Tucson Gem Show 2013 - TGMS Show Year of Fluorite

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is the first and oldest gem show in Tucson and is run by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society (TGMS) and is held every year on the 2nd weekend in February. The cover charge this year is $10. It is both a retail show and an exhibit that provides an opportunity for the public to purchase jewelry, gemstones, fossils, and minerals, and to view mineral exhibits made up of private collections from around the world.

Come early to get the best parking and avoid lineups

The 250+ show vendors have booths set up in the two main areas in the convention center. The majority are seasoned vendors who have sold at this show in previous years. Compared to the wholesale shows, the vendors' booths are well organized with well-lit custom displays.

Walrus bone carvings from Alaska

As with the wholesale shows, vendors are from all over the world. This vendor flew in from Alaska and brought with him his carved walrus and mammoth sculptures.

Arizona-Mined Amethyst

Many local vendors sell US-mined gemstones, such as the Oregan Sunstone, mined in Plush Oregon, and the Arizona 4 Peaks Amethyst. The 4 Peaks mine is located in a remote area in the Mazatal Mountains near Tucson. Similar to the valuable Siberian variety, 4 Peaks Amethyst has flashes of red attributed to the same chemicals (manganese, magnesium) that also give the red color of certain garnets. 4 Peaks Amethyst is costly to extract as it is mined by hand and transported off the mountain by helicopter. The best specimens of this gemstones are a deep purple with flashes of red. Gorgeous!

A Show For Collectors

Compared to the wholesale Tucson shows, the TGMS favors the finished jewelry purchaser and the collector. Jewelry vendors sold loose gemstones that are set and sized that day. Many of the stones were extremely rare, and I was delighted to see gemstones that I had read about but never seen before, such as cinnabar and jeremjevite.

Rock Collecting Starts Early

I met a father and son who drove up from Los Angeles. They have been attending this show for the past three years, as the young boy is a keen collector of rough gemstones. He took out of his pocket an impressive 2 cm oblong rough diamond that he procured in last year’s show. When asked how he could afford such a stone, he said that he had to trade some of his other diamonds for it. Good job! 

Fluorescent Stones

A popular stall was the fluorescent rock vendor who sold rocks that glowed under long and short wave UV light. It was a light tight tent that allowed the rocks to be viewed in the dark. The stones were displayed on black shelves and were lit by a variety of UV lights. All the rocks were for sale. I purchased a Calcite that glowed neon lime green in shortwave UV for $10.

Rocks lit by camera flash

Rocks lit by UV

Year of Fluorite

The theme for this year’s TGMS show is Fluorite (CalciumFluorite) and is popularly known as the fluorescent mineral.  This mineral is found all over the world, and the florescent quality is due to impurities found in the stone’s matrix.

The Weardale Giant

The show’s organizers, TGMS society, were able to arrange the exhibition of an exciting recent Fluorite find, the Weardale Giant. This massive piece of Fluorite was discovered last summer in the Rogerley Mine in Durham, England. It is the largest fluorite specimen ever unearthed from this mine. 

 The Weardale Giant, measuring approximately 1 meter across, 
from the Rogerley Mine, Durham, England

North Pennines Orefield

The TGMS show had an extensive display of  Fluorites found from the mining area where the Weardale Giant was found, called the North Pennines Orefield. It covers a massive area of approximately 45km and was a major world producer of lead and zinc up until the 1960’s. More recently, the mines have commercially extracted fluorite, barite, and witherite, until the last mines were closed in 1999. 

Fluorites From Around the World

Here are some of the highlights from the TGMS Fluorite show exhibit. 

Naica from Chihuahua, Mexico, Yellow Vein from Avignon, France

Fluorite with Pyrite on Quartz, Hunan, China

Fluorites from Hunan, China; Durham England; and Tennessee, USA

Fluorite from Hunan China; Illinois, USA; and Primorisky Krai, Russia

Fluorite from Namibia; Germany; Asturias, Spain; Oujda-Angad, Morocco

Mineral Specimens For Purchase

The Mineral specimens for sale were stunning, as were some of the prices. 

3 foot Ammonite still covered in it's original irridescent ammolite

Ammolite detail

Rosasite specimen for a bargain $8

Peacock Ore from Mexico for $4/rock

Peacock ore detail

Malachite Stalactites


Fluorite on Sphalerite $6,500

Fluorite in quartz $7,000

Rhodochrosite $10,000

Rhodochrosite detail

Ilvaite in Quartz

Lollingite $2,000 (grey) Dioptase $7,000 (green)


Vanadinite on Barite $1,500

Tourmaline (green specimen), Rhodochrosite on Quartz (red), Scheelite on Muscovite (orange)

Emerald in Quartz $560

Dioptase specimen $2,500


Large Rhodochrosite specimen

Ruby in Quartz specimen $500

Tourmaline specimen $350,000

Tools of the Trade

My experience with jewelry making is limited to wirework with some butane torch soldering; I'm usually not interested in tools that go beyond the simple and basic. However, I became intrigued when I passed by a stall that was attracting a small crowd of people who were watching a jewelry repair demo, using the Orion Jewelry Welder.

The Orion Jewelry Welder is essentially a spot arc welder that uses electricity to heat metal to its melting point. An inert gas, Argon, is used in this process, to prevent oxidation. No solder, flux, or pickling is needed, since the metal is melted and fused using very high heat in absence of oxygen. The whole process takes a fraction of a second. 

Orion Jewelry Welder

A show attendee is looking into the microscope portion of the welder.

What makes the Orion welder an effective jewelry design and repair tool, is the addition of a product that protects the gem from the intense heat, the Sand Hills Gold Gem Guard. Earlier on in the show, they demoed an opal ring repair where the opal remained in the setting as they repaired a prong that was close to the delicate stone. Quite remarkable.

Terry Reichert of Pro Ice Jewelers

What I find exciting about the Orion Welder:

  1. It's relatively inexpensive compared to a laser welder with the basic model priced at $3,700 dollars. 
  2. All metals can be used with this device. Laser welders have difficulty with shiny metals since it uses light to fuse the metal. 
  3. Fast and easy. It takes only a zap of the welder to fuse two metals together. No solder or flux, and pickle. 
  4. No down time. Jewelry repair can be done in front of the customer = instant happy customer. While I was at the booth, a few show attendees asked to have their jewelry repaired. Also, a jewelry vendor was using the welder to size a few rings that were purchased by attendees. 
  5. Allows more creativity. A jewelry designer can manufacture fanciful creations easily and quickly.

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