Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (Not a Heidegger Post)

One of the best things about living in Tucson (besides the Literary Festival and the desert itself) is the Gem Show, which comes every year in February and lasts about two weeks. And of course, being Tucson, the whole set up must be funky.IMG_2048

Vendors and buyers from all over the world come to take over the city. I mean that literally. The show is not in one location, but scattered all over, sprawling far into the east side. If there’s a defunct lot somewhere, you can be sure to see a few tents camped there. Vendors frequently set up shop in motel rooms, leaving the doors open for all to enter. (It always feels so creepy…often times people will leave their hotel trash scattered amongst their wares. Let me tell you, the vendors do not eat well.) Food trucks appear to feed the masses, parking lots fill up, shuttles run back and forth. The whole thing is kind of chaotic, like a carnival. Although I try to make it each year, I’ve really only seen maybe 1/10th of the show, if that. I haven’t seen any of the precious stones (apparently there’s the sapphire trail, the emerald trail, etc.) because I’m more interested in fossils.

Even if you’re not into starting a fossil and/or mineral collection, you can always come to admire the amazing specimens. (These are actually not the most amazing ones…but I was in a mighty rush to get home this year and I barely remembered to take photos to show you. I wish I had thought to take these with someone standing next to them so you could see the scale of how huge they are):

IMG_2056 IMG_2051IMG_2053IMG_2050IMG_2049

These two amethysts in the picture above are probably two feet taller than me…so about seven feet tall. Wouldn’t that look outstanding in an entryway? I’d feel like queen coming into my castle. The ammonite sculpture in the photo to the right is about six feet tall and far wider than my arm span.

Last year I spent days wandering around, picking out beads, admiring fine specimens, listening to people haggle in foreign languages. This year I had to limit myself to my quest to find a Himalayan salt lamp which I promised my friend I’d get her. (We were admiring one in Oklahoma that was priced five times higher than what I can get here.) The one I got her is a little bigger than mine (below). And if you run out of salt, you can just scrape some off your lamp and put it in your food:


While those really nice fossils above are pricey, there’s a lot here that’s super cheap. The salt lamp above was ten bucks (and the vendors will say it purifies the air…wellllll…anyways, it’s neat-looking). You want a palm-sized trilobite to give to the kids? Two bucks. A bead with a fossil in it? One dollar:


Other things we bought in the past:




IMG_2065These were a little more of a splurge…but I couldn’t be happier to have this smiling crocodile in my living room.

Even though prices are already reasonable, you must haggle, just because…if you don’t haggle, you’re a sucker. And if you don’t haggle, there’s a chance the other vendors will hear you and they’ll price accordingly. So you’ve got to play the game. That’s half the fun.

Of course, if you buy in bulk, you get a better deal and more bargaining leverage. But a lot of the show is open to the public for those not looking to resell. You can also get amazing functional things made out of fossils, like this sink (left):



Or this table:






Or this Kleenex box holder:


Or this…thing. Whatever it is:


Or you can do what we’ve done and incorporate fossils and stones into the shower walls like a mosaic (terrible photo, I know):


While I’d never really been interested in such things before, it feels like the right thing to do now that we live in Tucson. Our bathroom now has a fossil theme, which provides just the right amount of Tucson-funk for our Santa Fe style home. It sort of goes along with having a beehive fireplace, Saltillo tile, and a backyard made up of landscape rock and stepping stones rather than grass.

And if you’re not into fossils and minerals, beads and random things, you can always people watch. The characters abound. This is Tucson after all.

What, if anything, do you collect?

Do you incorporate regional-local things into your home, and if so…tell me about them!

32 thoughts on “Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (Not a Heidegger Post)

  1. How fun! My kids would love that show, especially the running around part. Just a few months ago we spent an entire day at the local history museum browsing their dinosaur collection. I love that you can make everything so practical (the tissue box was just too cool) and fashionable. I would totally dig having a fossil-themed bathroom. Jurassic Park? Ya, I loved it.

    We collect such vastly different things. I go crazy for ancient armor. Either original (which is sort of illegal to take from dig sites unless certain laws apply) or modern versions made in the ancient way. That’s how I ended up with various Corinthian helmets from the 5th and 4th centuries (donkey hair crest attached for authenticity), some swords, shields, and some busts for kicks. Fun, fun!


