Tucson Day 1

Today was the opening day of the Gem Mall, one of the larger wholesale shows in Tucson. There are two tents here – one about the size of a football field and the other about 2/3 that size. There are vendors here from all over the world – China, India, Africa, Australia. Probably the only major continent without representation is Antarctica.

Although semi-precious gems are the main draw at this show, you can find anything from strands of diamond beads to chips-on-stretchy-elastic bracelets for a $1. It’s very much Caveat Emptor at a show like this though. There’s lots of glass or dyed howlite masquerading as turquoise, for instance. Tons of Swarovski look-alikes. Although I had to grin at the vendor who was advertising his “crystal” as genuine Chinovski.

None of the piles of stones on strands have prices on them. You have to ask the price of everything.

Today I picked up stock from some of my favourite semi-precious dealers. I remember someone asked us recently if we had any green goldstone. I hadn’t seen any around before, but this time I got a bunch in several shapes. Got some beads with large holes that could be strung with hemp, leather or a thinner kumihimo braid.

Picked up more of the rough chunks of pink quartz, citrine, pyrite and several other stones. Bought some interesting dyed impression stone cabs for those of you who like doing beaded embroidery around stones.

More good turquoise from the Sleeping Beauty, Kingman and Campo Frio mines. Some completely natural, some stabilized, but none of these have been dyed or colour-enhanced.

It’s still early days yet, and I’ll be back at the Gem Mall often. I’m open to suggestions if you have anything you especially want me to look for. I wish I could take pictures of this place to show you, but cameras are strictly forbidden at this and most of the other locations.

Tomorrow I’m off to look for sterling and the brushed copper beads.


  1. I found a few nice focal beads in Owyhee Jasper today as well as some Laguna Lace agate, Red Creek Jasper, and a couple other Jaspers whose names escape me at the moment. Some stunning cabs as well.

    Later this week I'll hit the Tucson Electric Park where there's a company that specializes in beads made from US stones, mostly jaspers.

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