Friday, February 23, 2018

A Love Letter to the Tucson Gem Show (Sort of)

Before I headed to Tucson for this year's gem buying trip, I kept getting asked, "Are you SO excited to go?"

I was. And...I wasn't. 

A little background: "The Tucson Gem Show" is actually 40-plus shows, all situated in different locations in Tucson, Arizona. The "show" runs over two weeks; some shows are open for the whole two weeks, some are open for one week, some are open for ten get the point. Every year, in advance of the next year's show, I sit down and look at the dates of each show I want to attend (and I usually hit at least six, sometimes eight, over a three or four day span). For some shows I want to be there for the opening day, for some I don't care about what day they open, but I need to know their duration so I can plan the shopping accordingly (and hopefully efficiently). And every year the schedule seems just a *little* different. 

Beautiful Hubei Turquoise cabochons

So I get the schedule set, and then it's time to look at airfare, car rental, and lodging. Because while there are shuttle buses to get you from one show to another (with varying degrees of success), there's no bus to get you from where you're staying, to the show, or back at the end of the day. There might be Uber, now, but with the huge influx of people coming into Tucson for the show, Uber likely would have long waits, and of course...surge pricing. So honestly a rental is just easier.

Once that's all settled, I start planning what I'm going to be looking for. Notice that I didn't say *buying*, because you can't always plan for what you're going to buy.

Part of the frustration (and sometimes its charm) of Tucson is that you don't find the same things from year to year. Or at the same price. Or from the same place. It's a little like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping some of it sticks. ;) 

So I go through my gems, looking at what I might need for the year. Do the Sabi necklaces need more organically shaped gems? And which gems? What colors? Do the squiggles need small but eye-catching gems? I make lists and then I take photos of what I have and note what I want to try and find. I print out the photos and those go with me so that I have a very visual reference to keep me on track with my buying. Because it is so very, very easy to get distracted...or carried away, and overspend. And while buying sheet metal and wire isn't as "sexy" as gem buying, I still need to do that, or the lovelies I find can't become jewelry! 

So that's the pre-planning. And then once you arrive, there's the EVENT. For me, a four- or five-day extravaganza of seeing all these gorgeous gems, alternating with rising anxiety if I can't find what I need, or can't find it for the right price, and have to stop (though you never really "stop" at Tucson, you just process mentally while you're walking from booth to booth) to reconfigure and be open to making changes on the fly. Because there are no "do-overs" at the gem show. You're there and then you wait another year. That can be a little stressful. 

Beautiful, deep purple charoite

It's from 10-6 every day, for me that's usually four days, and you are shopping, yes...but you are also working. Then you get in your car and drive to the next show, looking for parking, hoping you have enough water and food, where are you going to grab lunch if you don't, how much turquoise did I really just buy and do I need any more, should I have gotten that delicious chrysocolla I saw, even though I told myself I have enough right now and don't need it for this year, what else is on the list for the next show, do I have enough cash still...and then when it's six o'clock and it's all over for the day, you head back to your lodging and collapse a little. For me, usually with a cold white wine. And then, if you're me, you sit down and organize for the next day. You make notes about what you bought and what you still need, cross of the list anything that you are NOT ALLOWED TO LOOK AT, NOT EVEN FOR A MOMENT, NO MATTER HOW PRETTY IT IS because you just bought it yesterday...

and then, if scheduling permits, you might grab dinner with a good friend whom you don't see often enough. You do this even though you're wiped out, because those times are special, and you don't know when the next time might be. Otherwise you crash. The next day you get up and do it all over again. While you're trying to be diligent about not catching what is known as the Tucson Crud. It's very, very easy to get sick, either at the gem show or once you get home and your system isn't all adrenaline-amped. Thousands and thousands of people, on planes, at restaurants, handling the gems and breathing, moving, touching,'s a huge petri dish. Hand wipes are critical. As is a good immune system, if you're fortunate enough to have one. :)

So when people ask me, "Are you excited?" Yes...I am. And I'm not. But mostly yes. Because really, when I get home and I open up all the packages and I sort all the pretties and I start laying out gems for designing, it's worth it. It's ALWAYS worth it. But I'm also really happy that I don't have to do it all again until the next year. :)

Stay tuned for more delicious photos of beautiful gems! I've shared some on Instagram and Facebook, but I will be sharing more here as time permits. I'm also full speed ahead on a whole new collection, as some of you know, and will be posting about those designs as well in the near future.

Be well and be happy!


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