Tucson Gem Show 2022 Part 2

I am back after a week's absence - we have had our hands full living in a construction zone and getting our space set for both living and working and I have been feeling under the weather (not COVID.) It was also a lot of pressure getting cases of jewelry together for our first Arizona event in only about 24 hours after arriving back from Tucson. I finally feel ready to get back to online selling which I am looking to focus on during our slowest time of year for estate sales.

But first I will finish up my discussion about this year's Tucson Gem Show. My jewelry purchases for most of the rest of the way just happened to be from my favorite three vendors of Mexican jewelry. Prior to these purchases though, I visited the booth which featured these hand carved wood blocks. I saw them two years ago and thought the blocks were beautiful and would make great jewelry props but were expensive so I passed on them. Last year the vendor did not make the show so I decided to see about purchasing this time. Most of the items were not labeled with a price so I made a pile. The price was way more than I wanted to spend so I edited the pile until I came up with the pieces above. It was still pricey but the salesman was persistent and we made a compromise. The clincher was that he told me anything I photographed on these pieces will look fabulous. He also said the large piece took a week to make, it was the best piece he had. The two large pieces will work well for group shots and the others as accent pieces. Mother is going to try and use the tiny ones to print the designs on cards. She tried one with a rubber stamp and it worked fine but they really need the color rolled on with a brayer. The vendor gave me some cute fabric bags to store the blocks in as well.

I was glad to see one of my favorite sellers of Mexican jewelry back at the show after missing last year. There were lots of new designs including these styles which range from contemporary to Native-inspired to Frida-esque. I can never resist hearts, flowers and butterflies!

Another annual favorite for artisan-made Mexican jewelry had lots of new designs as well. There is a definite trend towards Native-style pieces. This gives folks the opportunity to get the look for less!

Last but certainly not least was Federico. I blew the budget on his amazing and charming pieces. I worked with Federico himself and although he discounts generously for wholesale, he gave me even more special pricing and I will pass the savings along. His helpers were definitely a bit annoyed at the pricing he gave me but it allowed me to buy more. At the last minute I noticed the butterfly cuff bracelet and he suggested I buy the two butterfly necklaces. I do feel that these folks make good suggestions and are interested in setting sellers up for success. Federico's jewelry is very popular and I feel good that I will be able to find homes for these pieces. Two of the necklaces which are not pictured have already made their way into my collection. I am especially excited about the turquoise statement necklace, it has a real mid-century modern look and was the only one of its kind. Last year I was trailing some big players in the turquoise world, but this time I beat one of them to Federico. I could not buy everything and I noticed she scooped up the pieces I passed on. There was one I wished I would have taken a chance on that I bet she bought, it was a really cool huge sacred heart pendant with abalone rays radiating from it.

I scoured the two locations where my go-to vendor for Tibetan jewelry is always located and although she was on the vendor list at both locations I could not find her. I do have lots of her jewelry remaining from last year because the show was held ten weeks later than usual. By the time I returned to home base we were in our busiest time of year for estate sales so I did not have time to price the jewelry until the fall. The Tibetan jewelry does sell any time of year but is the most appropriate for spring and summer. I am prepared for this year and hope all is well with the vendor. I love working with her, she is the sweetest person.

My last purchase at the show was not jewelry at all but it has already proved to be a game-changer. Melinda was down the way having a makeover done and I noticed a nice young man demonstrating these portable photo studios. I paid a lot for the three photo studios I have now, I purchased two from Amazon and when I wanted a second smaller one for Scottsdale I found that the company was no longer selling the smaller size on Amazon. They come from France so I had to pay big money to have it shipped here. I found that the light system is LED and it casts little spots on all of my reflective jewelry items. I tried moving two of the light strips to the front wall, twisting and turning them for each photo but while most of the time I could get the spots to disappear, the lighting was not sufficient since it was turned away from the items. They are also not really portable, taking about a half hour to assemble and disassemble and have they two cords with two big transformer boxes which are heavy and cumbersome.

These studios use tube lighting which provides great overhead light, there is only a single cord and it assembles and disassembles in about two minutes. All of the pieces store inside and it zips closed. It is very easy to eliminate reflections with the included panels, the other studios have Velcro flaps which do not stay open. I watched several people view the entire demonstration, ask questions and then walk away, they do not know what they are missing! The salesman shot a photo of my necklace with his phone as an example and with a couple of simple tips I was amazed at the results. No spots, shadows or reflections! I promptly ordered two Large size studios, taking one with me and having the other shipped back to home base. I am really glad I ordered the larger size because it is perfect for group jewelry shots and will be useful for shooting other products as well. Finally I think I have the system down pat! Hopefully I can find someone who can make use of my other studios. The large one I have at home is huge at 32x32 inches, I will not miss it!

