One of many smaller scale Gem shows held at Westward Look Resort
Tucson is home to many unconventional and remarkable events, sights, businesses and more, but the city has become a mecca for one in particular.
The Tuscon Gem and Mineral Show is internationally renowned and attracts collectors and admirers from all over the world. Lasting from the end of January to the middle of February, the city sparkles with rare gems and minerals from across the globe.
One of these shows was hosted by Westward Look Resort and was the show’s 17th annual event.
“[I’m] amazed by the scale of it,” said Jon Miller, a visitor to Tucson from Ohio.
Miller was visiting his parents, who retired in Tucson and said they had spent five days at different gem and mineral shows throughout the city.
“I’ve wanted to come here for years because I have always collected rocks and fossils,” Miller said.
Knowledgeable and passionate about everything the show has to offer, Miller relished in the opportunity to see all of the best and rare specimens in the world.
The show is also famous for having some of the lowest prices for quality materials. Miller said he bought about 70 to 80 pounds worth of specimens, including trilobites and sand dollars, from Morocco for highly discounted prices.
Tim Dorris is the director of operations and lab technician at Pinnacle 5 Minerals.
“You’re seeing the finest minerals in the world [at the Tucson Gem Show]," Dorris said.
His company had a room set up for the Westward Look Mineral Show with materials they had either collected or he had found himself.
“Most of them are considered mineral specimens, and they’re mainly aesthetic art; natural art is how they're viewed,” Dorris said.
His room, much like the others open for visitation at Westward Look, boasted some of the most beautiful gems and minerals in the world, ranging from bright pinks to deep blues to sparkling golds, they shined in their glass display cases, attracting attention from the audience.
Dorris described the process of acquiring permission to excavate targeted locations as “a mountain to say the least.”
He said after doing extensive field prospecting and locating signs of geological deposits, he and his team would place a claim on the site and do all the government paperwork. Once all the paperwork was cleared, machinery would be brought out to excavate the site.
At the Westward Look show, Dorris had fine amazonite and smoky quartz on display.
Pinnacle 5 Minerals is the leading producer of the combination of these two specimens as well as Colorado Topaz in the U.S., according to pinnacle5minerals.com.
He also had materials he picked up over the years from various collections and said he does sales out of his shop, but all his major sales are from the most popular trade shows in the U.S., most importantly Tucson and Denver.
The Westward Look show attracts mostly “lookie-loos,” according to Dorris, because it's rare and dazzling materials are priced very high in comparison to Tucson’s other shows.
“[I’m] happy they’re here and that they can see it, but there are also major collectors coming through today who will drop some serious money,” Dorris said.
Miller was one of these “lookie-loos” Dorris described as he said he limited himself to a small budget for the trip and spent most of it on fossils from Morocco and Madagascar. He treated “this venue in particular like a museum because everything is super expensive but is also really high quality.”
“It has just become a mecca for mineral collectors to come to,” Dorris said. "I think it is just the timing, as well. January and February allow a lot of people from snowy states to get out and come enjoy the sun and enjoy the mineral specimens."
Walking from room to room, the worldwide reach of the Tuscon Gem and Mineral Show is demonstrated in all the different accents heard, ranging from German to Russian. Tucson has clearly made a name for itself with this incredible event that gains more popularity each year.
“I just hope it continues to grow, because it’s a really interesting event and very unique,” Miller said.
Westward Look Mineral Show is located at 245 E. Ina Road.
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