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My First Tucson Gem Show Experience

Mind-blowing Gems and Dramatic landscapes - Arizona and my Tucson Gem Show Experience. 


Huge Tourmaline Crystal in the Alfie Gem and Mineral Museum


As you may know from my social media,  I was lucky enough to visit the incredible Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in Arizona.  It is said to be the largest, and most prestigious gem and mineral show in the world.

In early February the entire town is given over to all things gem and jewellery and people from all over the world gather in Tucson. There are 40 different shows going on in the city, which inhabit a multitude of convention centres, massive building-size marquees, warehouses and hotels (where beds are removed from the rooms and gems displays are put up instead).  It’s a mind-blowing set of events.

This show brings together a diverse group of retailers and wholesalers - from gem dealers, to lapidaries (gem cutters), jewellers, fossil & mineral dealers, precious metal wholesalers, mine owners, gemologists,  jewellers who design for museums down to artisan jewellers like me,  plus many more - think ‘rock’ bathtub dealers and sellers of human sized Amethyst pieces. It is a truly amazing event to witness.

Coloured gemstones are my passion and this trip was dedicated to discovering even more about the wonderful world of coloured gems - whether that was learning about stone cutting, mining these beautiful gems, or purchasing stones for future pieces of jewellery for you (and me!) to wear. 

Find out more about the show and the treasure I collected below!


Arizona has more than just deserts, it is home to several different gemstones and has one of the longest histories of gemstone mining & production in the US. Arizona’s state gem is turquoise and has been home to the Sleeping Beauty, Kingman, and Bisbee turquoise mines.  Arizona is directly beside New Mexico, where I usually spend a few weeks in February to learn more jewellery techniques an look for stones. Tucson is a completely different level to Santa Fe and Albuquerque where gems and jewellery are a focus.   At Tucson  I managed to find King Lapidary - who was the man I purchased my very first pieces of turquoise from back in 2016, in Taos, New Mexico.

The ‘Top Gun’ of Gem Shows (Coined by Gemmology Rocks)

It’s hard to describe the vast scale of this gem and jewellery event and the overwhelming but also comforting feeling of being surrounded by thousands of gems on show and for sale. With approx 3000 vendors, it really was the ultimate treasure hunt!   You can start to think that emeralds, sapphires and rubies are common as you walk past stall after stall of them but they indeed are not - they are rare.  Coloured gemstones are significantly more rare than diamonds. But this show is the ‘best of the best’ of coloured gems.

gemstone counters at tucson gemshow

One booth of hundreds: Columbia Gem house who sell ethical gems, I visited and purchased from them too.

So where did I start? Here’s a tip - if you’re ever thinking of visiting this show, I really suggest that you have an idea in mind of what you want to purchase to avoid some of the overwhelm (but basically overwhelm is completely unavoidable).

I sat down before I left the UK  and made a list of everything my customers wanted and what I was looking to add to my collection.  There were very specific stones I had seen on instagram that I knew I wanted to see  in person and there was only one tray of them available fromRare Earth Mining Co.  So that booth was my first stop on day one.

Rare Earth Mining co

Rare Earth Mining Co's team of helpers - Kurt in the bow tie is the owner and inherited the business from his father.

magnetite infused with 22k gold

Magnetite infused with 22k gold

Only one tray of these!!!!

This is Magnetite Jade from Boron California, which is no longer mined. It is electroplated with 22k gold which fills in the dendtric (tree like) patterns! I knew Rare Earth Mining Co had only one tray of this beautiful gemstone, so when I arrived at the AGTA show I RAN! Through the entrance, down the steps and straight to the the 'Rare Earth Mining co'  stall which was swarming with people. There was no way they could sell out before I got my hands on them. As you can see, I managed to purchase the perfect stones to make two pair of earrings and a pendant and I can’t wait to make these pieces of jewellery.

rare earth mining booth tucson

Me selecting gems for three hours!

For more than three hours I stood in one place and  searched through RARE EARTH MINING's stall looking for gemstones.  They had a great set of helpers, who were jewellers from all over the US,  to help you find what you wanted and  they had a wonderful selection of cabochons.  I even made friends on the stall in the three hours of standing and comparing gems with the woman beside me. I added many stones that I have never bought or even seen before and  I am really happy to have pulled together an incredible collection of rare stones to make you all some stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces. 


Here’s some photographs of some of the stones I purchased… 

Pieces from Rare Earth Mining Co


Gorgeous Labradorite from JOGS show

Boulder Opals from Australia





    Too much turquoise?

    And the question I know you are asking…. Did I buy any turquoise? Being completely honest, I hadn’t planned to buy as much turquoise as I did. But Tucson confirmed that I really do know the market for this gemstone - I know what is high quality and not! I know a good price and a bad one.

    One new type of turquoise I did buy this year was ‘rough turquoise’.  Last year I purchased a cab cutting machine (a machine that will allow me to cut and polish my own stones) so I was thrilled to find some beautiful rough turquoise in different forms from the Kingman mine. One day you will see these pieces turn into beautiful jewellery!

    Rough stabilised turquoise

    My cab cutting machine


    It wasn’t just about the ‘shopping’ at the Tuscon Gem Show. I love to engage myself with as much knowledge as possible and the AGTA (American Gem Trading Association) was running seminars everyday.    I attended one about gemstone cutting, another about Tourmalines (my new favourite stone) mined in the US and another by a woman who creates amazing high end jewellery pieces for museums.

    Gem cutting demonstrations with expert cutter Derek Katzenbach


    Also I had ‘A day at the Alfie Gem and Mineral Museum’ which is part of the University of Arizona.  Here I attended lectures about different gems such as the beautiful green Tsavorite Garnet from  East Africa, to mining Tourmaline in Maine, along with a presentation on ruby mining and grading.



    Tourmaline Crystals in Pegmatite at the Havey Mine in Maine, USA


    My jewellery plans

    Gemstones are my passion - but so is making jewellery! It’s such an honour to be able to make pieces that allow these stunning stones to be more accessible and wearable. So what are the next steps for these stones and my learnings from my trip? 

    I have many ideas floating around in my head for the new stones but I am playing catchup from the long trip and illness and a new pile of bespoke orders. So it will be some time before these new gems make it into jewellery.  However, if you see a picture of something that catches your eye please let me know.  50% of my work is making bespoke jewellery , so if you have your eye on any particular stones in this collection, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we can create something beautiful together. Whether making bespoke pieces or stock items for the website I will be documenting the journey as always, so please give me a follow on Instagram  for updates and behind the scenes from my workshop. 

    Road Trip


    Monument Valley

    When I finally hit ‘overwhelm’ in Tucson and had an empty bank account I decided to do what I love best and I hit the open road.

    I travelled the length of Arizona and all the way to Utah. I drove 1300 miles alone in a massive circle from Phoenix to Tucson, Tucson to Winslow, Winslow to Monument Valley on the Arizona/Utah border and onto the Grand Canyon, Sedona and back to Phoenix.

    I highly recommend  this trip - the landscape is so variable and so DRAMATIC. From the Salt River Canyon, to the incredible Monument Valley with the famous ‘Forest Gump Point’ in Utah,  the Grand Canyon and Sedona- it was incredible to tick off so many stunning locations off my bucket list. A great start to 2023.