Tips and Tricks for the Tucson Gem Show

How are all of the things? Life over here has been groovy and full and sometimes tricky and difficult but a whole heck of a lot of good stuff too. So, it’s been pretty normal, am I right?!

Lately I’ve been engaging MUCH MORE with Instagram. And if you follow me over there you probably already know this. I did a fun series in my IG stories where I shared my thoughts and reflections each day on my trip to the Tucson Gem show. That was what really got me started. I discovered I LOVE sharing what’s going on with Tangleweeds and me via this more organic venue.

But that brings me to the point of this blog post! I wanted to share some pics and thoughts about the Tucson Gem Show and overall how it went for me. I know there's many of you out there who are curious about checking it out for themselves, and I say if you want to go you should! And I’m here to help out with a few (hopefully) helpful pointers. 

Overall, it’s an amazing event where you can load up on supplies for all of your jewelry making needs. But there’s also loads of other stuff - lots of businesses and folks selling finished jewelry, whole shows dedicated to just selling rocks and minerals and even dinosaur bones (crazy!), and more. The Tucson Gem Show is actually a conglomeration of many, many smaller shows that are spread out all over the city that come together to create the big event. Some shows last a couple of weeks, some for only a few days, and some run for the entire month of the Tucson Gem Show. 

Without further ado, on to my tips and tricks for attending the Tucson Gem show! This will be a mix of practical suggestions paired with some more personal takes on things.

1. The first thing I’d recommend is to REGISTER ahead of time for the shows you want to attend. This will make for a much more seamless and quick entry to any shows that require registration. It would make for a blog post unto itself if I were to go into all of the details about the various shows, but you can find a list of the shows here

2. Book your lodging well in advance. Whether you’re going to stay at a hotel or Air BnB it, this shows draws many many people from all over the world and a lot of lodging gets booked up well in advance. I’m already considering booking my hotel for next year NOW.

3. There are some things to consider too, if you’re flying or driving in to Tucson. Gems and beads and all that good stuff can get pretty heavy. I know a lot of folks who fly to Tucson and then have the supplies they buy shipped back home. They find it easier and then there’s less worry about something getting stolen, etc. If you’re driving, obviously you don’t have to be as concerned with things like weight. I made a road trip out of it, but I was only coming form the SF bay area. 

4. With the above said, if you decide to fly, you’ll need to consider how you’ll get around the city, because the show is spread out ALL over Tucson. Many shows are grouped very close to each other, but unless all the shows you want to go to are walking distance from your hotel, you’ll probably want another mode of transport. Obviously, you can rent a car. Your other option: the city of Tucson provides a shuttle for gem show attendees. Since I drove I didn’t use the shuttle. I considered it, but given the heavy weight of what I was buying, and the fact I was getting over my back injury, I wanted to have somewhere to set my things down between shows.

5. The previous point naturally leads into this point of mine: If your goal when you go is to see as many shows as possible, and you’re there to buy for your business, you’ll probably be pretty exhausted by day’s end. I found it very helpful to sort of plan out my show schedule before I left for my trip, and then I made adjustments to that schedule as each day went on. Overall I ended up being able to see MORE than I thought I’d have time for. The point of this point: know what your goal is on the trip. Are you simply there to check things out and scout around? Are you seeking out new stones you’ve never seen before? Or are you there to try to buy most of your supplies for there entire year? Having a focus will pay off in dividends when you’re tired at the end of the day and not sure how much oomph you’ve got left in you!

6. Don’t compare your goals to the goals of others you may run into and have conversations with. There are many folks there who are buying for large companies, or for their own bead store. These folks are buying TONS compared to what I was buying. But I’m buying TONS compared to what a new-to-jewelry making hobbyist will probably buy. Know your goals and focus on that.

7. If you’re not too rushed, and you’re open to it, you’ll have many rad conversations with both vendors and fellow buyers alike. I think the tip in this tidbit is simply to engage with the experience and you’ll enjoy your time so much more.

8. And, lastly, relating back to #6: set a buying budget for your trip. This will help to keep you on track and keep you from buying things that aren’t really right for your work. I would add this though: have a back up plan for going over budget, whether that’s a low-interest credit card, or simply some money you can pull out of savings. I know this might sound like  the least sound money advice. . . and it may very well be =). But I offer this advice because if you find something that is so perfect for your work and it’s at a great price, but you weren’t planning on it so you don’t have room in your budget for it so you don’t get it, you’ll despair later. Think of it this way: you’re paying all of these other expenses to go on the trip: lodging, transportation, food, etc - the more you can stock up on supplies the more worth while the trip is!

That’s all for now. I could easily write a whole blog series on this trip and show. Overall I had so much fun. And I’m sure you’re wondering - did I go over budget? And I will say, hell yes I did! But I had a plan (low interest credit card that I’m paying back as quickly as I can) and just knew at the time that it was the right thing to do. The only thing I regretted, upon arriving back home and assessing my loot, were the items I decided not to get even though they were great for my designs.

But there’s always the San Mateo Gem Show to fill in the gaps throughout the year. . . 

P.S. If you want to hear more of my thoughts and see more images and videos from my Tucson Gem Show trip, then head on over to my Instagram and check out my stories highlights titled “Tucson.”