On our last full day in Tucson, we took a trip to Tubac which is about 45 minutes south and close to the Mexico border. I love one of the stores there for vintage jewelry as well as jewelry from this husband and wife team of Navajo artists. Last year Kuochun and I did not get to Tubac in time to shop in the stores but Melinda went there to visit a friend and I asked her to go scope out the store for me. There was the largest heart pendant I had ever seen by them and I had her pick it up for me but I found that it was just too large and did not suit me. Before heading for Arizona this winter I posted it online and I could have sold it ten times. People were telling me they were so interested in more pieces! I thought I would see what I could find for them. The store owner will not give discounts for any reason, not even for an order of several thousand dollars so I pared it down to the above grouping plus some pieces for myself. Unfortunately though none of the people came forward to make a purchase. The good news is that a collection that I would normally never resell is available for sale! These are great quality pieces and solid chunks of silver. There are no other Navajo artists who work in this style. They are totally worth the price!

We had a nice lunch at Shelby's Bistro once again (Mother and I went there two years ago) but they did not have the flavored non-alcoholic lemonade. We also stumbled across a really cute shop which had fair trade items for sale - lots of oilcloth cuties from Mexico (Mother picked up a cosmetic bag in her favorite cherry print) and I found a pair of felted wool eyeglass holders for my sunglasses.

Now to talk about our Tucson food journey - our Vrbo host had recommended four local restaurants - El Charro Cafe for Mexican, Zinburger for burgers and two others. Zinburger was the first restaurant we tried. I am not a burger person but can enjoy one once in a while. I thought I would try something different so I ordered a burger with Machengo cheese and onions sauteed in red wine. It was delicious! They definitely skew towards cooking the burgers more towards the rare side so it was suggested that we order a level more well done than usual. I was skeptical because I do not like things well done but the advice was spot on. Melinda did not feel her burger was well done enough so she sent it back. She was satisfied with the replacement. Mother ordered a smaller burger and liked it (she is a big burger person) but got sick that evening and blamed it on the burger. I am not so sure as neither Melinda nor I got sick.

The next day we tried to go to the local El Charro Cafe. We had not eaten all day and were so hungry. It was about 4:40 PM and the wait was 45 minutes! We could not deal with the wait so we ventured out to find another restaurant. Melinda said "hey, there's a pizza place!" I said no, it says Piazza, not Pizza but it looks really cute. It was not on the host's recommended list but we decided to give Piazza Gavi a try. It was a home run! Very charming atmosphere and we were served a complimentary appetizer of a pasta salad with roasted vegetables, as well as Italian bread. They had baked panzerotti on the menu which I have never seen so I ordered a sausage and pepperoni version. Mother and I got chicken tortellini soup which was simple but very good and Mother and Melinda shared a pizza. If we could have agreed on toppings we could have all shared the pizza but I loved the panzerotti and had enough for another meal later. Melinda said more than once that it was the best pizza she had ever had. The prices were very reasonable for all that we ordered. Piazza Gavi eased the pain I had about missing Caruso's this time.

The next day we finished our show shopping early and were close to downtown Tucson. I said let's try the original El Charro Cafe since it is earlier in the day and we are nearby. I can take or leave Mexican food, it is not something I choose on my own but I can always find something I can eat. The original El Charro Cafe is the oldest Mexican restaurant in the country, they are celebrating their 100th birthday this year. It was the right choice to go to the charming original rather than the newer location closer to the Vrbo. Mother and Melinda split an order of six different tacos and I got my own order of shrimp tacos. I noticed queso fundido on the menu which I used to enjoy back in the day so I ordered it for the table. Melinda had never tried it before and she loved it. I thought it was good but not enough chorizo for my liking, It also had vegetables in it which I had not experienced in queso fundido before.

Since we were staying in a very upscale area it was not surprising to see that Whole Foods was the closest grocery store. It was the largest Whole Foods I have ever seen. Melinda was kind of skeptical about going because it is more expensive but we wanted to get some quality food to round out our trip without having to go to another restaurant. We were all pleasantly surprised to see some good values on food we did not have to prepare. Large containers of soup were two for $12 and a container of orzo pasta salad which was $4.19 turned out to fill an entire large serving bowl. Melinda said the rotisserie chicken was much better than Costco as well.

On our way out of town Melinda said we had to try a grilled cheese sandwich at a QuikTrip gas station / convenience store. I had a grilled ham and cheese and Mother had a croissant sandwich. Melinda was not hungry but she missed out, I know she has had it before but the grilled cheese was excellent and perfectly done! There are lots of combinations to choose from. I will definitely remember this for good cheap eats on the road.

Overall our Tucson experience was very successful, I spent too much but feel good that I have all the tools I need to sell jewelry while I am here in Scottsdale. I would like to go with Kuochun next year so he can experience the Catalina Foothills area.

I will catch up on last week's activities with the next blog post. Looking forward, we have to return our rental car on Wednesday afternoon and are going to try doing without a car for a few days. That way we can stay home and I can focus on work. Paying a daily rate on a rental means I feel pressure to take the car out every day so it is not a waste. Hopefully Mother will not be too bored without a car since we only have access to the one TV which is in my room. We may carve out a space in the living room so she can watch TV there. Until next time!