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  • Writer's pictureLesley Aine McKeown

World's Largest Gem Show! Tucson 2024

Updated: Jan 18

The 50th anniversary of the Tucson Gem Show is coming up soon!

This will be my 40th year attending and the excitement never wanes! Planning on attending the 2024 show?

Here's what you need to know.

DATES: Jan 16 - Feb 11

NOTE: The important show dates range from JAN 24 - FEB 4.

How did it start? The Tucson Gem Show began humbly as a show organized by the rockhounds at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society in 1955. It started in a Quonset hut and moved to the Tucson Convention Center in 1973.

The Show Today encompasses a huge swath of Tucson. Up and down the interstate you will see huge mammoth tents housing hundreds of vendors. These tents, the Tucson Convention Center and hotels house the big shows. From AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) to tiny Mom & Pop tents in parking lots, there is something for everyone.

The entire show spans almost 3 weeks and there are 42 different shows and thousands of exhibitors this year. Exhibitors from around the world converge on Tucson, swelling it's population by 65,000! In 2019 the show contributed over 200 million dollars to the local economy. Revenues realized by vendors... hundreds of millions, possibly billions.

Pueblo Show GJX Gem & Jewelry Exchange GL&W Gem & Mineral Show

  • Pre-Registration - While there are many fun shows you can attend without registration some of the best ones do require you provide proof that you are in the jewelry and gemstone business in the form of a Resale/Wholesale Tax License. Check with your state to see what is required to obtain a Resale/ Wholesale Tax license. I highly recommend you pre register for these wholesale shows, you don’t want to spend your valuable time standing in lines and filling out forms. Registration links for most shows are listed at the end of the article.

A Note on Badges:

To badge or not to badge... that is the question!

While many show do not require a wholesale buyer badge, they are useful when attending public shows. A wholesale buyer badge issued from a wholesale show such AGTA or GJX signals to the dealer that you are a serious buyer. Often simply having a badge will result in a different price. The public shows will be be packed with folks just looking and buying for themselves. For dealers this is good and bad. Establishing that you are a serious buyer looking to make a wholesale purchase will expedite your interaction and not waste the dealers time. Imagine over 5000 people a day streaming by your booth and trying to watch for theft and who might need help! And it most importantly you will not waste your precious shopping time. I highly suggest you consider attending the larger shows during the week as the weekends are packed with "lookeyloos"! Wholesale shows such as JOGS, Holidome and the Gem Mall can be very busy during the weekend. Also consider not attending on opening day. Lines for show on opening day can be immense (another reason to preregister). Attending another day can save you time.

  • Make a Plan and chose your dates - There is no way you can hit all the shows, unless you go for two weeks like I do! Look at the entire schedule and plan your trip to cover the dates of the shows you want to attend. Many shows overlap making convenient to cover many shows in a short time.

  • Accommodations- Tucson is a big city but during the Gem show it's population swells by 65,000. It is wise to book your stay now. Check Airbnb and Vrbo, there are lots of options in the Tucson area. Hotels are fine but the prices often double during the show. Now is the time to book your accommodations. If you have a car consider staying slightly outside the Tucson area such as Marana, Oro Valley or Green Valley. These towns are less than 30 minutes from Tucson and rates may be cheaper. Camping? there are several beautiful Forest Service campgrounds: Note: Tucson is a pretty easy city to navigate, don't be afraid to stay some place away from the show. It will be easier to find restaurants and other services that aren't crowded with gem shower's.

  • Driving or Flying - If you're planning on flying to Tucson you will probably need to reserve a car. There is public tranportation but not everywhere. Shuttles run daily to most shows but only leave from designated pickup spots at the shows and they can be slow and you may not want to spend precious shipping time on a shuttle. If you drive you'll have no problem getting around. Of course Uber and Taxis are always an option and they are readily available during the show.

  • Make a Gem Show Go Bag - Gather all your credentials, business cards, shopping lists and copies of your business license in one easy to access envelope or bag. I use a Trade show badge holder to organize all my gem show stuff.(see example in photos).

  • Print all your business info o address self-stick labels. Name, email, phone, Resale license number on address labels and use when pay for your purchases. They will making paying faster and dealers love them!

  • Make a shopping list- Go through your inventory and make a list of items you need.

  • Backpacks versus suitcases- As a veteran Gem Show I prefer the ease of a backpack when shopping the show. Many buyers are using roller suitcases these days but remember the show is very busy and isles can be congested. Roller bags take up valuable space vendors could use for shoppers and them are a hassle to get around. Be aware of others when shopping.

  • Cash, Credit Cards...what to bring? Checkbook, credit cards and cash. Most dealers are set up to take credit cards. However may dealers are foreign and will only take cash or in some instances a check. Be sure to ask the dealer about payment before spending time choosing items.

