As creative director of John Hardy, a large part of Hollie Bonneville’s job is to travel the world sourcing stones. The emeralds, rubies, and sapphires she finds become the centerpieces of one-of-a-kind John Hardy Cinta creations that are reliably unexpected and always reverent of nature.
Every year Bonneville travels to Hong Kong and Switzerland, attending gem fairs to source stones. Largely top-tier professional trade shows, the experiences provided perfect stones—and not a lot of surprises. Then a few years ago, she traveled to Tucson, Arizona for the city’s annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, which takes place February 14th to the 17th.
“Compared to other gem shows, there is a sense of surprise there,” she said. “You really don’t know what you’re going to get.” Bonneville explained that in Tucson, there are actually more than 200 shows over a two-week period, spread out over the entire city, featuring both raw minerals such as agate and refined precious stones. And everything in between. “Like massive things, agate, rock furniture. It’s everything that encompasses the mineral world.”
“There’s a real sense of passion in Tucson,” she said. “Other shows are so business-like and formal. Tucson is where a sense of variety is prominent. And a lot less snobbery.” She said she goes there in search of tourmalines and sapphires, but also finds artisans who are hand carving wood and bone. “I get materials for John Hardy and inspiration for nearly everything.” For instance, last year she even found a 4.5-carat salt-and-pepper diamond which became her engagement ring. “These are the rock geeks and I learn so much from them. It’s a perfect place for John Hardy. Nothing is about perfection as it is about the stone’s character, beauty, and drama. That’s our language.”
She also has a great time in the desert community. “I love the Arizona vibe. How they dress, how they eat. A little wild, a little over the top. Somewhat audacious. And all the crystal energy. But my house is not a crystal cave. Yet.” Here, her tips for where to eat, shop, and stay while in Tucson for the Gem and Mineral Show.
Where to Eat
Agustin Kitchen: “Seasonal healthy menu sourcing sustainable and local ingredients. It's super chic, with great drinks—and always busy.”
Café Poca Cosa: “Dishes are authentically Mexican, and they only prepare one menu per day.”
North Italia: “Great location up in the hills of La Paloma, which has great sunset views and live music. I love the open kitchen and their amazing bread. And keep an eye out for all the food trucks. The trucks around the Holidome and Gem Mall are the best ones.”
Where to Shop
Hotel Tucson, Pueblo Gem Show and Kino Show: “Here you will find the largest and best of the large specimens from Brazil. Huge crystals, amethysts, citrines, scapolite, petrified wood, labradorite, fossils.”
The Westward Look Show: “The best place to find rare and unique mineral specimens from around the world. Each room is occupied by an expert specimen dealer showcasing minerals from around the world. Super Cool and interesting people who can share their ––very geeky!”
Jim Grays Petrified Wood: “An amazing vendor I discovered a few years ago and have bought from, selling petrified wood from Arizona––small pieces or large scale pieces which can be used as sculpture or even slabs for tables.”
Oriental Arts Co.: “Best collection of rare and ancient beads sourced from all over China and Asia. You will get a history lesson at the same time. The family-run business has an amazing collection of jade, bone, horn and coral. Paul, the son, has a great eye for sourcing and curating/stringing beads. He makes everything in Hong Kong, but they also have a shop in Dallas. They have some affordable materials and pieces but also goes up to some very serious antique and collectable pieces of art, using ancient beads and very rare materials. Very well informed and fascinating. I was not a bead fan until I met this man and learned more!”
De Grazia Gallery in the Sun: “There is an amazing and unique outdoor art gallery located in the National Historic District in the foothills north of Tucson. They have an interesting collection tracing the native culture of the southwest. It’s so impactful to experience art in such a unique setting, giving the work even more context and authenticity. Unique art, nature, and architecture!”
Where to Stay
Hacienda del Sol: "Locally owned, amazing rooms, spectacular restaurant with a wine list that will blow your mind, plus views for days."
Loews Ventana Canyon: "Incredible food, right in the midst of the mountains."
JW Marriott Starr Pass: "Good location, close to downtown, but also in the foothills with hiking and biking right there."