Downtown Once Again Glistens With Gems

January 27, 2012

By Teya Vitu

Downtown once again becomes the gathering spot this January 28 through February 12 for the worldwide elite in the gem industry who flock each year to the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase.

Aisha and Arif Jan believe they will make half their annual revenue in the two weeks of the Tucson gem show.

This is the world’s biggest gem show and plenty of dealers rake in the lion’s share of their annual revenue in these two weeks of January and February.

The 44 separate gem shows are scattered clear across the city, but the greatest concentration of shows is right Downtown, especially at the hotels and motels along Freeway Avenue from Congress Street to 22nd Street.

The granddaddy of them all, The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, fills the Tucson Convention Center from February 10 to 12.

The biggest tent of all the gem shows belongs to GJX, staged right behind the Evo A. DeConcini Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse across from the TCC parking lot. The Hotel Tucson City Center at Granada Avenue and St. Mary’s Road is the other major Downtown gem show venue.

Some 60,000 people are expected to stream into town in the next two weeks, and another 60,000 local Tucsonans are expected to visit the shows. Early indications are for an 8 percent increase in gem show hotel bookings this year over last, said Jane Roxbury, director of convention services for the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau.

But no need to worry, there is always plenty of Downtown parking, be it garages, surface lots or metered parking. Not even the gem show comes close to exhausting easy parking, and this year there is the new Centro Garage just east of Hotel Congress and the Rialto Theatre.

The Downtown Tucson Partnership has a interactive map that helps visitors locate all types of parking, and the City and MTCVB have launched a web-based tool to help visitors navigate the many different gem shows. A mobile version is available as well. You can also follow @GemShow2012 on Twitter or call the 24-hour gem show hotline at (520) 622-GEMS.

“These are some of the things we’ve done this year to make sure we have palpable improvements,” Assistant Police Chief John Leavitt said.

Estimates range anywhere from $76 million to $100 million in economic impact for Tucson’s largest annual event.

“The importance of this gem show to us is paramount,” Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild holds a crystal he was presented by one of the vendors.

The Tucson gem showcase is just as paramount for the hundreds of gem show dealers who make the annual trip to Tucson from every corner of the country and across the planet.

Aisha Jan has made the journey since 1977. She owns Dallas-based Rocksaholics with her husband, Arif Jan. They specialize in high-end minerals from northern Pakistan and Afghanistan for museums and elite collectors..

“If you do good at this show, you know you’re going to do good for the rest of the year,” said Aisha Jan, whose booth is at the Pueblo Gem & Mineral Show at the Riverpark Inn.

“50 percent of our annual sales are right here.”

The Jans go to 10 or 11 gem shows in a half dozen states each year, but none rival Tucson.

“It’s not only U.S. dealers here, it’s the international world market we have here,” Arif Jan said.

Any gem, mineral or fossil dealer worth his or her salt in the world is in Tucson now.

“It’s like you go to Orlando and you don’t go to Disneyland,” Aisha Jan said.