Travels in Tucson

As someone who has been collecting rocks since I can remember, attending the Tucson Gem Show has been a dream of mine for years. Its appeal is obvious, as it is the world’s largest gem show that takes place in sunny Arizona during a month that the weather in Boston is brutally cold and snowy. A perfect business meets pleasure destination for any metalsmith or rock hound, I’m thrilled to say that I made it out there this year. After months of grinding away in the studio to make money for the trip, I left what has been one of the snowiest winters in Boston’s history…

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Snowy studio view.

And flew to a land of sun, cacti, and rocky hills.

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Decorated cactus – love it!

The Tucson Gem Show isn’t in one central location in Tucson, but is actually many different shows that all come together across the city. To give a better idea of the scale of this event, a popular annual gem show that I attend in Massachusetts is a mere section of the Tucson Gem Show. Everything you can possibly imagine is available at this show, be it raw crystals large and small,

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Quartz points.

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Gigantic quartz cluster.

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Amethyst clusters.

beautiful carved specimens,

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Chrysocolla spheres.

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Carved, illuminated pyramids.

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Giant ruby in fuchsite egg.

 and outstanding jewelry from around the world.

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Collection of Tibetan jewelry.

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Navajo jewelry display.

Although I dabbled in all of these wares, and took a little bit of everything home with me, there was really one thing I came for: TURQUOISE! Arizona is home to some famous turquoise mines, such as Bisbee, Kingman, Sleeping Beauty, and Morenci. As I had hoped, there were buckets,

imageand buckets,

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Buckets of turquoise, my dusty shoes, and Noodles (Jenna of Strong Medicine Studio’s adorable pup).

and tables full of turquoise.

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Turquoise cabochons and a cameo from Jenna’s hand.

Although turquoise cabochons (stones cut with a flat back and domed surface for setting in metal) were sparse compared to everything else, seeing turquoise in all of its other forms was a fantastic experience. This stone has been my favorite since I was a kid, but somehow there’s always more to learn about it and more varieties to see.

I left Arizona with improved knowledge of stones, new friends, and a deep connection to the city of Tucson, and could go on for pages about my experiences there. But I also brought home an enormous haul of new stones, so in order to stop this post from sprawling on longer than it has to, onto my newly acquired treasures. A lot of photos lie ahead, fair warning!

For starters, I purchased some new types of supplies that I hope to integrate into upcoming pieces.

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Pyrite, quartz, labradorite, and onyx beads, and hand carved thunderbird bead with turquoise eye. Accompanied by non-jewelry-supply treasures of green jade plugs for my stretched ears, and rare petrified wood covered in smokey quartz!

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Southwestern woodcut beads and hand carved African shell beads.

I also replenished my dwindling supply of agate slices for Crystal Cavern pieces. These are smaller than my previous agate slices, but of the most beautiful quality.

imageI also couldn’t resist scooping up a variety crystals and specimens for decoration, gifts, and some for the shop.

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Gastrolith (stone swallowed by a dinosaur!), lepidolite, quartz clusters, Arizona ore, black tourmaline, opalized ammonite, and cuproadamite.

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Druzy caves.

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Aragonite.

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Calcite sphere.

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Fluorite sphere.

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Gigantic quartz crystal ball for my studio, pictured with the show-stopping Navajo made Kingman turquoise cluster ring that Jenna bought me at the show. Two of my most cherished souvenirs.

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Amethyst clusters and amethyst cluster candle for my studio.

Some new packaging supplies also worked their way onto my must-have list.

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Palo Santo, a fragrant, sacred wood from coastal regions of South America, perfect for burning as incense, and luscious, sweet smelling rosebuds. Pictured with a piece of art I purchased for my studio in Bisbee, AZ.

Along with these floral patterned glass cabochons that are so steeped in 90’s nostalgia.

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Can’t wait to make some 90’s grunge stackers with these.

And a primo selection of turquoise rough that I’ll be cutting into cabochons, which I’m excited to say is my next venture!

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Natural, old stock, Number Eight, Damele, and Castle Dome turquoise. All very rare.

As exciting as all of these acquisitions are, the best is about to come. The cabochons I acquired are the true treasures, setting off floods of design ideas in my mind with each time that I look them over.

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Lapis lazuli.

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Sonoran dendritic rhyolite.

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Baltic amber.

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Mexican fire opals.

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Labradorite.

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Moonstone, crazy lace agate, deschutes jasper, willow creek jasper, owyhee jasper, chrysocolla, Indian paintbrush, azurite malachite, and dioptase.

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Amethyst and citrine.

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Spiny Oyster. Rare, quality shells.

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Super rare Mediterranean red coral.

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Medusa quartz, one of my favorite varieties of quartz and one of the rarest types of quartz in the world!

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Mexican fire opal bullet cuts.

And finally, the turquoise…

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Pilot Mountain and Royston. Some of these are HUGE!

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Morenci, with the deepest blues I’ve ever seen and pyrite inclusions throughout many of the stones, a phenomenon for which this mine is known.

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A motherload of very rare Bisbee. This material captures the quintessential smokey blues and chocolate matrix this mine produces.

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Number Eight. Rarity meets quality in this amazing batch.

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Collector quality Royston.

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Evans, love the light teal colors in these stones.

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Blue Gem.

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Fox, note the characteristic teal hues.

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An unbelievable selection of Damele. Heart palpitations abound.

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A varied selection of Kingman. Blues greens, nuggets, spiderwebs, waterwebs, and pyrite and quartz inclusions.

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Stenich & Carico Lake.

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Patagonia, Cananea, Ithaca Peak, Blue Moon, & Red Mountain.

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More Damele that wouldn’t fit in the first photo, and Candelaria.

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Various American mines that just need a final polish, or reshaping/reapplying of backing, and then will be ready for jewelry!

I am ecstatic that I finally made it to this show, and that I scored the amazing stones that I did. But there is one thing I took home with me that had me literally dancing with happiness that I finally found one:

imageTo the untrained eye, this may not look like much, but to me this is the crown jewel of my turquoise collection. In the many years that I’ve studied the American mines, I’ve known that the Carico Lake mine was discovered in a dried up lake bed, and that because of its location, an amazing phenomenon occurred. In select clam fossils, turquoise formed in the place of the clam, creating what is referred to as a pseudomorph fossil. These Carico Lake clams are remarkably rare, I’ve only ever read about them and never even seen one before Tucson. The best part is, the turquoise miner who had this clam was so excited that I knew what it was that he gifted it to me. I couldn’t believe it then, and I still don’t believe it now. I’ve carved out a spot in my studio for it on my shelf of most valued treasures, and it brings a smile to my face every time I look at it.

So, if you couldn’t tell, my Tucson trip was incredible. There’s so much more to say, and so many more photos to share, but this post is already LONG, so here it must end. If you made it this far, I commend you! Use the code TUCSONTEN for 10% off a future purchase (one use only). ‘Til next time!

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About soliloquyjewelry

I was born, raised, and am currently living in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston, MA. My love of books, stones, and jewelry itself inspire my designs; hence my shop name, Soliloquy Jewelry, and its motto, "Symbolic adornment for bohemian souls." All of my pieces are handmade of metal and stone, and hold their own significances to literary, metaphysical, and symbolic realms. Each piece has a story that I strive to include in my item descriptions in my shop. I feel deeply connected to my work, and would like its wearers to feel the same.
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