How to Prepare for the Tucson Bead Shows

Jan 23, 2013

Every year, a few of us on the Jewelry Stringing and Beadwork staff get to go to the bead and gem shows in Tucson, Arizona. Our mission: 1.) To discover new beads and findings to share with our readers and 2.) To meet and talk face-to-face with some of our project contributors and advertisers.


I head to Tucson on February 5th, so in preparation, I've been making a list of items to look for. This is what Beadwork's Senior Editor Jean Campbell does as well. Here are some other ways Jean prepares for the Tucson shows:

Make a list of the important materials you need that you won’t be able to get elsewhere. Stones and pearls are the most plentiful in Tucson, so those will be at the top of my list.

Pick up a copy of the Tucson Show Guide (TSG). Purchase a TSG digital copy or a TSG hard copy before the show to get familiar with the shows and vendors ahead of time. If you don't get a copy in advance, free copies will be available in the lobbies of many of the show venues. The Tucson Show Guide contains maps, contact information, exhibitor information, and even individual show floor plans. With a directory of thousands of suppliers and products, the TSG is a handy year-round reference.

Put several copies of my resale certificate, business license, and business cards in a plastic sleeve. I’ll bring a copy of each to the wholesale shows I attend. This will make getting into the shows a lot quicker.

Bring a permanent marker, plastic baggies of all shapes and sizes, and a calculator. When I’m finished shopping for the day, I’ll transfer the individual bead strands I purchase into baggies. I’ll label each baggie with the bead type, strand cost, cost per bead, and vendor. It sounds a little anal, but if I do it right away while the information is still fresh, it’ll get done. Then, when I get back to Minnesota to incorporate the beads into a project or kits, it’ll be easy to figure out what my bottom line charge needs to be.

To Jean's list, I'd like to add a few more suggestions:

Buy comfortable shoes. Without even realizing it, you'll spend hours on your feet walking through all the booths filled with beads, beads, beads.

Bring a comfortable bag to carry your purchases. Make sure your bag is spacious (to handle all your purchases) and has a comfortable strap (you'll be carrying it for hours). I once made the mistake of bringing a large but heavy leather purse. I think I still walk lopsided because of it!

Get cash. Some vendors don't accept credit cards or give you better deals for having cash. Load up at the ATM before making this trip.

Charge your phone. If you attend the Tucson shows with other people, make sure you have their numbers, and, of course, make sure your phone has enough juice so that you can call them. Inevitably you and your fellow show-goers will get split up, and you'll want to make sure you can reconnect for a lunchtime margarita.

I hope to see you in Tucson. Please share any tips you have for navigating the shows in the comments section below!

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Lynn Sharkey wrote
on Jan 23, 2013 11:34 AM

Danielle, I am from Lino Lakes MN. and am fortunate enough to be going to the Tucson show on Feb. 6th. I attended the show about 10 years ago and was in absolute awe with everything. Thank you for your tips but I do have another one to add. With the weight of beads and the cost of luggage, stop by the post office and get the (free) priority mailing boxes in various sizes and ship back your beads this way. This of course depends on how much you buy and the weight.. Just heard Tucson was 81' yesterday, a bit of an improvement of what we have been having here at home.

Lynn Sharkey

DanielleF@9 wrote
on Jan 23, 2013 4:21 PM

Thanks, Lynn. That's a great idea about the boxes. You make sure to insure the packages, I assume. I'm looking forward to the nice weather, too, though it seems to rain a lot while I'm at the shows. Which reminds me of another tip: BRING AN UMBRELLA just in case.

momherb wrote
on Jan 24, 2013 5:58 PM

I live in Tucson and always go to the Tucson Gem & Mineral and Bead Shows several times each year. I LOVE it. It's one of my all-time favorite Tucson events. I have just learned to make earrings so this year I'll be looking for findings. Can anyone recommend which vendor(s) I should look for?

tazachary wrote
on Jan 26, 2013 2:35 AM

Could you please tell me where the jewelry show is in tucson this year? I have a brother that lives about an hr away and I visit  him often and would like to plan my trip at the same time so I could go to the show. Thank you.

on Jan 26, 2013 6:45 AM

tazachary---I live in Tucson and attend the show every year.  There are locations throughout town in hotel lobbies, the Tucson Convention Center, and various tents in parking lots around town.  Some vendors are set up for longer periods of times than others, so you have to catch them when they're there.  The best thing to do is go online and google Tucson Gem & Mineral Show 2013.  You can find free schedules and maps and plan which days you'd like to come and where to go.  And don't forget to check the weather ahead of time!

Have fun!!

crystal kym wrote
on Jan 26, 2013 8:06 AM

I am going to the Tuscon show for the 1st time in Feb 1st.  I have attended the Sept. show, which doesn't compare.  The advise given is great, I have gotten the guide, and I must say, this advice was one of the best tips.  We are planning our trip.  I'm going doing a two fold trip.  One will be for gems & minerals, and than the beading supplies.  My store Crystals on the Rocks, carries both beading supplies, and crystals.   This is going to be such an experience.  To all attending, have a great time!

skidsmrs wrote
on Jan 26, 2013 9:51 PM

I too am going to the 2013 Tucson show. I asked several people on Beader's Showcase for tips for a first time attendee. Comfortable shoes. Cash is better than credit due to the fact that some vendors give better deals for cash. Make labels with your info. Name address phone number. If you are a business have your company name and tax number on the label also. By using labels you can save time rather than filling out the contact info on your sales slip.  Carry water and maybe a protein bar or two, but check with the venue to see if outside food is allowed. If taking in a rolling bag check the website for allowed sizes. Some shows can be pre-registered for. This will save time. If someone asked you to buy for them remember you can always text them a picture to confirm that it is the proper item before purchasing it. Some shows are so huge that if you find something buy it due to the fact that you may not be able to find it again. One person said that during the last days of the shows some vendors cut their prices even more due to the fact that they do not want to ship it home.  Have fun! I know I will!

BeadPassions wrote
on Jan 29, 2013 3:14 PM

Well, I've been to many many bead shows, large and small, but NEVER to the Tucson show.  Darn.  However, this article has such great information for ALL beady events, I've taken notice.  And thank you so very much!

A big fan in Northern California

Grammydr wrote
on Jan 29, 2013 9:18 PM

A bag on wheels is going with me to the bead shows.