Do you even care about crystals if you’re not hugging 8-foot geodes at least once a year? For hardcore lovers of healing crystals, the Tuscon Gem Show is an annual pilgramage to paradise where vibes run high. From about January 27th to February 17th, the massive, sparkling showcase is open to visitors from around the world. One of our favorite crystal-loving ladies, Mariah K. Lyons of Astara Collective, is a regular of the annual show — her line of crystal-powered sandals is truly one-of-a-kind. We asked this savvy pro to walk us through the ideal ways to experience the Gem Show and Tuscon itself…
Have you noticed gorgeous crystals in your social feeds as of late? It may be images and pieces from the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show. This annual show (of more than 48 individual shows) draws the likes of collectors, wholesalers, dealers, designers and crystal-lovers alike and attracts roughly 55,000 rock hounds. While every state in the U.S. has multiple gem shows throughout the year, the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is the world’s largest gem and mineral show as every major mine, dealer and wholesaler has a presence.
A Guide To the Tucson Gem Show
While it may seem like a no-brainer to head out to the desert with your fellow gem lovers in search of the best deals, the Tucson Gem Show may be a bit trickier for newbies to navigate. Luckily, with years in the game and countless mistakes made, I feel prepared to offer advice on how to navigate it. So, welcome to my How-To Do The Tuscan Gem Show Guide.
The Tucson Gem Showcase is not one individual show, but 48 individual shows spread out across the city. These range from wholesale-only jewelry markets, curated museum displays, bulk raw mineral lots, gem shows that are open to the public, and even African and craft markets. There are so many shows — truly you could spend the full two weeks visiting and still not cover everything.
And as with anything in life, both intention and clarity are crucial, so setting the intention to find exactly what is needed helps. But for a bit more practical advice, here’s some direction to steer you on your gem-filled path.
Where to Stay in Tucson
There are two ways to go about hotel choice: Stay close in vicinity to the main shows for easy in-and-outs, which save time and money on parking (so you can walk to many of the shows), or stay in east Tucson by the mountains. This choice leaves you 40 minutes away from the shows, which equals peace and quiet.
If you are only staying for two or three days, it is much better to stay in town by the majority of the shows. If you are visiting for four days or longer, take the extra time and stay a bit out of town — it can be worth it.
Southwest Tucson (five minutes or less to the main shows):
HOTEL MCCOY | A hip refurbished mid-century art hotel that recently opened in fall 2018 is walking distance to many of the major shows (this helps save parking fees which can be upward to $20 during the shows). It boasts very comfortable beds, nightly events (massages or live music) and free room service delivery from local eating establishment American Eat Co. Also, all the art in the hotel is for sale with all proceeds going directly to the artist. Its an incredible new hotel that has me excited for many trips to come. Truly a gem of a hotel. ($$)
North/East Tucson (close to mountains, approx. 40 mins to shows):
WESTIN LA VENTANA | This is a golf and spa luxury resort with eight on-site restaurants, a state-of-the art spa and gorgeous views of the mountains. Its truly a restorative get-away from the hustle-and-bustle of the gem shows. After a long day lugging around rocks and getting dusty and dirty, it’s nice to come home to the quiet of the desert and a relaxing spa soak. Get the Seasonal Scrub + Massage to release the day and sore muscles from digging through heavy stones. ($$$)
MIRAVAL | A idyllic resort and spa nestled on 400 acres of land in North Tucson by the Santa Catalina Mountains, Miraval focuses on wellness-minded events and services. With activities such as Creative Expression, Miraval Arizona Bees, Spirit and Soul, this is more than a beautiful place to stay, it is a full body retreat. Indulge with a Crystal Salt Serenity Scrub or a Qi Grounding Service to release any heavy energy or stress picked up while at the shows. ($$$$)
Where To Eat
Five Points Cafe | One of my favorite places to visit while in Tucson and a five-minute drive from the main shows. Its a sun-filled market and café offering local seasonal produce and local farm fresh eggs with a Southwestern flare. Think Smoked Beet Sandwiches, Arugula Goat Cheese Salads and Bandito Blanco Potato Pancakes. Make sure to order the house-made kimchee and take a peak at their daily baked goods, many of which are V/GF. Five Points is only open for breakfast and lunch each day and closes at 2pm. ($$)
Cafe Poca Cosa | Downtown Tucson’s upscale yet casual restaurant features imaginative Mexican cuisine with fresh local flavors. Its a famous Tucson establishment, which means it can be difficult to get a table. (Reservation recommended.) The menu changes twice daily and is written on a chalkboard which the waiter leaves on the table. Meat focused, but menu always has a fish and vegetarian option, and offers the freshest Cadillac margarita north of Mexico. ($$$)
