Experiencing the Tucson Gem and Mineral show for the first time can be overwhelming, exhilarating, and an all around great adventure. It might be a good idea to take a close look at the map and plan your trip in advance so you can see what you want to see and don't feel like you missed out when you step back on the plane for your return trip.
With over 20,000 vendors, this is the largest show of its kind; a mecca for rockhounds, jewelers and designers. It can be a bit much to take in. So to help out I’ve put together some ideas and tips to help any first-timers navigate the show.
Where to Stay and When to Book
Going with a friend or a group of people can be a wonderful time and a great way to save money. If you book an Air B&B, Tucson can be reasonably priced and if you split the costs a few ways with friends, everyone gets a room with a few bathrooms in a nice house for a great price. Staying at a hotel is an option, but know that hotels raise their pricing significantly as this is Tucson’s main attraction of the year and places book up 3-6 months in advance.
If you are staying close to some of the main attractions, walking is a great option. Several of the larger shows fill up the many hotels that line the highway and all shows just bleed from one into the next, making walking the best option for seeing the most stuff.
There is also a free shuttle service that takes you on different gem loops depending on which area of the show you are interested in, such as minerals and fossils, rough lapidary material and large crystal show pieces for your home, high end gemstones and diamonds, and beads and finished jewelry. The shuttle is pretty great, and as a bonus I usually have some great conversations with people on the shuttles and get some excellent shopping tips!
If you're pressed on time, know that the shuttle is not your fastest, most direct way of traveling. Fortunately, there’s Lyft or Uber for that.
When to Go
The Tucson Gem Show last for an entire month! Should you go at the beginning, the middle, the end, or live there for a while and do it all?
This is never a hard decision for me as I want to arrive at the start of the shows so I know I am getting early picks of the items I'm looking for. On the other hand, I've been told that closer to the end of the shows, some of the vendors start to offer deeper discounts because they would otherwise loose money shipping the large items back to base.
Note that some of the higher end shows do not run the full length of the gem show so check the show guides to determine which places are of interest to you in advance and time your trip accordingly.
This photo is from one of the many vendors that sell mostly larger investment pieces for your home or your business.