Tucson 2000, View from within

Tucson, I arrived in Tucson after a third stop in Quartzsite. I
tandemed from Wiley Well, Quartzsite with a like minded lady I met
while rockhounding. We arrived late and stopped about 17 miles out
hoping to find a room in a new Super 8. No way, this town fills up
almost from the California border.

We made our way in early in the morning, and cognizant of the various
shows starting and ending schedules, began to make our rounds. Many
shows require wholesale registration, and at least a tax resale
license will get you the badge necessary for entry into the hallowed

There were venues to feed the appetite of all potential buyers, and
then there are those that are so mixed, it was hard to tell. The
biggies for the finished jewelry buyers are AGTA and GJX. Beaders had
a choice of at least two, Best Bead Show and Whole Bead Show. Persons
fabricating, but using some finished components were also able to find
materials at these two shows as well as many others.

Equipment and rough materials were to be found in abundance at
Congress Street, where at least two more tents were full of sellers.
Along I10’s frontage road were African dealers with wood, fabric and
brass, as well as Tribal beads which are seeing a renewal of interest.

Fossil and Mineral dealers were at the Executive Inn as well as other
locations. There was an abundance of all of these materials, and it
was hard to see buyers for all that was brought in.

55 gallon drums of every imaginable type of rough was all over the
place. Some of these had Air Freight stickers showing how they had
arrived. The freight bill was not a minor consideration. Many of these
materials will not be sold and it is not feasible to return them home.
A new industry has developed, warehouses storing materials from this
year into the next. This is also happening in Denver.

It is mind boggling to see hundreds of barrels of every imaginable
rough material. Lapis to Rose quartz. At the Howard Johnson downtown
there was a tent greater than any Circus had ever installed, filled
with Fossils. Dinosaur bones to eggs, skeletal structure of a bear
larger than a dino. Petrified wood slabs the size of a large dining
room table.

Amber was very abundant, Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, Baltic, South
American, Dominican, tables and tables of it in every form
imaginable, all sold by the gram. Silver from Bali from .55 to 1.00
per gram. Turquoise from China, Pearls from every quadrant of the

Unlike some of Quartzsite, there was nothing Flea Marketish about
Tucson. Nothing the purist could really complain about except the over
abundance. Certain dealers had their loyal and repeat customers. The
retail buyer, the public do not show up until today for the TGMS Show
at the Convention Center. There all prices are retail, no keystone, or
volume discounts.

Personal notes, there were some very trusting dealers there. I had
forgotten a backup book of checks and was low from the start. I saw a
couple of rings I was interested in and the dealer did not take credit
cards. He, Kenneth Huang of New York gave me the rings and asked me to
send him a check from home. Amazing, I had never bought from him
before. A rough dealer gave me some material just asking that I show
it to others and refer them to him. Just human interest events that
show the basic good nature of some of our fellow man. Quite impressive
to me.

Internet friends, I will miss tomorrows gathering at the Executive
Inn, I did want to be there, but after over two weeks away from home,
it was time to return and I left last night. Drove towards the
California Border, got tired and pulled in a rest stop and slept until
dawn. Drove the rest of the way this morning.

I did attend the gathering David Arens had arranged with fellow
Internet friends. there were some 46 of us, none known to one another
before, but all friends at the end. Some of the attendees were Dave
and his wife, Alan Revere, Amy O’Connell, Ahmed Shareek, John Scully,
Charles Lewton- Brain, Mark Liccini and bride, and more I am sorry to
say I did not write down their names. We will know one another online.
It seems we get to know one another from our posts and pretty well
know there will be meeting of the minds. this certainly happened.

Ahmed Shareek had a very difficult time in getting a Visa. He was
initially denied as US Immigration officials seem to think everyone
wants to enter and disappear. Had he been refused a second time, he
would have not been able to reapply for three years. Mark Liccini was
very instrumental in assisting Ahmed with faxes and phone calls to
validate him. They are both incredible persons. Ahmed is as sweet as
can be and his material was breath taking. Mark’s rough was gorgeous.
Everything he represents it to be. Ahmed’s son wants to go to
LegoLand, and Ahmed hopes to get longer than a 30 day visa and bring
his family along next year.

While walking around wearing my Orchid pin, I saw a dealer wearing a
badge that said “I Orchid, do you?” It was Ray Grossman designer of
the Jump Ringer. When I identified myself to him, he came out and gave
me the biggest happiest hug ever. It was so fun. The Sparkie
demonstrator gave me Orchid earrings he had designed for an earlier
show for Orchidites to find one another. These happenings can only

I saw Bob Jones of Rock & Gem, he commented attendance was down from
last year, which was not a good year at all. The messing around with
the dates, the inclusion of more tents and dealers have left several
unhappy. Some long time participants will not return. The extension of
the time without the increase of customers is not working for all. Two
to three weeks to sit in a room with your merchandise is hard to say
the least. Some changes will have to happen. The feeling is there is
too much promoter greed.

This spilled over into Quartzsite too. The Pow Wow was moved one week
earlier and shortened by one day to accommodate Tucson, this did not
work for the Pow Wow dealers or customers at all. Some Quartzsite
dealers are there from Jan 7th through Feb. 15. They are worn out.
Lets see what happens next year.

I had a great time, met wonderful people, and recommend this to
anyone that can plan it into their schedule. I slept in my van on
hotel parking lots, took showers in friends rooms, and kept expenses
to a minimum.

