Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tucson Gem & Mineral Show How To Advice and Tips

A month or so ago, I was perusing Facebook and saw a thread (probably in a metalsmithing group) about the Tucson show.  (schedule)

This is one of the biggest and most well-known shows in the jewelry-making industry. Days and days and miles and miles of workshops, vendors, buyers, sellers, stones, jewelry components, etc.

Anyway, the person posting the thread inquired about how to prepare for going to the Tucson show, and one of the responses just blew me away.

I reached out to the artist who posted the response, asking if she'd allow me to repost her info here on my blog. It's just too invaluable not to be shared with as many people as possible.

The response came from metalsmith and jewelry artist Jill Sharp.

To see Jill's amazing jewelry, check out her shop by clicking here!  

http://www.bluepiranhajewelry.com/
https://www.etsy.com/shop/bluepiranha

Anyway, here is Jill's exact post response in the FB thread. I really appreciate Jill for taking the time to post her thoughtful FB response as well as for letting me repost it for all of my followers. If you find this info helpful, please leave a comment. 


If you go, it will help tremendously if you pre-register for the shows you want to see (assuming those shows are wholesale only; there are also many ‘open to the public’ shows that don’t require a wholesale license).

You’ll want to figure out your lodging early. Tucson hotels book up often a year in advance; not only from all the people coming to buy and coming to sell, but some of the sellers stay in / sell from hotel rooms as well. So usually even the inexpensive chains are either booked or quite pricey. You can stay in Phoenix and drive down and back each day, but that’s a 90 minute (at best) commute which adds a lot of time to the day. There may be other places to stay closer to Tucson, but I don’t know about any. I stay with a friend, so hotels are not an issue for me.

As far as “best” options for cabs or beads…that’s so subjective that it’s impossible to say what the “best” would be. Everyone’s preferences will be different. The best thing to do is start attending the different shows and make excellent notes on what you like / don’t like and from whom you buy, so you can plan to buy from them again if their inventory suits your needs. I always go to the Holidome, GJX, and JOGS, and then some of the smaller, open to the public shows too. I used to go to AGTA, but that’s mostly very pricey faceted stones and jewelry, and you’ll have to provide a lot of documentation (and show that you’ve spent a certain amount of dollars on inventory in the prior year) to qualify. So I’ve skipped it in the last few years.

Shuttle vs. rental car: I have never gone to the gem show WITHOUT getting a rental car. The shuttles can be helpful, but you can find yourself waiting…and waiting…and waiting in line for the shuttle. That’s fine if you’re just going for fun and a little spending, but I am buying most of gem stock for the YEAR. I don’t have the time to wait. Also sometimes the shuttles don’t go where you think (or you’ve been misinformed, either by a new shuttle driver or someone else) they’re going. So you can get stuck. I have had this happen, and waited for two hours for the shuttle – that’s utterly lost time for buying. Also I have had to call a taxi when a shuttle just never came back…even before they were supposed to stop running. So I really don’t even shuttle anymore. I just drive. It’s an extra expense – and this you would want to book early too, as I have been to Tucson, picking up my rental car, and heard the reservations people telling folks that they’re all sold out during the gem show – but it’s worth it for me.

What I bring: copies of my business license. Plenty of business cards. I actually make up stickers that have my information already on them – and I give this to the sellers when I purchase (when you’re buying wholesale, the sellers must take your information for their tax records). I simply hand them my sticker with all info and it’s much faster than them having me write my info (name, address, phone, tax id) over and over again when I make a purchase. Checkbook, plus cash. Sometimes (though not always) you can negotiate a better deal for cash. Not if you’re buying like $15 worth of beads, but if I am spending, say $500, I will ask if there’s a discount for cash. And sometimes there is. Especially if I’m a repeat buyer (and some of the sellers – especially the US sellers – will remember you from year to year.)

What else do I bring? A small backpack and a wheelie bag. I promise you, your neck and shoulders are going to get tired and sore after a day of bending over those tables and perusing potential purchases. And if you’re buying a lot of beads or metal (bead) or gems, the weight of carrying those around *will* add up. So I bring a wheelie and bottled water, protein-based snacks for those low blood sugar moments, hand wipes because your hands will get ridiculously dirty handling all the gems, and I bring "extras", depending on the weather. I’ve been in Tucson for the show when it was (unseasonably, but it does happen) 40 degrees for the high. And with driving to each show, sometimes there’s a good bit of walking from your parking area to the event. So I bring gloves, a scarf, usually a windbreaker. If it’s going to rain you’ll need an umbrella. Usually I bring two pair of boots, to be able to change them out midweek (I’m usually shopping for 3 or 4 days) to give me feet a break. Mostly boots (though I keep a pair of flip flops in the car for when the weather warms up). I’ve also been to Tucson when the parking lot was so muddy and flooded that you could barely walk through it without boots. I also bring a small travel umbrella. So check the weather before you go and if it looks iffy at all, bring whatever extras you might need.

You WILL be walking a LOT. I have worn a pedometer before, and most recently my Fitbit, and I have logged on some days, 20,000 steps. Usually I’m in the 13,000 to 17,000 range. For many of us, who sit more than we move, your legs and feet (and the previously mentioned neck and shoulders) will be SORE. Bring your ibuprofen, or whatever else you need to manage that if necessary. Be prepared that it’s great fun, but also exhausting. You will get overwhelmed and you’ll stop being able to process everything, and that’s probably when you should stop shopping for the day. Because purchases made when in that state are usually the ones you might regret a bit. Ask me how I know. ;)

Know that there’s the budget, the over-budget, and the “oh my god what have I done”. If you can avoid that last one, great. But it’s not always possible. I have a budget. I usually go over it (slightly). Because there will always be that “once in a lifetime” most amazing gem(s) or price(s) that you just HAVE to take advantage of. So you dig a little deeper and find some extra money (or a little room on your credit card). You’re there, all that yummy goodness is there, and it’s nearly impossible to resist. It happens. Just know that it happens and try to be aware of it when it’s happening.

I usually, every night in my room, go through the day’s purchases and figure out what I’ve taken care of and what I’m still looking for / need to buy. If I don’t do that, I sometimes will overbuy (forgetting that I’ve bought it – or similar – already). I also total up the day’s purchases at night so I know exactly where I’m at for the next day. I keep a guesstimate of what I’ve spent in my head while shopping, but sometimes I’m a little off and it helps to know exactly what I've spent before I start out again.

I have never shipped my purchases home. The cabs and beads (back when I was buying beads) are small and I have been able to tightly pack them into my carry on and just take them with me. I don’t like to ship and I don’t want to pay the extra expense – so I make it work and then I know I have all my items with me. I have, on occasion, been stopped to have my bag manually checked. When that happens, I ask for a private screening. It’s never been a problem to have that done. It’s not like I’m buying diamonds and high value gems, but I still don’t need everyone else in line to see just how much I’ve purchased. I also fly into and out of Phoenix, instead of directly to Tucson, because I have friends there and I stay an extra couple of days in Phoenix before heading home – but I have flown through Tucson in the past and most of the TSA people know that the gem show’s going on and they’re typically very understanding that you might not want everyone to see all your purchases.