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         ||   P.O. Box 356  ~  Browns Valley, CA 95918  ~  Tel: (530) 743-1339   ||   

The Biggest Bead Show in the World - Tucson Gem Show

Mark your calendar – January 28th through February 14th. Put a star next to it, underline it, high-light it, tell all your friends and family not to bother you at home during this time. Unless they want to come with you. Its time for the Tucson Gem and Mineral shows!! It’s happening all over Tucson in hotels, convention centers, event centers, tents, renovated mansions, parking lots, if there’s space available, there is a show going on involving beads, minerals, fossils, jewelry, gifts and literally anything you can imagine involving the jewelry trade. Companies from around the country and around the world come to Tucson during these two weeks to showcase their inventory to buyers from around the country and around the world. At last count there were 42 separate shows occurring at the same approximate time; some running longer than 2 weeks, some shorter.

To be able to see a list of all the shows that are running, along with their dates, locations and list of vendors, get your hands on the Tucson Show Guide, published by Colored Stone magazine, which is owned by Primedia the parent of Lapidary Journal. This comprehensive guide to the show covers everything you need to know about the show, from where each show is located, with maps and directions, phone number contacts for the location and the promoter, which shows are retail or wholesale, as well as the free bus shuttle schedule, list of vendors, contact information on the vendors, list of products of the vendors, as well as the overlapping dates of all the shows, so that you can plan your trip to cover as much of the show as effectively as possible. Not only is this guide invaluable as a planning resource, but it is extremely useful as a re-order guide after the show if you need to track down a vendor at a later date.

When it comes to beads, probably still the best show to see first is the Rodeway Inn on Grant Road, put on by G & LW (Gem and Lapidary Wholesalers). One of the first shows in Tucson, after the original Tucson Gem and Mineral Society show put on in the Convention Center, the Rodeway utilizes most of the rooms on the lower floor for vendor space, as well as the event center behind the hotel, and a huge tent to the side. In all there are probably about 600 vendors. Parking is a problem, so get there early or use the shuttle bus. There are lots of good, quality vendors at this show selling glass beads, pearls, stone beads, metal beads, findings, clasps, etc… however this is a wholesale only show and you will need to register with your tax I.D. and business information.

G & LW also has a simultaneous show at the Gem Mall in South Tucson, in 3 large tents with 3,000 parking spaces available, and of course the shuttle bus stops there too. Same dates as the Rodeway, some of the same vendors with second booths; this show is not so crowded and crazied, but probably the best up and coming show in Tucson.

G & LW also puts on the Holidome, which is close to the Gem Mall and consists of hotel rooms at the Holiday Inn and three huge tents. This show opens several days after the Rodeway and Gem mall open, and the opening day is a mad house. Some people love opening day, others dread it and avoid it like the plague. Opening day at the Holidome empties all the other shows, and might be a good day to shop those shows instead.

International Gem and Jewelry put on a show in a large tent off Congress St, and it has a wholesale section and a retail section.

Next to InterGem is GJX (Gem and Jewelry Exchange), a large tent with high end jewelry vendors.

The show that started it all is the Tucson Gem and Mineral show at the Convention Center in downtown Tucson. This is a retail show, but like any show, some vendors offer wholesale to their customers depending on their company policies and requirements. This is where you get see many specimens in showcases.

Driving down the frontage road next to interstate 10 from Rodeway to Days Inn and Travelodge you will find many shows; some with promoters and some independent. Most are mineral shows, with huge amethyst tunnels and quartz specimens standing outside to attract customers in, but in between all those are many bead dealers such as Beads Galore and Lafaye & Jim Goldstein of Beads and Rocks.

Traveling south towards the Gem Mall you will come to TEP (Tucson Electric Park) which is a large outdoor show, with both big and small tents scattered over many acres, much like the huge Quartzsite shows that run all of January prior to the Tucson shows, out in the Arizona desert north west of Tucson. (a lot of these vendors come straight to Tucson from Quartzsite). Here you will find beads and minerals, rocks and fossils, and large vendors such as Village Originals and Driftstone Pueblo.

