If you've known of the yearly gem show that happens in Tucson, Arizona every year, the likely hood is that you've been curious about it.
I've known of its existence for years & have vacillated between being interested, preemptively overwhelmed, reluctant, & excited.
People have talked about how large the fair is, but no amount of hearsay could prepare you for the magnitude of it. The city is taken over by an international affair. There are banners hanging out of personally rented hotel rooms. There are giant circus tents erected, and full sports arenas.
All with gem stones. Cabochons. Slabs. Raw stones. Beads. Figurines. Leather. Fur. Crafts. Tie dyes. Crystal bowls... so much so much so much.
While this might sound like a nice skip through the park (especially for those who've got a satchel of funds to spend), I think that most folks who can settle down past all the shiny material might balk at the reality of what's going on here.
The quest to find ethically sourced cabochons was a tricky one indeed.
This term deserves a moment to grow understanding.
Ethical sourcing is a fruit salad of making sure no child or slave labor is happening in the mine or in the towns that process the stones; It's about fair treatment & pay for the workers, & that there is trickle down, vs all the money going to a few "at the top"; it is ideally working with dealers who've been to the mines & towns of origins themselves, or have a reputable liaison who's doing this; it's about steering clear from mines that use devastating strip mining practices; it's about supporting companies that recirculate money of the mines into the local economy.
At large, in the many tents I walked through, the majority of the vendors received the stones after passing through many hands. Cheap stones also equates to untraceable & questionable practices.
Accountability & traceability is clutch.
The time that I had to dedicate to walking around a couple of the shows was admittedly less than I'd have liked, but there were hikes to be hiked, neighborhoods to be explored, cacti to be oogled & tacos to be eaten!
I managed to go to 1 large tent that specializes in ethical sourcing.
I got a good amount of black druzy, which I'm just starting to play around with, as well as a few other stones, but I didn't go nearly as wild as I thought I might there.
I did pick up a fair amount of different kinds of turquoise. These were all mined & processed by the small family businesses who were in front of me, selling.
I can get with that.
So would I go again? Yes. Why? Because there are folks out there with dirty hands from digging in the beautiful red earth to extract treasures, who do so with care & love. I'll support this. I vow to carry the care in my own heart & use it in my jewelry. And yes, sometimes it can come at an initial higher cost, but in the long run it's an investment not only in yourself & whomever may be lucky enough to inherit them from you; but small business, & the land herself. If we're going to wear jewelry I believe it's important we do so responsibly & are careful with our own sourcing.