Every February, employees of Shipwreck Beads, a jewelry making supply store in Lacey, embark on an annual buying trip by attending the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase. Gathering input from local customers prior to the trip, Shipwreck Beads buyers are on the hunt for gems with unique cuts, colors and compositions. After the trip, Shipwreck Beads will share the shopping fun with local customers by hosting a special event to introduce the inventory purchased at the showcase.

The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase is an annual opportunity for bead and jewelry professionals to source a wide array of stones while in once centralized location. Photo courtesy: Shipwreck Beads

Family owned and operated since 1969, Shipwreck Beads has over a billion beads spread out over 30 aisles. From precious gemstones, to crystal, to glass, the 22,000-square-foot showroom is also well equipped with jewelry-making accessories, beginner guides and knowledgeable staff for beading pursuits of all levels.

A trade show spanning two and a half weeks across January and February, the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase gathers gemologists, jewelry making professionals and enthusiasts from all over the world, including buyers from Shipwreck Beads. The trade show highlights a variety of rocks, gems, beads and crystals throughout 40 venues with certain shows open to the public and certain events reserved for beading and jewelry professionals.

Beth Simmons, buyer and event manager for Shipwreck Beads, says the annual event takes over the city of Tucson. “They take over hotels,” she says. “On the ground floor, all the courtyard hotel rooms turn into booth spaces. I think there’s a million or more people that come to Tucson for purchasing products for their stores or for their personal designs. There are tents that are the size of football fields that are all cut gemstones, diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies. You’ll see people that are shopping there from home shopping networks or large fancy jewelry designers. And there are events that are open to the public with raw gemstones, raw minerals, crystals and carved crystals.”

Shipwreck Beads buyers spend a significant portion of the trip at wholesale shows to diversify the inventory already available in the Lacey showroom. At these wholesale shows, there are shopping opportunities that heavily feature cut stones in bead form, a quintessential item for Shipwreck Beads. With precious and semi-precious stones available, including amber and turquoise, Simmons says there is a huge variety of product available in one centralized area. “This is one of the only opportunities in the United States where you have such a large concentration of variety of products available to hand select,” she adds.

With a seemingly infinite assortment of beads displayed, Shipwreck Beads staff attend the trade show with a pre-determined list of stone types that are popular with showroom customers. Simmons says the buying staff are also open to unexpected finds while at the show.

Creating a shopping list prior to the trip, Shipwreck Beads staff will be on the hunt for gems with unique cuts, colors and compositions at the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase. Photo courtesy: Shipwreck Beads

“This is our 10th year of going to the shopping trip in Tucson, so we’ve got a bit of a rhythm as far as what we’re looking for, what trends are coming and based upon what sold really well last year,” says Simmons. “Most of what we get in Tucson is of limited stocks. It’s the only time that we buy amber throughout the year because it’s so difficult to get amber and have it shipped from the Baltic states.”

A part of the shopping list includes customer requests. A couple of months before the trip, Shipwreck Beads employees will begin to ask regular customers if there are certain colors or minerals they would like to see in the showroom.

“We start taking a list of people who come to our cove in our showroom,” explains Simmons. “When our salespeople work with them, if they are asking for something that we don’t have, our salespeople will write it down. So, we’ll have a jumping off point.”

In addition to amber and turquoise, Shipwreck Beads buyers will purchase a stock of fancy cut gemstones from India. A line Shipwreck Beads has been cultivating slowly over the years, these fancy cut gemstones are sold in unusual shapes like octagons and triangles.

During the trade show, Shipwreck Beads staff will bring back strings of beads made of precious and semi-precious stones, including amber and turquoise. Photo courtesy: Shipwreck Beads

The annual buying trip will culminate in a special shopping event at Shipwreck Beads during the first weekend of March. “This year we thought it would be fun to invite people to come and get first dibs at some of the products we bring back with us,” says Simmons. “We’ll have everything from the trip laid out, inventoried, priced and ready to go. And so, if you want the kind of first opportunity to see the items, that’s where you’re going to be able to do that.”

The special shopping event will be from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 7. The cost to reserve a space will be $25. In exchange, attendees will receive a $25 gift card at the time of the event to use towards product at Shipwreck Beads. To learn more about the annual purchasing trip or registration for the special shopping event, visit the showroom or speak to the sales department.

Shipwreck Beads
8560 Commerce Place Dr NE, Lacey


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