We have been looking forward to the annual Tucson Gem Show ever since we moved here from California! Our family enjoys looking at rocks, which you can read about in this post about our 2015 visit to the Petrified Forest. In particular, our second oldest is a rock hound and knows quite a bit about rocks, gems, and minerals since he has some books all about them. It would not surprise me at all if he grows up to be a geologist.
About a month ago, every time we drove to church on Sundays, we saw some tents going up right off of the I-10 and wondered what they were for. We realized a few weeks ago that they were part of the Annual Tucson Gem Show that takes place in Tucson every year. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show here is actually made up of multiple shows, I think over 50, with the main show taking place February 13 to February 16 at the Tucson Convention Center. So it’s almost like the Showcase is a preview of the Show that runs for 2 weeks.
The Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase on 22nd Street is only one of the 50 shows going on from February 1 to February 16. It was a great place for us to start though and we spent almost 5 hours there!
The 22nd Street Show was very inexpensive for us to enter, especially for a family of 8. We arrived right before opening time at 10 AM and were able to get into the main parking lot right by the tents. Parking was only $5. There is no entry fee for the tents themselves.
It is difficult to show in a picture just how massive these tents were. The middle one or the main tent is 83,000 square feet.
This is the last tent. Since the restrooms were back here and we had to stop by those, we decided to go ahead and stop in this tent to take a look. There were some impressive minerals here where they were sold by kilogram.
We saw amethyst everywhere at the Gem Show. Gwen loved it since purple is her favorite color. I think she was disappointed that it isn’t her birthstone!
There were two small tents right by the parking lot so we stopped in there too. We ended up buying a chunk of kyanite here from a Brazilian dealer. Rhys and Ian bought some quartz here also. I was so tempted to buy one of these cactus displays too.
This is the piece of kyanite we chose. It was $15. We don’t plan on breaking it up to use for anything. We just liked the way it looked and will display it on a shelf. It is very fragile though and flakes easily so we have to be very careful with it.
I think this is raw emerald. It was so interesting to see how the gemstones we see in jewelry look in their raw state.
Once we got into the main tent, we barely made it in the door before Josh was drawn to a bargain: Strands of loose beads and necklaces for $1.50 each if you bought 10 strands. Josh has been wanting to get back into jewelry-making so he picked out some beads that would work well with his industrial style.
So many beads and so little time! We ended up at this booth twice!
Honestly, the main tent was a bit overwhelming. There was so much to see in there. It was a little bit hard to focus!
Each of our kids except Corran had something in particular they were looking for. So it was a little like a treasure hunt for them! Matthias was looking for a tiger’s eye sphere and when he saw some bismuth in one part of the tent, he wanted a piece to take home. In his case, he was looking for a good price. He found a sphere for $10 (he had seen one elsewhere in the tent for $15) and then he saw a piece of bismuth that he was happy with that was $3.
Rhys was looking for his birthstone, citrine. We stopped at a dealer from Zambia and he was able to get a nice size crystal there.
Ian was searching for his birthstone, emerald. Unfortunately, since that is a gemstone, it was a little bit harder to find in his price range. He was able to find a polished emerald nugget for $3. It’s not pure emerald, which is probably why it was less expensive. But that didn’t bother Ian any. He also bought a clear quartz crystal to put on a display light that Thias has for rocks.
Gwen had a harder time finding something she liked. Her birthstones are all gemstones that are a bit expensive and she wanted purple anyway. So we ended up getting an amethyst bracelet and a lapis bracelet for her. A girl isn’t going to say no to jewelry, right?
Once we made it out of the main tent and into the showcase tent, we were getting a bit tired (and Gavin was taking a nap in his stroller) so we didn’t spend as much time in the showcase tent. It did have some interesting displays, even though most of them were out of our price range!
We also enjoyed looking at the petrified wood vendor outside by the food trucks. Josh ended up buying a pound of petrified wood pieces to put in our rock tumbler once we repair it.
There were plenty of food truck options here! You can find a list of all of them here. But here are a few pictures I took on a quick walk through. These trucks were all between the showcase tent and the main tent. Trying to feed all 8 of us from a food truck would have cost too much and we wouldn’t have had any money left for buying rocks, so we saved money by bringing lunch and eating it in our van. We were parked so close to the main tent that it wasn’t an issue to walk to the van to eat lunch. Unfortunately, this did mean people thought we were leaving… but we weren’t. Oops!
Some other bits that I don’t have photographs of but were fascinating:
We stopped at a booth that had treasure found in shipwrecks. The vendor showed us what a gold doubloon looks like when it’s found in a wreck. It looks nothing like a coin and looks more like just a rock!
At another booth, I saw singing bowls. I clumsily tried to play one but that didn’t work too well, so the vendor showed me how. I ended up buying one and now my kids keep wanting to play it! I thought I could use it as a substitute for a dinner bell (or having to yell). The singing bowl is actually quite loud and is easily heard.
This is most of our haul from the Tucson gem showcase. Who knew that rocks, minerals, and fossils could be so much fun?
We plan on going to the February 13-16th Tucson Gem Show at the Convention Center on February 15th! We will definitely be doing a follow-up blog post to this one all about that if we can make it. Stay tuned! And if you’re planning to go to any of the Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcases in the next two weeks, happy treasure hunting!