8 places in Tucson to get your gem and mineral fix year-round
|By Nina Kolodij
There’s no better place to explore the wonders of the Earth than at the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show—the largest and oldest of its kind in the world. Once a year, TGMS takes over the city for almost an entire month, culminating in a colossal weekend of international vendors and fascinating science talks. But what are rockhounds and geoscience aficionados to do during the remaining 11 months? Luckily, these impressive local rock shops are there to fill the void when the TGMS off-season blues start to kick in.
Tucson Mineral & Gem World
A historic landmark in and of itself, Tucson Mineral & Gem World is a veteran in the world of rock shops. Since 1968, brothers Ron and Richard Ratkevich have been cultivating a collection of more than 100,000 unusual artifacts and gorgeous specimens. The store contains a gold mine of treasures, including local and exotic minerals, fossils of countless prehistoric critters, preserved animal skeletons, and meteorites from outer space. The space has become a home for unusual items that would fit right into any museum exhibit, such as mammoth fur and restored Native American artifacts. Located on Kinney Road, this rock shop is the perfect follow-up after a visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum or Old Tucson Studios.
Dah Rock Shop
Visitors of Dah Rock Shop have described their experience as similar to being swept away in a glimmering tide of rocks and minerals. Originally known as the Discount Agate House, DAH has been serving the Tucson community with extraordinary samples of rocks, minerals, and more for 40-plus years. In addition to the vast supply of shelves and cabinets filled with top-tier samples in its indoor space, the rock shop also maintains a remarkable outdoor selection of rough-cut rocks at astonishingly reasonable prices. If there’s something you’re looking for, be it a rare mineral or a handcrafted piece of jewelry, you’ll be sure to find it at DAH Rock Shop.
Norcross-Madagascar LLC and its e-commerce branch, Madagascar Minerals, is an international expert in—you guessed it—African minerals and fossils. The company was founded in 2004 and has since become one of the biggest names in every aspect of buying and selling natural and geological Madagascan riches. Not only does Norcross own and maintain multiple mines known for the highest quality stones, but it also excels in the processing and hand carving of exclusive material from the best locales. So, when you visit its headquarters right here in Tucson, you’re really getting the rock shop version of farm-to-table business.
Mineral & Fossil Co-op
For the most jaw-dropping collection of spectacular fossils in town, visit the Mineral & Fossil Co-op. Actually a coalition of mineral and fossil dealers, the Co-op is home to top-tier fossil personalities such as GeoDecor, The Bug House, Sahara Sea Collection, and so on. If you’re a museum with a few million dollars to spare, you’ll find juvenile stegosaurs, T. rex and mastodon skulls, and dining room tables that will make your heart sing. In fact, some members of the Co-op regularly work with museums to provide and prepare new critters for research and exhibition. Guests with a smaller budget are sure to fall in love with the ample variety of wares at lower prices. Window-shopping is encouraged, but keep the drooling to a minimum.
Arizona Lapidary & Gem Rough, Inc.
Behind many smooth and shiny specimens is an individual who spent countless hours polishing rough stones to perfection. If you’re interested in becoming that individual, then the Arizona Lapidary & Gem Rough is the place for you. This rock shop is a mom-and-pop, geologist-owned kind of place, where you can take advantage of gorgeous stones, professional cutting and polishing services, and free mineral identification. The lapidary offers a diverse list of rough rocks and minerals ready for polishing, and if you buy 25 pounds or more, you’ll even get a discount. For those looking for a touch of custom beauty, this rock shop also doubles as a jewelry design, repair, and metal smith.
At Aerolite Meteorites, the vastness of outer space fits right into the palm of your hand. This rock shop—or rather, the largest commercial meteorite company in the world—is led by CEO Geoff Notkin of the award-winning show Meteorite Men. Although Aerolite’s alien discoveries reach customers all over the world, including many museums, its headquarters are right here in Tucson. While the location isn’t open to the public, curious shoppers can browse a well-stocked online store, where prices range from under $10 to almost $500,000. Occasionally, Aerolite also offers meteorite-hunting expeditions in Arizona, Chile, and Morocco; hang out with the TV stars, and keep whatever space rocks you find!
Hausen Rock Treasures Wholesale Inc.
For a wealth of stunning specimens without the bother of traipsing around outside, there’s Hausen Rock Treasures Wholesale. Browse for extraordinary geological specimens from the comfort of your home, and because the Hausen home base is in Tucson, getting your rocks and minerals shipped right to your door has never been easier. Although it markets itself as a wholesale and bulk provider, this rock shop will gladly work with any customer to find the ideal specimens, the most powerful healing crystals, and the most superb jewelry for your growing collection.
Whether you prefer to sift through shelves, explore the outdoors, or order online, there’s a Tucson rock shop to occupy your time no matter the time of year.
Looking for classic Arizona turquoise? Stop by Mac’s Indian Jewelry.