by Ashley Lodato
Until you've visited the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (TGMS) you really can't fully grasp the magnitude of this show. It can be overwhelming even for a veteran participant. Started in the 1970s as a means of uniting the hobby enthusiast, the public, and the curator professionals for discovery and discussion centered around gems and minerals, the TGMS is the largest, oldest, and most prestigious gem and mineral show in the world. Tens of thousands of people attend the show. 250 retailers from nearly every country in the world are present. For a week, Tucson lives and breathes gems and minerals. The size and scope of the show are, quite frankly, mind-boggling.
But at Bronwen Jewelry, there's one thing that doesn't boggle our minds, and that's gems! Even just saying the names of some of these stones gives us shivers: Herkimer diamonds, Peruvian opals, rubies. Whether we are buying finished stones like opals and diamonds or raw materials like druzys, crystals, or petrified wood and abalone shells, when we are at the TGMS we are right in our element--sourcing the most beautiful and interesting materials to provide you with unique handmade jewelry.
Every year, Bronwen Jewelry staff attend the TGMS to meet face-to-face with our preferred supplies and vendors that we've built relationships with over the past decade, as well as to scope out potential new sources of beads, pendants, cord materials, technologies, tools, and display ideas. We identify beauty and quality and bring them home to you, in the form of our artisan bracelets, earrings, and necklaces.
Each year we fall in love with a few different gems and minerals, and this year was no exception. We fairly swooned over the crystal rhodochrosite, which represents unconditional love. Evolved over the millennia from a combination of manganese carbonate, rhodochrosite's beautiful pink color and unique patterns of white bands create a stunning contrast that's easy on the eyes. Often called "the compassionate cheerleader," rhodochrosite is a heart-based healing crystal and opens up the heart chakras to the possibilities of healing, happiness, and love. Our artisans are busy in our Bend, OR studio designing ways to bring rhodochrosite to you in the form of beaded jewelry and pendant necklaces.
Australian opals caught our fancy this year as well, due to their luminous iridescence. More than 95% of the world's precious opals come from Australia, and it's the national gemstone of that country. Opal was rare and considered invaluable in antiquity, and was prized by royalty across Europe. Until the vast Australian opal deposits became available to the rest of the world in the 19th century, the only known source of opals was in Slovakia.
We spend hours combing through special one-of-a-kind gemstones and druzys to find perfect pairs for earrings and necklaces that we sell to our lucky studio shoppers in Bend. Why not just source these gems online? Because the exquisite druzys and other precious gems we use in our artisan jewelry must be hand-selected in order to provide our customers with the high quality beaded bracelets, gemstone earrings, and artisan necklaces they expect from our brand. We have to see and touch these materials to be assured of their integrity.
Druzy crystals have become one of our favorite materials for creating sparkly, breathtaking necklaces and earrings. In addition to making any piece of jewelry eye-catching, druzy crystals are reported to imbue the wearer with heightened creativity and imagination, as well as relaxation and stress relief. Look great while feeling mellow? Sign us up!
Jewelry artists aren't the only ones who frequent the TGMS; it's an annual gathering place for rock-hounds as well. Because honestly, where else are you going to find items like 15' tall amethyst towers or petrified woolly mammoth tusks? Lapidary artists (those who form stones and minerals into decorative items) frequent the TGMS to buy their raw materials, hauling away great buys like giant chunks of raw turquoise.
Bronwen Jewelry has used African trade beads in our necklaces almost since the very first piece we designed, and we still haven't tired of these vibrant glass beads. Just looking at the riot of color available from our bead suppliers makes us happy, and sourcing materials from our trusted friends at our favorite African trade bead booth makes us even happier.
And at the end of the show, we're all exhausted, but we're also infused with imaginative energy. As our thoughts turn toward our return home, our heads brim with ideas for creating new and fresh jewelry that totally rocks.