For over two weeks every year starting in late January, Tucson, Arizona becomes the site for gem, mineral and fossil shows. People from all over the world flock there to buy and sell, get updated on the latest trends, attend trade group conferences, meet up with old friends and make new ones. I had been to Tucson three times previously, but the most recent time was twenty six years ago. In that time the number of vendors has increased significantly and the count of venues is now somewhere around four dozen. So I was quite excited to be going again in 2018.
We arrived late the previous evening after a fairly uneventful trip. Well, it was unusual in that both flights actually landed not just on time, but early. The rental car was ready and we found the hotel without a single wrong turn. It turned out that the hotel was one of the show sites, so there was only a narrow path through to the lobby desk. Despite the apparent chaos from the show, the accommodations were okay. I was concerned that it might be noisy, but as we discovered, around 9 pm quiet seemed to settle in for the night.
The alarm went off at 5am. Steve Ulatowski, New Era Gems, had posted about the lunar eclipse, super blue moon and had challenged friends to meet at the base of Sentinel Peak to walk up to the top for the eclipse followed by the sunrise shortly thereafter. After what seemed like several minutes as the alarm sounds from the phone grew increasingly louder, I finally managed to silence the beast and crawl out of bed. It was definitely on the cooler side of things as I exited the back door of the hotel and headed for the neighboring dirt lot where the car was parked. (Normal hotel parking was filled with outdoor show booths.) Sentinel Peak was basically behind our hotel, so getting there was just a matter of following the streets heading that way. Well, sort of. Took a few tries to get on the right road and then one stop along the way to check google to be sure I wasn’t on another dead end.
I was surprised to see how many other people were crazy enough to be up and about at that hour. There were a few dozen people in and around the parking lot at the base of the peak watching the show. The moon actually was taking on a reddish cast as advertised. About the time there was only a tiny portion left not impacted by the eclipse and Sentinel Peak started to obscure the view, the New Era contingent arrived on the scene and we started the walk up the peak. After only a very short distance we gained enough elevation to have a good view of the moon again. It was pretty dark so I could not identify most of my companions for the hike. One gentleman introduced himself as “Arnold”. (Later that night when some posts of the event appeared on Facebook, I discovered that he was Arnold Duke, President of International Gem & Jewelry.) We went to a lookout spot at the top to watch the full eclipse. It was quite breezy and cold as might be expected but the view was fantastic. As the event passed we headed down and around to the other side of the peak to watch the sunrise from a spot just below the “A” on the hillside.
Off to the Shows
After getting back to the hotel and thawing out in a hot shower and a bit of breakfast downstairs it was time to set off exploring the shows. Our hotel and the one adjacent were both sites for the GIGM shows (http://www.gigmshow.com/). The vendors were just uncovering their outside booths as we set out. The amount of material to see was mind boggling. Some booths had mineral specimens including amethyst geodes up to six feet tall. Others had equally impressive fossils. There were some larger tents where one could find cabochons of just about any material you could imagine. Most of the ground floor rooms were being used by vendors and just about every possible square foot of outside space around the hotels was covered with booths.
Eventually we decided to head up the street a bit to the next site where the Pueblo show (http://www.pueblogemshow.com/) was hosted. Years ago that hotel was named the Pueblo Inn. It is now called the Arizona Riverpark Inn, but the original name for the gem show located there has stuck. I had some recollection of that show from my past visits since Room 110 has been home to New Era Gems (https://neweragems.com/), one of rough dealers with whom I have done business since I started faceting. It was quite apparent that the size of the show had increased dramatically. We entered via a huge tent containing a huge selection of fossils, minerals, carvings and many other related objects. Again, some of these items were quite big. As we exited and headed towards the front door of the hotel, we encountered a couple additional specimens of quartz crystals that dwarfed all the others. Getting those out of the ground intact must have been on the order of dealing with a T. rex skull.
In addition to New Era, there were several other vendors on my list for the Pueblo show. I found the Arizona Case room not too far from New Era. Many years ago I had purchased one of their display cases and was interested in finding out if at this point a second one of the same design was possible. The salesman was very helpful and provided lots of details that will help my decision on that as well as on some of their other products.
When I had been to the Pueblo years ago, I am sure that some the grounds were showing. Like the others, now there wasn’t any open space left. I have no idea where the hid the swimming pool. A large tent housed dozens of additional vendors. One of the highlights was not too far inside the door – John Dyer’s booth which had a nice assortment of faceted / fantasy cut gem eye candy.
After making a quick pass through the Pueblo vendors, the next stop was the 22nd Street show across the freeway from our hotel. This was another ridiculously huge tent followed by a much smaller, nicer structure on the other side of the food court. That building housed a nice dinosaur exhibit at one end. And at the other end, one of our SLO businesses, I Love Rocks, had a nice sized booth and seemed to be busy with customers.
When I finally got back to the hotel room, I discovered that I had failed when it came to note taking with respect to materials of interest back at New Era. So I headed out again to Pueblo for the last hour or so of that day’s show. On this pass, I found more vendors I had missed on my first pass. One Brazilian booth had some nice reasonably priced facet grade amethyst, citrine and aqua which might work for the sort of cutting I was planning. I ended up at the New Era rooms making some notes. I still had no idea what I would actually purchase, but the “Ultraviolet” Amethyst was screaming “take me home”. It has a vibrant color and ultraviolet just happened to be Pantone color of the year for 2018.
By the time I got back to the hotel I was tired and hungry. We settled for dinner at “the Kettle” which was just steps away from the lobby door. It had been a long, fun first day.