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Tucson 2008 gem show guidance

Hello all travelers,

I am making plans to be at the Tucson gem show 1 or 2 days. My stay
will be around Feb 7 through the 12th. My cousin & hubby lives in
Suaharita (sp?) and we’ll be staying with them. My hubby and son
will also be there.

What should I know about this overwhelming event? I sort of know
what I want- things I can’t find in the Rio Grande catalog. Cabs and
beads of the same materials that make good groupings, settable
stones of all kinds, and things I have never seen before.

I am looking for perhaps slightly rougher looking (than the
beautiful symmetrical stones in the RG catalog) stones, but not as
rough as the actual “stones” I have been seeing beautifully set
(have you seen them? Like common garden rocks). Anyway I will know
them when I see them.

I love looking at tools, metal, components, but I need to limit my
focus to take best advantage of this event.

Any guidance from you wise ones of where to go first, what to avoid,
etc will be appreciated. I would also love any educational bits I
can pick up, like the catalog in motion. What have you all learned
from going to this event? Mistakes?

Thanks in advance.


Hi Connie,

First off, the Tucson Gem Show is HUGE, and I mean HUGE. It’s
overwhelming, but here are some tidbits gleaned from the years I have

Rio Grande’s Catalog in Motion is an event you will want to attend.
Not only do they have free seminars, a huge selection of tools to
pick up and hold, but all of the tool reps are there, like Matthew
Durston who makes those amazing rolling mills. Ganoksin will be
there, so will Metalwerx and other great schools like Revere, New
Approach School and Kate Wolf’s school.

For the offbeat stuff, hit the Electric Park (good rough, weird odd
bits of really cool items). The Rodeside Inn, Holodome, GJX, AGTA (if
you can get in) and the Pueblo Inn, isle of eclectic everything.

Cabs are everywhere and in every place. Bargains can be made. When
you walk into GJX you will absolutely gasp if you haven’t seen
jewelry stuff on this scale.

Since you will only be in Tucson for 2 days, I would hit Catalog in
Motion early and stay there until 1pm, then head out to the Pueblo

Day 2, GJX for the higher end, again go in the morning until 2pm,
and head out to the Electric Park, where they have eclectic, but a
great tent of tools for the tool junkie in all of us. Check for the
times of when things close.

You will get many people contributing advice, but this is my $.02
worth. I’m a mineral specimen junkie, so I hit the minerals area, but
I love the weird and eclectic too. The “Everything for a Buck” tent
at the Rodeside was a total find and great for inexpensive beaded
stuff for my friends. I still get compliments on a red beaded
necklace that I bought for $12. I am also a nut for Asian antiques
and find some cool places at the Rodeside there as well.

Most of all you will have fun! Don’t forget the Orchid Dinner where
you get to meet your Orchid friends.

Karen Christians

Connie; First off I would suggest you go to the shows early in your
trip all the shows should be in full swing then. You can go to and click on the tucson show guide under the site
index it will give you everything you need to know except which shows
to go to. Maybe I can help there. The electric park is the place to
go for tools also a fair amount of unusual material in cabs. To the
east of there if you look on their map you will see a couple of shows
between there and holidome. They are good for beads. Try the JOGS
show and of course Holidome. These could keep you busy for a couple
of days. I would normally recommend the shows along I-10 downtown.
Pueblo Inn, Days Inn Etc. Except this year they are doing major
construction on i-10 in that area and I don’t know what kind of
problems with parking etc. that will create.If you get a chance try
them. I would skip the big shows around the convention center unless
you want more high end stuff you,will have more than enough to keep
you overwhelmed at the other shows. 1 last note. Some of the shows
like electric park you can just walk in. Holidome, JOGS, pueblo inn
require badges. Usually you need your business license and a business
card. Many you can apply to in advance on line or via mail. I think
you can find info on that through the colored stone site. There is a
free shuttle you can utilize between show but I have a feeling with
the construction they may be overwhelmed this year.

Good Luck
Dave Owen

Hi Connie and All!

I too will be attending the Tucson show this year, but I will be a
vendor for the first time. I’ve never been to Tucson and I have been
anxious to go. I understand that it is very exciting and I’ve gotten
some advise from veterans in the field, but I’d love to hear the
opinion of others who have attended or who have set up there.

I will be at “To Bead True Blue” in the Morning Star Ballroom, booth
MS4890 with my silver focal pieces and sparkly rainbow titanium, so
please come and visit me and let me know you are from the forum.
Thanks in advance for the tips.

Holly Gage

To everyone…

Interstate 10 going through downtown has every exit and entrance
closed for 3 years for major construction. I suggest that everyone
download lots of maps and plan to get from one place to the other by
surface streets. Without planning you are going to be very
frustrated getting around. I live here and without the traffic and
the attendance at the jewelry show it is hard. It is especially hard
to get from the airport to downtown without using only surface
streets. There are six exits in a row that are closed.

Hello Connie,

My condolences - only 1 or 2 days!! My first time at the Tucson
shows left me in such confusion and awe that I didn’t spend a penny
until half-way through the second day.

