Thursday, February 8, 2018

Success in Tucson!

If you spent any time on social media last week, I’m certain you saw a number of posts about the gem shows that were happening in Tucson, Arizona all last week.  I was fortunate enough to be able to take a few days off from my “day job” to spend some time taking it all in.


A stunning checkerboard cut amethyst found in Tucson.

In past years, I’ve only been able to spend part of the weekend in Tucson and as a result, I always felt a bit rushed.  As a result, I was only ever really able to visit one of the multiple gem shows happening in Tucson all at one time.  Typically, I was only able to visit the American Gem Trade Association’s annual GemFair™ which has always featured a bevy of colored gemstones and even a few booths of amazing antique jewelry.



This year was a bit different in that I had multiple days to squeeze in as much as possible.  So, although my time ran out and I wasn’t able to visit the Gem and Jewelry Exchange (GJX) and JCK shows as I had hoped (they will certainly be my first stops in 2019!); I was able to attend the ATGA GemFair™ and the JOGS shows.


Just a small peak at the sales floor at the AGTA GemFair show in Tucson.

First stop, the American Gem Trade Association’s annual AGTA GemFair™ at the Tucson Convention Center.  One of the things which I really appreciated this year at the AGTA GemFair™ was having a “Press Room” where I could plug-in and post photos, etc. of the happenings on the show floor.  The GemFair™ was in its 36th year and had a buyer from over 90 countries as well as more than 300 exhibitors with not only the newest but also classic gemstones and cultured pearls from all over the world.  They also had a special exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution in addition to their offering of learning experiences and educational opportunities.


A stunning & well-cut pear-shaped fluorite that I added to my personal
collection from Ivey Gemstones at the AGTA GemFair.

But when it comes to the gems….Oh. My. Goodness.  I went with a list of the gemstones that I was interested in purchasing but, as usual, ended up with more than I was originally intending.  If you were looking for high-quality stones for custom pieces or unique specimens, then the GemFair™ was the place to be looking.  One of my favorite booths was Rare Earth Mining.  They had some stunning dendritic agate that I was able to pick up.

Judi Powers is not only an amazing jewelry designer but also one
of the sweetest, most genuine people!

Some of the non-gemstone related attractions at the GemFair™ show was the opportunity to meet some amazing individuals with similar passions.  I was fortunate enough to get to meet a couple of my jewelry idols - Marla Aaron and Judi Powers.  I admit, I did geek out a bit.  I've been lucky enough to call them my "Instafriends" and "Facebook Friends" for several years now but this was my first chance to talk with them in person.  It is an amazing opportunity to be able to discuss something you are passionate about with artistic, free-thinking individuals.  Something to truly take advantage of at the gem shows in Tucson.

It's always a good day when you get to hang out with a jewelry legend like Marla Aaron!
And she is as stunning & brilliant in real life as you would imagine!

Second stop, the JOGS Tucson Gem and Jewelry Show at the Tucson Expo Center.  This show had a wide variety of items from finished products that were ready for resale at varied price points to fossil and mineral specimens for collects.  Of course, there was also a wide selection of loose gemstones and opals to choose from as well.  If you intend to visit the JOGS Show in the future, my recommendation is to get there early as parking at the Tucson Expo Center was a bit lacking or to take one of the many shuttles to the show from the area hotels.


A stunning geode & peridot ring in 24k yellow gold & oxidized sterling silver from Passione Gioielli 
that was among the collections at the JOGS Show in Tucson.

Although Arizona is now my home state (albeit of only a few years now), I have always wanted to experience more of it. Tucson has some beautiful views and is home to some stunning tourist attractions both educational and artistic.  I highly recommend taking some time to see the sights – especially if you’re visiting from another part of the country.  Be sure to carve out a bit of time for sightseeing.  This year, I went to visit the San Xavier del Bac Mission, the Madaras Gallery and Biosphere 2.  Getting to see the area sights really enhanced my time at the gem shows and kept me grounded!


This cushion-cut ametrine was one of my favorites from Tucson.

One of my favorite places to visit was San Xavier del Bac Mission which is located near the town of Wa:k on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation.  The mission is also known as the ‘White Dove of the Desert’ and was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Kino in 1692.  It is the oldest, intact Spanish-European structure in Arizona – filled with original statuary and murals.  Additionally, several times a week, it is still home to Catholic Mass.  
A detail of San Xavier del Bac Mission near the Tohono O'dham city of Wa:k.

Another detour that I recommend on your way to the gem shows is the Madaras Gallery.  Voted Tucson’s “Best Art Gallery” it features the largest collection of Tucson artists as well as being the home gallery for its namesake and Tucson native, Diana Madaras.  Known for her bold, colorful style, Diana Madaras paints in both watercolor and acrylic.  Another little-known fact is that she is also the president of the non-profit, Art for Animals Foundation – a charity which she founded in 1999 to help abused, injured and orphaned animals.


Just one portion of Biosphere 2 at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

My final, non-jewelry related stop was the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2.  Located about an hour outside of Tucson, the Biosphere 2 facility serves as a laboratory for controlled, scientific studies for various earth sciences initiatives.  Its mission is “to serve as a center for research outreach teaching and life-long learning about Earth; its living systems, and its place in the universe; to catalyze interdisciplinary thinking and understanding…”  Personally, I found it not only beautiful but also engaging.  I highly recommend taking the tour.  Our guide was Claudio and he was a wealth of knowledge about the facility and its history.


A waterfall inside of Biosphere 2.

So, what are my take-aways from this year’s gem shows in Tucson?  First, there is never enough time to have your brain befuddled by beauty.  Second, at least double whatever the number of business cards are that you believe is a reasonable number to take with you.  Third, be prepared to walk – a lot.  Comfy shoes are a must!  And finally, use the networking opportunities that being around like-minded individuals provides.  I tend to become shy and a bit of an introvert in large groups of people.  I have to really push myself to engage in chit-chat.  However, get me in a small group of people and I’m a seemingly different (more outgoing) person.  


A suite of purple to pink sapphires.

My final piece of advice is this:  Be like the brightly colored gems you will find yourself surrounded by.  Be bold!

One of my favorite places to eat when in Tucson - The Silver Saddle Steakhouse!


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