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The Daily Wildcat

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Enthusiasm and larger crowds marked the 2023 Tucson Gem & Mineral Show

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Tereza Rascon
The 68th annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show took place at the Tucson Convention Center from Feb. 9-12. This year, the theme was “SILICA: Agates and Opals and Quartz, Oh My!”

The 68th annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show took place at the Tucson Convention Center from Feb. 9-12, which is the second consecutive show since the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the theme was “SILICA: Agates and Opals and Quartz, Oh My!” which allowed a variety of exhibits of these types of minerals to be displayed for the visitors to see.

Along with the display cases, around 250 retail dealers were present in both the exhibition hall and ballroom of the TCC. Various lectures and symposiums were also available for attendees to listen in that covered a variety of topics pertaining to the theme of the event. For the junior mineral enthusiasts, there was a designated junior education area that was filled with booths of various backgrounds that gave their expertise on various minerals and earth science materials.

The event is not just one of the most anticipated events of the year, but it’s also one of the most prestigious events, having been internationally recognized since the 1970s. With its motto focused on education, this year’s show brought in a variety of exhibits that fit the mineral theme.

According to Ellen Alexander, one of the organizers of the event as well as the treasurer of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society Board, the show holds exhibit competitions where exhibitors can submit their collections in order to place into certain categories.

“On Thursday night, the first night of the show, the judges come and they look at the different things and they look at which categories the people are competing in, and they make the decision on who gets the first prize; which best reflects what is right for that [particular] competition,” Alexander said. 

The awards tend to rank from the junior level to the very top, and winning a ribbon is considered very prestigious, according to Alexander.

The Tucson Gem & Mineral Show is a non-profit show made up of volunteers. According to Alexander, the money that comes from tickets goes towards scholarships, bringing in more exhibits and paying for the show to be run at all.

Along with exhibits came a variety of dealers who set up shop in the exhibition hall and grand ballroom to sell a variety of jewelry ware. Some of these dealers included Goldstein Creations, which specializes in selling tables made out of petrified wood, as well as The Mod Ant which is a local shop that sells Native American jewelry.

The 68th annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show took place at the Tucson Convention Center from Feb. 9-12. This year, the theme was “SILICA: Agates and Opals and Quartz, Oh My!”
The 68th annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show took place at the Tucson Convention Center from Feb. 9-12. This year, the theme was “SILICA: Agates and Opals and Quartz, Oh My!”

Patricia McClain, the executive manager of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society, provided insight into what went into the decision of the theme.

“Silicas are everywhere. Silica is something that is not quite as common, but you know something about agates, don’t you? You’ve heard of the term agates. I bet you’ve heard of the term quartz. You know what quartz is; it’s silicas,” McClain said. “What we try to do is not only make the theme towards the professional or the high-end collector but also to the general public, and that helps us educate everyone. Again, it’s the emphasis on the [Tucson Gem and Mineral Society] purpose, which is education.”

Along with collectors and mineral enthusiasts, parents and schools are encouraged to bring their kids to the show. According to their pamphlet, “The society and the show committee invite approximately 3,000 Arizona school students to attend the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show free of charge with their teachers and chaperones.”

There is also a separate event run geared just towards the kids, located in what the society calls the junior education area. It’s estimated that over 2,000 children visit this area. Located above the exhibition hall, this area is lined with a variety of booths that invite kids to engage in Earth Sciences. These booths include representatives from the Coronado National Forest, the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona and the Mineralogical Society of America.

Ann Benbow, the executive director of the Mineralogical Society of America, said, “[MSA] is a 103-year-old science organization, and [which serves] mineralogists and petrology by publishing their research,” while also educating “the public of the importance of minerals.”

Anybody can join MSA as long as they hold a love of minerals. Not only does the MSA hope to educate people on these minerals, but they hope that people come away from their booth understanding that minerals are crucial to everyday life, but that they are also non-renewable resources.

“I just love the enthusiasm,” Benbow said. “The people that come in here are very interested in minerals, and people of all ages come by, so that to us is very exciting.”

Keep an eye out for the 69th annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show that will come Feb. 8-11, 2024, at the TCC. The theme for that exhibit will be “Pegmatites – Crystals Big & Beautiful!”


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The annual Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase returned this year from Jan. 27 - Feb. 11 with 48 gem show locations all across Tucson. The show draws both visitors and vendors from all over the globe, featuring one of the most impressive collections of gems, minerals and fossils in the entire world. The event draws in over 65,000 guests.
The annual Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase returned this year from Jan. 27 – Feb. 11 with 48 gem show locations all across Tucson. The show draws both visitors and vendors from all over the globe, featuring one of the most impressive collections of gems, minerals and fossils in the entire world. The event draws in over 65,000 guests.
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