Smaller bead shows that open during this time, but no less important than the big ones, for many different reasons, are Lewis Wilson’s - Best Bead Show, which specializes in art glass and American lampwork, is one show that serious buyers must attend on opening day or suffer the consequences of not getting the best beads first. They do sell out quickly at this show.

The Whole Bead Show put on by Eva Motherwell is another good, quality show with excellent vendors. This is primarily a retail show, with some vendors selling wholesale.

Bead Renaissance also opens during this same time – for several years in different locations. This year coming up next to the Gem Mall and Holidome, at the building that was the old Intergem. This is a retail show.

A fairly new show to Tucson, in fact this will be their second year, is the True Blue Bead show, at the Manning House. This show is put on by Eva Motherwell’s mother, and is primarily a retail show, although it is billed as a wholesale show.

Finally, last but not least, is Beaucoup Conge. A local bead store owned by David and Tomas, they host a bead show with a line up of vendors such as Jim Peterson of A.Bell Antiques and Klew of Spirited Bead. The shuttle bus drops off there as well, and is easy to get to and from.

The whole Tucson experience can be and is overwhelming, and helpful tips to remember are things like bring a suitcase with wheels, (as your bags will start to get heavy), water to drink and food to snack on as the buying can get so intense you forget to eat, (or feel like you have no time to stop and eat). Rent your hotel room early, as rooms sell out quickly. An alternative is to rent a house for the week, and share it with other buyers you know. That way you can cook in the kitchen, etc… under better conditions than a hotel.

If you know certain vendors are going to be in Tucson, and you are planning on seeing them, see them first and get your main buying out of the way; then with whatever time you have left, discover new vendors that might one day become main suppliers. It is very easy to start shopping and get distracted by all the exotic things you will find, and never get your main shopping accomplished. Grab business cards even if you have no time to stop and shop. In Tucson you will find some incredible things that you just stumble across…and your first thought will be to continue on and compare prices with another supplier. Depending on just how exotic it is, if your gut tells you it’s a good price that you can resell in your store or in your piece you are going to make, then maybe consider buying it immediately and have no regrets later. In fact, if you see the same product later, don’t even look at the price. The chances are you won’t remember where you saw the first one, never find a second source, and regret not buying it the first time. Tucson is so big, and there are so many vendors, and the buying is so intense, you probably will never be able to go back to see a vendor a second time. Or if you do go back, chances are it has all been sold, or the price has changed.

Go with a budget, and stick to it. If you do take credit cards, don’t overspend by rationalizing that its on credit, you will sell beads immediately you get back, etc…. you can easily spend millions in Tucson without really trying hard.

Have fun!

You can also have a second chance at shopping the Tucson Gem and Mineral during September, when G &LW puts on the Rodeway show and the Holidome again, but this time without the huge tents. It is only a 4 day show this time, and there are only a handful of competing shows occurring at the same time, but the same excitement is there. The shuttle buses are running, buyers fly in from all over, international vendors as well as national vendors have their goods on display, and it is just a little more laid back than February. Hotter too!
Lewis Wilson will be staging his first annual Fall Best Bead Show in Tucson, at the Convention center, and other smaller shows will be going on all over Tucson.

Fall Tucson is worth attending, especially as a lot of the importers who attend this show bring close outs and sale items to unload before the big February show, or showcase new products in advance of the February show. Just a little heads up to those of you in the know.

Wild Things Beads is a small family run American importer of Czech and German glass beads and buttons, and shows at the Rodeway Inn room #148 and Gem Mall booth #1132 during the Tucson gem show. Stop by and see J-ME & Guy! In the fall, they will be at the Rodeway Inn and the Best Bead Show.


Wild Things Beads  ~  P.O. Box 356  ~  Browns Valley, CA 95918  ~  Tel: (530) 743-1339

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