My annual pilgrimage to Tucson for gemstone shopping has arrived once more. This two-day journey had me visiting 4-5 of my favorite locations, with a twist this time.
Instead of my usual plan — which is to arrive a day or two after all of the shows open — I decided to explore some venues on opening day this year. The annual event kicks off as early as January 25th for some, while others open their doors around the 30th. Since I wasn't in search of faceted gemstones or diamonds (those shows open later), I had the opportunity to optimize for rough (uncut) materials.
Does the Early Bird Really Get the Worm?
Securing the first pick of materials is undoubtedly a win. In previous years, I'd heard that resale buyers would appear on the first day, swiftly pointing and purchasing entire flats of products. I witnessed this in action multiple times as I examined the same materials they had just acquired with a simple wave of their hand. During a visit to one of my preferred vendors specializing in rough materials (picture large rocks in sizable crates), I asked about the location of their pink opal. To my surprise (cue wah-wah sound effect), he let me know that someone had already bought the entire stock!
Another benefit of shopping at the beginning of the gem and mineral show was smaller crowds. I was able to easily navigate in and out of the small booths and there wasn’t a long wait for check out. Many of the small business sellers only have one person doing the order writing and if there's a line, the wait could mean missing out on some great stones (see whole flat purchasers above).
I rented a car for this trip — which proved to be a great decision. Several of the venues had parking on site or in empty lots within close walking proximity.
$how Me the Money
Pro tip: Many vendors prefer cash transactions and may set a $50 minimum for credit card purchases. While some larger venues offer on-site ATM machines, keep in mind that fees could apply, and they often run out of cash by lunchtime. Additionally, there's a potential for negotiation with certain vendors — increasing your purchase quantity may get you a better deal!
I brought two small carry-on-sized suitcases with me. One was for holding bubble wrap, packing materials, and a scale (to ensure my bags stayed within the weight limits for the return journey) on the way there. On the way back, that bag was completely full of rocks (and a LOT heavier)!
Want more info? Check out my previous blogs on tips for navigating the Tucson Gem Show: