The World’s Largest Treasure Hunt

by Suzanne - March 8th, 2012

For two weeks every winter buyers and sellers from around the world gather in Tucson for the Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase.  I attended this year, for the first time, accompanied by my ceramics friend, Daniela Abel, www.potsforthesoul who travelled from Montana. We met at the Phoenix airport and drove to Tucson together, taking in the landscape and delighting in the Saguaro cactus that sprinkled the horizon. Armed with our whole sale credentials, Google driving directions and six apples we were ready for an adventure with no idea what to expect.


The “Gem Show” is enormous, no … gargantuan.  It’s not a single event in one location; it’s a citywide extravaganza. In giant white tents next to the freeways, in hotels, resorts and exhibition halls everything rock – from diamonds to dinosaur fossils were on display.

We were mining for beads, which we found at the least interesting venues.  Usually in white tents on gravel lots or grassy mounds in areas of Tucson we would not otherwise be visiting.  Although we visited fascinating venues, we didn’t actually make many purchases there.  The Marriott, located in the foothills of the Saguaro National Park, featured finished jewelry and hosted estate dealers. Daniela tried on a $7500 marquis diamond ring that actually appraised for $25,000.  Enroute to “The Best Bead Show” we mistakenly visited the Gem and Mineral show showcasing human sized geodes transported by forklifts, the most amazing petrified wood and recently mined opals from the Australian Outback.

The best adventure was visiting the African Village, which really was like visiting an African Village.  Nestled alongside the access road, rows of small white tents were filled with tables and racks of the most colorful African Trade Beads.  All the vendors I spoke with came from Ghana, where beads were once the king’s currency.  I won’t bore you with how African Trade Beads were brought to Africa by the Danes when they settled the Gold Coast, but suffice it to say these beads are hundreds of years old.  Reminding me, once again, we have been ornamenting ourselves with beads for hundreds of years!

For those of you who bought one of my African Wedding Bead necklaces it has increased four times in value.