  2. Awesome! While I don’t have anything as regionally specific as this, I collect a lot of things. In a gross expression of materialism, I collect teapots, makeup products, rocks, and white seashells. Also my Christmas ornaments could probably be considered a collection, since I gravitate towards everything rustic/wooden/white/gold/silver. I didn’t originally plan it that way, they all go together.

    But my biggest collection is easily made of books. I can’t help myself. Every time I read a book I’m inspired to buy at least two more.


    • I’m not surprised you have a book collection!

      Do you find the seashells yourself? I can’t help but search for things on the beach. My favorite thing is to look for sea glass. I never know what to do with it, but I love the whole idea of it…litter turned into something beautiful by the forces of nature.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know, that’s not much of a shocker there. I find the shells myself – it’s the only way! I like the idea of collecting sea glass, that would be so pretty have out in a bowl for display. And it would go well with gemstones.


  3. I go for stones shaped by naturally coursing water. It takes a bit if patience, as you have to wade painstakingly slowly along very shallow streams at the bottom of valleys (so there will have been vast amounts of water passed over the stones), and if you’re lucky, and if you’re eyesight is good, you can find some amazingly shaped stones. I have to say, I much prefer them to the machined finish that seems popular with mineral rocks. For me, they become semi-mystical objects, shaped by nature over thousands of years only to be found by me one day. Your bathroom is sensational by the way.


      • Just to be clear, the stones I collect that way are nothing special in terms of being minerals; they’re just special in terms of form and colour, and kind of special just for being discovered too.

        Aw, now you’ve spoilt the picture I had of you and hubby toiling painstakingly with blistered hands for hundreds of hours setting individual stones into your bathroom wall – looks fantastic anyway. H ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Those poor belemnites, if they had known they would end up as a kleenex box holder… Animal protection laws should be extended to fossils! 😉
    You write: ” and lasts about two weeks” and ” I barely remembered to take photos to show you”. That sounds like a plan to go back and shoot more pics to show to us 🙂
    I happen to own two pieces of meteorites (one is a slice of the Toluca meteorite (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toluca_%28meteorite%29), from Mexico, that was a larger iron meteortie. The other one is a small cube of iron meteorite, I don’t know exaclty from where. I got these from my father, each has its (hi)story. They are the oldest things I own, probably billions of years old. It is very strange to “own” something that has been flying around in space for billions of years, before humans existed, maybe even before life existe on earth.
    I have a piece of fossilized wood from Chemnitz, see https://kellerdoscope.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/the-petrified-forest/. That piece also has its story. And I have a brachiopode, an amonite and a few other things, also some minearals. Also see http://asifoscope.org/2013/03/17/home-metallurgy/. As a child, I was very interested in these things, but most of the things I had are gone. The things I kept are some that have some memory of strory attached to them. The focus of my intersts shifted to other matters. (I prefer these to Heidegger, though – beeings are more interesting than Being, after some time) 😉


    • I hope someday way in the future someone takes a few of my bones and makes a Kleenex box holder out of them. Then I’ll be on display…a little bit of immortality. Perhaps my only claim to fame. 🙂

      You would LOVE Tucson and really all of Arizona if you’re into this stuff. You would have a field day with the land itself. There is of course the Petrified forest. We have a rather large chunk of petrified wood that my husband bought a long time ago from some stoned hippie on the side of the road (sometime back in the 70s). He paid $7 for this thing! Who knows if it was stolen. I also happened to find one at a campsite out in the middle of nowhere. It was quite a find. I don’t know how it got there because we were nowhere near the petrified forest. I think someone must’ve left it there.

      As for the Gem show, I’m afraid I’m done for the year. My husband had to hold my hand the whole time we were there because I feared I’d smash into one of the booths. Grocery stores and any place with lots of visual stimulation makes the dizziness worse. The Gem Show was about the worst possible environment for me. I only went because I thought jumping in the deep end of the pool would make me get better faster (I’m supposed to be retraining my brain). It made me feel unbelievably awful afterwards. But trust me, if I could go, I definitely would. I’d love to show you the dinosaur fossils. I’d have to scout around for those. I saw some amazing ones last year, but never took pictures. (And you can buy them for a hefty price, although not as hefty as you might think! Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a dinosaur fossil?)

