Monday, January 28, 2013

Quartzsite, AZ = Bead Heaven

The little town of Quartzsite, Arizona grows from 3,000 permanent residents year-round, to over a million, during January and February.  The surrounding desert's BLM land fills up with all manner of motor homes, as everyone swarms to the gem, mineral and bead shows.
Photo taken from road looking over Tyson Wells show.

Be prepared to walk.  And for lots of dust, as more and more people arrive.  Parking can be a challenge, so getting to the major shows early helps.  Both cash and credit are accepted, though cash is useful for wheeling and dealing at smaller booths.
The various shows blend together, with the Tyson Wells show a mix of motor home supplies, stuff usually seen at swap meets, and extraordinary gemstones.
These malachite specimens were sitting in the sun on a random table, waiting to take my breath away:
Stunning.  From South Africa.

One of the tents had a display of massive geodes.
Jaynee and Sally, displaying a giant amethyst geode.  Beautiful.

One could wander for days through the tents, seeing everything from tiny cabs to metal Valkyrie ants to gemstones the size of a car.  Driftstone Pueblo was my favorite gemstone site.  Lots o' strung gorgeousness.  And the checkout guys were friendly, despite the empty whiskey bottles behind the counter from the party the night before.
There's also amazing art scattered amongst the mundane supplies.  How about this burro?
I can so see Jim making something similar out of the rusty metal on he and Sally's new AZ property.  :)

The beady treasures aren't limited to the fields of tents.  There are brick and mortar buildings that offer amazing supplies and deals, usually with a 50% discount if you have a business license.
Check out Altamont Bead shop for seed beads.  They have the best supply I've ever found of size 15 seed beads in a tube.  Gorgeous colors.
I brought these home.

Gem World literally took my breath away.  A huge warehouse, this bead and rock supplier carries EVERYTHING.  Everything.  I got tons of cabs and strung gemstone beads here, as well as some pre-made bracelets.

Sunwest Silver is THE place to go for all things silver.  Stunning silver jewelry, if you're seeking something pre-made.  And hundreds of silver charms, at .17 a gram.  (I'm not telling anyone about the wonderful druzy cabochons in the back corner.  Those are mine, all mine!)  The owner/operators are especially welcoming and warm.

If you're looking for cabochons, the Desert Gardens show is the place to go.  Dusty, so bring water.  Have some fun poking through the over 100 booths.  Lots of uncut slabs as well.

Since you'll definitely work up an appetite shopping, you may want to partake of great cafe food at Palo Verde Cafe or La Casa, in Quartzsite.  There's also fair food scattered amongst the tents.  I recommend the ice cream shop at the main four corners.  If you travel north to Parker, the Cornerstone Cafe is a must.  Great food, great wait-staff.

Make sure to end your days with a view of the mountains and sunset.  Just as stunning as all that beady goodness.
Yes, this is blurry.  Not sure if it's cause it was taken from the truck on the way home or because I was so tired from shopping all week.  :)

Quartzsite = highly recommended.  While I did not find any pearls or chinese glass or lampwork, this gem show experience has all of the character of the bigger shows.  

Will I see you there next year?


  1. Now that sounds like something I NEED to experience one day! I've never been out west, let alone to Arizona, before, but it's definitely on my to-see list :)

    I'm also going to have to work on my reactions to bead shows; I did the gem and jewelry show a few years ago and it was so overwhelming my mind just shut down and I didn't end up getting anything o.O

  2. I cannot imagine going to a bead show and not buying! I think it helps if you know some of the vendors - even by reputation.

    My Quartzsite experience was definitely helped by my friend Sally, who knew just where to take me to shop. Otherwise, totally overwhelming!

    You definitely need to experience out West. Stunning. Peaceful. But also rugged.