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!! Its happening all over Tucson in
hotels, convention centers, event centers, tents, renovated mansions,
parking lots, if theres 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
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
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 Wilsons - 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
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 Motherwells 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
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 its 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, dont even look at the price. The chances are you
wont 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,
dont 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.
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.