What it's like to attend a gem show, an inspiration for custom jewelry

When I started in jewelry design, I had no idea what an incredible experience going to a gem show would be. Now, I look forward to the energy and discovery that comes with my yearly visit to the Tuscon Gem show.   

Gem shows are events where gemstone dealers, miners, and hobbyists gather to buy, sell, and display their wares. These events can be small, local affairs, or large, international gatherings, and they attract a wide range of attendees, from professional gem traders to amateur collectors. Attending a gem show can be a remarkable experience if you love gems and jewelry. And if you have never participated, consider the Tuscon Gem show.   

The Great Thing About Gem Shows

One of the main draws of a gem show is the opportunity to see a wide variety of gemstones from all over the world. Dealers and miners from countries such as Brazil, Madagascar, and Sri Lanka often attend, bringing a diverse selection of gems, including diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and many others. Some shows also feature displays of fossils, minerals, and other natural specimens. These large gem shows bring together the leaders in the industry and allow me to connect with master lapidaries (or gem cutters). It truly becomes a mystical experience each time I attend. I find it difficult to NOT fall in love with all the unique stones I come across. I have been known to go home with more stones than I was looking to source. Many times, these beautiful stones I select are the ones we use for our one-of-a-kind creations. Often, drawing inspiration from the show for a new interlocking ring design or unique engagement ring. When I return to the studio, I love to sit and admire all the additions to my collection and imagine new jewelry pieces I can create with them.   

Learning at gem shows

Something else I love about attending these gem shows is all the new knowledge that I can acquire. Through conversations with gem enthusiasts, other gem collectors, lecturers, and workshops, I have come to learn so much about all the steps involved in getting to the beautiful, finished product. They have also helped raise my awareness about the difficulties facing the miners. This, in turn, has made me passionate about maintaining transparency in my jewelry-making while also ensuring everyone along the way is treated fairly and with respect.   

This year at the Tuscon Gem Show, I will attend a workshop about lab diamonds and how to identify and work with them. I will also take a class about how to identify fake gemstones.   

For those who are just getting started in the world of gems, attending a gem show can be an excellent way to learn more about the hobby. Many shows have beginner’s areas, where attendees can learn about gemology and even try cutting and polishing their own stones.  

When choosing a gem show to attend, many options exist. Some of the largest and most well-known shows include the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, held annually in Tucson, Arizona, and the Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines Mineral & Gem Show, held in France. These shows attract thousands of attendees from all over the world and feature hundreds of exhibitors. I love going to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show because it is one of the largest in the world. I have discovered incredible lapidaries that are now my go-to source for truly magical stones in Tucson.   

Another show I have attended multiple times is the Denver Gem and Mineral Show. This show is excellent for gaining knowledge about various aspects of gemology. My team and I went to this one last year and learned a lot about sapphires.   

My Advice For Attending A Gem Show

I have been attending these shows for many years, so I know how to prepare for the experience. My advice for anyone looking to attend one of these shows:  

  1. Come prepared to spend a lot of time on your feet. Especially in Tucson! The entire city is transformed into a Gem Convention. City areas focus on gems, minerals, and jewelry, so you can spend days walking around. Comfortable shoes are a must.  
  1. If you are coming as an enthusiast, rest assured that all these experts are happy to answer even your most basic questions. They love to educate and are drawn to people who have an interest in their life’s work.   
  1. Have a budget and an idea of what you want to purchase. Since it is the perfect place to buy a gem directly from the source, you can purchase a beautiful stone below the retail price; this doesn’t mean it will not be expensive, however. You may get better value for your piece, but you should still be prepared to spend a significant amount. Setting a budget before you go is vital to avoiding overspending (trust me!).   

A gem show is a beautiful, magical escape from a typical day’s work. If you ever plan a trip to Tuscon, I recommend making it happen around February so that you can add this experience to your itinerary. If you decide to go, please reach out to me, as I will likely be there too and would love to connect with you!