Back for More Arizona - Winter 2014 travel blog



Every city has its "thing". From what we can tell Tucson has three: a giant international soccer tournament featuring 340 teams of young people ranging in age from 8 - 14 has descended on the town this weekend, causing traffic jams with their parade and games on twelve playing fields around town. This huge contest has been a regular here for 24 years. Another big event is a rodeo which we missed last year and probably will again.

But we are looking forward to being here for the gem show this time. According to the website:

For two weeks every winter, the world meets in Tucson as it becomes a bustling, international marketplace of buyers and sellers at the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase. The "Gem Show" is much more than a single event at one location. Rather, there are thousands of participants and attendees at more than 40 sites around town. Dozens of shows take place at the same time - in giant white tents, at hotels and resorts and at exhibit halls. There's something for everyone at the many open-to-the-public shows - from gold and diamonds to granite bookends and glass beads, and from fine specimens of dinosaur fossils to opals dug from the Australian Outback. The main event of this two-week showcase is the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show™ which packs downtown's Tucson Convention Center over the final weekend. This show attracts thousands of treasure hunters from every corner of the globe and is open to the public. There are displays from renowned museums and private collections along with over 250 mineral, gemstone, jewelry and fossil retail dealers.

We're not really all that interested in rocks, but I can see us being swept up in the frenzy. And the fact that we will be attending has gotten me interested in taking some lapidary classes at our campground. I used to really enjoy crafting and making things with my hands, but now that we are at the point we need to be downsizing rather than accumulating more stuff, it didn't make sense to make things when I didn't have anywhere to put them. But jewelry is small and a great gift and being here with a huge assortment of raw materials and knowledgeable people, motivated me to get involved.

The lapidary shop at the campground seems to be well equipped and is staffed by volunteers every day. The classes they offer are on a sign up sheet and the teachers get in touch with you when they have time. My first class where I learned to make a chain took all day and I was the teacher's only student. Once he got me started, he worked on his own project along side me, but every time I got stuck or had questions, he was available - a real luxury. The process started with a spool of wire, which I wound onto a spindle making springs. Then I sawed the springs into links and learned how to make the pattern. The links are very small and even though I understand what I am supposed to do, I often end up connecting the wrong links. It's easy to take them apart and try again, but so far it's been slow going. My plan is to take a more complicated pattern with me to the gem show and buy the materials and tools I'll need to keep myself entertained for a multitude of hours putting it together.

The wrapping class was only three hours and we ended up with a finished product by the end. Again the teacher was a volunteer and I was in a class of two. We chose a stone and decided where we wanted the wrapped sections to be and made a frame for the stone out of the wires. Usually people make brooches or pendants using this method. The final product tends to be somewhat gaudy for my taste, but learning how to do it was great fun. If I see a remarkable rock at the gem show, I might try out my wrapping skills once again.

I have my name on the list for one more class. Just waiting for the call...

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