Largest, Oldest & Most Prestigious in the World
11 REASONS THE WORLD IS WATCHING TUCSON
By Christy Krueger
The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase is not just another tourist attraction. It is THE tourist attraction of our region. The largest annual event in Pima County, it’s also the largest of its kind in the world and contributes millions of dollars to the local economy.
The numbers say it all. The global show brings more than 65,000 visitors to the region and has an estimated economic impact of $131 million. Visiting buyers hail from 42 states and 17 countries and exhibitors travel from 45 states and 42 foreign countries.
Not only just the largest, the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show® is also the oldest and most prestigious in the world. It has enjoyed international status since the 1970s and was the first gem and mineral show to bring together hobby enthusiasts, the general public and professionals, according to the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society.
“There really is something for everybody at the shows – from the Etsy shoppers, to rockhounds, to buyers of fine jewelry, gemologists and for those who just like to look,” said Jane Roxbury, director of gem show and convention services for Visit Tucson. “Kids interested in dinosaurs will have a ball at many of the warehouse shows, where full-size pterodactyls and T-rexes have been assembled.”
The event’s special exhibits also provide a coveted peek into private and museum collections of rare pieces, which differ each year. Past exhibits have included the Fabergé Collection, the Logan Sapphire, the Star of Asia and the Hooker Emerald Brooch.
Though the pandemic kept the 2021 show from its original form, the three-week event returned in all its splendor this winter to a welcoming public with 48 distinct locations for shows across the city. “Tucson is very lucky to have so many gem show owners and operators owning their venues here, and some actually live here!” said Roxbury. “As operations have been normalizing in 2022, all eyes are on Tucson for best practices and modeling.”
Visit Tucson provides a variety of gem show information for visitors, including the printed Official Gem Guide, the website (www.tucsongemshow.org), welcome materials for local businesses, concierge tables at the airport and Tucson Convention Center.
The pandemic break did enable a retooling of sorts. “It’s always good to go back and look at procedures,” Visit Tucson CEO Felipe Garcia told BizTucson earlier this year. “It was a good time to look at how to become better. It also resulted in new features for visitors, including significant renovations to the Tucson Convention Center and a re-energized downtown.
Additionally, the University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum found an impressive new home in the Pima County Historic Courthouse during the pandemic and now offers year-round world-class collection for visitors and locals alike.
The museum was named for the late Alfie Norville because of her love and dedication to all aspects of the gem showcase, as well as she and her husband Allan being instrumental in starting Gem & Jewelry Exchange, known as GJX, a wholesale show that offers colored stones and precious metals.
“They’ve been a staple of the gem shows and really made a positive change,” Garcia said, of the Norvilles. “The museum is a great legacy. It’s amazing.”