Adventures of Style ARThouse

Bead Shopping in Tucson

  • By Susan Murphy

     The Tucson Gem & Mineral Show must certainly be the ultimate destination for any serious jewelry maker.  I am going to attempt to explain this show, although it almost defies description! 

     Every year in late January, thousands of vendors descend upon Tucson to set up their booths at the 50-odd different locations around the town.  Then during the next three weeks, about 50,000 visitors arrive to see the multitude of beads, mineral samples, and fossils that are gloriously on display.  It is an overwhelming experience to be there, and we were on data-overload from Day One.

     Tibetan agate beads at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show


     Our favorite venue is the "Holidome Show" which features about 500 exhibitors spread over four huge tents.  You have to be a registered wholesale buyer to get in to this show, where everything is heavily discounted.  But the products are superb, and not cheap!  Here you can find the best of the best in natural stone beads and pearls.  We bought a lot of beautiful mother-of-pearl beads from Tai Chung Jewellery (from Hong Kong).  Here is a sample of what we bought from them, and some paua shell earrings we made:

     Mother-of-pearl beads bought in Tucson

     Earrings made from abalone shell, our title is Iridescent Inlay; sterling silver and paua shell

    Here are some more photos from the Holidome Show in Tucson:

     A booth at the Holidome Show

      Serious buyers bring a small suitcase on wheels to haul away their horde!

      Just some of the lovely beads available at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

     Another of my favorite venues in Tucson is called the Kino Show.  It takes place at the Kino Sports Complex, and it is HUGE.  This show is open to the public and features mineral samples and fossils, but there are a lot of beads there also.  I love seeing my favorite gem materials in their raw state!  Here are some pics:

     Colorful agates at the Kino Show, Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

     Apatite in the rough, our new stone to represent Earth in our Nine Planets Bracelet Deluxe version sold on Amazon

     This blue stone is rough apatite, that we use to represent the Planet Earth in our new Nine Planets Deluxe bracelet:

     Our new Nine Planets Deluxe bracelet, featuring apatite as planet Earth, with sterling silver findings

     Hematoid quartz, or strawberry quartz, in the rough at the Kino Show

     Waves of beads at the Kino Show

     These pictures don't even scratch the surface-- sorry!  It is hard to really capture the feeling of these shows!  We also went to the JOGS Show, which is a very high-end exhibit of expensive finished jewelry, beads, and jewelry-making supplies.  You should see all the amber sellers there!  Amber dealers come from Eastern Europe and set up incredible displays, which you really are not supposed to photograph, but I caught one photo down an aisle.


     Perhaps the most high-end venue at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show is the AGTA Show at the Convention Center.  That stands for American Gem Trade Association.  Here you find lots of diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, gold, etc.  When you walk in, the carpeting is pure white-- very elegant!

     Entrance to the AGTA trade show at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, with its pure white carpeting; very elegant!

     Showroom floor of the AGTA GemFair Show in Tucson

     Another of my favorite shows, because I love geology and fossils, is the 22nd Street Mineral and Fossil Show.  Here they have an incredibly long tent, that houses all the mineral and fossil aficiandos.  It is quite a sight to behold, and hard to capture in photos!

     Is this a T. Rex?  at the 22nd Street Mineral and Fossil Show in Tucson

     Fossils at the 22nd Street Mineral and Fossil Show, Tucson

     Slabs of rhodochrosite

     Beautiful hunks of polished rough turquoise

     Quartz crystal balls and points at the 22nd Street Show

     The Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase ends with the spectacular Tucson Gem & Mineral Show at the Tucson Convention Center for four days in the middle of February every year.  We were not there long enough to visit this show, but hope to get there next year. 

     Visiting the Tucson shows is an amazing experience and makes a fun, but exhausting vacation!  We bought a lot of beads and jewelry making supplies, and shipped most of it home in Priority Mail boxes!  Here we are relaxing at a wonderful restaurant in downtown Tucson, called La Cocina. 

     At La Cocina restaurant in Tucson

     At La Cocina restaurant in Tucson

     At La Cocina restaurant in Tucson

     Dinner at La Cocina in Tucson

     What a wonderful time we had in Tucson!  I hope you get to go some time, and if you do, say "hi" to the T. Rex for me!

Happy travels,

Sue Murphy

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