Week 3 of the 2013 Gem Shows in Tucson

By on February 20, 2013
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by Rose Marion, Wire-Sculpture.com

Tucson Show Report for
February 20, 2013

Well, judging from the response to last week’s update, people definitely wanted to see more of Tucson. So I’ve got more pictures of goodies for you.

But there were also a lot of requests for a tip. While I didn’t learn much from my trip – just gazed and gazed til my pockets were empty – I will tell you a trick that comes in handy at these shows, that you can practice at the bead store in your town.

Gemstone beads are cool to the touch (except in direct sunlight, when they’re HOT!). They’re also pretty heavy, typically. Plastic and acrylic beads are more typically room-temperature, and they’re much more lightweight than gemstone beads.

Glass beads typically have small sand along the bead holes, from how the beads were made. They might warm up faster to the touch than gem beads, and you might see air bubbles in the beads, too. If it looks perfect, it’s probably not a gem bead.

Plus, you can practice hearing the difference between gemstone beads clacking together, vs. acrylic vs. glass. When you go to a show where the strands are unmarked and the vendor is busy (or shady!) these tips will give you a good clue as to whether you’ve got gemstone, glass, or acrylic beads. Of course, always be confident enough to ask a dealer about their products. I couldn’t help but stand in awe at one booth as a buyer grilled a vendor on if the beads were dyed, heat treated, and natural stones. Good for her!

Do you have any tricks for telling the “realness” of a cab or bead while you’re out at a show? Let me know in the comments below!

Turtle Beads

Without further ado, let’s get to some beads. These turtle beads were wood, I think – and present at many of the shows.

Blue opal briolettes

I don’t know enough about blue opal to know if $30/strand was a good buy… but they sure make a pretty picture!

Rainbow calsilica cabochons

Rainbow calsilica cabochons – Layna’s mentioned this material before in gem profiles. No one’s quite sure, but the consensus is it has more in common with Fordite than agate. Still fun, though!

Labradorite beads

Ooh, here are some real gem beads! Real gorgeous Labradorite strands. I spent a little too long playing with these beads. But oh, they had so much fire!

Carved gem butterflies

If you saw the recent Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, you’d know why I had my eye out for carved gemstones. These gem and druzy carvings were spectacular! (click to view larger)

Helenite rings

Helenite is a glass stone made from Mt. St. Helens ash. This dealer had hundreds of rings made with Helenite. And oh, how those signs broke my heart – “75% off, $100 minimum” (that just means, round up some friends!)


Beetle jewelry

Last week I mentioned butterfly wing earrings. You can see some in the right corner, but check out these amazing bugs, too! These were beetles, I think the vendor said, and their legs were even preserved in electroplated gold, I think – not my cup of tea, but what a vivid color!

Beads catching sunlight in Tucson

While the indoor shows are definitely my thing, it’s amazing to run into a sun-lit wall of beads. Click to view larger – couldn’t you just spend hours here looking the Czech glass and goodies at this booth?


Panda Beads

Panda beads! I love pandas. Just about every animal can be found in a bead, lampworked or carved, in Tucson. (Also shown: kitties and pigs)

llanoit and rhyolite cabs

The cabs in the bottom here are rhyolite or rainforest jasper, which is my favorite. In the top, I ran into a stone I’ve never seen before – Llanoite or Ilanoite? Does anyone recognize this stone? (Sorry for the camera shake)

And if you’ve been to Tucson, you know that traffic can be even worse than parking – so I’m really glad I knew about the Shuttles. I took the shuttles from JOGS to the Holidome, Electric Park/Kino, the Holidome, and Best Bead Show. They were so nice, the drivers even had step stools to help us get in and out of the vans.

Tucson Shuttle

I even got a free taxi ride from the sweetest cab driver. I’d just missed my shuttle, and she’d been waiting at the Holidome for a fare and got told to move on… so she rounded a few of us up and dropped us off wherever we wanted!

So when I see Jenny’s van next year, I know I’ll be in good hands! She said she’s been driving cab for the Gem Shows for 30 years. I don’t know if I can afford to spend 30 years in Tucson – but it would sure be fun!


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  1. avatar

    Deb H.

    February 20, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Thanks so much for sharing! I now know I should probably Never go to the Tucson shows! I have enough trouble not going broke at local Bead Fests and Gem Shows as it is!

    One of those bugs looked like a Praying Mantis to me (the top row). If so, I believe it is illegal to capture them; they are supposed to bring you luck if/when you see them. So “they” say :-).