You asked: “What should I know about this overwhelming event? I
sort of know what I want- things I can’t find in the Rio Grande
catalog. Cabs and beads of the same materials that make good
groupings, settable stones of all kinds, and things I have never seen

My advice would be to go to the website and get an idea of just how
many shows will be open during the days you will in in Tucson. Then
look at the map of the show locations. Time will be most important
for you, so the less you spend traveling from one arena to another,
the better.

Based on what you say you want, work one of the clusters of shows
like the Palo Verde, Downtown, Frontage Road & Congress, or Electric
Park areas. You can park for the day and wear your tootsies off
walking around the shows in that area. The shuttles are great, but
will take precious minutes from your day.

Definitely do the Catalog in Motion. I suggest driving to the Hilton
and be there early! It opens at 9:00, an hour earlier than almost
everything else. After you’ve enjoyed playing with the tools and
asking your questions and hearing some excellent speakers, leave and
plan to spend the rest of the day at one of the other areas.

Tucson traffic is a consideration, so have a detailed city map - AAA
sells an excellent one. You can plan your attack with the idea of
spending as little time on the road as possible.

Also pre-register NOW with G&LW, GLDA, and the Big Mama AGTA. Again,
a great time-saver to have the paperwork done ahead of time. The
websites will have buyer registration forms and Take
many, many copies of your sales tax certificate/business license.
The vendors will ask for that or a business card when you purchase
for the first time.

You may think this is silly, but I take a SMALL wheeled backpack so
that I can tote snacks and water bottles. I don’t stop for meals or
drinks, which waste time while the shows are open. The backpack is
great for holding purchases - stones in quantity do get heavy. Also
carries my loupe and caliper, etc.

I think I’ve rambled on too long, so will simply wish you the best
of luck and, again, my condolences on your limited time in Tucson!

Judy in Kansas - Oh yes, take an umbrella, jacket, and your most
comfortable shoes.

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.

Hi all

I simply have no ‘blinking’ idea just where to go…as in…HELP! I’m
not buying, just wanting to meet a ‘few’ friends, talk a bit and eat
some real great food, ‘burgers’ and whatever! I will be bringing many
of my “5 Onglette Graver” ‘sets’ with me. I am even trying to
pursuade the management to let me do a seminar on setting…



In view of the warnings about I-10, and 6 downtown exits closed, I
suggest forgoing all shows along the I-10 corridor. For the short
time you have to spend, Rio’s Catalog n Motion at the Tucson Hilton
East, is a good place to start on your first day. Split that day
with the Tucson Electric Park, as suggested. There is a vast variety
of everything there, and many smaller tents behind the large Vendor
ones in front. In addition, another adjacent venue opened last year,
and I heard of many bargains there.

Second day, The Holidome, again large show in the Hotel, Ballrooms,
and Tents behind. In addition, behind all that are more tents and
many more vendors. These tend to be smaller, possibly mom and pop
type of operations. Rockhounds selling their pickings, lapidariests
(sp) selling their hand cut and polished rocks and minerals, and
small importers, including some who travel from their countries with
their materials.

You will easily find components of one material, just keep your head
directed towards the many tables. I think the above three sites,
will be more than adequate in meeting your needs. You have been
presented with excellent suggestions, especially packing water and
snacks. Depending on the weather, from intense sun to snow, over the
years, choice of clothing, shoes, and snacks, are very important.
Know you may be on your feet for many hours, so prepare for that.
Some of the outlying shows tend to have later hours.

For us here on Orchid, there are two musts, Rio and The Orchid
Dinner. The contacts, and connections are beyond valuable, the time
well spent.

Hope to see you there,

The first time I went to Tucson years ago I was so overwhelmed that
I went back to the hotel and had a few drinks by the pool to
reorganize my needs. ( and I had been going to jewelry markets since
I was 15 years old) First of all if you see what you need and the
price is OK buy it you, can’t walk the whole show trying to save
50cents a carat on amethyst, you will never get anything done, you
will find yourself on the last day still looking for good deal. I
personally do not like to carry anything with me more than a samll
case with a strap, for women a big purse. I always take break at
lunch to sit and re group, what have I bought what do I need and so
on. I usually always meet someone really cool at the table. Don’t get
into a buying frenze you don’t need to buy for all year, you can
always reorder from the dealer. Try to get your shopping done so you
can spend at least half a day just looking at all the stuff, save a
little money because you will find something, last time I came home
with an african drum. The most fun of the show for me is looking in
all the little side shows at the stuff. Now for a little old timers
advice (that might not be right but I follow it) find a few good
suppliers and stick with them if you can. I usually always buy from
them in the end, yes I do buy from others that I will never see again
but mosly I go back to the old guys. I might pay a little more but
you get service from them. I can memo anything I need from them. They
will send me 100 little pink sapphires if I need to pick 10 and they
will send me a $20,0000 emerald to show. I am sitting on about
$12,000 of stones that he just left me for the Christmas season, why
because of the relationship that we have built over the years. Now if
you are buying 20,000cts of amethyst disregard my shopping advice.

