Beaders Paradise found in Tucson

Today's guest post comes from {NewNew} designer Saskia of SdV Designs.  ed.

Planning a trip to the Tucson Bead show

If you are in the jewelry making business I know you have heard it before: the annual Tucson Gem Show is THE place for great deals and incredible variety. This last February I made my second trip out West and I can say without a doubt that all you’ve heard is true.
What makes this event so unique are the vendors. Not only do they come from all around the country, but from around the world and sell everything from gemstones to findings, finished jewelry to display items and everything in between. And because the vendors ship things from so far away, they are willing to give great deals so they don’t have to take their product back home. It is an amazing opportunity to meet vendors who carry a product you just can’t get back home. The best part is, once you have found your vendor in Tucson you can order online from them in the future.

Like most gem shows, there are wholesale-only sections which allow for more discounts and often a higher quality product. The only requirement for entry is a tax id number – a free document in NY that takes a few weeks to process. But what separates the Tucson “Gem Jam” (as my Tucsonan friend likes to call it) from the rest is the sheer volume of the event. It is more like 20 gem shows in one occurring all over the city for a period of 2-3 weeks. Huge villages of white domes and tents pop up all over the city along the high ways and in parking lots. It seems like everyone comes out to see what is for sale.

Places like the Holidome and the Gem Mall are some of the larger gem markets within the huge show and offer literally thousands of vendors with more stones than you have ever seen in one place.  I usually spend 5 days in the city and end up seeing maybe 1/3 of all what’s available. This event can be done using the shuttles provided, but having a car makes it much easier to travel from show to show as they are scattered all over Tucson.

My absolute favorite part of the Gem show is the African Village, which is comprised of over 50 vendors selling wares from all over Africa. This section literally feels like another continent: it smells and sounds like Africa with vendors playing drums and eating traditional foods. I have not only found amazing beads that I have never seem anywhere else in America but have also made some great friendships. One vendor texts me from Ghana to see how I am!

If you are planning a trip to Tucson plan ahead. Hotels book up quickly and the earlier you do it the better deal you can get. This is a great event to go to with a friend who can help share hotel and car costs. My best piece of advice is to go to Tucson with a budget…and then know you’re going to go over! Once you get past the shock of its size and start to look at the vendors one at a time, you will realize that this is one of the best deals anywhere. Enjoy!

Saskia de Vries