Shopping Etiquette.

This is very important.

  • Dealers are there to sell but many are small family owned operations and they have spent over a years income to attend the show. Be courteous and thoughtful when handling merchandise. Some stones scratch easily, so be careful when looking through them. Treat the inventory as if it was your own. Remember that you are interacting with dealers from around the world with cultures very different from your own. Be respectful and kind and you will be surprised how much fun meeting people from other countries can be. Use this opportunity to learn about other cultures and about the minerals they sell.

  • Don't be afraid to ask about where something was mined or cutting practices. Many dealers will love sharing information with you.

  • Ask the dealer for a tray. Ask for plastic bags and record the type of material, price per unit or price per carat and quantity. This will make checking out faster and help you when you get home sorting your purchases.

  • Consider leaving your purchase to pickup later if the dealer is busy, leave your tray with a business card and tell them when you will be back. Dealers appreciate this.

  • Ask questions, if a stones is not labeled with a price ask what the carat or gram price is. Be specific about the quantity you are inquiring about. Often prices will change depending on how many pieces you want.

  • Pay attention to your surroundings, be thoughtful about other shoppers and don't block the view or access with your bags or trays. When you are finished looking at something ask the shopper next to you if they would like to see it. Be conscious of your surroundings.

Food - Most shows have food vendors, some better than others. Dining out after the show can be tricky. Restaurants near the show will be very packed so plan on making reservations days ahead. Check here for local dining suggestions: Be sure to always have water with you. Staying hydrated will keep your mind clear and avoid mistakes when shopping!

Weather- Weather in Tucson in January and February can be changeable. Temperatures can range from 25°F at night to 85°F during the day. Plan on layers as the mornings are chilly. The past few years the weather in Tucson during the show has ranged from 40° to 75°F. It can be windy this time of year in the desert. You will be outside quite a bit walking, so plan on layers.

  • What to wear - Most important thing you will need is comfortable shoes. Think walking for 6-8 hours a day or more!

  • Know your material- Educate yourself about the stones you are looking to purchase. This group is an excellent resource for learning about gemstones and how to make intelligent purchases. Visit our Library!

  • Review your purchases - Take time at the end of each day to review your purchases and be sure your items are marked and your have receipts with the right items. Take my word for it, you will not be able to rememer once you get home!

  • First timers! Plan ahead. The Tucson Gem show is wonderful but it can be overwhelming. You will enjoy it so much more if you educate yourself and make a plan.

Tucson Gem Show 2024 Registration links:

  • Pueblo Show Jan 25 - Feb 6 - Open to Public - Registration is not required but badges are available at the front desk in the lobby of the hotel.

  • GL&W Shows Jan 27 - Feb 4 - Registration. Wholesale ONLY Holidome and Gem Mall - Wholesale only to the trade.

  • GJX- Jan 30- Feb 4 - Registration Wholesale ONLY -Registration will open soon.

  • AGTA - Jan 30- Feb 4 Registration Wholesale ONLY -New rules, even if you attended last year you will need to register again for 2024. Registration will open soon.

  • JOGS - Jan 24- Feb 4- Wholesale ONLY. Registration - non-wholesale purchase tickets.

My personal favorite shows:

  • Pueblo - This has developed into a fantastic show, the organizers have worked very hard to expand the show to include some top gemstone dealers. It is a relatively small and compact show with a pleasant ambiance. It is centrally located with easy access by shuttle to other shows. Most of the top cabochon dealers have booths at this show including, Greg Genovese, Greg King, Darryl Alexander, Gary Wiersema, John Dyer, Sterling Turquoise and Opal and many more.

  • GJX - This is great show for those who have never attended a serious gem and mineral show. You will need wholesale credentials to attend this show. It is fully contained inside a large tent. Everything from diamond dealers to med-range cabochon dealers. Be sure to visit the Ider-Oberstein room to see the breathtaking gems of Atelier Tom Munsteiner and the Brazil Room for the stunning tourmalines and other Brazilian by Tavares Gems.

  • AGTA - This is the Tucson Gem Show Premiere show. Strictly wholesale only to the trade. You will need several forms of verification to attend this show. But it's worth it! The finest dealers from around the world with every gemstone you can imagine and our own Addiction member Mark Lasater of The Calmshell show here every year. You can visit Betty Sue King - Pearl Goddess for the finest in cultured, Tahitain, Akoya and Kesihi pearls. This show is a feast for the senses!

Plan to visit some of Tucson's other highlights like the Sonoran Desert Museum and the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Tucson in is a wonderful and culturally rich city, enjoy it!

Whether you're a veteran or a newbie the Tucson Gem Show has so much to offer and is guaranteed to be an experience you will not soon forget!


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