What’s the Oddest Thing You’ve Purchased at the Tucson Shows?
Every year, thousands of people descend upon the annual Tucson gem, mineral, fossil, and jewelry bead shows, looking for bargains and cool stuff. But among the usual stones, beads, and findings, you can always find some more weird and unusual stuff to buy. And who can resist some of the odder finds? Certainly, not the Interweave bead and jewelry editors! So we thought we’d share our favorite weird buys from the Tucson shows. (Plan your weird purchases with the Tucson Show Guide, print edition!)
The Jewelry and Beading Team’s Weirdest Tucson Show Purchases
The strangest purchase I was part of in Tucson was not made by me, but a coworker. It was my first visit to the desert southwest (as it’s affectionately called in my house—a story for another day) and I was doing all I could to take everything in and make sure to focus on “my job,” which did not include shopping! We were on the “Strip,” and it was a “lunch break” where we could deviate from our tasks at hand without too much concern. We were scanning items for sale that, to my surprise, were FAR from rocks, fossils, gemstones, or anything related to our business. I mean really, how often do you see carpets, carpet bags, and shoes made from carpets, let alone, at the Tucson shows!
Well, I’ve come to learn that during gemstone shows, anything goes. But on my first go around, this stood out! Sure enough, my coworker became enthralled with the carpet shoes and I did little to sway her decision. She went home with a pair and might still have them today.
– Tammy Honaman
One of the first times I went to the Tucson gem shows, I left my passionate dinosaur kid at home. I wanted to bring back a special souvenir from the shows, but I wasn’t sure what I’d find that would be appropriate. I had exactly one afternoon to see as many shows as possible and track down the perfect souvenir. Those of you who have been to the Tucson shows will know where I’m going with this, but at my very last show of the day, I discovered a booth with dinosaur coprolite beads.
Coprolite is otherwise known as fossilized poop. It’s found anywhere that dinosaurs roamed and is truly dinosaur droppings that have turned to stone. Coprolites look like you’d imagine when they’re dug out of the ground, but they can be cut and polished like any other stone. The beads typically resemble agates, in earth tones with striped effects. Isn’t it amazing to wear beads made from 150 million-year-old fossilized poop?
I’m pretty sure coprolite beads were the strangest things I’ve ever bought in Tucson. It was definitely the first time I’ve ever paid for poop, but it was the perfect gift for my little paleontologist.
– Katie Hacker
Interim Managing Editor, Beadwork
Purses as Hats
After more than 30 years of attending the Tucson shows, I expect the unexpected. Nothing seems particularly odd to me when I get there. So how about this instead? Two of my granddaughters live near Tucson, and part of my show shopping is always for when we visit them. I thought the colorful parasols made in India I got them one year would at least be out of the ordinary, but there’s no picture to share. It seems the parasols were lost in a move. However, my stepdaughter dug out a photo of some other show presents I’d given the girls. I don’t think these gifts are all that odd, either, but the girls seem to have a very, shall we say, distinctive fashion sense.
Editor-in-Chief, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist
I actually have two weird Tucson purchases that stick out in my mind. My boyfriend was a rockhound, as is his nephew. So every year as I was getting ready to head for Tucson, he would ask me to buy something for him and/or his nephew. Sometimes, he would have a specific mineral in mind. Other times, he would tell me to get something “fun.” Challenge accepted!
One year, I made my annual visit to the Village Silversmith booth at the Howard Johnson Show (now the Motel 6 Show). I saw a sign on this bright yellow glowing stone that read, “Spouse Killer Rock.” Okay, I had to know. It was actually arsenic sulfide. Yes, arsenic. So I bought two nice, big samples. I packed them into my carry-on luggage, planning out how I would explain this to the TSA agents should they ask about it. Fortunately, they didn’t.
When I got home, I proudly presented the Spouse Killer to my boyfriend — who was thoroughly delighted! He shipped one sample to his nephew with a note telling him to be careful handling it (the arsenic flakes off). My boyfriend kept the other one at home under a bell jar. I would often tell him to be careful. I did the cooking and knew where the Spouse Killer was kept. That always amused him.
Another year, my boyfriend requested fish fossils. I was wandering the Pueblo Show with my friend and colleague, Ashley Lauwereins, when I came across a booth that had some delightful minerals and fossils. I found a good-sized flat box containing several very nice fish fossils — some even had fossilized fish poop. Score!
A note on the box listed the price as $20. I thought, “Oh, that’s nice! Well under budget. I’ll even get two.” But the woman running the booth explained, “Oh, no. That’s $20 for the whole box. I just don’t want to have to cart them all back home.” Ashley and I stared at each other for a moment, stunned. I managed to croak out, “Sold!”
So then I had this big, rather awkward box to carry around for the rest of the day. But hey, it was a deal! I called my boyfriend and told him this story. His response? “Well done, Sparky!” Sparky? And that’s the story of how I came to be known to my boyfriend as Sparky.
Managing Editor, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and The Tucson Show Guide
Order the digital Tucson Show Guide below to find your own weird purchases, or get the print version here.