Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Numbers are up

Citizen Staff Writer



Despite the economic downturn, officials of the 55th annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show at the Tucson Convention Center said attendance was higher than last year.

Sunday’s attendance was close to 5,000 people, said show spokeswoman Carole Lee, who said that was “a little above last year’s numbers.” Exact admission numbers were not available Sunday.

The four-day show was organized by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society and is not affiliated with any of the gem shows around Tucson.

The theme of this year’s show was “mineral oddities,” quirks of nature that can’t always be explained.

Attractions included the 83-carat Maharaja Cat’s Eye Chrysoberyl – the largest of its kind known to exist – on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, and a Brazilian quartz crystal shaped like a fish. Giant 10-foot-by- 5-foot slabs of petrified wood from China were also on display.

In addition, exhibits included mineral collections from museums in Germany, Russia, New Mexico, California, Bisbee and the University of Arizona, as well as mineral oddities from private collectors.

Tom Freeland, 46, a seller from Anacortes, Wash, said he was especially busy on Saturday.

“This is the best show,” he said, comparing the Tucson Convention Center show to the other gem shows he attended in town this year.

Sunday was Fred Severance’s eighth year buying at the gem shows, including the one at the TCC.

The 56-year-old software engineer carried two shopping bags for his wife. His purchases included necklaces, rings and charms.

“Budget means nothing,” he said. “I buy whatever she likes.”

But Daniel Ospina said this was his third and slowest year as a seller. The 15-year-old came from his native Bogota, Colombia, to help his father, Nelson Ospina, sell emeralds.

“Last year at this main show, I sat down about five times (for the entire four days),” he said in Spanish. “This year, I’ve sat down much more.”

Despite anticipated slow sales, actual profits exceeded their expectations.

“It wasn’t as bad as we had thought,” he said.

Not everyone was buying or selling. Tucson Police Officer Jim Kneup, 58, guarded the Maharani Cat’s Eye.

He rattled off facts to gem show patrons and used his flashlight to demonstrate how the gem reacted to changing light.

The Smithsonian’s mineral collection curator, Dr. Jeffrey E. Post, invited him to Washington D.C., he said. He plans on goingthere with his wife this summer.

While Kneup was talking, a 23-year-old man with a beard snuck up and poked his head out from behind the officer.

“He has no idea what he’s talking about.” the man said jokingly before disappearing into the sea of booths.

The 23-year-old was one of the sellers’ children, a person Kneup had seen grow up and work at the Gem Show for more than 15 years.

Gem Show at TCC ends with crowds up some but sales spotty

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