Professional Jeweler Archive: Tackling Tucson

January 2001

Gemstones & Pearls/News


Tackling Tucson

Follow these 10 tips to make the most of your gem-buying excursion


Hailed as the world’s largest and most important gem event of the year, the Tucson shows are like no other shopping venue in the industry. This smorgasbord of color encompasses some two dozen fossil, mineral, gem and jewelry shows, most of them concentrated in the downtown of this Arizona desert town.

Most gem-savvy jewelers approach Tucson differently than any other trade show. Long-time veterans share their strategies for tackling Tucson here.

1. Go Early

The good stuff goes first. “Get there the first day; go to the jump-start shows,” says Richard Wise of R.W. Wise Goldsmiths, Lenox, MA. “Crawl in the tents and schmooze in the mud. There are deals to be had.”

2. Plan to Spend Time

“You can’t do Tucson in three days,” says Eve Alfillé of Eve Alfillé Designs, Evanston, IL. “I divide my time between dealers I know and can see only in Tucson and meeting new ones.”

3. Make a Shopping List

But be ready to throw it away, says Becky Thatcher of Becky Thatcher Designs, Glen Arbor, MI. “It’s nice to be prepared, but you must also be flexible.” Adds Alfillé: “I bring folders for gems, pearls, tools and finished goods; in each one I include my wish list, customer requests and samples. I even bring a key ring of silver models to visualize how a gem will look in a piece."

4. Use Your Good Sense

“If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is,” says Thatcher. “Think what will happen after the sale: Can you find this dealer again? Will there be more goods when you need them?”

5. Do Your Homework

Learn all you can about the supply chain and educate yourself about gem rough so you’re a better buyer, says Wise.

6. Comparison Shop

“Take copies of receipts from the previous year and bind them together for price comparisons,” says Thatcher. She also takes advantage of the sheer number of vendors to comparison-shop.

7. Match Back at Home

“It saves time, and the environment is more conducive to match stones back in your office if you need to buy in quantity,” says Alfillé. “Your vendor can send the goods upon your return.”

8. Be Prepared

Thatcher creates a calendar of all the Tucson shows – when they start, where they are and who to see – rather than use a massive show guide. “Also have computer-generated labels with vital information, including your tax ID number, so vendors can process your purchases quickly,” she says.

9. Be Organized

Alfillé keeps a scale, measuring tools and labels in her hotel room to weigh, measure and price everything before she gets back to her shop. She keeps a daily log of what she’s seen and what happened with each vendor. Lucinda Rogers of Gold ’n’ Carats in Irving, TX, separates a loose-leaf binder into four sections with color tabs – red, blue and green for the Big Three and clear for miscellaneous. She glues business cards on each page with booth numbers and information.

10. Promote Your Trek to Tucson

“I alert my good customers that I’m going to the shows,” says Rogers. “It generates excitement before and after.” It also can be challenging, cautions Alfillé, if you receive a lot of specific requests. “I’m lucky if I can fill two-thirds of them because it’s very time-consuming. Be cautious what you promise.”


– Deborah Yonick


Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications