Indulge in Carats and Cocktails at This Tucson Gem Week Standout

When the seventh annual JCK Tucson opens Feb. 5 at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa, you’ll find event director Kate Youngstrom cruising between the show’s two main ballrooms, the food trucks parked near the patio, and the bar.

“I’m excited to see the industry come together in the new year—Tucson is the place where the passion we all have for what we do comes to life,” she says. “I am also excited about a margarita or two!”

Kate Youngstrom JCK Tucson event director
JCK Tucson event director Kate Youngstrom

The show, which runs through Feb. 8, has earned a cult following since its opening in 2014, thanks to its unusual-for-Tucson selection of designer jewelry as well as its location, the elegant and welcoming JW Marriott at Starr Pass.

“The hotel speaks for itself,” she says. “It’s a beautiful property. They’ve got tequila toasts at night, yoga, hiking in the morning. We offer a shuttle from downtown, and the ride is no longer than 10–15 minutes. This year, our shuttle will become a party shuttle—they’ll have cocktails! The ‘Boozy Shuttle,’ if you will.”

Below, Youngstrom, who also serves as the director of special events and conferences for the JCK Las Vegas and Luxury shows, tells us how JCK Tucson has grown over the years, what hot new category it now offers, and the highlights of the 2020 schedule. Interspersed throughout are images of new jewels by the show’s roster of talented designers.

How has the show changed over the years?

The show has really found its identity. I wasn’t around when we first bought the show in 2014, but I know we bought it for a reason: People bring this passion with them to Tucson. We all have things we feel have to do in this business to be successful, but people in Tucson don’t have to be there; they want to be there. It’s a great way to kick off the year. Our team has curated this casual buying environment that allows people to discover trends, start conversations, and figure out what they want their year to look like. We’ve found our niche in this community.

Enji Alume pendant with red rutilated quartz
Alume pendant in 14k recycled gold with 24.5 ct. red rutilated quartz, $1,725; Enji Studio Jewelry

Tucson is best known as a place to source loose gems, and the JCK show has set itself apart as a place to find finished designs. What else does the show offer?

We’ve got some incredible designers. The talent is just insane. But the other piece is we also offer technology, loose gemstones, and, more recently, lab-grown diamonds, which are unique to the Tucson area. The show is a place for people to connect, network, and talk—and ask questions they don’t get to ask throughout the year. It’s also education driven. We allow people to do a lot of things but in a conversational way to really discover what their business needs are.

Dorian & Rose 24k gold bands
Bands in 24k yellow gold with diamonds, prices on request; Dorian & Rose

What are the highlights of the 2020 JCK Tucson events calendar?

We’ll always have our Gems After Dark event, which takes place on Thursday, Feb. 6, after the show on the terrace. The Women’s Jewelry Association, American Gem Society Young Titleholders, and Jewelers of America are partners. It’s a really awesome event. People grab cocktails, they stargaze, sit at the firepits. Whether you were buying all day or at a conference, you get a chance to connect and enjoy the property—it’s so convenient.

JS Noor necklace
Necklace in 18k yellow gold with multicolor tourmaline, $10,700; JS Noor

This year we also have our daily Fireside Chats—nontraditional education. They take place in a living room–type environment where our panelists get to have conversations with retailers. They last about 45 minutes and focus on topics like men’s jewelry trends. AGS is doing a discussion about the workplace environment: how to get staff to be more sales-driven and happy. We’re also doing a lab-grown talk this year.

And we have two new things happening this year: We’re doing a piercing party with one of our exhibitors—grab a cocktail, get a piercing. We’ve partnered with the Gem Junkies podcast by Parle Gems, and they’re doing their podcast on the show floor. And on Friday morning, we’re doing a Social Media Bootcamp “clicks to conversion” conversation with Ben Smithee, and our sponsor is the nonprofit Gem Legacy. It’s a paid education session with a light breakfast; proceeds go to Gem Legacy to help them with the amazing work they’re doing in gem mining.

Top: Green tourmaline and diamond stud earrings in 18k yellow gold, $875;

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JCK Magazine Editor