Agustin Kitchen | Charred Brussel Sprouts, Elote Chicken Wings and Winter Mezze Plates keep you warm and cozy during a Tucson winter. Comfort Southwestern with a twist, this upscale bistro boasts fresh cocktails and local ingredients. Enjoy the gorgeous ambience and often live music in the courtyard. ($$)
The Coronet | This restaurant is owned by the same management as Agustin and is a special spot. It offers seasonal rustic European country cooking featuring local seasonal produce and sustainable meats. Each dish modern and unique yet traditional. Order the Roasted Cauliflower Steak and Scallops and Lentils. ($$)
Mi Nidito | Tucson staple. Classic Southwestern Mexican food that is a perfect grounding meal after the chaos of the shows. Always busy, always fresh, always delicious. Order the prickly Pear Cactus Enchiladas or Chimichangas. ($)
Beaut Burger | For something close to the main shows, and quick and healthy on-the-go, the newly opened Beaut Burger in the Mercado St. Agustin ANNEX is your spot. All burgers are vegetarian on a slow fermenting bun (optional gluten free buns and toppings). Delicious sweet potato fries and potato salad, and you can’t go wrong with any of their burgers. ($)
Gem Shows Not To Be Missed
cash is king | First of all, at gem shows like these, cash is king, obviously. Most places will only take a credit card if you have a wholesale license, so cash or check is preferred. There are ATMs at most shows, but do bring cash ahead of time. There is generally a little wiggle room with bartering on prices, but at the wholesale shows bottom price is usually offered outright.
getting to & fro | Most of the major shows are located in hotels with vendors setting up shop in the courtyard or hotel rooms. There are several shows that are in close proximity to one another, and the others are several miles away. Each show has its own parking lot and costs usually anywhere from five to twenty dollars. If you are visiting more than a few shows a day, it adds up. There is a free shuttle that goes between the main “gem loop” but can be a hassle if carrying bags or heavy stones. I recommend renting a car or driving if possible (and to perhaps save your sanity).
pack snacks | Pack snacks and reusable water bottle and utensils. Most shows have concessions, but I always bring food and sneak out for lunch and dinner.
Energetic Alignment | Admittedly, the energy can become overwhelming — there are lots of highly charged crystals, gems that need cleansing (all crystals hold onto energy) and crowds upon crowds of people. I recommend packing your bag with a selenite wand, rose water spray, grounding shoes and the reminder to breathe.
There are 48 different shows during the duration of the Tucson Gem Show, some small and some large, some wholesale and others open to the public. Within those 48 there are seven to ten major shows. These are a must-see:
KINO GEM + MINERAL SHOW | Large outdoor show great for larger pieces and bulk rough stones. Most vendors open to the public. Free parking. (Kino Sports Complex, 2500 E. Ajo Way)
PUEBLO GEM + MINERAL SHOW | Held at the Riverpark Inn, this show is open to the public and has collector pieces, bulk tumbled, beads, large interior pieces, as well as bulk boxed stones by the crate. Crystal Tones is also here with gemstone singing bowls, which is always my respite in the day. Pay parking lot. (350 S. Freeway)
RAPA RIVER GEM & MINERAL SHOW | Next to Riverpark, with some overflow, this show has great cabochons, many apophyllite clusters, beads and larger pieces of quartz. Open to the public. Pay parking lot. (292 S. Freeway)
TUCSON GEM + MINERAL SHOW | The original gem show is held for one weekend during the entire two-week showcase and is held at the Tucson Convention Center. Small admission charge. (260 S Church Ave.)
GIGM SHOW, HOWARD JOHNSON GEM + MINERAL SHOW | One of the main shows with adjacent smaller shows. Great for bulk tumbled stones, large clusters, many Malachite vendors from Congo and Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan. The courtyard of the hotel is set up with vendors as well as individual hotel rooms. Don’t miss. Pay parking lot. (1010 S. Freeway Rd.)
JG+M EXPO | Jewelry, gems and minerals open to wholesale and the pubic. Wholesalers: Present your tax ID for discounted prices, if applicable. Great show for specially jewelry pieces and cut stones. Free parking. (3300 Michigan St.)
22ND ST MINERAL + FOSSIL SHOW | It’s a staple and one the main shows during the two weeks. Tented and all indoors, this show features tumbled, mid-size and collector pieces as well as dinosaur bones, meteorites and the like. Don’t miss. Pay parking lot. (NW Corner of 22nd St and 1-10 Freeway)
Have fun, bring reusable bags (every vendor packs in plastic still), always cleanse your stones once you bring them home and, at the end of the day, the gemstone that is meant to come home with you will.