. At the same time, if they aren’t offering you the quality you are seeking, be polite when turning down their merchandise.

Tucson gem shows are a good place to stock up -- such as these diamond ball burs by Lasco.

Tucson is a good place to stock up — such as these diamond ball burs by Lasco.

7 Stay safe

“When you’re in town, don’t identify yourself as a jeweler,” says John Kennedy, president of Jewelers’ Security Alliance. “You want to look like any other tourist.” This means, don’t carry merchandise in any of those cool, give-away totes you’ll receive at the Tucson gem shows, which reveal where you have been shopping. Don’t wear expensive jewelry. And once you leave a venue, hide or remove that Buyer’s ID tag you forgot you were wearing around your neck. That’s a dead giveaway that you could be carrying valuables.

8 Buyer beware

Know your gems and materials. Fakes sometimes get mixed in with legitimate merchandise. If you are worried, ask vendors about their return policies.

Bill Fretz demonstrates his hammers and forming tools outdoors at Casino Del Sol Conference Center in the Tucson gem shows.

Bill Fretz demonstrates his hammers and forming tools outdoors at Casino Del Sol Conference Center.

Visit our Tucson page to learn about just-updated show changes and more!

Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. 

Order the digital Tucson Show Guide below to find your own weird purchases, or get the print version here.


Master the Tucson gem shows with the Tucson Show Guide!

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