    So many yummy sights you’ve shared! Thanks again!

  2. avatar

    Pat Hanmann

    February 20, 2013 at 11:32 am

    Love all the stones

  3. avatar


    February 20, 2013 at 11:39 am

    I was at one of the shows a few years ago and there were huge long strands of “French Ivory.” I asked the young woman working there what these were, knowing that ivory is forbidden to sell. She answered, “French ivory.” Right. Then I said, “Yes, but what are they?” She said again, “French ivory.” So then I asked, very specifically, “But what are they made of?” After a long pause she said, in an embarrassed manner, “plastic.”

    • avatar


      February 20, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      Good job, Becky!!! Wow!

  4. avatar

    Rhonda Rogers

    February 20, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Someday I hope to make it to the show. Just not sure when, maybe when my grand daughters are a little older. Fortunately I only have 2 granddaughters otherwise between the three of us we could do some damage to grandpa’s wallet.. :)

  5. avatar

    Joan Kraus

    February 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    I’ll be in Tucson in 2 weeks and wondered if there is any place in particular that you would recommend. I know the show is gone, but where should I look?

    • avatar


      February 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      Oh gosh Joan, you know, I’m not sure what’s there after the shows! Enjoy the hotel rates! :)

      I know there are some bead shops in town, and you might want to look for some museums in the area, too. Try this Facebook page, Robyn always has great ideas: https://www.facebook.com/TucsonGemShow

      • avatar

        beverly bishop

        February 20, 2013 at 10:41 pm

        Hi Joan, you sure missed a good gem show this year. But since you will be here after its over you can still enjoy plenty of good bead stores that are shows in themselves. Design and Adorn is tops in my book they are located on Grant at the corner of Swan. Also the bead store on Fort Lowell is a must see. Its in a house so every room has something different. There are many places to visit and probably you won’t have enough time to see and do it all. We’ve lived here since 2001 as snowbirds and still haven’t seen everything there is to see. Good luck on your visit and make lots of memories to share. BeBeaz

  6. avatar

    Betty Perkins

    February 20, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I live in Tucson and we had snow again today for the 3rd. time this month! Very beautiful…
    One thing I do when I go to the shows (which is often!) I string samples of colors or types of beads on a piece of wire so it’s easy to match or ask the dealer if they have them! Or take a piece of material of a color you need to match for a cab or those yummy drusys!
    Your covering of the Gem Show has been great! THANKS!

    • avatar


      February 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      Oh, what a great idea, Betty! Nice tip!

      • avatar

        beverly bishop

        February 20, 2013 at 10:47 pm

        Yes!!!!! We had snow today. We wondered if we were suddenly thrown into another state. It started out as sleet then turned to tiny flakes mixed in then big flakes that started to stick. It sure was a sight to see in tucson and really doesn’t happen very often. Of course it melted right away when the rain stopped. BeBeaz

  7. avatar


    February 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Thank you so much for all of the lovely photos. I enjoy the tips as well. Someday, II will be able to go to the show.

    Just lovely,


  8. avatar


    February 20, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    I’ve been told (by a former boss in the fine jewelry biz) that real pearls have a slight grittiness to them, which is why you’ll see pearl dealers rub them against their teeth in some parts of the world. A practice much frowned upon around here, but one that can be somewhat duplicated by rubbing them together. If they just slide smoothly past, fake; but if you feel a little friction/grittiness, they’re probably real. Mind you, dealers & jewelers aren’t too thrilled with this technique either!

  9. avatar


    February 20, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    When do any bead shows come to Illinois? I would love to go to one.

  10. avatar


    February 21, 2013 at 12:50 am

    Very nice, thank you for adding a third set of pics and tips. One day I too will go to the Tucson gem show. I want to atleast experience this amazing place.

  11. avatar


    February 23, 2013 at 9:05 am

    The llanoite you refer to comes from Texas. I have personlly mined several hundred lbs of it. Hope this helps.

  12. avatar

    Carol Praissman

    February 23, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Hi Rose,
    I bought some stones (I wasn\’t lucky enough to go to Tucson) through a vendor & was told it was Chrysanthemum Stone. It looked a lot like the stone above the rainforest jasper. (One of my favorites too!)
    I hope this helps.
    Your pictures are wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

  13. avatar


    February 25, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Llanite is from Llano county in texas. It is a type of granite that has blue (quartz?) crystal in it. Only place it is found is in Texas.

    Forney, TX