Diamonds, Deserts, and Dealers: A Typical Day at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

Ever wondered where I find the majority of the thousands of beads at Beads, Inc.? Each February, my sister, Anne, and I travel to Arizona for the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. It’s our biggest buying trip of the year, and I never leave disappointed!

A lot of people don’t know what exactly goes into making this trip a success, so I thought I’d give you a “backstage tour” of what a typical day looks like when we’re in Tucson:

When in Tucson, there’s no such thing as “sleeping-in.”

Make no mistake—our “trip” to Tucson is all business! Sure, we love to add in some fun, like eating at the Tucson Tamale Company or taking silly pictures, but there is no sleeping-in during our stay.

Each morning, I’m up by 6:30am, getting ready for a full day of shopping. But before I can head to the show, Anne and I head to the post office with boxes upon boxes full of our purchases from the previous day.

When the post office opens, we’re ready and waiting to ship our favorite finds back to Charlotte, so they can immediately be added to our inventory, providing our customers with the best beads before we’re even home.

How do we make it from 6:30am through the end of the day? We never miss the omelet bar! Starting your day with protein is the best energizer—well, that and a HUGE cup of coffee!

My go-to omelet is made of egg whites, spinach, turkey bacon, onions, tomatoes, cheese, and jalapeños, because no omelet in Tucson is complete without a little heat!

By 9:30am, we’ve hit the ground running.

After our stop at the post office, it’s time to get shopping.

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is really a bunch of little shows all over the Tucson area. There are booths that sell fossils, geodes, crystals, and of course, beads. 

My mission is to see as much as possible, pick out what I love, and move on to the next booth as fast as I can. There’s so much to see and only six days to see it in. 

Anne follows behind with spacious suitcases. She buys what I’ve picked out, stows the product away in our luggage, then finds me to do it all again at the next booth. After almost 10 years, we’ve got our system down pat! 

At the end of the day, our suitcases are super full and super heavy. Like I said, this show never disappoints!

Diamonds really are a girl’s best friend.

There is one booth in particular that I never miss in Tucson—the diamond booth! We affectionately refer to our fantastic finds there as “market treats.” And we never leave empty handed!

Rough cut diamonds instantly take any piece from beautiful to extraordinary. Whether they are adorning a pair of earrings or a pendant elegantly displayed on a necklace, diamonds are always on trend.

Finally, we pull ourselves away from the gorgeous gems for a late lunch. 

It’s really easy to get lost in our shopping and forget about lunch! By 3:30pm, though, we are dying of hunger. And in Tucson, finding something to eat is never a problem.

One of our all-time favorite restaurants is the Tucson Tamale Company. We love them so much, we even had their tamales shipped to Charlotte for our Sip and Shop last month!

No matter which tamales we choose, we’re always in heaven. The Green Chile Chicken is phenomenal, but I’ll never turn down the Black Bean and Corn tamales, either!

And by the way, if you consider yourself a “foodie,” you must visit Tucson. In just the last few years, the city was designated a “City of Gastronomy” by UNESCO, joining the likes of Parma, Italy, and Ensenada, Mexico. 

After lunch, it’s back to the beads and their very special creators.

Something you may not know about our trip to Tucson is how many cool people we meet. 

The artisans who create glass or ceramic beads have such interesting stories to share, either about how they first got into the bead-making business or about an experience they’ve had along the way that’s been life-changing.

As much as I love seeing all of the creative craftsmanship in their products, it’s just as rewarding to hear from the artists themselves about why the beads I’m buying are so special. To know how much passion is behind each of the strands or pieces makes me love them even more.

As the sun sets, we make our way back to the hotel - with an SUV full of goodies!

Around 5 or 6pm, our shopping for the day is done, and it’s time to load up our SUV with all of our beautiful buys. 

Somehow, we’ve bought so much that almost every inch of the vehicle’s interior is taken up by beads. It can be hard to find a seat for Anne and myself! 

When we arrive to our hotel, we fill up a luggage cart from bottom to top with boxes and boxes of beads. It’s so heavy, Anne and I can barely push it to our rooms!

Time to price our amazing buys and get them ready to send back home.

Once we make it to our rooms, our work for the day is still not over. It’s time to prepare our day’s purchases for their shipment to Charlotte.

First, we sort through everything we’ve bought and price it out. We have literally hundreds and hundreds of strands strung across our rooms! But, by doing the work here, the new items will be ready to hit the shelves as soon as they arrive back home.

Once we’ve priced everything out, we close our new inventory up in boxes, and label them for our next trip to the post office in the morning.

Finally, around midnight, the day’s work is done, and we can climb into our beds. In just six and a half hours, we’ll be up to do it all over again… 

Curious about our Tucson finds?

We'll be uploading new merchandise to the online store as fast as our fingers will go! And if you're local to Charlotte, stop in the store today to see what we have!