The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show
“The largest, oldest, and most prestigious gem and mineral show in the world” comes back this January-February in the growing Southern Arizona city. With it comes about 45 other gem shows in the Tucson area, and I’m going to check it all out! This will be the 67th year that the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society (TGMS) hosts the event for “discovery and discussion” revolving around the wonderful world of gemstones.
Known to most as “The Tucson Show” or simply “The Gem Show,” it brings dealers from all 50 states, and more than 30 countries from around the world, in addition to nearly 70,000 people, causing Gem Show patrons to outnumber local Tucson residents for 3 days every spring! Most probably don’t mind, though, as the show is estimated to bring more than $125 million to Tucson’s economy each year.
In addition to the main show, the town is simply a mecca for gem enthusiasts for most of the year, with several smaller pop-up shows throughout the city and surrounding areas at various times, though most around the same time as the main show. Some magnificent niches pop up at these shows, and it’s one of the things I get most excited about. More on that later!
The Gem Society also brings more than 3,000 students to the shows each year, free of charge, to learn about local geology and different uses of the stones and minerals via hands-on experience! That rocks.
Every year there is a special attraction at the main show, and this year it is “The Show that Glows,” which will feature more than 80 fluorescent minerals on display in addition to dealers and exhibitions, which include:
- Mineral displays
- Jewelry (Woo!)
- Lectures & Seminars
- Mineral Photography Classes
- Lapidary Crafts
- Books Interactive Displays
- “Spotlight Cases”
- … and a lot more!
Previous Spotlight Cases have displayed such treasures as The Logan Sapphire, The Hooker Emerald, the Faberge Collection, an original copy of The Gadsden Treaty, and a Star of Asia.
Here’s a closer look at some of the history behind the U.S.’s biggest event in gems (many argue it’s the largest in the world).
The first iteration of the show that now draws hundreds of thousands of people from around the world was started in an elementary school cafeteria in 1955. Keeling Elementary School played host to a group of gem enthusiasts to the (then) free event featuring 9 dealers and experts and about 1,500 attendees.
Even 1,500 was a little big for Keeling Elementary, and in the event’s second year, it moved to a hut on the Pima County Fair and Rodeo grounds on the south side of the city where it remained for 16 years. During these 16 years, some pretty notable folks joined the party, including the Smithsonian Institute which has been providing displays since 1961, The Carnegie, and The Sorbonne.
In 1972, the show once again upgraded locales, and moved into the then-new Tucson Convention Center where it has been held every year since, except in 2021 due to some pesky virus. Even still, The Gem Show helped retailers reach potential customers with help from the internet, but the city is certainly excited to have the show back this year.
Speaking of cool things on the internet, have you checked out our build your own necklace tool?
The Smaller Shows
All of the shows are loosely related to one another, and the vastness of the main show certainly doesn’t hurt the smaller ones. The smaller ones also play to more niches and often have some things that I haven’t seen before (and can possibly use with my jewelry moving forward).
One of my better experiences at a smaller show was at a hotel where all the outside-entry rooms had booths in their parking spots right in front of their rooms. Many invited people in and just had gems on the bed in a very nice setting to really get to know people’s passions and motivations for being involved in the show. At the main show, most things that are bought and sold are top-notch by industry standards, and often go to galleries and museums. With that, they tend to stay behind glass or in containers. The smaller shows allow for a more hands-on experience and you really get to play around with things and experiences.
(Ben Sanders, Arizona Daily Star)
If you think the Main Show might be a little too on the straight-and-narrow, fear not… There is a lot of the wild west feel in Tucson, and the entire town is a gem show, really, truly with something for everyone.
Want to Go This Year?
Here’s Some Info The 67th rendition of the Main Tucson Gem and Mineral show is happening February 10-13, and tickets went on sale January 13. They are all general admission, and you can buy them here via Ticketmaster for $13 or at the door for the same price. Children under 14 are free with a paying adult everyday, and Friday is military and senior citizens day, where active duty and retired military, as well as attendees 62 and older can enter for $10. 2-day passes are also available for $22, and those folks in the know say you can get through everything in 2 days, and even 1 if you’re ambitious!
Remember, most of the smaller shows are free and span from January 18th to February 13th!!! So, if you can’t attend the official weekend, there are still many more options for you to experience the Gem Show! And if you click here… you, too, can have a $3 discount to The Tucson Gem Show with a coupon (if you have printer access)!!!
The “Show that Glows” fluorescent exhibit is operational from 10 am to 6 pm Thursday - Saturday, and 10 am to 4 pm on Sunday, the final day of the show. Schedules for seminars and lecturers have not yet been released, but the TGMS encourages attendees to check in at this link periodically, and it should be available soon (hopefully now!).
The city website warns that hotels near the event fill up fast, but also notes that airport hotels provide frequent shuttle service to the main event and other areas. And there’s always some good AirBnbs in the desert, and the Tucson-funded GemRide shuttles make pickups all over town. For the big spenders, the Casino del Sol hosts one of the other gem shows, and has live entertainment every night (and most of the day).
The Tucson Gem & Mineral Society
The founders of “The Gem Show” were members of the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society, which continues to grow and support a number of things that make we gemheads smile a lot. There mission is “To encourage interest and study in geology, mineralogy, lapidary, and allied earth sciences. In addition to the show, here are a few other ways they contribute:
- Educational classes on things such as how to clean minerals, everything to know about gemstones, and hobbyist tips like “how to get the most out of your metal detector.”
- Society field trips where members and guests collect and explore in areas known to produce an abundance of gems and minerals.
- Classroom presentations to schools in Tucson and surrounding areas to get youngsters more interested.
- Scholarships and grants for local students looking to make gems and minerals a major part of their studies, including a graduate scholarship to the University of Arizona’s Geoscience Department and exploratory grants that have resulted in findings that are now on public display at places such as the U of A Mineral Museum and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
- Major sponsor of South Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation’s science fair that also awards scholarships to young scientists in the region.
All in all, it’s a stellar organization that has built up the most incredible and most popular gathering for gem and mineral lovers that the world has ever seen! Hope to see you there! If you can't make it, follow my journey during my attendance from Feb 1-4th on Facebook or Instagram.