Same time, next year,

Teresa: You are kindness itself to share your show experiences with
us “silent observers” who are always charmed to watch and learn and
enjoy the Orchid enthusiasm and know how. I have been thinking of
all the generous participants in the list meeting for dinner and
greeting each other for the first time in person and you shared it
with all of us! And then you reported back to the rest of us and
named so many familiar names among those present! That is really

What is the schedule for next year’s show?

Mary Carol Shannahan

Mary Carol, What a nice message to come home to. Thank you ever so
much. Just before I left home for a meeting, I had a message telling
me to take my personal messages off line. I stewed all the way on an
hour long drive. Was still upset coming home. You have made my day
worthwhile. Thank you so very much.

It was real fun meeting everyone, and it can only get better. I am
certain we will do it again. I could not find next years show dates. I
imagine they will begin the very end of January and run about 2
weeks. There are several shows, and their run dates vary. Most are
concurrent, some longer than others.

The finished jewelry are the big wholesale shows in the major center
city locations. The rough stone dealers are far more spread out, and
tend to remain around longer. Orchid people are usually there in the
first week.

Keep your eyes peeled along the way, and watch Lapidary Journal or
Colored Stone. The massive Tucson Show Guide is an annual of Colored
Stone and is a wonderful source book.

Can’t say thanks enough, look forward to meeting you too. Teresa

Sorry I missed the gathering of the orchid group at Tucson

some other highlights

  • at the AGTA show, attended Charles Lewton- Brain’s seminar on
    Kumbo, truely inspriational. Heis one of the brightest people I’ve
    met in a long time, who truely both lknows his siubject and enjhopys
    sharing his knowledge with others.

  • at the GJCX, attended the Idar-oberstein dealers group, saw master
    carvings and masteriece intarsia and inlay. All museum quality stuff

  • at the Agta, saw a 246 ct flawless tanzanite, crown jewel material

My own opinion: I see the following trend at Tucson, though, which is
a marketing trend that can happen when selling material into a
narrow, highly focused market: oversaturation. there are now too many
shows, not just at tucson but elsewhere in the industry. So, I
suppose it is only a matter of time before some of the shows weed
themselves out and consolidate. This probbaly will happen through the
painful process (for the sellers) of choosing which shows to attend,
and which are the most profitable.

This was my third year at Tucson, and well worth the trip.


Mark Zirinsky
5390 E 39th Avenue
Denver, Colorado 80207
1-303-393-1482 (fax)


Dear Mark, Your comments about trends at Tucson are basically what I
have been saying for nearly twenty-five years…the problem is that
I was dead wrong. Tucson defies all conventional logic. I have come
to believe that Tucson is not really a trade show so much as it is a
convention of like minded people who are involved with lifestytles
centered about crafts and the arts and natural phenomena. Far too
many people go to sell at Tucson who really don’t preoccupy
themselves with its’ economic viability. Instead, they rationalize
their presence with things like…“Yeah, I didn’t crack the nut,
but I met a lot of potential customers and I had hell of a good
time!” So, like most conventions, Tucson vendors are a mixture of
commerce, curiosity and social satisfaction with a generous dollop of
wishful thinking thrown in. Over and above the foregoing, there are a
lot of people who would simplistically surmise that as an assumed
trade show, it is a product of commerce and free enterprise. How many
people realize that many of the foreign attendees are the product of
governmental largesse in the form of subsidies from both our
government and foreign agencies ? USAID regularly sends people from
developing nations to Tucson and other shows. The Brazilian state of
Minas Geraes also subsidizes show vendors. How else could you justify
air freighting barrels of rock fifteen thousand miles? I don’t foresee
the imminent demise of Tucson. It will continue to be a trade show,
convention, carnival, fraternity party, seminar and homage to the
arts and crafts and nature. There is really no point in trying to fit
it into a framework of logic. It exists because it fills many needs.
The real commerce in Tucson is the promotion of shows…if the are
any of you out there who want to make money in Tucson, put together a
show ! On the other hand, don’t expect to have nearly as much fun!
Ron at Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, CA.

Since there seems to be a fair amount of interest in the Tucson
shows, I’ll point out a couple of buying opportunities for folks
attending. Since my highest interests are in lapidary equipment and
rough stones, those are my focus.

If you are looking for a flat lap and attend the shows early, the
Crystalite tent on Congress, west of the freeway is worth attending.
During the year Crystalite receives some flat lap units back that were
defective when purchased. Their practice is to send out a new unit,
repair the defect and then sell the machine at half price (no
warranty) at the show. They also sell overstocks when they have them.
This year they had produced a very large order of 8" flat lap
diamond discs in 180, 260, 600 and 1200 grit sizes for a Chinese
company. The company ordering the discs backed out of the order after
most discs were produced. Crystalite sold the discs at $20 each and
dropped the price to $12 each for eight or more discs.

The tent to the north of Crystalite is the Diamond Pacific Company.
For those wishing to purchase their products (the Genie cabbing unit,
Wizard trim saw, Nova wheels, etc.), Diamond Pacific does not give
discounts. However, on the other side of the traffic lane, across
from Diamond Pacific, is the Richardson Rock Ranch tent. Aside from
their own sphere making machines and other lapidary units, they are
Diamond Pacific dealers. If you wish to purchase a Genie or another
Diamond Pacific product, you can get a substantial discount from Mr.
Richardson, who will then walk across to the Diamond Pacific tent,
pick up the unit and hand it to you. He takes minimum profit since
there is no shipping and stocking involved.

I have been attending the Tucson and Quartzsite shows for about 12
years (I’m losing count). For those looking for lapidary rough,
especially cabbing rough, I can probably help you locate what you
want. Since the list is jewelry focused, it would probably be better
to contact me off list.

John McLaughlin
Glendale, Arizona