Hve a great time
Bill Wismar

For us here on Orchid, there are two musts, Rio and The Orchid

OK I am planning to go to Rio’s Catalog in motion, Electric Park,
Holidome, and the Orchid dinner.

Gerry, maybe I will see you there. Where and when is the Orchid
dinner again?..

Thanks for the thorough responses! It will be a good first time for

Connie L.

anyone know of a “dirt cheap, hole in the wall” motel…:>) for the
Tuscon gala-weekend? or should I just ‘Google’ anyway…gerry!

Howdee Orchidians

As this is going to be my very first foray into the wilds of Tuscon,
I have just not darn idea what to expect or who to see. I ain’t
gonna be buyin’ anything…I need some thoughts of what to watch out
for. If a few people want to ask me any form of questions on the
"Rudiments" or even to share notes on the “Intermediate” or even
"Advanced" forms of setting practices… a nice thought could be an
informal meeting of the minds. Here is what happened some years ago
with Brad Simon in Chicago. After all the days lecturing was over
some of ‘us’ then sequestered me in the hallway and in 10 minutes we
had over 45 people writing down notes from our little Q&A
meeting…WE always now laugh at the “hallway meeting” we had
then…Brad still chuckles from that evening… I will bring loads of
my setting notes and CD’s for all to keep, will bring a few ‘Graver
Sets’ with me as well…luggage space permitting. The next weekend on
February18th, I am to be in Lethbridge, Alberta for a three day
training session…keep me posted.


Motel prices during the show are high. The cheapest I have found are
2 of the Motel 6’s. (around $70/night/single). If you qualify, call
each motel directly for the AARP discount - it isn’t available if you
reserve online. The other Motel 6’s run about $100/night. The Choice
Hotel chain’s cheapest rooms are around $125 to $150/night. Hurry to
reserve - not much left anymore. I haven’t found any cheap private
motels there, at least not that I would stay in. Hopefully I will be
able to stay at a friend’s place this year.

Bob J

Hello Gerry,

Although you probably have already done this, may I suggest that you
have some of your graver sets and CDs in the Orchid silent Auction
that Pat Glover is organizing. It’s always a good thing!

Judy in Kansas

Gerald; As far as regular motel chains no such thing exists many
people book their rooms a year in advance and most motels double the
price during the gem show. there are plenty of dirt bag motels on the
south side that I’m sure you could get cheap but you might not live
to tell about it. You might try Craig’s list under Arizona, Tucson
rentals for someone renting house space cheap.

dave Owen

I am making plans to be at the Tucson gem show 1 or 2 days. My
stay will be around Feb 7 through the 12th. 

Really the best time to be in Tucson is the period from February 5 -
11 - when all of the shows will be open and you have a lot more to
chose from.

When you plan to arrive in Tucson (Feb 7 through the 12th ) several
of the most important shows will have already started. The GLDA show
at the Star Pass closes on the 10th. The GJX, WJX and AGTA shows in
downtown Tucson all close on the 11th.

Here are the show schedules that are shown on the Tucson Show Guide
web site. They probably update it regularly:

- African Art Village: Jan. 25-Feb. 10 
- American Gem Trade Association AGTA : Feb. 6-11
- AKS Gem Shows: Feb. 2-16
- Arizona Mineral & Fossil Shows: Feb. 2-16
- The Bead Renaissance: Feb. 4-8
- Beaudry Gem & Mineral Show: Feb. 2-10 
- The Best Bead Show: Feb. 6-10
- Catalog in Motion (Rio Grande): Feb. 8-11 
- Fine Minerals International: Feb. 3-16 
- Gem & Jewelry Exchange - GJX : Feb. 6-11 
- Gem & Lapidary Dealers Association: Feb. 5-10 
- Gem & Lapidary Wholesalers - Gem Mall & Rodeway: Feb. 2-15
- Gem & Lapidary Wholesalers - Holidome: Feb. 7-15
- Jewelry, Gem & Mineral Exposition: Feb. 2-17 
- J.O.G.S. International Exhibits: Feb. 1-12 
- Pueblo Inn Gem & Mineral Show: Feb. 2-14
- Rapa River Gem & Mineral Show: Feb. 1-17 (Jump start: Jan. 31) 
- To Bead True Blue: Feb. 5-10
- Tucson Electric Park Gem & Mineral Show: Feb. 2-17
- Tucson Gem & Mineral Show: Feb. 14-17
- Tucson Showplace: Feb. 2-17 
- Worldwide Gem & Jewelry Show - WJX : Feb. 6-11
- Westward Look Mineral Show: Feb. 8-11 
- The Whole Bead Show: Feb. 4-9 

Best regards,
Robert Lowe
Lowe Associates - Brasil

I’m thinking of taking a few Rio classes from their Catalog in Motion
offerings. I obviously will take advantage of Tuscon as well, My
question is, does anyone have recommendations for accomodations. AND
what is the best was to attack Tuscon for the first time?

thanks in advance!


I learned something new this year regarding Tucson. Go to craigs list
and look for temporary housing. the hotels (well most of them) are
pretty sad for a price you can afford…


Lisa; Go back a week or two and read what was posted on this
subject. Good luck on a motel this late.