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Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows: Not Just Jewelry!

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This blog post is part of a series of reports by the staff of Bead&Button magazine, and Kalmbach Books during the 2017 Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows.

Well, with apologies to L. Frank Baum, I don't think I'm in Wisconsin anymore!

I've been to Tucson once before: I attended some Spring Training games of my beloved Chicago White Sox and I fell in a creek while hiking in Sabino Canyon, the "easy" canyon in the Catalina Mountains. But my memory of that time was pretty limited to the temperature of the snowmelt runoff in the creek. I've been hearing about the Gem Shows for years, but nothing quite prepared me for the adventures that I had today.

My trip to Tucson started slowly on Wednesday, with early-morning travel challenges and goof-ups with rental car reservations and a desperate need for a nap; as such, my first day was limited to exploring some of the hotel room vendors and a lovely dinner with some colleagues and designers. I was determined to make up for lost time on Thursday, my first full day at the Shows. Since Julia and Erica were covering a few of the more traditional jewelry-related venues, I decided to go a bit farther afield and see what else was out there.

I'll be honest: jewelry wound up being the furthest thing from my mind.


The array of rocks, and geodes, and gems, and fossils that I saw today boggled the mind. I started at the Pueblo Gem & Mineral Show. After parking in a gravel lot and catching a ride on a golf cart into the show at the Riverpark Inn, the first thing I saw was this astonishing array of geodes. Some as large as five feet high, some made into furniture--I have never seen anything like it.

As the day progressed, I saw things like chess boards, dining room tables, plates, bowls, cutting boards, carved animal talismans, slabs of uncut and unpolished stones, boxes and bucket and tables and tables of rocks and minerals in every color of the rainbow. I'm not sure I even knew there were so many types of stones out there. There were vendors from Australia, Russia, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and several places in the Middle East.

It was only later that I realized that I really had not thought once during that show about JEWELRY!

I moved on to one of the JGM Shows, housed in this huge tent just on the other side of the highway. I only spent a few minutes there, as it was mostly finished jewelry and high-end gemstones. But I did manage to buy myself a few metal stamps that were handmade by members of a family, more on those in a future article, after I get home and get a chance to test them out! I left there and drove past another grouping of tents, but time was getting late and I was due at a gem show at the Tucson Convention Center, so regrettably I wasn't able to stop and explore.

So, I intended to go to the AGTA Gem Fair at the Tucson Convention Center. Really, I did! I drove there and everything. But the parking lots were full, and the auxiliary parking lots were full, and the next thing I knew I was hopelessly lost driving around downtown Tucson. I followed some signs and turned into yet another gravel lot, with signs pointing to the Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show. Fossils! I could hardly pass that up, right?!?

Check back tomorrow to learn more about my adventures in paleontology -- highlights to include an Ice Age walrus and the leg of a Diplodocus!

And of course, um, some stuff about jewelry, too!

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