This year was our first-ever trip to the Tucson Gem Show! It piqued our interest to go when we met the owners of Mazz Hanna at Unique Market, and they said it was the MUST gem show of the year. They were nice enough to let us newbies tag along, meet them up in Tucson and show us the ropes.
Every year from the end of January to mid-February, Tucson, Arizona becomes flooded with mineral enthusiasts alike. A little over 20 different shows are scattered throughout the city. This is an opportunity to find vendors or even just purchase pieces at a lower price since you are cutting out the middleman. Most hotels host shows as well, even with guestrooms on the ground floor set up by vendors as their mini showrooms. Then, there are shows with larger tents holding booths, surrounded by smaller tents.
We decided to fly since Tucson is about a 6-hour drive from Southern California. (We’re definitely driving next time, there were too many beautiful rocks that we wanted to haul back in a car!) There are plenty of hotels but we found a nice little Airbnb. Not having a car wasn’t a huge problem as many ride apps are easily available and the rides were super affordable.
What to Pack
Since we didn’t have a car, we had to be very strategic with what we were bringing with us on the plane. Here are some of our must-haves.
- Copies of your reseller permit (if buying for a business)
- Rolling luggage - If you plan on buying several pieces at the shows, it’s easier to wheel around all your purchases while you shop
- Wet wipes (the shows can be dusty from the residue still on the crystals and gems, which you’ll inevitably be handling)
- Additional luggage/bags - If you plan on flying into Tucson, pack an extra duffel bag or luggage so you have room to bring home all of your new crystal goodies
- Warm coat, beanie & gloves - Some of the shows are outdoors and this time of year can bring on chilly temperatures or even rain. It’s best to come prepared so you’re ready for any type of weather
- Snacks & Water Bottle - Most shows have food and drink options available, but it’s always nice to have some snacks and beverages on you since the days can be long going show to show
- Packing Tape - Super helpful to have on hand when you’re packing up your bag to head home, and properly secure all of your crystals or gems for the trip back
Since Tucson is home to the University of Arizona, there were plenty of food options around. We even found a Whole Foods to stock up on snacks and drinks. We weren’t into the food trucks or carts available at the shows so we ate a significant breakfast or lunch before going around the shows and packed up healthier snacks and tea or water with us. All the shows end around 6 pm, so you know whether you can hold out for a nice, early dinner.
- You could take all day just at this show and we found our most of our favorite pieces here. The ground here is covered with gravel and small rocks so we would not advise rolling around luggage, but a little wagon with big wheels will do.
22nd Street - All booths are under three larger tents which makes it great to walk through when you don’t want to be outside. One tent has the most beautiful (and expensive) pieces for show and sale.
Pueblo at the Ramada Conference Center - We came here purely to take photos of the large, lifesize crystals! We were still able to find a few good gems as well.
- Some vendors might only take cash, but there are also ATMs available at each show
- If you have a few days maybe hold off on those bigger purchases, you can always head back a day another day. We went back to Kino twice, almost a third time!
- You can definitely and should try to bring down the asking price. We found that the best deals, however, were a lot of places that listed the price on each piece.
- We had heard to bring your own scale since most pieces are sold by weight but didn’t think it was necessary for our first time there. We are definitely bringing one with us next year! It beats guessing how much something is or waiting around for them to weight it and give you a price.
For our first time at the shows, we decided to only go for three days. Halfway through day three, we were pretty drained and every booth started to look the same. We decided to head to the airport early since our suitcases were packed to the brim and we were running out of room (and money, which I’m sure our bank accounts were happy for a break!). Next year, we plan on going the same amount of days, having in mind a better idea of what we what to buy personally and for the business, and definitely driving so we can bring even more crystal beauties home with us!