Friday, December 7, 2007

2007 Tucson Gem Show - Again!

OK I just got my confirmation - I can hardly wait, I am so jazzed!!!!

I am reposting my info about the 2007 show - this was my FIRST! I hope that you find some info that will be helpful in planning your visit to the TSG in 2008.

2007 Tucson Gem Show - AGTA Show

I want to put this info down on paper...first for me because I want to remember every minute of this amazing trip, and second because I think that it may inspired some people who are sitting on the fence when it comes to making the decision to take the trip!

Let me dispel some of the misconceptions I had...

1. The Tucson Gem Show is this giant show with tons of booths...not quite...the Tucson Gem Show is actually 46 separate shows and each individual show can house 50 to 500 vendors.

2. After reading the Show Guide and seeing where the shows were located, I figured I would need a car...don't do it...I probably spent a total of $150 on taxis (you would eliminate this cost totally if you stayed at a hotel near one of the venues). Tucson is undergoing a 5 year freeway renovation project and the traffic is a pain, aside from the fact that finding parking near most of the venues is very tough. The city of Tucson provided (FREE) a system of shuttles that went to the various shows, so if your hotel was near one of the shows - you had free transportation from 8am to 7pm every day.

3. You have to have a business license and re-sale number (one show actually required letters of reference from companies you've purchased from in the past) to get into (and buy) at most of the a student this was a huge fear for me as I no longer have a business. Most of the shows will admit Students without question, some want a student ID. The majority of the venues offered "Visitor" passes and you can buy from most of the vendors. The vendors that are "Wholesale Only" or required a "Minimum Purchase", display that info prominently.

4. You can get amazing prices that will beat the LBS and your Bulk Buying Groups...True and False! If you are going to Tucson as a designer of one-of-a-kind pieces, while prices will definitely beat your LBS, you aren't likely to get any great deals. If you have a beading supply business and can afford to purchase multiples, most vendors will offer deals by the gram, kilogram, or pound. You need to do your homework - most of the vendors deal in millimeters, centimeters, grams or kilograms, know your weights and measures, nothing says amateur like messing up a weight. One way to get your bearings is say an item is priced per carat...get the vendor to weigh out and price a medium size of the stone you are looking at so you will have an idea what you can find in your price range. At the bead vendors watch them weigh out a kilogram of beads for someone (most will let you mix and match and one vendor gave a $100 in free beads to anyone with business ID) will give you an idea of whether this is a deal or not.

5. Looks Matter - you know, the more I dressed down the easier it was to talk to some of the vendors...there are shows that I feel that "business attire" is necessary(the AGTA, GJX & GLDA Shows in particular). But the bottom line on the dress code is "business casual" - if you are like me, you are going to do alot more walking than you have done in a while (and it is continuous day after day), so the most important piece of wardrobe is your shoes!!!
I think the easiest way to do this is by, come on everyone here we go!

AGTA at the Tucson Convention Center:

This is probably the most high-end and popular will truly leave you breathless. Most of the people I talked to didn't go into this show because they felt it was just faceted stones and diamonds...while that is a big portion of the show it also included beads and pearls (a shape I didn't find anywhere else) and due to the larger market presence and budget of the companies represented, this show is key to learning trends and directions in fashion. When you go into the main Gem Hall and see a strand of emerald beads you have an example of what AAA Grade Emerald Beads should look like. While they may be way out of our price range it gives you an ideal for shopping at some of the other venues.

Trends I noticed at AGTA:

Cuprian Tourmaline: no matter how controversial this stone is, it is beautiful and it is everywhere! In the "Paraiba" color and a range of new colors (I am especially fond of the strong, almost neon quality of the violet) from Africa.

Micro-Beads: these tiny (most are 3-5mm) little smooth or faceted rondelles are HUGE...most vendors are carrying them...but buyer beware the quality varies from vendor to vendor and from strand to strand. These are being shown in Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire, Mixed Corundum (Ruby, with Blue and Yellow Sapphire), Emerald with Mixed Corundum and Diamonds (all colors, blue, champagne, yellow, cognac, milky white and clear white).

Diamonds: not only in the micro-beads but also really cool looks using natural rough diamond crystals. These came in a variety of styles and looks from 1ct crystals caged in 18kt gold to nugget beads chained together - Rosary style!

