bead show

Why would you go to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show if you don’t make jewelry?

 On the way to my annual winter writing retreat this week, I passed a sign reading “Gem Show” with an arrow to a local hotel. I was reminded that today begins the two-week long Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

Started in someone’s garage 63 years ago, the event has grown to nearly 50-venues and brings 55,000 people to Tucson. I’ve read reports stating that during those two weeks, an extra $120 million is spent in the city.

It’s NOT just for rock collectors and jewelers anymore. In fact, in addition to every imaginable gem, mineral, crystal and jewelry-making tool and equipment, there is African Art, Native American Handcrafts, food trucks and items completely unrelated to gems and minerals.

Vendors sell everything from cheap junk to a tiara made with more than 1,000 diamonds. I’m told that one year, the show included a multi-million dollar uncut diamond.

There are also vendors of fibers, fabrics and vintage or handcrafted buttons. I think they are smart to show in an industry other than their own. Someone who hand knits wearables, for example, might also be shopping at the show for fancy buttons.

As a creative business coach, I aways look for overlaps and how one industry can compliment another. Noticing what makes you different and how other industries would be interested in what you have to offer helps you stand out in a crowded field.

One year, on a flight back to California from the Tucson Gem show, I sat next to an interior designer who was heading home from a furniture trade show. Because I’d been in the home furnishings industry years ago, I was interested to hear about what she saw at the market. As she talked about trends in lamps, fabrics and flooring, I thought about how someone in her business would be smart to attend a gem show and make connections with providers of architectural size rocks and minerals. An upscale designer could do well if she had a source for large, decorative accent pieces and what’s more one-of-a-kind than a giant rock?
I always ask clients “who else already has your audience?” When you’re trying to figure out where to sell your products or services, you and someone with a complimentary (not competing) business can connect each other with the ideal clients.

When you’re out and about, seeing new places and meeting people, always ask yourself, how can what i do compliment this person or place. You’ll be delighted with the possibilities.

Here are 3 more reasons you should go to a gem and mineral show even if you don’t make jewelry or collect rocks.

3 Reasons Artists Should Go to Gem, Mineral and Bead Shows, Even if you Don’t Make Jewelry

 This may sound like crazy advise, but even if the art you create has nothing to do with beads, gemstones or precious metal, you are shortchanging yourself and your business if you don’t attend a bead show this season. Ideally, you should visit a major show like the Tucson Gem Shows, but if you can’t travel to Arizona, there are likely smaller gem shows within a few hours of your home.

Here’s why you must attend a gem show:


Even though I seldom make jewelry anymore, I get inspired to do other creative projects every time I walk a gem show. You can’t see all those colors, textures and shapes without a burst of new ideas.


Whether you create sculpture, wearables, fiber art or wall art, you need to be current on trends and any trade show will give you an overview of what’s happening in fashion, home and lifestyle. Even if you make vintage crafts, you MUST be up on popular colors and styles.

Original VS Knockoff:

For years I sold venetian art glass and beads handmade on the island of Murano in Italy. If I didn’t attend mainstream tradeshows, I’d have no idea that thousands of vendors now sell what they call “Murano glass” which is factory-made in China and looks to the untrained eye like the real thing. I wouldn’t have known why my sales of venetain glass slowed down and people thought the prices of the handmade pieces were outrageous. Learning that what you make is being knocked off for a much lower price doesn’t mean you should stop making that item, only that you must be sure your creations are different enough from the copies to warrant the much higher price. And, you should make sure that you or anyone wearing or selling your work knows your personal story and why your work is special and commands a higher price. (The designer whose venetian glass jewelry I sold had been an opera singer and her story was part of the intrigue. See “why your art needs a story” HERE. )

Gem shows are also a source of connection with other artists in different media. I’ve never attended a bead show that didn’t include vendors other than gems and jewelry. As is the case anywhere you assemble artists, you’ll find a high level of creative energy and opportunity to learn and network with like-minded people. And if those aren’t reasons enough, you’ll have good, clean FUN. Go play.