Gem show's big one underway

Gem show's big one underway
Crystalized gold (Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson's oldest Gem Show kicked off Thursday morning, Feb. 8 to large crowds and a considerable amount of "wow" factor.

It's been running for 64 years and is hosted by The Tucson Gem and Mineral Society at the Tucson Convention Center.

This year's theme is crystals and there is no shortage of the bright and shiny amethysts, agates, quartz and emeralds.

A highlight of the show this year is a 4-foot tall tourmaline from Bolivia which was discovered 50 years ago.

"It sold for $15 million," said Gloria Quigg, media coordinator for the show. "It's the first time, I believe, it's ever been on display."

The family that found it wrapped it in blankets and kept it under the bed.

"They sold some other specimens but knew this one was special," she said.

Judging by the number of photographs taken the first day, the show does too.

Another big favorite of the show this year is crystallized gold.

Lois Nelson showed off a 200 ounce crystal gold piece that was found in California.

"It sat in a museum for 50 years," she said. "It didn't look like this."

She and the company she works for Kristalle, which deals mostly in gold, cleaned it up by using acid and now it shines a sparkling, crystal sheen.

"On the open market, it's worth about a million dollars," she said.

Gold nuggets rise and fall with the value of the markets but crystallized gold does not.

"It's not based on its gold weight," she said. "it's based on how pretty it is."

They're hoping a museum will step forward to purchase it and says she's had a couple of nibbles at the show.

"It's isn't the finest crystallization but it still has that major wow factor in it," she said. "If you walk into a museum and you see a hunk like this, 'oh wow" and that's what you want."

Rob Lavinsky, the owner of Arkenstone, says its not the dollar value of a stone, it's how you feel about it that's important.

"I look at these things and I think they're inspiring," he said. "To me, that's the definition of art, natures art, plain and simple."

Beside his award winning booths, which are spread throughout the city this year, a small part of this collection is also on display.

"I have more than a thousand pieces of Chinese material that I have in a private museum that I built in Dallas," he said.

A doctor by training, he's given that up to be a full time dealer and collector.

"Individually there are items in here that are worth a few thousand dollars to some which are work a quarter of a million dollars, but that's not how you value their worth," he said. "These came from the age of dinosaurs, how do you wrap your head around that and you're holding it in your hands."

The show runs through Feb. 11 at the TCC. Price of admission for adults is $13.

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