Pearls: I must say that pearls were in abundance with strands of every color, shape (crosses, biwa, mabe', keshi, coin, potato, rice, button, even faceted) and size (micro 3mm to 12-16mm). Several vendors are showing the keshi pearls in new shapes...some have the ruffled lettuce-edge, some shaped more like leaves, side-drilled, center-drilled...I guess I'm saying if you like keshi - it is still big. I really felt I had probably seen every shape when I saw something that was really unique. One vendor (I didn't see them anywhere else and I am kicking my self for not picking up a strand) had really beautiful champagne pearls that were a nice round pearl (approx. 9-10mm) with just a little of that "keshi" lettuce edge coming off one side, they really were beautiful...ah well!

OK let's do a quick tour of the AGTA Show at the Convention Center:

After checking in (which BTW I would suggest you do before going to Tucson - most shows allow you to pre-register) you walk down a hall filled with photographic displays and individual booths manned by all of the various trade organizations that support the Jewelry Industry (both in the US and Internationally) and all the major schools and testing laboratories are also represented.

The first major Hall was the "Designer Pavilion" housing work by people you have only seen in the pages of glossy fashion & society magazines along with the 2007 AGTA Spectrum Award Winners (AGTA Spectrum Awards is an annual natural colored gemstone & cultured pearl jewelry design competition.). You can see the winners here:

Next you visit the Main Gem Hall - literally aisle after aisle (17 rows back to back) of some of the most spectacular gems I have ever seen...most humans will never in their lives see gems of this quality! There was also a small display of some of the museum-grade gems that have been donated to GIA's private collection and small grouping of items from the traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution.

Gem Hall II housed the new "Colored Diamond" area and very interesting and surprisingly affordable "Estate Jewelry" area all along side several rows of Metals, Findings and Tools vendors. Tucked in the corner of this room was a surprise that I wasn't aware of MJSA was offering a series of seminars called "At The Bench..." each subject was different but in total gave a great representation of the industry. For a list of seminars see:

"At The Bench..." Seminars:
I don't know about you, but when I go to hear someone speak to me about a topic I research the speakers background so that I am sure that they know the topic they are speaking on. So I thought I would provide that info for you. The two sessions I was able to fit in follow:

Tips and Tricks for Working with a Flex-shaft
GemHall II, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Karen Christians, Metalwerx.
Discover how to get the most out of your flex-shaft, from selecting the right system to using the latest accessories and attachments. Based on the "Orchid in Print" book, Making the Most of your Flex-Shaft, published by MJSA Press.

About The Speaker (excerpt from her website): Karen Christians earned her BFA in Metals at the Massachusetts College of Art in 1997. In 1998 she started Metalwerx with her friend, Jennifer Bowie. In 2002, she began to run Metalwerx solo, while her partner began the contemporary craft gallery, Picklepot Studio in Salem, MA. Currently, Karen is the Executive Director of Metalwerx.

Karen teaches workshops throughout the US, is very active in, and recently has authored the book, "Making the Most of Your Flex-shaft".

The Presentation: Karen's presentation had a major problem in that her demo materials never made it to Tucson. I have included part of her post to the Orchid Forum.

"I would also like to thank MJSA for hosting my talk at AGTA on the Flex-shaft. Although my demo materials decided to take a little holiday in Wilmington, CT., I was forched "wing" my talk, relying on a Power Point presentation which included slides I shot for an upcoming article. It was the best talk I have ever given, finding my voice and passion and connecting to a standing room only audience. I remembered at that time, why I love to do what I do, and how I can relay my passion of teaching to others. I think the success from that lecture set the tone for the days to come."

Excerpt from [ORCHID] 2007 Tucson Report by Karen Christians - Metalwerx -

This was indeed a "standing room only" presentation. First there where handouts...a really well written article abput working with your Flex-Shaft. Karen did a short presentation and presented several new 3M polishing products and the best way to use them (in her words they all like to come to the party - stack your polishing wheels for a better polish). She also introduced a new nasal filtration product she worked on called Better Breathers see:

Then she opened the floor for questions and discussion...and there were lots. She announced her Demos at the Rio Grande Catalog In Motion and invited everyone to come over to get an autographed copy of her book.

How to Price Your Work
GemHall II, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Michael David Sturlin, Designer.
Pricing is a key factor in ensuring you can profit from your work. Michael will present an in-depth examination of pricing strategies and how to develop a formula tailored to fit your own specific situation.

