A History of the Tucson Gem Show

December 5, 2014

Every year, thousands of people flock to the Southwest for the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase. One of the largest gem and mineral shows in the world, the show brings more than 3,000 exhibitors to the city, where they set up shop in dozens of locations in late January and early February. The show’s centerpiece is the original Gem & Mineral Show, which begins on the second Thursday of February. Here is a quick look at the history of this one-of-a-kind event.

How It Started. The Gem Show began exactly 60 years ago, and its origins were humble. It began as a free exhibition at a Tucson elementary school in 1954. A year later, the organizers decided to hold a follow-up show at the Pima County Fair and Rodeo Grounds. The show continued to be revived there every year for nearly two decades.

Moving Downtown. In 1972, the show moved once again to the Tucson Convention Center in downtown Tucson, where it had room to expand. In the following years, additional gem shows began to pop up all over town, attracting an increasing number of exhibitors, collectors, and gem enthusiasts from all over the world.

The Gem Show Today. Today, the original Gem Show is a major event that sprawls across 181,000 square feet of the convention arena. The show’s continuing popularity is due in part to the sheer diversity of its displays; over the years, the show has showcased rare and unique items from collections as renowned as the Sorbonne, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

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