Tucson Show Highlights You Aren’t Expecting

Buy, bye for now, Tucson. I will miss u.

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

Tucson show highlights you aren’t expecting:

At the Pueblo Gem and Mineral venue, Fr. Tewolde Ymesgen Rifle sticks his index fingers in my ears and wiggles them briskly in his effort to cure me of deafness. I’ve had a hard time understanding his soft, accented speech outdoors, where he is selling Ethiopian opal rough. This widower also wants to put his fingers on my eyes. Happily, I decline, fork over $10 for the first cure, and snap his photo with permission.

Fr. Tewolde Ymesgen Rifle

Fr. Tewolde Ymesgen Rifle

In the words of a Volcom T-shirt, “Embrace the strange; live life as a total art project.” This seems suitable for my first trip back to Tucson in a long time.

Seafoam Turquoise

Oh. And wait. Another highlight. Nevada seafoam turquoise miner Dave Otteson says he’s got lots of his beautiful, rare, cauliflower-like material left. He points out a five-gallon bucket that is more than half full. Other pieces just need to be sandblasted, he says.
Remember, I wrote about his find in the September/October 2018 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

Miner Dave Otteson’s seafoam turquoise

Miner Dave Otteson’s seafoam turquoise

This exchange occurs when I stop to say hi to him at his booth at the 22nd Street venue. But he’s grumpy. He grouses that I said he only had two pounds left. He wishes my story had appeared in Rock & Gem. And another thing, it took forever (three weeks) for my publication to send him an issue of the story, even though I mailed him a copy right away. So, I promise I will mention all of this in my next blog, which is now. And I later stop by to give him a copy of the 2019 Tucson Show Guide, which includes an image on page 182 of my step-by-step pendant featuring his turquoise studded with pearls.

I do enjoy a moment to even the score (I like Dave). My advice is that he display the magazine featuring the article and the Tucson Show Guide at his booth, because they are great publicity. I say something about prestigious, third-party endorsement; the value of free advertising; the benefits of spreading the word in print. I visit him several times and drag other people over to his booth.

Ray Schultze, manager of Lasco Diamond Products

Ray Schultze, manager of Lasco Diamond Products

Favorite Diamond Burs

I also run into Ray Schultze, manager of Lasco Diamond Products. His company makes diamond burs, and I have been interviewing him and recommending his diamond burs to students for years. But I’ve never met him. I feel like asking for his autograph.

What’s that? I know, I know. There’s nothing here about finding the latest discovered gems. Or the one purchase that got away. Instead, I’m writing about people and relationships.

Why is Tucson important to you?

A lot of the material at your local bead store or rock shop probably comes through Tucson. Thanks to the wholesale buying power of the businesses you shop at (and the vendors, who supply them), this saves you a ton of time and money. You don’t have to pay for airfare to and from your home, hotel accommodations, the rental car, meals, gas, and other expenses. You don’t have to get stranded in Detroit, because repeated ice storms have closed the airport at Alpena.

But if you go, you get the experience of buying direct from vendors at dozens of different venues all over the city. You get the chance to have experiences you can tell your customers when they buy your jewelry. And you have the opportunity to make friends.

Tucson skyine, Photo courtesy Visit Tucson.

Photo courtesy Visit Tucson.

Here are some tips for succeeding at the Tucson gem shows:

  • The 2019 Tucson Show Guide Produced by Interweave, this guide is indispensable, containing names, locations and maps of venues, and names of thousands of vendors. I downloaded a searchable copy on my smartphone for easy lookups.
  • Shop early for a parking space – Parking fills up fast. So, head to a major venue early in the morning, snag a spot, then use the handy shuttle buses to get to other venues. Just remember where you originally parked. Write it down; take a picture with a landmark in the background.
  • You need to be able to walk long distances – Whether it is the airport, the car rental place, or the huge warehouse-sized tented venues around Tucson, you will do a lot of walking.
  • The 2019 Super Bowl New England vs. the Rams – Game on, the crowds thinned. I window shopped and made purchases easily.
  • Dress for success — For the prestigious AGTA GemFair, I had to supply a copy of my wholesale license, photo ID, and business card. I had to show officials my website, then do most of this again in another line. I also had to dress up, which I managed with a fancy handbag, makeup, and a bright red Coach scarf thrown over a black T-shirt and jeans. At other venues, I put these props away, swapped the purse for a ratty knapsack, and added a sprinkling of dog hair to a fleece jacket in order to dress down.
  • Miss Manners matters – Nobody snapped at me. I waited to be helped. I always asked if a vendor had a minimum sale amount. Asked if I could take photos. I carried everything in the small knapsack instead of a rolling cart thingy.

Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. You can reach her at betsylehndorff@gmail.com.

Take advantage of the Tucson Show Guide’s vendor and other info all year!

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