Tuscon Gem Show

The Tucson Gem Show: What is it, when is it, and more...

Each new year, as holiday season gears down for most, many of us in the jewelry industry are gearing up for one of the biggest events of the year. And it’s not just us — rock and mineral lovers, fossil aficionados, and geology buffs are preparing for our version of the Superbowl — The Tucson Gem Show. An event that attracts people from all over the globe. The most epic gem show in the world, it’s the place to go to find the most spectacular and unusual specimens in existence, and it’s our favorite place to find Australian Opals. But it can be daunting to explore if you’ve never before attended — and even if you have — so we’re here to provide you with some helpful tips to navigate the who, what, where, whens, and how's of the show so you can enjoy fossicking at its finest.


What is the Tucson Gem Show?

Simply put, the Tucson Gem Show is the biggest gem show in the world.

How many gem shows are there in Tucson?

Referring to “The Tucson Gem Show,” can be a bit misleading because the show isn’t just one show — it’s nearly 50 unique shows that take place concurrently and consecutively. While the exact number of showcases varies from year to year, it typically hovers between 48 - 52.


When is the Tucson Gem Show?

The dates for the Gem show in Tucson:

  • The main Tucson show always occurs in the winter. There is also a fall showcase, although it’s much smaller, and generally includes 3-4 shows (as compared to approximately 50 in the winter).
  • While exact dates fluctuate yearly, the winter show usually starts at the end of January and lasts through mid February. The dates of the 2024 show were January 27th - February 11th.
  • Given the tremendous scope of the show and degree of planning required, show organizers start early planning for future shows. Currently, show dates for the next few years are planned for:
Winter Gem Shows:
February 1-16, 2025
January 31 - February 15, 2026
January 30 - February 14, 2027
  • If planning to attend, it’s important to identify what you are interested in going for, and then verifying which shows align with your interests. That way you’re more likely to find what you want when you arrive — respective vendors will certainly appreciate meeting you then too.

How much impact does the Gem Show have upon Tucson?

The Gem Show is estimated to bring into town around 4,000 vendors, 65,000 visitors, and with them $131 million dollars in financial impact. The convention generates considerable income for the city of Tucson, and has been doing so for many years.

How old is the Tucson Gem Show?

The first ever show was the “the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show®” founded by rockhounds of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society in 1955. By the 1970’s the show had reached international repute with highly respected exhibits drawing from the likes of the Carnegie Museum and the Smithsonian Institution. You can still feel the presence of these reputable establishments at shows like AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) where the Smithsonian Institution routinely attends.


Where is the Tucson Gem Show?

As inferred by its name, the Tucson Gem Show occurs in the city of Tucson, Arizona. But more specifically, it stretches across the city bounds, with events popping up both in obvious facilities and in locations more obscure.  

  • The Tucson Convention Center hosts functions like the AGTA GemFair Tucson with GJX (Gem and Jewelry Exchange) in a 120,000 square foot “ultra-structure” (think giant tent) within walking distance across the street.

  • GJX isn’t the only show with a tent system; numerous exhibitions rely on large tent setups, fitting a myriad of participating vendor displays inside.

  • Other shows in the city take over entire motels. Vendors use their living quarters to set up shop and sell their goods. During the day, merchants may leave their (often adjoining) doors open allowing shoppers to seamlessly move from one room to another, enjoying a fluid shopping experience.

While these types of shows can feel a bit less organized and may require more patience to find what you seek, they can also be the most fun to explore and feel the most rewarding when you discover a treasure. You never know what curiosity might be lurking around the next corner.

  • Tucson also has its fair share of warehouses packed with rocks and minerals. Sometimes off the beaten path, they house some gorgeous specimens and can be worth the trip if you are open to exploratory perusing.


Who attends the Tucson Gem Show?


The Tucson Gem Show is well attended by vendors from across the globe. You’ll find merchants from Nepal selling cashmere blankets, handcrafted agate bowls from Madagascar, Woolly Rhino Skulls procured from Siberia, and of course (our favorite), Australian Opals — the foremost reason we attend the show.


And there would be no need for vendors if there weren’t buyers at the show — which there are an abundance of. Buyers attending the show take an array of forms:
  • Retailers: come to Tucson seeking merchandise to stock their stores with.

