Gem Shows or Bead Stringing Heaven

I went to my first local gem show and was amazed by all the great stones and jewelry I
Assorted Bead Colors
saw.  This was a small show and not the big annual gem show events that jewelers attend in Las Vegas and Tucson.  This was more for the hobbyist who likes to make and sell their own jewelry creations.  There were beads and findings to make jewelry with, as well as some vendors that sold set stones in pendants or completed one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces being sold by designers.  Prices ranged from $1 for strands of small beads to thousands for finished items set in gold so there was something for everyone.

Even though I know TV shopping channels were saying turquoise was getting hard to find, I was still surprised to find so little of it at a gem show in the southwest.  They did have a few items, however most representations were actually dyed howlite.  The vendors I talked to said the stone was dyed howlite, so it gave me some confidence that they knew their stones and would answer honestly about what other things were when I asked.  (I have been to some artisan shows where the vendors called dyed red howlite coral and the blue/green/purple dyed versions turquoise, so I learned to tell the difference for myself.)  If you want white stones, bright colors, or animal shapes for beading, then howlite is a good choice.  If you want turquoise, then make sure you learn to tell the difference before you shop.

What was most surprising to me was how many different pearls I saw at the local show.  They had round glass pearls in lots of colors, and real pearls that included oblong freshwater pearls in a few colors and what looked like baroque salt-water pearls in white, champagne, and gold.  The pearls ranged in size from seed pearls to over 20mm!  You could buy anywhere from a 6-inch string to a 100 inch endless strand.  They also had shaped or carved mother-of-pearl and blister pearls.  Since there were so many pearls (the June birthstone), I was very surprised not to see any black or peacock strands for sale.  The only black represented was true single Tahitians already set as pendants and made into fine jewelry.  They sold pearls and they sold clasps, however I did not see any vendor who sold the silk thread to string and knot pearls.   

Another surprise was how much jasper and agate was available.  Every vendor had at least one type of jasper and three or more types of agate.   One vendor had half-a-table of jasper varieties, some of which I had not heard of and many I had learned about from TV shopping channels.  Both the agate and jasper came in nicely polished shapes that were pre-drilled with holes or preset for easily making necklaces or earrings.   The agate was also sold in natural geodes and as slices for wire wrapping.   

If you like beading, I highly recommend you attend a gem show in your area.  It may lift your spirits or blow your mind too!

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