About the Speaker (excerpt from the Revere Academy website): Michael David Sturlin is an award-winning designer, goldsmith, and master marketer. His aggressive public relations strategy resulted in Michael’s work appearing in many magazines including AJM, JCK, Lapidary Journal, Modern Jeweler and Professional Jeweler. Michael teaches Marketing. For more info and to see Mr. Sturlin's work, visit or

The Presentation: Mr. Sturlin gave an extremely detailed program on pricing your work, this is just a small portion of a 6 hour seminar he teaches at the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco, CA.

Two things really stuck with me from this program. First, was his take on determining your wages. To paraphrase he basically said that you should look at what it would cost to have any trained or certified trade (ie. plumber, electrician) provide services to you...your salary should be large enough that you can afford to hire a plumber without it threatening to break you!

The second thing was his suggestion for keeping track of the time it takes to complete a project. By using a stop watch on your workbench you can punch it to start your project and then as things come up in your day (someone at the door, a customer, the kids) you stop the clock, restarting it when you return and pickup where you left off. This gives you a more realistic idea of the time it takes for a specific project.

He gave detailed info on which parts of your business should go under which headings and the means to simplify the headers into an equation that works for each individual artist.

For those who might be interested I have enclosed info on the class Mr. Sturlin teaches for The Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts:

Marketing Designer Jewelry - 6 hours 9 am - 5 pm $165 + $15 kit This class offers priceless information for jewelry designers, craftspeople, artists, manufacturers and entrepreneurs as well as those entering the field. Topics include product development, image, pricing, advertising, press releases, copyrights, trade shows, sales reps, consignment, credit, competitions, crafts fairs, photography, display, security, catalogues and more. Bring examples of your work and promotional materials for discussion. Instructor: Alan Revere or Michael David Sturlin

Tucson Electric Park Gem & Mineral Show

For reference you may want to look at the layout of this show in the Official Tucson Gem Show Guide!

Were you trying to figure out why I posted the Lapidary Journal Press Release? Well there were two reasons actually, first - I really think it is a sad day...we will be losing one of two lapidary magazines on the market! Even though they will still cover the lapidary end - they will be covering techniques from start to finish...(ie. lapidary thru silverwork) I will still miss the LJ.

The second reason is the start of my coverage - The Tucson Electric Park and Tucson Electric Park RV Shows. Those of you who read Part I will remember that I said I stumbled on the MJSA At The Bench Seminars completely by accident. My Itinerary for that day was to go to the Electric Park Learning Center for the 10:00am Lapidary Journal - New Directions Seminar, since I didn't make it to the event I thought I would post their PR so you could get the information.

OK - Tucson Electric Park, here we go...
When you take the GemRide shuttle to the Electric Park you enter between the two seperate shows the Tucson Electric Park Show on the left and the Electric Park RV Show to the right - we are going to start with the larger of the two shows.

For those of you who are wondering Tucson Electric Park is a Sports Complex, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Spring Training Camp for the Chicago White Sox.

This is probably the most rugged not only need comfortable shoes for this site but rugged, comfortable shoes! The entire event is outdoors on gravel. Most of the shows are open to the public with just a couple roped off as "for wholesale only". That doesn't mean that you can't get wholesale deals here, just offer your re-sale number and a sizable order.

There is one HUGE main tent this was anchored by a large Indonesian company that carried an assortment of products (I particularly loved the carved burls) and Southwest Silver on one end and Kents Tools and Alpha Supply on the other. With an assortment of various shops in between...a few carving shops (one of my favs was here), some rough, some beads, a couple faceters and lots of finished jewelery.

This tent held my attention for hours...Alpha Supply (very friendly and helpful folks) had demos going on everyday...Tony Aldrige would demo any feature of the Foredom that was important to your field; Ed Johnson cut Ocean Jasper to the pattern on the stone in an amazing demo of the new Taurus "ring" saw, it is like having a scroll saw for stones (this may be my next major purchase) and several different people did faceting demos. You can see them at ...and my personal favorite demo was the Tools by Miland booth ( ) ...a tool geeks haven!

As if this wasn't enough there were two other tents that housed tool companies...the Diamond Pacific Tent (available thru independant sellers) and the Crystalite ( Tent. The other large tents housed Village Originals ( )- yes their product looks just as good in person; Blake Brothers (Wholesale Only!); the balance were an eclectic mix of products, rough, jewelry and even clothing! There was a very cool company (can't remember the name, unfortunately) that would wire-wrap a piece that you bought while you waited...great idea! I got my favorite purchase from Wild Ginger Imports ( - an incredible selection of moths, beetles and a leaf bug (yes real!) behind glass in a shadow box.