  • Designers: seeking raw materials to create new pieces around. 
This is one of the main draws for our attendance - finding extraordinary stones to design opal jewelry with.
  • Other Industry Specialists: can be found at the show, including museum professionals, geologists and more.

  • The General Public: is welcome and attends a number of events over the course of the show. They come to look, learn and buy.

Is the Tucson Gem Show open to the public?

Some, but not all, of the show exhibitions in Tucson are open to the public. Shows such as the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show and 1801 Oracle - Mineral Village Show are open to the public, while others such as AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) GemFair Tucson and and the Ethical Gem Fair Tucson are exclusive to wholesale.

Ethical Gem Fair

Are gems cheaper at the gem shows?

Gems can be less expensive at a show, but aren’t always. We wouldn’t recommend attending a show with that expectation in mind. Like any other time you spend your money, it’s important to understand the pricing of goods, so you know if you are paying over, under or at fair market price.

If you work in the industry, you *should* routinely have access to best (reasonable) pricing. This shouldn’t hinge exclusively upon shopping for gemstones at gem shows. However, you can sometimes get a great deal if you are knowledgeable about the materials and have strong relationships with your vendors. 

That said, maintaining good relationships with your suppliers also means respecting their need to make a fair profit in your transactions.


Is the Tucson Gem Show cash only?

Vendors at the show have become increasingly tech-flexible. Many accept credit card, Zelle, Venmo and Paypal. Others require check or wire transfer. That said, cash is almost always accepted, and some vendors are ill-equipped to accept any other method of payment. Thus, it is prudent to have some cash available while shopping in Tucson.

NOTE: One other thing to bear in mind is that some countries may have financial regulations stipulating how payment can be accepted. This year, it was particularly challenging to send digital payment to our Australian vendors when trying to pay for our Opals, as their government would not (easily) allow for international checks, Zelle or credit cards. We found various workarounds, based on each vendor’s circumstance - but it’s something to be aware of and prepared for, so that you can still purchase the goods you desire.


Which Tucson Gem Show is the best?

There is no uniform answer to this subjective question - it depends entirely upon what materials you’re interested in. With such a wide range of goods offered over a multi-week span, a successful Tucson experience begins with identifying the right shows to attend for what you hope to find.

Certain shows are geared toward different mediums, so understanding their differences is a great place to begin. To help make show planning more digestible, we recommend breaking the show down into these 4 general categories:

  • Gems & Jewelry
  • Rocks & Minerals
  • Fossils (We love all fossils, but Opal Fossils are our favorites!)

Opal Fossil Opalized Dinosaur Vertebra

  • Gifts, Crafts & Decor

Then research existing shows to see which best aligns with the category that most appeals to you. For example:

Gems & Jewelry

  • AGTA - wholesale

Considered a premiere show within the industry. Should you need a 10ct, clean, unheated and GIA Certified sapphire, this is the show to find it at.

  • GJX - wholesale
  • Best Bead show - wholesale and public

beats at Tuscon gem and mineral show

A newer show to the circuit appealing to those who care about responsibly sourced gemstones.

Rocks & Minerals

  • Tucson Fine Mineral Gallery - public
  • The Co-op: Mineral and Fossil Galleries - public


  • 22nd Street Mineral, Fossil & Gem Show - public

This is a favorite of ours to see fossils of all things ancient from T-Rex skulls to preserved Woolly Mammoth skin.

T-Rex Scull

  • RMGM Mineral & Fossil Show - Oracle Road - public
  • Mineral and Fossil Marketplace - public

Gifts, Crafts & Decor

  • African Art Village - public
  • The American Indian Art and Collectibles Show - public

Ultimately, the only one who can determine which of the Tucson Gem shows is best for you, is you.

If intimidated by the sheer enormity of the show, we encourage you not to try to tackle too much on your first visit; just plan to attend one or two shows to whet your palette. With each subsequent trip, you’ll acquire new gems (pun intended) of insight that will aid you in planning more effective future trips. No matter how many times you attend the Tucson Gem Show, there is always something new and exciting to explore. 

And if you can’t make it, let us do the work for you. It’s truly our pleasure to search high and low for the most unexpected of opal stones and dream up unique opal jewelry with them to share with you.
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