      I know exactly what you mean about owning these artifacts. The history continues. Every time I take a shower I look at the little fossilized fish and think about what it would think (anthropomorphizing, of course) about being on my shower wall. It probably wouldn’t mind the water!

      Oh boy. Now I want the dinosaur fossil I saw last year.


        • My husband said he wants to go back to the show on the last day to do some bargaining…that’s the other secret to bargaining. 🙂

          I’m sending him on a mission to take photos for me, so perhaps you’ll get to see them after all! He also wants me to take a photo of our petrified wood…he’s very proud of this find.

          That museum looks like a lot of fun. There were actually some specimens that looked a lot like some of the good ones I’ve seen at the Gem show. I’ll tell my husband to focus on the dinosaur fossils. I wish I could direct him to where I saw the amazing ones last year, but I’m afraid I don’t remember.

          Attachment…ah yes, I have that malady.


        • Regarding that site, I’m finding I know a lot of German words already: “Fossils” “Kontakt” “Jurassic Sealife” “Facebook” “Museum” “Museumshop” “Eventlocation” Wow, I’m practically fluent. 🙂


  5. I got to see the show once, when my mom lived in Phoenix. We drove down to Tucson, stopping at the San Xavier mission, and had a blast, even though we could only see a tiny part of the show in one day. I have collections of fossils, minerals and beads, so it was heaven for me. I really love your crocodile. It looks like a pricey specimen!


  6. I too collect minerals and rocks, all manner and varieties, some precious to many, some precious only to myself. I’m practically drooling at these pictures. Magnificent stuff. I am also interested in philosophy, especially when mixed with fiction. I have ended up here because I wrote a post about ‘The of Mr Y’ by Scarlett Thomas, which combines the two well I think, and the lovely Hariod pointed me your way. I shall enjoy rooting through the draws of your blog I suspect *smiles*.

    – sonmi upon the Cloud


  7. The Gem Show looks like a real treat. My favourite is the amethyst fixture, and I see what you mean about putting them by your doorway! I collected quartz as a kid and built up enough of a collection to do several school reports on them. I also took an Earth Sciences course during first year of undergraduate studies that turned me into a fractals nut for quite some time.

    The natural world is pretty spectacular.


    • Nature really is spectacular. We have “icicle” quartz ornaments for our Christmas tree that I’m sure you’d like. I love how those shine when you put them over the lights.

      Children just love these things. I imagine the Gem Show would be great for them. I never had a collection as a kid, but I did have one palm-sized amethyst which I kept inside a little music box and I used to pretend it was magical. I broke this thing out for pretty much every imagination game. And if anyone touched it, they’d hear an earful from me. I even vaguely remember getting into some fight over it with some older boy down the street who tried to take it from me.


      • Quartz ornaments are a nice touch of originality! You were very right to defend the music box. For me, it wasn’t an older boy down the street but a girl in my elementary school class. She told me that if I didn’t give her a crystal, it meant we weren’t friends anymore. I laughed, and she didn’t pursue the issue further, but she did make good on her promise. They say the social politics of high school are bad, but I’d say it’s the same interesting flatline for all levels of education. : )


        • Haha…yeah I remember it all being pretty bad. Although something about middle school stands out as being the worst, at least in my memory. They notice all these little details and differences that we as adults are just not privy to anymore, and they draw some pretty sharp lines about it. If there was ever a time I needed a magic crystal, then that was it!

          Well, I bet that girl learned a little something about ultimatums. If not from that experience, perhaps later. I’m sort of surprised she followed through. I don’t remember holding grudges for very long at that age. Not because we were so forgiving, but simply because our little minds would get distracted and forget all the dramas of yesterday.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I think middle school was jarring because suddenly everybody started forming cliques. The transition from childhood to tweendom takes a lot of getting used to. That’s also when our little minds become not so little and the grudges stick for longer. Perhaps the girl was simply mature for her age.

            Liked by 1 person

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