25 Gem Show Survival Tips from a Jeweler & Gemologist

I am thrilled to be heading to Tucson, AZ again for the 2018 Gem & Mineral Show! The annual show in Tucson attracts more that 50,000 people and has more than 4,000 different vendors from all around the world. Trying to find the perfect gemstone or supplies from that HUGE number of vendors can be overwhelming, even for people who have been to many gem shows.

Inside the Gem and Lapidary Wholesale Show tent

I started making jewelry at the age of twelve and have been going to gem shows of various sizes for a long time now. The first show I ever went to was in Havana, Florida, not too far from my parents home near the FL/GA line. I then began attending gem shows in Franklin, NC and Asheville, NC with my grandparents. As my passion for jewelry and gemology grew, gem shows became a regular event for me! The Tucson Show is the mecca for all jewelry lovers, makers, and rock enthusiasts. No matter how many gem shows I go to, I still always get the giddy kid-in-a-candy-store feeling at each one I go to. Though the feeling of being dazzled seems new everytime, there are some tips and tricks I've learned throughout the years that make the experience smoother!

25 Gem Show Survival Tips from a Jeweler & Gemologist:

  1. Pack a small bag that has wheels! A wheeled duffle is great to bring because surprise, surprise.... rocks are heavy!!
  2. Bring many copies of your state-issued resale license/certificate. Many of the shows are wholesale only, and if you are a business- you will need many copies of your certificate to leave with vendors.
  3. Take a lap around the show before you start spending money! Use your phone or notebook to note the vendors and booth numbers that you want to return to, and note the prices of the items you wish to purchase so that you can compare with other vendors BEFORE swiping your plastic.
  4. I have wasted a lot of time over the years filling out my company info on invoices after making purchases from vendors at the show. This year, I have printed little slips of paper with my name, company address, contact info, and more importantly- that resale certificate number. That way, vendors can just tape it or staple it to my order. Stickers would be a great idea too!
  5. Bring dark black sharpies and sticky notes! Most vendors put your merchandize in small zip bags. I use sharpies to label the bags with pricing and vendor info. I also sometimes write this info on a sticky note to put in the baggies so it won't wear off of the outside of the bag.
  6. Pack calipers. These digital calipers allow me to measure the exact mm size of gemstones, beads, and their drill holes.
  7. Pack a loupe if you plan on shopping faceted stones. The magnification will allow you to better examine the clarity and overall quality of the gemstone. 
  8. Pack a gram/carat scale. I bring a small battery operated scale so that I can weigh certain gemstones. The gems are often priced by the carat, and though many vendors bring their own scales, I like knowing I can trust the accuracy of mine an that I don't have to wait on other customers to finish up with vendor-owned scales.
  9. Place vendor business cards in the bags WITH the merchandise you purchased from them. This tip always helps me keep track of what I got from each company..and when I get back to my hotel at the end of the day, I always record vendor info, supplies purchased, and price in a litte notebook.
  10. Bring a water bottle and ibuprofen. I always like to have these two essentials with me. Tucson is SO dry and having water keeps me from getting dehydrated and loosing momentum. The ibuprofen is also handy, because many of the shows use bright lights, which are hot and super reflective. Its terrible to have to cut a shopping day short due to a headache. 
  11. Bring wet-wipes. After handling a bunch of beads and gemstones, sometimes your hands just feel dirty. Handling dyed gemstones and pearls especially leaves the hands feeling like they need to be wiped down.
  12. Bring a portable cell phone charger. I always pack a battery pack in my purse or backpack so that I can keep my phone with a full battery. Many of the shows have bad cell service and drain your battery quickly. Plus, I often use my cell phone calculator while shopping, and this also drains the battery.
  13. Bring a list of tried & true vendors and their locations. A week before I travel to a gem show, I text or email my usual & trusted vendors to let them know I will be coming to see them and to see where I can find them at the show. Its WAY easier to know ahead of time than to have to search for them while there.
  14. Set a budget and shopping list ahead of time... and always allow for a little extra (trust me, something will catch your eye and tempt you to exceed your budget). My strategy is usually to cross off the items that I have already established a need for FIRST. Cross all those items off the list, THEN revisit the exciting "extras" that you've found along the way with whatever remains in your budget.
  15. Bring LOTS of business cards. Most vendors will want your business card on file with your resale certificate and order information, plus a business card is great to leave behind with a vendor if they are holding something for you. 
  16. Notify your bank and credit card company that you will be traveling BEFORE the show to avoid freezes and having to verify purchases while there.
  17. Wear very comfortable shoes. You will be walking and on your feet all day. Comfort is KEY. Sketchers has a bunch of styles with memory foam in them that are amazing. I also always wear shoes that I am okay with getting mud or red clay all over.
  18. Bring your UPS or FedEx account info with you so that you can ship items home from the show.
  19. Pre-Register online if you can! This will save you from having to wait in line before getting into the shows.
  20. Bring cash for parking and for any snacks you may need to purchase.
  21. Bring lightweight layers. Tucson can especially be chilly in the morning and evenings, but sweltering hot during the day. Bring things that you can layer but also carry easily if you need to take them off.
  22. Rent your car before arriving at the show. I'm a big fan of planning ahead, and like knowing that I've minimized the work for myself once I arrive. Plus booking your car, hotel, and flights early often leads to great savings.
  23. Take extra effort to keep track of your wallet, ID, receipts, and merchandise. I use Tile to keep track of my belongings, since I'm notorious for walking off without all my items.
  24. Bring a big ziplock or folder to put all of your receipts in. Before you consolidate your receipts, make sure that all inventory is adequately labeled with price and vendor info. Having the receipts in one place  makes accounting easier later.
  25. Take a break when you need one. Like I mentioned, the gem show can be really overwhelming. After looking at sparkly things all day, things start to all look the same and focus begins to fade. Know when you need to take a break from shopping. Go get a coffee or grab lunch (away from the craziness). This will give you time to re-group and shop with purpose again later.

Below are some of my favorite products to bring to a gem show!


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