Et Cetera

It's the largest show of its kind in the United States. But having 20,000 mineral-crazed tourists in town can be a little overwhelming. So follow our guide to how to navigate the Gem Show.  Cover photo of fluorite by Joe Budd; fluorite courtesy of Rob Lavensky through the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show


"Blue John" courtesy of owner David Hacker,
through the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show
Material mined in England, near Derbyshire Peak National Park

When hoards of people descend on Tucson this week all shopping and talking precious stones, there are actually two shows going on.

The first is the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, put on by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society and the largest of its kind in the United States. Since 1949, this enormous event has put Tucson on the geological map and spun-off 40 different mineral shows to the Tucson area each year.

One of these, which has become the granddaddy of all of them is the Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase, more commonly recognized by its street name the Gem Show. Confused? So were we. Just do us a favor and don't, mistakenly call the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show the Gem Show. The organizers get peeved. They like to keep themselves separate.

Being amongst 20,000 mineral-crazed tourists sounds beyond overwhelming. If you’re Gem Show virgins like us, plan on using these tips to create an experience that will be sure to rock… pun intended.

1. Expect a little chaos

“Prepare to be overwhelmed,” said Gloria Quigg, the TGMS publicity chair. “We have a lot.” TGMS is responsible for drawing over 19,000 people to the Tucson Convention Center, where every square inch is utilized to house the 4-day event. Attendees can choose from roughly 250 vendors, 40 exhibits, and a variety of lectures.

Macie Myers, 22, who visited for the first time last year, suggests buying a two-day pass to see it all. “When you go for one day, it’s not enough time to look at everything,” says Myers. “The first day I took the time to scan the goods and on the second day, I actually bought something.”

To avoid the rush, Quigg suggests coming later in the afternoon. Many people tend to arrive early in the morning and only stay for a few hours.

2. Bring cash

Very few of the vendors accept cards, so plan on bringing cash to avoid limiting your purchase options. Also, decide your budget beforehand, so you know how much cash to bring. According to Quigg, jewelry prices can range anywhere from a $25 bracelet to a $10,000 necklace.

3. It's budget-friendly

At last year’s Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, Myers remembers spending $60 and coming home with 2 ring settings and 2 precious stones.

Most vendors want to avoid lugging or shipping heavy items at the end of the weekend and are willing to bargain prices. Vendors don’t advertise this, but it’s always worth asking!

4. Its nice to kids too

TGMS will have over 40 exhibits where kids can look at different minerals and precious stones. Not only will they be occupied, but they might actually learn something!

Kids are also welcome to participate in a program run by University of Arizona students, called Junior Education, where they can take part in several hands on, interactive, experiments. This will be available starting Friday, Feb.15,  at 2 p.m., all day Saturday and Sunday.

5. Parking

The Tucson Convention Center has provided parking, but once available spaces are taken, attendees must look to park in the downtown area.

We're all crossing our 3 Story fingers here that all that Streetcar-related construction will be over with - but we all know construction never really ends when it's supposed to.

If the parking gods aren't looking over you, several special Gem Show parking areas in the downtown area are available:

  • 22nd St. and I-10 Frontage Rd. (East side)
  • Congress St. and I-10 Frontage Rd. (West side)
  • JOGS Show at Tucson Expo Center on East Irvington Rd.

Or make use of the free Sun Tran Downtown Loop shuttle that runs Monday-Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For details call 520 792 9222.

We recommend:

5 pearl bracelet-0622

5 pearl bracelet by Jude Clark
Photo by John Villinski


* Obsidian Gallery (Feb. ongoing - call for days and times 410 N Toole Avenue, #130 Tucson, AZ 85701 tel. (520) 577-3598 [email protected]

In honor of the Tucson Gem Show, Obsidian gallery is currently featuring the jewelry of Petra Class, Jude Clark and others through February. Head downtown and visit Obsidian Gallery in its impressive new space in the Depot building.



* The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (Feb. 14-17; 10 a.m.-6 p.m Thurs-Sat; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday; Tucson Convention Center, 260 S Church Tucson)

*African Art Village (7:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Feb. 1-17; 1134 S. Farmington Road)

• * The Best Bead Show (Feb. 6 -10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Feb 7-9-10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Feb. 10- 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Kino Veteran’s Memorial Community Center, 2805 E. Ajo Way)

Main Avenue Gem Show (10 a.m.-6 p.m., Feb. 2-15; 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Feb 16; 1202 N. Main Ave.)

•* The Rock Show (9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Feb. 2-17; Kino Sports Complex, 2500 E. Ajo Way)

•* To Bead True Blue (10 a.m.-6 p.m., Feb. 3-8; Doubletree Hotel Tucson at Reid Park, 445 S. Alvernon Way)

•* Tucson Botanical Gardens Gem Show Sale (10 a.m.-4 p.m., Feb. 15-16; Tucson Botanical Gardens, Porter Hall Gallery, 2150 N. Alvernon Way)


In other news...

Sonoran Glass Flame Off 2012-124


Flame Off 2013  a fundraiser for the Sonoran Glass Art Academy, February 8th at 6:30 p.m. at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Make sure to check out our feature on the Sonoran Glass Art Academy, too!




Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 4.59.52 PM

Fundraiser for the Rialto Theatre on February 9th at the Rialto Theatre Foundation's first annual Inaugural Fundraiser Gala. It includes a live auction, music and an after-party. Doors open at 7:30; tickets are $25.

Nick Georgiou self-portrait with paper




Visit the Tucson Sculpture Festival from February 1-15 within a two-block radius in the Tucson Warehouse Arts District. Artists include Nick Georgiou, Greg Corman and Alison Aragon.  Read about Nick in our feature, Paper Boy (Volume I, Issue 1 September 2012)





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