Late last night we returned from perusing the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. I’d never been there, tho I’ve heard plenty about it, and at first had a difficult time taking it in. Such a diverse and interesting sub-culture! Part old grizzled sort of miner guys, part Middle Eastern L.A-Fabric-District type salesmen and nationalities, part hippie-Grateful-Dead-Shakedown-Street, part new age cahkra-auric-healer-type, part just-some-folks-who-like-shiny-baubles… And dozens of other sorts spread out all over the place. Giant stones and ginormous crystals and semi-precious pieces of all kinds – huge quartz crystals and massive amethyst geodes twice as tall as Violet, gorgeously green polished chunks of malachite and deeply lustrous slices of labradorite. It all seemed sort of never-ending.
We went for a few reasons. It was nice to get out and we both like crystals. It seemed a good way to spend a long Valentine’s. Primarily, though, we went to pick up some pieces to make jewelry with as we’ve been getting ready to start adding one-of-a-kind pieces to the website as well as sell in a few really unique locations; and to pick up some rocks for some friends. it’s amazing walking around and seeing all these different pieces of the planet in all of it’s stunning color and reflections, Of course, it was nice finding the occasionally amazing deal like the one dollar a pound chunks of rose quartz, that, for under $20, let us walk away with a couple of serious pieces of it. Then, a little bit later, we stumble on another fellow selling rose quartz and it’s $10/lb. He’s probably buying it from the first guy. What a mark-up! What a racket!
At Burning Man last year we’d been talking to the dude who ran the jewelry camp (which, I hear, is no more). They would acquire several thousand dollars worth of gemstones from Tucson and let people make necklaces, bracelets, etc, with them in their tent. There was always a long line to get in and, tho it was hot in there, it was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Anyhow, he remarked to us that, though he’s traveled the world and been to the actual mines, frequently he found the same pieces to be cheaper in Tucson than anywhere else. This was proven to us when we bought a sweet piece of amber for $5/lb versus the $7/lb we paid in Mexico where it is found.
We met some sweet people – a guy selling amber gave Violet some good tips on how to shape it and drill it. The girl selling coffee whom we talked with for a bit probably did better – investment vs. ROI – than most people did there. Many folks said it was the slowest season in all the years they’d been. When people are having trouble paying the mortgage, buying a giant rock seems sort of a distant thought. But the girl selling coffee and tea: everyone wants their fix and, when the economy is tanking, it seems like the people who sell vices sometimes do pretty well. Our culture breeds a type of mentality that would rather drown it’s sorrows than pull itself together. But that is another story.