Most of the other vendors either had their own tent or were in the open space in a central booth "village" area! This was definately the venue to find great deals on gem rough, jars of opals, agates of all kind, jade and really nice rugs & wood carvings.

A few of my favorites were (sorry some have no web presence)... Tools by Miland see them at: The Facet Shoppe see them at: DB Opals Mexican Fire Agate (great prices) Khorasan Gem & Mineral (the most unique beads) Planet Yachts - huge gemstone Cathedrals Enter The Earth see them at: El Rayo de Sante Fe Larimar International Corp.

Now - to the real reason I spent so much time at the Electric Park, the Electric Park Learning Center:
This couldn't have been a more welcoming venue - friendly staff and truly world class instructors. Their schedule was very complete and was a great fit with the other seminars available...from Beading to Faceting (including an entire day of faceting from across the pond, with Scot - Danny Hargreaves - he was a wealth of information and eager to share his craft)

For me, the highlights were...
Setting a Stone Within a Stone - Hans Durstling
Selecting Good Faceting Rough - John Franke
Selling Your Craft - Tony Aldridge
Getting the Most from Your Diamond Saw - Bill Ritter
Cabachon Cutting, Step-by-Step - Bill Depue
Tumbling for Jewelers - Ed Johnson
Drilling Holes in Gem Material - Bill Ritter

Electric Park RV Show
This is a small and much more casual show - the vendors literally pull up in their RV's and setup tables in front of them.

I found some great trilobites, a beautiful chunk of fossilized sponge coral and a chunk of new favorite gemstone (we will see if my opinion changes when I try to cut it).

With a desert "yard sale" feel, this Show will be a quick walk thru unless you are interested in buying rough from really friendly folks basically selling from their front yard!

Rio Grande's Catalog In Motion

Rio Grande's Catalog In Motion at the Hilton Tucson East:
Rio's venue has it's own shuttle system and unfortunately I wasn't aware of where the shuttles ran from until the last couple days the show was in town (this show only runs for 4 days - but the classes start prior to the show!). This will definitely be one of the shows I figure out and have scheduled prior to going to Tucson in 2008!

For Fee Classes covered a wide range of pertinent topics...
Fusing & Granulation with Argentium Silver with Ronda Coryell
Stone-Setting with Scott Patrick
PMC Certification Classes with CeCe Wire
For a complete schedule of classes see:
For a list of Instructors and a brief bio of each:

Free Seminars:
Argentium® Sterling: The New Metal with Ronda Coryell
Metalsmithing Hammers—Shapes and Functions with Bill Fretz
Jewelry Photography & Design Management Made Easy with Cindy Lichfield (CloudDome) & Barbara Carleton JewelryDesigner Software)

But the highlight of the short time I was able to spend there? To quote their website:
"The Showroom - Catalog In Motion fills a huge exhibition area with 65 booths devoted to the tools and know-how you care about most! In this giant playground of tools for you to pick up and try out, you’ll find a variety of torches, flex shafts, pliers & files; polishers, tumblers, abrasives & media; Allset stone-setting systems & burs; hydraulic presses, hammers & stakes; Argentium Sterling, PMC & keum-boo; casters, investment, rubber and more. And every booth features jewelry professionals who can’t wait to introduce you to each and every tool and to answer all of your questions. Try them all. Ask questions. Gain experience. Succeed."

Yes, you read it right!!! Hands on DEMOS from the likes of 3M (none other than Karen Christians showing off the latest 3M products for use with your flexshaft); Durston Rolling Mills; Jumpringer; Foredom; EuroTool; PUK short a tool geek's dream come true!

Tucson - The Bead Shows...
I am sorry it has taken me so long to get back to this - if you know me you know I have a passion for learning. While this should be a good thing, sometimes it makes me feel like I have focus!

This post on the Tucson Gem Show is going to cover several venues, which is why it was so long in coming. This is Tucson - The Bead Shows...

