Adventures in Tucson: GJX, Hotel Tucson City Center

Rutilated Quartz Sphere

Rutilated quartz sphere

As mentioned in part one of my adventures, one weekend in Tucson was too much fun for one post; here’s part two!

Before I go any farther, while researching the shop where I saw the quartz sphere to your right, I found that someone made a video of it. It’s much more impressive in motion; none of my photos really captured how cool it was. Saw this at Fine Minerals International, around the corner from Hotel Tucson City Center. Think bowling-ball size?

Across the street from the AGTA GemFair was the Gem and Jewelry Exchange, another wholesale show that I had been advised would be “colorful”, with many foreign vendors. Armed with my AGTA badge, I was able to exchange my business card for a GJX sticker, and waltz right in for free. Note to self: business card = legitimacy. Never mind that any idiot can have a business card printed… myself most certainly included! Unfortunately, GJX had a large “no photography” notice at the door.

GJX was quite different from AGTA. While browsing a dealer of included quartz, I cheerfully haggled with an Italian man whose span of English was the word “OK?” If I picked something up for more than a second or two, he would take it from my hand, calculate a price, and show me the calculator, saying “OK? OK?” If I took the stone back, or started browsing again, this process would repeat, resulting in a lower price. Eventually I caved and bought two stones (for the original price of the first stone.) It was too fun!

I stopped by the booths of two faceting rock stars. The first was John Dyer, gemstone artist extraordinaire. Mr. Dyer is self-taught, and has earned almost 40 faceting awards since 2002. He and his adorable wife Lydia were working the booth, both bubbling with enthusiasm (and who wouldn’t be, given the stones they were showing? GORGEOUS stuff.) I love what he does with ametrine.

The second was Constantin Wild, of the long Idar-Oberstein faceting tradition in Germany. Mr. Wild’s booth was quite posh (he even had a cushy couch for meeting with clients), his stones were insanely beautiful, and he has a beautiful book out. (Sadly I couldn’t pick one up; I had very few pennies left at that point.) I also visited Palladot, and saw a breathtaking display of extraterrestrial peridot. (The per-carat prices made me want to cry. Alas, earwax.)

The Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show at Hotel Tucson City Center

A hotel turns into multi-level rock shopping!

My second day in Tucson, I paid a visit to the Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show at Hotel Tucson City Center, which was a lot of fun, partially because the set-up is so unreal. Gem dealers book hotel rooms, move out the furniture, install display cases and open for business! (I think they sleep in there too, somewhere.) Patrons wander from building to building, room to room, and the hotel helpfully installs signs outside each room indicating what business resides there (temporarily.) I went there to meet Geoff Notkin, of the Meteorite Men tv show, and stayed for loads of interesting vendors. One was set up as a complete darkroom, selling fluorescent minerals! (I bought a few; once I get a proper UV lamp, I’ll attempt to photograph them.)

Animatronic dinosaurs at the Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show

Animatronic dinosaurs.

In the courtyard by the pool, and out front, animatronic dinosaurs hung out and roared at passers-by. I went on Sunday morning, and returned in the afternoon, which ended up being perfect timing, as the crowds cleared as soon as the Superbowl started. (Huzzah, a whole rock show mostly to myself!) I saw some amazing meteorites, and a lot of beautiful pallasites. There were many vendors dedicated to minerals from a specific locale (Russia, Ethiopia, etc), which were fascinating to browse through.

There were tents and tables set up in practically every empty lot in Tucson (that’s how it seemed), and I walked through some of them on “Hotel Row”. I walked into one tent and saw a fully-articulated mammoth skeleton, and a triceratops skull sitting on the ground. Other places had beads, finished jewelry, rough material, anything you could imagine.

In closing, I’d like to share my friend Robyn’s photo, as it’s hilarious (and also gives some scale for my final photo):

Dinosaur at Hotel Tucson City Center front entrance

Dinosaur at the front entrance - look out, FedEx guy! Photo by Robyn Hawk.

While you ponder the fate of the FedEx man, did you notice the blackish blob-thing by the dinosaur’s tail? It was a giant amethyst cavity. Here’s the one that was standing across from it, which was not quite as big (sorry for the poor photo, not enough light.)

Giant amethyst cavity, seen at the Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show entrance (Hotel Tucson City Center)

Amethyst cavity, 8-10 feet tall?