Tucson has many treasures, but the Tucson Gem and Mineral show may be the crowning jewel. Since the 1970’s, gem and mineral professionals, enthusiasts, collectors, and major museums from all over the world come together in little ol’ Tucson in the beautiful month of February. So how did it come to be that all these folks, including miners from Mali, Morocco, and Switzerland, ship themselves and their most precious rocks and fossils to the deserts of Arizona?
The roots of this legendary gathering reach back to 1954 in a Tucson elementary school parking lot. On this blacktop a group of mineral collectors and rock hounds under the name of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society created a free exhibition open to the public. The society’s intent for themselves and the show was to further the knowledge and appreciation for the hobby of mineral collection and lapidary that was just beginning to grow.
The exhibition was so successful the organizers decided to make it an annual event. Over the years the show grew considerably. Today this “main show” continues to be held by Tucson Gem and Mineral Society volunteers at the Tucson Convention Center. As a result of the powerful popularity of the main show, many spin-off shows have sprouted up all over the greater Tucson area, bringing even more fun and variety to the scene.
Some say the main show gained its global reputation due to the variety and quality of specimens on display including prominent gem, mineral, and fossil displays from museums such as the Smithsonian, the London Museum of Nautral Hisotry, and many more. For example, one year the Hope Diamond attended the show! Yet, this does not fully explain how the show became an international phenomenon…how it attracted such special exhibitions.
The main show is philanthropic in nature. In alignment with the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society’s mission to encourage interest and study in geology, mineralogy, lapidary, and allied earth sciences, all of the proceeds are invested into mineral collections with local organizations such as the University of Arizona, and the Arizona Sonora Desert museum, which further mineral knowledge and appreciation. Proceeds from the show also go to scholarships in the Geosciences Department at the University of Arizona, and to the Boys and Girls Club. The Gem Show’s philanthropic orientation helps attract world-class museum quality specimens, but the attraction of this show goes even deeper than that.
If you visit the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society’s website you will find the true magnet. It is the simple, no-nonsense, and singular passion of the members of this Tucson society that makes the Gem Show what it is. They are so passionate about mineral collecting and lapidary that they do their best to share the best of it. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and The Gem and Mineral Show is just one facet of the riches they offer to the public.
The Tucson Gem and Mineral Society offers meeting on the first Monday of each month (except September). These meetings present gems and minerals from many perspectives with the intention to excite adventurers and collectors alike. In the summer the Society holds potluck dinners. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Society also offers classes and field trips to broaden the knowlege and skills of members. Visit their website to find out more! www.tgms.org
The story of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show reminds me of the amazing feats a small group of dedicated people can achieve when we pool our passion together. So, I invite you to come to the sunny Sonoran Desert, sit on a rock, and ponder a while. What are your passions? We’d love to host you here at The Inns at El Rancho Merlita. Maybe you’ll come take a class such as “Everything You Need to Know on Gemstones.” Perhaps you will even make it to the fabulous 2016 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, “Shades of Bule – Minerals of the World,” February 11-14, 2016. Until then, shine on you crazy diamond!
All the best,
The ERM Family