Tucson Gem Show – The largest in the world!
Every year from January 29th until February 13th Tucson Arizona hosts the largest gem show in the world. The entire city becomes one big gem show where you can find anything related to beads and gems, this includes diamonds, ruby’s, gemstones, glass beads, findings etc. There are entire shows devoted to only one product.
This is the time of year if you are a bead-a-holic to literally shop until you drop. I wrote this article as a guide to help you navigate yourself through the many shows.
How to shop for Beads and Gems in Tucson!!
Tucson can be truly overwhelming for first timers and veterans alike. With every venue (hotel or roadside tent) vying for your dollars. My goal is to perform magic and turn a ten-dollar bill into a hundred…well, at least you’ve come to the right place if you are in search of gems and beads. I’ve come up with a checklist for making your shopping experience a profitable and fun one.
First: MAKE A LIST, yep, that’s right do some homework and make a list…even check it twice for the must haves. If there are things you have to match up beads, gems etc. buy some stretch magic or any stretchy cord and string your samples. Wear this on your wrist as you shop so if you are trying to find coordinating beads you’re actually be wearing your sample, or you can carry them in a clear ziplock. If possible avoid digging and looking for samples inside of a handbag or shopping bag, this may appear suspicious to a seller who may question your motives.
Second: come up with a money amount for your budget. Its not like you have to stick with it to the letter but at least have some idea of what you can afford tospend.
Third: Know what venues have what you’re searching for. Some locations like the Holidome carry a mixed group of vendors (gems, beads, stones, finished jewelry). Some venues are for mainly glass beads. Make sure you check for dates and hours of shows and if there are any special requirements. For wholesale only shows, make sure you bring your license with you. I made miniature copies (credit card size) of mine at a copy place and laminated it so that it stays protected and I can carry it conviently in my wallet.
Fourth: Know what you are buying, compare apples with apples. Carry a small millimeter gauge with you so when you’re shopping for that special bead or stone you’re at least know the size is the same. Know your beads and stones…like is the coral you’re buying dyed or natural. Things like that determine the price. Are the pearls the same quality, are the gems you want faceted or machine cut?
Fifth: Know the difference in grams and ounces. Carry a chart with you if you need to. If one vendor is selling sterling for so much a gram and another is selling by the ounce know how to compute the difference to get the better deal. Buying sterling can be tricky; the only guarantee you have that you are getting what you’re paying for is the reputation of the person selling it to you. Some sterling plated over pewter items is so good that it’s hard for even a professional to tell the difference.
Sixth: Watch out for those 50% off tables and the buy so much get so much free. Remember if it seems too good to be true it probably is. A lot of vendors play the 50% off game, but again make sure you’re up on your prices. The vendor has already marked their prices up double to give you a 50% discount, which is really the original price they wanted to sell the item(s) for. No vendor is giving away inventory. Some vendors say “buy $500 get $500 free. The truth is, the vendor has calculated his or her desired profit margin no matter how much you buy. Don’t scramble to meet someone’s minimum and buy something you don’t really want. If you are a bead buyer, figure out your price per bead. I know for a fact that sometimes the vendor who’s not in the game of discounting can have just a good of a price and some times even better. If a string of beads has 20 beads at $10.00, then each bead costs 50 cents. The 50 per cent off or discount vendor may have the 20 beads at $20.00 and then tell the customer, 50 percent off.
Seventh: If you are purchasing items you know are in abundance at different venues, keep a list of prices, items and booth numbers to make sure you are getting the best prices. Collect cards with booth numbers on the back and keep them in a folder. I carry a miniature stapler to staple them to my notebook. Besides this gives you a permanent record of vendors you may want to contact later.
Eighth: Get a show guide and map out the places you intend on shopping at so that you can cover the most amount of territory with the least effort.
If possible bring a small travel bag with wheels to make carrying your purchases easier.
Above all make this a fun experience. Happy Shopping!!