Tucson Rock and Mineral Showcase
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Tucson Rock and Minearal Show
A Shopping Trip
by Jerrold VanNocker

Within minutes of arriving at the show I am off, peering here and there. I am looking for the intangible, that piece of nature that speaks to the soul.  For me, it is all about aesthetics, the beauty of the piece.

I have a basic understanding of minerals. I can identify a few minerals on sight. I have no idea as to scarcity or desirability of one mineral over another.

Most of the rocks laid out before me I pass over without a second look. I go from room to room, a few minutes is all it takes for me to assess if there is anything here to garner my attention. Finally, just 20 minutes into my search I spy a rock that holds my interest. A piece only 5 by 8 inches in size, there are a few crystals on the rock (referred to as the matrix). There is something about the placement of the crystals, their clarity, symmetry, and how they blend with the coloration, and texture of the matrix.  It is a very pleasant piece. I ask the dealer, “what is the cost for this one?”  The dealer smiles but it is not the smile I expected, it is a knowing smile, he has already judged me and correctly at that. “$100,000 is the price; its an a Award Winning …..”.  A little shocked, I seem to rapidly lose my hearing. I thank the dealer and move on to the next room.  I am certain I will locate more minerals today that meet my aesthetic requirements, still I wonder, will I be able to afford any of them.

Photos right - Amethyst crystals and cathedrals are in abundence at the show.

Amethyst is purple or violet colored quartz. Under the right conditions Amethyst crystals will form in rock cavities, lining the wall of the cavities. When the amethyst cavity is long and pointed they are referred to as Amethyst Cathedrals. 

Collectors of Amethyst seek large, bright crystals with the color evenly distributed within the crystal and throughout the cathedral. Large cathedrals can command very high prices.

Photo below - These blue to green Tourmaline crystals are so dark they look black.

Amathyst crystals as tall as a man can be found at the Tucson Rock and Mineral Showcase

black tourmaline crystals in their matrix, closer inspections shows they have a green to blue hue, from Brazil

Some Background:

The Tucson Rock and Mineral Showcase is held every year during the frist two weeks in February; the main show is held the second week of February. In addition to the rock, fossil and mineral collectors you will find artists, home decorators, jewelers, tourists, spiritualists and just people looking for good buys. While there are rocks, beads and jewelry in abundance, you can also find shows that include Native American, African and Asian art.  At the main show you will find some of the most amazing minerals ever discovered.

I do not think the massive size of the Tucson Rock and Mineral Show and Showcase can be over stated to the uninitiated. Dealers, both retail and wholesale appear to take over every hotel room in the city of Tucson, Arizona.  They then covert these rooms and often the attached open court space into showrooms for their products. Large tents are erected in parking lots both adjacent to the hotels and in areas along the main highway. Even by speedy browsing the show areas over four days I was not able to visit all the dealers or show sites.  The Tucson Rock and Mineral Show is considering the most important show of its kind in the USA. You do not have to be a rock and mineral expert to enjoy the experience.

In my search for the perfect specimen I take a short tour of the tents filled with amethyst cathedrals.  Some of the cathedrals are taller than a man and must weigh in at a couple hundred pounds if not half a ton. Amethyst is a little too showy for my taste, but I do take the time to admire the ones here.  I browse the table of Wulfenite, there are some nice pieces; their tabular crystals are a bright yellow with a strong orange hue. Still, perhaps a little to showy for me, I proceed on. The next dealer I approach is not connected to a hotel but is situated under a canopy in the courtyard. His display tables surround his space like protective ramparts. Protected by glass his specimens glister in the sun. I look over the yellow crystals, nice but not exactly what I am looking for. Rounding a corner a brightly lit display box contains a number of yellow crystals attached to their matrix. One in particular catches my eye. Setting lightly on its matrix, it is hard to believe such a perfect yellow crystal could have been made by natural processes.  I ask the rock dealer the price, “$11,000” I’m told. No knowing smile this time, while pleasant, this dealer figures I do not know enough about minerals to plop down $11,000 on just a pretty rock. “What would be your lowest price?” I ask. “$7,000”, he replies. Still more than I planned to spend on a rock specimen. Besides, who in their right minds would plop down $7,000 on a small yellow crystal without knowing if it was worth the price?
Large quartz crystals

The day stretches on.  I decide I must have very good taste in rocks; every specimen I ask about is priced above $10,000. 

The Search Contines - Tucson Rock and Mineral Show, page 2
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