In late January, thousands of people converge on Quartzsite for its Hobby, Craft & Gem Show. Many then continue on to Southern Arizona, where, for the first two weeks of February, the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase and numerous associated shows draw an international crowd for what’s been dubbed the world’s largest treasure hunt.
Don’t plan to be in Arizona for these shows? You’ll find plenty of places to shop for earthly treasures year-round, from rare fossils to unique Arizona-gem jewelry.
Mineral Hunting in Tucson
Tucson may well have the state’s largest selection of gem and mineral shopping options. At the high end of the spectrum, with pieces that turn up in the decor of hotel lobbies and in exclusive private collections, Zee’s Minerals carries everything from 70-million-year-old dinosaur eggs to half-ton meteorites and Indonesian sculptures hand-carved from volcanic ash.
The shop occupies 11,000 square feet in Tucson’s downtown warehouse district. Lifelong Tucsonan Zee Haag was born into a family of avid mineral collectors, and travels the world to find the rare pieces he showcases in his shop.
Collectors of all ages and means flock to Tucson Mineral and Gem World, where it’s easy to lose yourself for hours among the bins of rocks, fossils and rough-cut gems – more than 100,000 items in all.
Geological oddities like fulgurites (root-like formations created when lightning strikes desert sand or soil) cost as little as $10.
A location near Old Tucson and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum makes this a perfect stop on a family outing.
Bisbee Turquoise and More
The search for copper at Bisbee’s Lavender Pit Mine also unearthed rich lodes of turquoise that’s prized the world over for its brilliant blue color.
Bisbee turquoise, malachite and camballite are among the many striking gemstones used in the unique wearable art you’ll find at Jewelry Designs by Owen.
Of the bracelets, earrings and necklaces created by owner David Owen, perhaps most interesting are the intricate silver-and-jasper scenes – everything from ancient desert ruins to Chinese pagodas.
A Globe Rock Hounding Gem
John Mediz opened the Copper City Rock Shop in the former mining town of Globe in 1970, but he dates his interest in the earth’s bounty back to junior high school (he’s now 75).
He enjoys sharing his vast reserves of knowledge – and gems and minerals – with everyone from newbies to seasoned collectors.
He’s particularly knowledgeable about Arizona minerals and gemstones, such as Apache tears (a type of obsidian), and carries some rare specimens of the metal that gives this shop its name.
Arizona Amethyst in Fountain Hills
Diamonds are a specialty at Sami Fine Jewelry, but this luxe shop in Fountain Hills, east of Scottsdale, especially dazzles with its collection of Arizona amethyst.
These gorgeous deep purple gems come from the nearby Arizona Four Peaks Amethyst Mine; it’s off limits to the public, although Sami’s offers mine tours to a select few twice a year.
Arizona peridot, an intensely lime green gem, and ruby rich Arizona anthill garnets also star in the stylish gold and silver settings of this Arizona jewelry store.
Stone Smarts in Sedona
Known for its wide-ranging selection of interesting items, from splash copper wall art to gemstones with metaphysical properties, the Village Rock Shop of Sedona is also notable for the expertise of its proprietors.
Mike Silberhorn is a fine jewelry designer and master cutter of cabochons (gemstones that are shaped and polished as opposed to faceted), while Patti Polk has a top-rate agate collection and is the author of the best-selling book, Collecting Rocks, Gems and Minerals.
The shop also features an ever-rotating selection of rare minerals, from meteorites to Iris agate.
Jerome’s Jewelry with a Past
Artists and crafters helped resurrect Jerome, which became a ghost town after the last of its many mines closed in 1953.
One of the pioneering businesses, Aurum Jewelry, now represents more than 45 art jewelers. Many embed Arizona stones such as turquoise, amethyst, azurite and sugilite into the precious metals once unearthed here.
One historical highlight: Artist Lindsay Livingston uses broken bits of dinnerware dating back to the mining era as the centerpieces of her striking jewelry.