Arizona Centennial Celebration & Tucson Gem Show Fever

It’s the Arizona Centennial – what better way to celebrate then through the 2012 Tucson Gem, Mineral, Fossil, Rock and Bead shows’ madness underway now through February.  This great event has been around since the mid-1950s, when two rockhounds from the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society decided to celebrate Tucson’s enthusiasm for rocks and geological delights. What was a small exhibit in a school auditorium has become the world epicenter (for lovers of nature’s beautiful gems, rocks, and minerals).

Alas, to get a handle on all the shows and to find the nooks and crannies you’ll most enjoy, you’ll need to visit a number of websites to map your route. I start with the founder show, The Tucson Gem and Mineral Society. This show culminates several weeks of gem show frenzy (Febrary 9 – 12) and is probably a best best if you just want a quick look at the excitement. But if you’re interested in beads I’d also look at the To Bead True Blue show schedule. I also check in with the African Art Village and The Tucson Gem Show Guide to identify exhibits, speakers, vendors, Native American village and other eclectic offerings I’ll want to explore.

The natural geological wonders, fossils, trade beads and the folk arts clustered around the show themes always have been fascinating to me. Beads especially are symbolic of cultural tradition, ornamentation, religion, art and commerce…and I still prize the ones I selected and purchased last year from Bead Trader and historian Steve Ellis. I am interested this year in getting more beads revered as trade items here in the southwest, including the Bohemian hand-faceted Russian Blue beads, the Feather beads Venetian hand “trailed”), the Black Skunks also known as eye beads and worn for protection, and the hand-made Venetian glass Gooseberry bead, later 1800s, also beloved by Native Americans.

All the beautiful natural elements (or historic hand-made items like trade beads)  transcend time and relate important stories about our world’s natural wonders, our cultures, our economy and our arts.

Can any rock hound out there help me identify the beautiful mineral-embedded rock that sits in my front yard? It was there when I purchased my home…and most every day I look at it, admire the beautiful/colorful swirls it houses, and wonder where it came from. I pray it traveled here easily and fairly (I have nightmares about taking from mother earth just for the sake of adornment or material pleasure). But even if it was stolen from its natural place, I honor it and hope it knows it has a respectful new home. Mother Earth gave us great natural wonders to admire and explore. I hope you enjoy what you find at the Tucson shows scattered around the Old Pueblo this month.

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