Ten years ago this would have been the most in-depth of the Tucson articles but I have moved from beading to lapidary and recently I took up Jewelry Design classes. While I still love beads - I don't have the passion to stop at every bead venue to compare the quality of the various vendors in tourmaline beads!!! I do use a lot of microbeads strands to hang focals so I tend toward those or really fun and unique focals (porcelain, lampwork, fabric, etc.).

Let me preface this by saying that gemstone (wood, ceramic, etc) beads were available at just about every venue that listed gemstones so these were not the only sources for beads, just the ones that concentrated on them. I will try to list the companies that I was familiar with before going to Tucson, it is really your best opportunity to see first hand the quality of the goods these companies carry and to scout out vendors you've never heard of before.

ABC Direct East & ABC Direct West
The East event was an outdoor venue in dirt and gravel. I rode through this venue (East) on my way to and from the Electric Park. It had vendors that were available at other venues and so I passed on this one...but it was always busy.

The West event I drove by in the taxi on the way home as it was off the beaten path and up into the city - BTW - if you go to this one, make sure you check out the T-Rex Museum. It is especially good for those of you that travel with your children - very hands on!

Create Your Style With Swarovski
Swarovski approaches this event differently - no product orders are taken - Swarovski's "recommended partners" exhibit and there are seminars and demonstrations. I don't use many crytals...but...I heard this was an elegant and beautiful venue. It was held at Tuscon's newest luxury hotel. There was a private Coach to the event from the AGTA show. But then wouldn't you expect the best from Swarovski!

The African Art Village
This is the spot if you are looking for African Trade Beads. But this show is so much more...tribal masks, baskets, textiles, etc. This is a fun and exotic venue - don't wear sandals as it is on dirt and blacktop.

The Bead Renaissance Show
Right in the thick of it - the Bead Renaissance Show is wedged between the Holidome and the Gem Mall. It is not as huge as the other two but still includes some pretty heavy hitters...with the likes of Saki Silver & Via Murano! If you are doing the Holidome and Gem Mall anyways - catch this one!

The Best Bead Show
Didn't make it to this one but I traveled back to the convention center area with folks that did - the word was that it was a laid back, comfortable show with excellent prices. Oh yeah the added bonus that brought folks back to this venue was that it had ample parking available!

Gem & Lapidary Wholesalers Gem Mall - Holidome - Rodeway
Bead Palace, Earth Stone, Beauty & the Beads,Four Seasons, Bead Need, Blake Brothers, WestOriental Stone, Oriental, Gemco, Holy & Pure Stone, Inc., SoftFlex, Via Murano, Lucky Gems & Jewelry, Wild Things, Star Gems & Beads, Bella Venetian, Prijems, Starborn Creation, Bonita Creations....The G & LW shows (there are three seperate venues; Gem Mall - Holidome - Rodeway) are a beaders paradise lots and lots of beads...gems, czech glass, pearls, shell & coral, crystals, amber, resin, silver, copper, etc. If you have heard of a company they are probably at one of these shows. The Holidome is the venue with the higher grade goods - but let me warn you this is also the most crowded and high stress of the venues. I wasn't happy at these shows - I am trying to refrain from buying beads because I haven't been beading much lately, but am telling you - it's an addiction! Bonita Creations had some of the most unique cuts and shapes and Opex Opals - how often do you see opal beads? Most of the major equipment manufacturers were represented at these shows - Raytech, PepeTools, Kingsley North and Gesswein to name a few.

To Bead True Blue
Marsha Hedrick's Porcelain Fantasies, Golem Design Studio, Foreign Source Ltd,.Halstead Bead, Garden of Beadin, Wirelace, Tapestry Beads, Tierra Cast, Parawire, Beadalon, Somerset Silver, Beadsmith......and more lampwork artists than I have room to name!

If you want your jewelry to really stand out - this is the event to attend. Yes, you will find some of the same-old stuff you see at the other venues but mostly you will find one-of-a-kind or limited editions and original lampwork. Lots of fabulous ceramics and hand-painted porcelains, beaded beads, textiles, stained glass - basically great focal ideas!!!

I want to add a quick aside - Manning House is one of the most beautiful venues in the city...the show winds from room to room and throughout the grounds (huge outdoor tent). Plan this show around lunch time it is a relaxing spot to sit and enjoy their amazing chicken & sausage gumbo. YUM!

The Whole Bead Show
I didn't make it into this one - but there were several good vendors represented - besides the Whole Bead Co., there was Pema Arts, Suraj, The Beadin Path and Dakota Stones to name just a few.


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