If you are like me, the next week or so is Nirvana! I am headed to the world’s largest gem and jewelry show, the Tucson show! To say it’s one show is really not accurate. The “show” takes over Tucson. There are over 40 HUGE shows all over town. They run different days, in different locations. Entire hotels are turned into shows. You wander the parking lots, the rooms and the ballrooms in search of the best deals and the best goodies! One show can take you an entire day and with 40 some odd shows, you can see that it is a daunting task! So, if you’re planning to go, here are a few essential tips for surviving Tucson!
1. Do your homework. The various shows do not all run on the same days and they feature different items. While there is overlap (beads, rocks, fine jewelry, etc) each show tends to have more of a specialty. So, you would not want to go to a mineral and rock show if your desire is to find fine jewelry. Do your research ahead of time. Learn what shows offer what merchandise and what days they are open. This is crucial so you do not waste precious time.
2. You cannot see it all! This is a mantra you have to keep telling yourself over and over and why #1 on my list is so important! It is literally IMPOSSIBLE to see it all. So enjoy each show for what it is, take your time and don’t stress about getting to the next show. You’ll never see it all, so just enjoy what you do have time for!
3. Be prepared! Some of the shows are outdoors or in large tents. Comfortable shoes are a MUST! Take sunscreen, water and perhaps an energy bar. Most shows do have some food but it’s limited. Personally, I never stop for lunch. Too much to do, so I take a protein bar with me and just keep on shopping! Bring a rolling cart or backpack if you don’t want to break your back! Don’t forget your camera, a loupe or any other measuring device that you might use, a calculator and some business cards. Also, you need to bring copies of your business tax license. Many of the shows are wholesale only and without your business license and business cards, you will not get in.
4. Negotiate! Sellers expect to negotiate some. Don’t be intimidated as they do this hundreds of times per day. Don’t be rude though, if they say the price is as marked, they mean it. Cash talks, so bring plenty of cash. You may get a better price since they won’t have to pay fees for using credit.
5. Know what you are buying! Many pearls and stones may be dyed or man made. Howlite, for instance, is often dyed to look like Turquoise. If you don’t know, ask. If something is too good to be true, it probably is! Use your instincts, ask the dealer and even ask other buyers. Often times, they will know even if you don’t. I have learned many things by asking other buyers what they think! Lots of the dealers speak broken English, so again, if you don’t understand them ask someone else or pass on the item. It is easier to move on to the next dealer than get stuck with something you don’t want.
6. If you see something you want, buy it now! It’s easy to say “I’ll come back”, but the reality is, you probably won’t. There are just too many shows, time is short and the shows are too big. Unless you write down the name and location of the vendor and what item it was you were interested in, you’ll never remember. After all day of looking at literally thousands of items, you won’t remember that string of beads you saw at 10 AM, so if you see it, get it or you never will.
7. Shipping. Plan ahead if you are going to buy in bulk and ship items home. It sure is easier than lugging it in your suitcase but you need to plan ahead. Some shows have shipping services on site, but many do not. I would guess if you are buying in large quantities, you already have some shipping service arranged, but if not, you will want to do so.
8. Have fun! It’s exhausting, overwhelming and amazing but enjoy each and every minute! There are literally people from all over the world there interested in the very same thing as you. It’s so fun to talk to people and find out where they are from, what they do and how they got involved in the jewelry business. You will see jaw dropping creations, the very latest and greatest products and some of the most stunning and amazing jewels in the world! I usually come home exhausted, broke but ready to create some amazing new creations!