Every February, the employees of Sinking Beads, a jewelry making supply store in Lacey, embark on an annual shopping trip by attending the Tucson Gems, Minerals and Fossils Showcase. Gathering feedback from local customers prior to travel, Shipwreck Beads buyers are on the hunt for gemstones with unique cuts, colors and compositions. After the trip, Shipwreck Beads will share the fun of shopping with local customers by hosting a special event to showcase purchased inventory at the storefront.
Family-owned and operated since 1969, Shipwreck Beads has over a billion beads spread across 30 lanes. From 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 beadwork activities of all skill levels.
Two-and-a-half-week trade fair in January and February, Tucson Gems, Minerals and Fossils Showcase brings together gemologists, jewelry making professionals and enthusiasts from all over the world, including buyers of Shipwreck Beads. The show showcases a variety of rocks, gems, pearls and crystals in 40 venues with some shows open to the public and some events reserved for beadwork and jewelry professionals.
Beth Simmons, buyer and event manager for Shipwreck Beads, says the annual event is taking over the city of Tucson. “They are taking over the hotels,” she said. “On the ground floor, all the hotel rooms facing the courtyard are transformed into cabins. I think there are a million or more people who come to Tucson to buy products for their stores or for their personal designs. There are tents the size of football fields which are all cut from gems, diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies. There you will see people shopping through door-to-door sales channels or major costume jewelry designers. And there are events open to the public with raw gemstones, raw minerals, crystals, and carved crystals.
Buyers of Shipwreck Beads spend a significant portion of the trip to wholesale lounges to diversify the inventory already available in the Lacey showroom. At these wholesale shows there are shopping opportunities featuring cut stones in the form of beads, a quintessential item for Shipwreck Beads. With precious and semi-precious stones available, including amber and turquoise, Simmons says there is a wide variety of products available in a centralized area. “This is one of the only opportunities in the United States where you have such a concentration of product variety available for manual selection,” she adds.
With a seemingly endless assortment of beads on display, the staff at Shipwreck Beads attend the show with a predetermined list of stone types that are popular with showroom customers. Simmons says the purchasing staff are also open to unexpected discoveries at the show.
“This is our 10th year of going shopping in Tucson, so we have a bit of a rhythm as to what we’re looking for, what trends are coming up and based on what has sold very well the last year, ”Simmons says. “Most of what we get in Tucson is limited inventory. This is the only time we buy amber all year round because it is so difficult to get amber and have it shipped from the Baltic states.
Part of the shopping list includes customer requests. A few months before the trip, Shipwreck Beads employees will start asking repeat customers if there are certain colors or minerals they would like to see in the showroom.
“We’re starting to make a list of the people who come into our creek in our showroom,” says Simmons. “When our salespeople are working with them, if they ask for something that we don’t have, our salespeople will write it down. So we will have a starting point.
In addition to amber and turquoise, buyers of Shipwreck Beads will purchase a stock of fancy cut gemstones from India. A Shipwreck Beads line has been slowly cultivated over the years, these fancy cut gemstones are sold in unusual shapes like octagons and triangles.
The annual shopping trip will conclude with a special trade event at Shipwreck Beads during the first weekend of March. “This year we thought it would be fun to invite people to come over and check out some of the products that we bring back with us,” said Simmons. “We will have everything prepared, inventoried, evaluated and ready for the trip. And so, if you want the kind of first chance to see the objects, this is where you are going to be able to do it.
The special shopping event will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 7. The cost to reserve a space will be $ 25. In return, attendees will receive a $ 25 gift card at the time of the event to be used towards a product at Shipwreck Beads. To learn more about the annual shopping trip or registration for the special shopping event, visit the showroom or speak to sales.
8560 Commerce Place Dr NE, Lacey