Some Thoughts on Gem Mineral and Gold Shows

 (The annual Quartzite, Arizona Gem and Mineral Show is no small production.)

Don't let the title of this post fool you. I'm not talking about the dramatic fakery of current television gold mining, gem hunting, or treasure hunting "reality" shows...I'm talking the real deal here. Actual one-to-three day gold and mineral shows in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, and elsewhere throughout the known world. If you've never attended one of these events then you're missing out.

Ma Nature's Bounty

Back in the days when I was pretty much immersed in my treasure hunting and small-scale gold mining and prospecting activities, I seldom (if ever) missed one of the larger, annual U.S. gold or gem mineral shows staged in Arizona or Southern California where I was then living. Since moving to Northern New Mexico some 27 years ago I've slowed down in that regard but I still make a point of attending any decent show that rolls through the Albuquerque metro area (about an hour south of me). I always liked these kinds of shows or conventions for any number of reasons, including the chance to see some spectacular gold and gem mineral finds and specimens. I've often left one of these events drooling spittle after gawking at the specimen displays! And if you're REALLY into the small-scale mining thing and Ma Nature's treasure bounties, so will you.

Here's why I like these types of gigs:

Family Oriented

At one time or another in your life I'm sure you've heard the tired old come on, "Fun for the entire family!" Well, when it comes to gold and mineral shows this ain't's the whole truth and nothing but the truth. These events are family oriented and often have presentations that will appeal to your significant other and, even more importantly...those rug rats yanking at your coat tails. The kids can often pan for gold, have a small geode cracked open for them, or receive small freebies of one sort or another. More often than not the little ones will be heading home with a pint-sized mineral specimen box or a small gold panning kit meant for kids. It's a win-win deal and I guarantee your little ones (or even bigger ones) won't be least on the front end of things! My wife always attended these events with me since she has a gemologist's certification (among other assets). She likes gold just fine but what really gets her going are the gem and mineral specimens which she would hone in on like a bloodhound chasing an escaped convict. So my advice? Get everyone together for once, drag them out the door, and take them with you. Like they say, "fun for the entire family." And that ain't "fool's gold" I'm hustling here.

 (Kids at the gold panning trough.)

Equipment Demonstrations

Whether you're into gems and minerals or gold, these shows usually have a lot of new (and some old) gear and equipment on display or actually running/working. This includes everything from the latest gold pans, portable sluice boxes, and highbankers to tools, gem cutters and polishers, and fine gold recovery systems. You can linger and watch the demos or jaw with the purveyors of this equipment about how things work. I always find this one of the most fun things about these shows, next to gawking at the gem and gold specimens. After seeing some of this gear I always get new ideas planted in my brain about getting the gold and I'm sure many of you will too.

 (Checking out a spiral wheel concentrator.)

Socializing with Other Miners and/or Rockhounds 

Since I've been at this small-scale gold mining thing a while now (nigh on 40 years) I always run into a couple of folks (or five or six or seven!) that I've met along that twisting path out in the field. In fact, a few I've even worked with as erstwhile pards. Others I've swapped tall tales with sitting in front of a campfire or driven crazy as I watched them dredging, dry washing, sniping, or highbanking. Why crazy? Sometimes my unsolicited suggestions or advice didn't go over too well! I'm not much of a social person in general, but I do love seeing these folks, catching up with them on their failures and successes, and exchanging new ideas with them. I'm fixated on gold, of course, so I don't know too many rockhounds, but they also tend to come to these shows and jaw in the same way with their compatriots. You'd be surprised what you can learn just by talking with some of the old timers who come to this events (and our numbers are gradually dwindling as each year passes).

 (These shows allow you to jaw with someone whose been down that mining path.)

Specimens and More Specimens 

I'll wager dollars to donuts that when you leave one of these or gem minerals...your jaw will be scraping the floor after seeing some of the specimens on display at these events. I've seen some of the most beautiful specimen gold I've ever come across at these events and the gems and minerals can be just as outstanding, if not more so. So take your time and soak it all in. It's simply amazing what Ma Nature can due with heat, chemical solutions, and a bit of pressure.

(If a gold specimen like this doesn't make your mouth water, nothing will.)

(Ditto for this emeralds in quartz specimen.)
Big Shows/Little Shows

These events come in all sizes and lengths of duration and over the years I've found some of the smaller shows can be every bit as good as their big daddy counterparts. If I had to choose one event you should attend (if at all possible, that is) it's the annual Quartzite (Arizona) Gem and Mineral Show and the corresponding Gold Show. The Gold Prospector's Association of America (GPAA) also host shows in various states and locations...they have one coming up in Ohio in 2018 I believe. Also one in North Carolina if I dis-remember correctly. If you're interested in finding more about a gold or gem and mineral show in your neck of the woods they'll be listed online, or you can contact the source such as the GPAA or the Quartzite Show folks.

Whatever the case, if you can make it to one or more of these events it'll be good for you overall. Hell, who knows? I might just turn up at the event you're at! How's that for real excitement?

Best to one and all.

(c) Jim Rocha 2017

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. JR, I've heard of these shows, but none have been close enough to go to. I'd like to someday. Idaho is known for potatoes, but it is also called "The Gem State". I need to learn more about them. I've found some geodes,petrified wood,and small garnets, but nothing really neat. South of here, there is an opal mine in Spencer Idaho. There was a guy a few miles above my house that found a bunch of smoky quartz crystals. Some as big as a beer can!
    Also, on a somewhat related topic. Our sewer pipe had a root growing in it. I've been digging the last several days to fix that... The guy that pumped our septic tank said to put copper sulfate along the new pipe to kill the roots. Isn't copper sulfate the green coloring in rocks that have copper in them? Isn't that one of the sulfates gold could also be found with? Seems to me, if it kills roots, nothing much would grow there? Not concentrated enough, or am I totally wrong?

  2. Yes, the green coloring is copper sulfide. That's a color and vegetation giveaway when prospecting. The old timers would look for abrupt changes in vegetation...sulfides will kill or stunt plant growth.


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