Gem and Mineral Show,Tucson Convention Center, 1999

Should we go Friday or Saturday to the 45th annual gem and mineral show sponsored by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society? That was the question. I thought it might be less crowded Friday. Also the crystals would be one less day picked through. Laura dropped me off at the Tucson Convention Center a little before ten o'clock. She had things she wanted to do.

So I bought my $5.50 ticket and went to wait with the others crowded in front of the door. They didn't open until precisely 10:00 o'clock. While waiting, I'd looked on the map to find the exact location of my favorite mineral dealer. Once the doors opened, we rockhounds poured in like an ocean of people.

I made a direct beeline to "Pala International", the tourmaline source. The expensive tourmalines were all behind glass. The wealthy or vastly indebted would lay out up to 5000 bucks for the finer pieces. For those of smaller budgets, there were four flat trays of tourmalines, organised left to right on a table from most pricey (35$ each) to least (5$each). I moved them aside to open the right hand lower corner for the ones I was deciding from. Finally I was down to the last two, and laid out my cash.

My small minerals safely put into my deep pocket,( which I'd designed purposefully deep) it was onto the museum displays. I stood first at a display of treasures from Mexico. The most eye catching was an emerald ring worth over one million dollars:

Maximilian Emerald Ring

21.04 carats, Colombia

This emerald worth more than a million dollars, was once set in a ring worn by Mexico's ill fated emperor, Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph. An Austrian Archduke crowned emperor of Mexico in 1864, he was executed just three years later. This design, with six baguette diamonds is by Cartier.

One of the ladies standing with me said she wished she had a ring like it. I took a small notebook out of my left pocket and wrote down the information engraved on the small plates, after I took its picture.

Not all of the displays were regal. A calcite helicite with several curving branches all intertwined was pleasing in a more natural way:

Calcite helicate (roughly actual size), found at the Santa Eulalia district , Aquiles Serdan, Chihuahua, Mexico

(from the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History)  

Then I proceeded down the rows of the large glass boxes. School children were pouring in by the busloads. Their teachers directed them to these displays as well. At the Gold 'Dragon', one smiling bright eyed boy asked, Is that GOLD?". "Yes, it is," I answered.

"The Dragon"

Gold on Quartz, approx. 8 in. high (20cm),
mined 1998 from the Colorado Quartz Mine, Mariposa County, California
(from "The Collector's Edge Minerals, Inc.", Golden, Colorado)

"I bet that's expensive!", he said as his eyes widened. " I'm sure it is." I can't imagine how expensive a nearly eight inch chunk of artfully formed by nature 100% gold piece would be. Maybe there's a reason they weren't telling us.

The kids enthusiasm was delightful. They oohed and ahhed at nearly everything. My CAMERA recieved almost as much attention as the mineral displays. Adults even asked me about it. It stands out, for I don't place it to my eyes, as with the usual 35mm cameras. The digital camera has a 1 1/2 by 2inch (3.8 by 5.1cm) view screen that allows me to see just what the picture will be like. "Wow!, Cool Camera!, " they'd acclaim. Several adults knew it was digital and asked how it worked, was I happy with it, did it make good prints.

The kids noticed that I was taking notes. At one colorful display of large minerals, I wasn't the only one scribbling away. Two middle aged men, with professorial airs, were also writing away. It was their task to rank these minerals for awards.

from left: Aquamarine, Helidor, Topaz, Euclase, Kunzite, 8 - 10 in high (20 -25 cm)
(from the collection of Eugene and Rosalind Meieran, Phoenix, AZ)

All prize winners in my book. . .

However the most breathtaking piece had to be a deep red tourmaline well over a foot high. Even the adults gasped in awe at this beauty:

Elbaite var Rubellite, on Lepidolite

Ionas Mine, Itatiana, Brazil
(Collection of Keith and Mauna Proctor, Colorado Springs, Colorado

This large tourmaline over eighteen inches tall (45cm) looms over the smaller crystals below.  

Not all of the displays were extravagant. A Rhodochrosite 'egg' was pleasing in a quieter way:

About 2 1/5 inches wide...

I'm not one to believe crystals have magical properties, but when I saw this 'egg', it cast an enchanting spell over me. Perhaps it's the egg shape. It seems to symbolizes things about to be hatched, to come into being.

It's rare you find something that combines TWO of your passions, but when I saw this exquisite bird carved of minerals, my camera had to nab that:

The Peruvian Tradition!

This purple parrot is about ten inches high (25cm). I would have liked to known more about which minerals were used, and who created this lovely bird, but the display case did not reveal that.

The museum displays all viewed, and pics taken of the best, I set off for a decent dark amethyst for my mother, who had asked me to send her one. En route, I saw a small tray of danburite, a sparkly clear crystal that I knew she'd like, so I picked the biggest and shiniest. After the amethyst was selected, I took some more photos of the showstoppers to ensure I'd have a good one. It's rare, but I have had a corrupted file the computer couldn't read. I didn't want to take a chance.

By that time, it was quarter to one, and I wanted to be outside waiting for Laura in plenty of time. If I wasn't there when she drove by, she'd go park and I'd have to walk a long way to find her. After three hours, I'd done enough walking.

Note from 2010:
If I was this impressed with an exhibit in Tucson, you can imagine how amazed I was to see the displays at the Smithsonian a few years later!

All photos © Joan Ann Lansberry, 1999
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